The Project Gutenberg ebook of Hinduism And Buddhism, Volume II. (of 3)



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CHAPTER XXIII



INDIAN BUDDHISM AS SEEN BY THE CHINESE PILGRIMS




About the time of Vasubandhu there existed four schools of Indian Buddhism called Vaibhâshika, Sautrântika, Mâdhyamika and Yoga or Yogâcâra.[230] They were specially concerned with philosophy and apparently cut across the older division into eighteen sects, which at this period seem to have differed mainly on points of discipline. Though not of great practical importance, they long continued to play a certain part in controversial works both Buddhist and Brahmanic. The first two which were the older seem to have belonged to the Hinayana and the other two even more definitely to the Mahayana. I-Ching[231] is quite clear as to this. "There are but two kinds of the so-called Mahayana" he says, "first the Mâdhyamika, second the Yoga.... These two systems are perfectly in accordance with the noble doctrine. Can we say which of the two is right? Both equally conform to truth and lead us to Nirvana" and so on. But he does not say that the other two systems are also aspects of the truth. This is the more remarkable because he himself followed the Mûla-sarvâstivâdins. Apparently Sarvâstivâdin and Vaibhâshika were different names for the same school, the latter being applied to them because they identified themselves with the commentary (Vibhâshâ) already mentioned whereas the former and older designation came to be used chiefly with reference to their disciplinary rules. Also there were two groups of Sarvâstivâdins, those of Gandhara and those of Kashmir. The name of Vaibhâshika was applied chiefly to the latter who, if we may find a kernel of truth in legends which are certainly exaggerated, endeavoured to make Kashmir a holy land with a monopoly of the pure doctrine. Vasubandhu and Asanga appear to have broken up this isolation for they first preached the Vaibhâshika doctrines in a liberal and eclectic form outside Kashmir and then by a natural transition and development went over to the Mahayana. But the Vaibhâshikas did not disappear and were in existence even in the fourteenth century.[232] Their chief tenet was the real existence of external objects. In matters of doctrine they regarded their own Abhidharma as the highest authority.[233] They also held that Gotama had an ordinary human body and passed first into a preliminary form of Nirvana when he attained Buddhahood and secondly into complete Nirvana at his death. He was superhuman only in the sense that he had intuitive knowledge and no need to learn. Their contempt for sutras may have been due to the fact that many of them discountenance the Vaibhâshika views and also to a knowledge that new ones were continually being composed.

I-Ching, who ends his work by asserting that all his statements are according to the Ârya-mûla-sarvâstivâda-nikâya and no other, gives an interesting summary of doctrine.

"Again I say: the most important are only one or two out of eighty thousand doctrines of the Buddha: one should conform to the worldly path but inwardly strive to secure true wisdom. Now what is the worldly path? It is obeying prohibitive laws and avoiding any crime. What is the true wisdom? It is to obliterate the distinction between subject and object, to follow the excellent truth and to free oneself from worldly attachments: to do away with the trammels of the chain of causality: further to obtain merit by accumulating good works and finally to realize the excellent meaning of perfect reality."

Such a statement enables us to understand the remark which he makes elsewhere that the same school may belong to the Hinayana and Mahayana in different places, for, whatever may be meant by wisdom which aims at obliterating the difference between subject and object, it is clearly not out of sympathy with Yogâcâra doctrines. In another place where he describes the curriculum followed by monks he says that they learn the Yogâcârya-śâstra first and then eight compositions of Asanga and Vasubandhu. Among the works prescribed for logic is the Nyâyadvâra-śâstra attributed to Nâgârjuna. The monk should learn not only the Abhidharma of the Sarvâstivâdins but also the Âgamas, equivalent to the Sûtra-piṭaka. So the study of the sûtras and the works of Asanga and Vasubandhu is approved by a Sarvâstivâdin.

The Sautrântikas,[234] though accounted Hinayanists, mark a step in the direction of the Mahayana. The founder of the school was Kumarâlabdha, mentioned above. In their estimation of scripture they reversed the views of the Vaibhâshikas, for they rejected the Abhidharma and accepted only the sûtras, arguing that the Abhidharma was practically an extract from them. As literary criticism this is correct, if it means that the more ancient sûtras are older than the oldest Abhidharma books. But the indiscriminate acceptance of sûtras led to a creed in which the supernatural played a larger part. The Sautrântikas not only ascribed superhuman powers to the Buddha, but believed in the doctrine of three bodies. In philosophy, though they were realists, they held that external objects are not perceived directly but that their existence is inferred.[235]

Something has already been said of the two other schools, both of which denied the reality of the external world. The differences between them were concerned with metaphysics rather than theology and led to no popular controversies.

Up to this point the history of Indian Buddhism has proved singularly nebulous. The most important dates are a matter of argument, the chief personages half mythical. But when the records of the Chinese pilgrims commence we are in touch with something more solid. They record dates and facts, though we must regret that they only repeat what they heard and make no attempt to criticize Indian traditions or even to weave them into a connected chronicle.

Fa-Hsien, the first of these interesting men, left China in 399 and resided in India from 405 to 411, spending three years at Pataliputra and two at Tamralipti. He visited the Panjab, Hindustan and Bengal and his narrative leaves the impression that all these were in the main Buddhist countries: of the Deccan which he did not visit he heard that its inhabitants were barbarous and not Buddhists, though it contained some Buddhist shrines. Of the Middle Kingdom (which according to his reckoning begins with Muttra) he says that the people are free and happy and neither kill any living creature nor drink intoxicating liquor.[236] He does not hint at persecution though he once or twice mentions that the Brahmans were jealous of the Buddhists. Neither does he indicate that any strong animosity prevailed between Maha and Hinayanists. But the two parties were distinct and he notes which prevailed in each locality. He left China by land and found the Hinayana prevalent at Shen-shen and Wu-i (apparently localities not far from Lob-Nor) but the Mahayana at Khotan. Nearer India, in countries apparently corresponding to parts of Kashmir and Gilgit, the monks were numerous and all Hinayanist. The same was the case in Udyana, and in Gandhara the Hinayanists were still in the majority. In the Panjab both schools were prevalent but the Hinayana evidently strong. In the district of Muttra the Law was still more flourishing, monasteries and topes were numerous and ample alms were given to the monks. He states that the professors of the Abhidharma and Vinaya made offerings to those works, and the Mahayanists to the book Prajñâ-pâramitâ, as well as to Mañjuśrî and Kwan-shih-yin. He found the country in which are the sacred sites of Śrâvasti, Kapilavastu and Kusinârâ sparsely inhabited and desolate, but this seems to have been due to general causes, not specially to the decay of religion. He mentions that ninety-six[237] varieties of erroneous views are found among the Buddhists, which points to the existence of numerous but not acutely hostile sects and says that there still existed, apparently in Kośala, followers of Devadatta who recognized three previous Buddhas but not Śâkyamuni. He visited the birth-places of these three Buddhas which contained topes erected in their honour.

He found Magadha prosperous and pious. Of its capital, Patna, he says "by the side of the topes of Asoka has been made a Mahayana monastery very grand and beautiful, there is also a Hinayana one, the two together containing 600 or 700 monks." It is probable that this was typical of the religious condition of Magadha and Bengal. Both schools existed but the Mahayana was the more flourishing. Many of the old sites, such as Râjagṛiha and Gaya, were deserted but there were new towns near them and Bodh Gaya was a place of pilgrimage with three monasteries. In the district of Tamralipti (Tamluk) on the coast of Bengal were 22 monasteries. As his principal object was to obtain copies of the Vinaya, he stayed three years in Patna seeking and copying manuscripts. In this he found some difficulty, for the various schools of the Vinaya, which he says were divided by trivial differences only, handed down their respective versions orally. He found in the Mahayanist monastery one manuscript of the Mahâsânghika rules and considered it the most complete, but also took down the Sarvâstivâdin rules.

After the death of Vasubandhu few names of even moderate magnitude stand out in the history of Indian Buddhism. The changes which occurred were great but gradual and due not to the initiative of innovators but to the assimilative power of Hinduism and to the attractions of magical and emotional rites. But this tendency, though it doubtless existed, did not become conspicuous until about 700 A.D. The accounts of the Chinese pilgrims and the literature which has been preserved suggest that in the intervening centuries the monks were chiefly occupied with scholastic and exegetical work. The most distinguished successors of Asanga were logicians, among whom Diṅnâga was pre-eminent. Sthiramati[238] and Guṇamati appear to have belonged to the same school and perhaps Bhavaviveka[239] too. The statements as to his date are inconsistent but the interesting fact is recorded that he utilized the terminology of the Sânkhya for the purposes of the Mahayana.

Throughout the middle ages the study of logic was pursued but Buddhists and Jains rather than by Brahmans.[240] Vasubandhu composed some treatises dealing exclusively with logic but it was his disciple Diṅnâga who separated it definitely from philosophy and theology. As in idealist philosophy, so in pure logic there was a parallel movement in the Buddhist and Brahmanic schools, but if we may trust the statements of Vâcaspatimiśra (about 1100 A.D.) Diṅnâga interpreted the aphorisms of the Nyâya philosophy in a heterodox or Buddhist sense. This traces the beginnings of Indian logic to a Brahmanic source but subsequently it flourished greatly in the hands of Buddhists, especially Diṅnâga and Dharmakîrti. The former appears to have been a native of Conjevaram and a contemporary of Kâlidâsa. Both the logician and the poet were probably alive in the reign of Kumâragupta (413-455). Diṅnâga spent much time in Nâlanda, and though the Sanskrit originals of his works are lost the Tibetan translations[241] are preserved.

The Buddhist schools of logic continued for many centuries. One flourished in Kashmir and another, founded by Candragomin, in Bengal. Both lasted almost until the Mohammedan conquest of the two countries.

From about 470 to 530 A.D. northern India groaned under the tyranny of the Huns. Their King Mihiragula is represented as a determined enemy of Buddhism and a systematic destroyer of monasteries. He is said to have been a worshipper of Śiva but his fury was probably inspired less by religious animosity than by love of pillage and slaughter.

About 530 A.D. he was defeated by a coalition of Indian princes and died ten years later amid storms and portents which were believed to signify the descent of his wicked soul into hell. It must have been about this time that Bodhidharma left India for he arrived in Canton about 520. According to the Chinese he was the son of a king of a country called Hsiang-Chih in southern India[242] and the twenty-eighth patriarch and he became an important figure in the religion and art of the Far East. But no allusion to him or to any of the Patriarchs after Vasubandhu has been found in Indian literature nor in the works of Hsüan Chuang and I-Ching. The inference is that he was of no importance in India and that his reputation in China was not great before the eighth century: also that the Chinese lists of patriarchs do not represent the traditions of northern India.

Religious feeling often ran high in southern India. Buddhists, Jains and Hindus engaged in violent disputes, and persecution was more frequent than in the north. It is easy to suppose that Bodhidharma being the head of some heretical sect had to fly and followed the example of many monks in going to China. But if so, no record of his school is forthcoming from his native land, though the possibility that he was more than an individual thinker and represented some movement unknown to us cannot be denied. We might suppose too that since Nâgârjuna and Âryadeva were southerners, their peculiar doctrines were coloured by Dravidian ideas. But our available documents indicate that the Buddhism of southern India was almost entirely Hinayanist, analogous to that of Ceylon and not very sympathetic to the Tamils.

The pilgrims Sung-Yün and Hui-Shêng[243] visited Udyana and Gandhara during the time of the Hun domination (518-521). They found the king of the former a pious Buddhist but the latter was governed by an Ephthalite chieftain, perhaps Mihiragula himself, who was a worshipper of demons. Of the Yetha or Ephthalites they make the general observation that "their rules of politeness are very defective." But they also say that the population of Gandhara had a great respect for Buddhism and as they took back to China 170 volumes, "all standard works belonging to the Great Vehicle," the Ephthalite persecution cannot have destroyed the faith in north-western India. But the evil days of decay were beginning. Henceforward we have no more pictures of untroubled piety and prosperity. At best Buddhism receives royal patronage in company with other religions; sectarian conflicts increase and sometimes we hear of persecution. About 600 A.D. a king of Central Bengal named Saśâṅka who worshipped Śiva attempted to extirpate Buddhism in his dominions and destroyed the Bo tree at Bodh Gaya.[244] On the other hand we hear of the pious Pûrṇavarman, king of Magadha, who made amends for these sacrileges, and of Śîlâditya, king of the country called Mo-lo-po by the Chinese, who was so careful of animal life, that he even strained the water drunk by his horses and elephants, lest they should consume minute insects.

We know more of Indian Buddhism in the seventh century than in the periods which precede or follow it. The epoch was marked by the reign of the great king, or rather emperor, Harsha-Vardhana (606-648 A.D.), and the works written by Bâṇa, Bhartrihari and others who frequented his court have come down to us. Also we are fortunate in possessing the copious narrative of Hsüan Chuang, the greatest of the Chinese pilgrims, who spent sixteen years (629-645) in India as well as the work known as the "Record of the Buddhist religion as practised in India and the Malay Archipelago," composed by I-Ching who travelled in those countries from 671 to 695. I-Ching also wrote the lives of sixty Chinese pilgrims who visited India during the seventh century and probably there were many others of whom we have no record.

The reign of Harsha is thus illustrated by a number of contemporary dateable works unusual in India. The king himself wrote some Buddhist hymns,[245] and three dramas are ascribed to him but were probably composed by some of the literary men whom he patronized. For all that, the religious ideas which they contain must have had his approval. The Ratnâvalî and Priyadarśikâ are secular pieces and so far as they have any religious atmosphere it is Brahmanic, but the Nàgânanda is a Buddhist religious drama which opens with an invocation of the Buddha and has a Jâtaka story for its plot.[246] Bâṇa was himself a devout Brahman but his historical romance Harshacarita and his novel called Kâdambarî both describe a mixture of religions founded on observation of contemporary life. In an interesting passage[247] he recounts the king's visit to a Buddhist ascetic. The influence of the holy man causes the more intelligent animals in his neighbourhood, such as parrots, to devote themselves to Buddhist lore, but he is surrounded by devotees of the most diverse sects, Jains, Bhâgavatas, Pâncarâtras, Lokâyatikas with followers of Kapila, Kaṇâda and many other teachers. Mayûra, another literary protégé of Harsha's, was like Bâna a Brahman, and Subandhu, who flourished a little before them, ignores Buddhism in his romance called Vâsavadattâ. But Bhartrihari, the still popular gnomic poet, was a Buddhist. It is true that he oscillated between the court and the cloister no less than seven times, but this vacillation seems to have been due to the weakness of the flesh, not to any change of convictions. For our purpose the gist of this literature is that Hinduism in many forms, some of them very unorthodox, was becoming the normal religion of India but that there were still many eminent Buddhists and that Buddhism had sufficient prestige to attract Harsha and sufficient life to respond to his patronage.

About 600 A.D. India was exhausted by her struggle with the Huns. After it there remained only a multitude of small states and obscure dynasties, but there was evidently a readiness to accept any form of unifying and tranquillizing rule and for nearly half a century this was provided by Harsha. He conquered northern India from the Panjab to Bengal but failed to subdue the Deccan. Though a great part of his reign was spent in war, learning and education flourished. Hsüan Chuang, who was his honoured guest, gives a good account of his administration but also makes it plain that brigandage prevailed and that travelling was dangerous.

After 643 Harsha, who was growing elderly, devoted much attention to religion and may be said to have become a Buddhist, while allowing himself a certain eclectic freedom. Several creeds were represented among his immediate relatives. Devotion to Śiva was traditional in the family: his father had been a zealous worshipper of the Sun and his brother and sister were Buddhists of the Sammitîya sect. Harsha by no means disowned Brahmanic worship, but in his latter years his proclivity to Buddhism became more marked and he endeavoured to emulate the piety of Asoka. He founded rest houses and hospitals, as well as monasteries and thousands of stupas. He prohibited the taking of life and the use of animal food, and of the three periods into which his day was divided two were devoted to religion and one to business. He also exercised a surveillance over the whole Buddhist order and advanced meritorious members.

Hsüan Chuang has left an interesting account of the religious fêtes and spectacles organized by Harsha. At Kanauj he attended a great assembly during which a solemn procession took place every day. A golden image of Buddha was borne on an elephant and Harsha, dressed as Indra, held a canopy over it, while his ally Raja Kumara,[248] dressed as Brahmâ, waved a fly-whisk. It was subsequently washed by the king's own hands and in the evening his Majesty, who like Akbar had a taste for religious discussion, listened to the arguments of his Chinese guest. But the royal instructions that no one was to speak against the Master of the Law were so peremptory that even his biographer admits there was no real discussion. These edifying pageants were interrupted by disagreeable incidents which show that Harsha's tolerance had not produced complete harmony. A temporary monastery erected for the fêtes caught fire and a fanatic attempted to stab the king. He confessed under examination that he had been instigated to the crime by Brahmans who were jealous of the favours which the Buddhists received. It was also established that the incendiaries were Brahmans and, after the ringleaders had been punished, five hundred were exiled. Harsha then proceeded to Allahabad to superintend a quinquennial distribution of alms. It was his custom to let treasure accumulate for five years and then to divide it among holy men and the poor. The proceedings lasted seventy-five days and the concourse which collected to gaze and receive must have resembled the fair still held on the same spot. Buddhists, Brahmans and Jains all partook of the royal bounty and the images of Buddha, Sûrya and Śiva were worshipped on successive days, though greater honour was shown to the Buddha. The king gave away everything that he had, even his robes and jewels, and finally, arrayed in clothes borrowed from his sister, rejoiced saying "all I have has entered into incorruptible and imperishable treasuries." After this, adds Hsüan Chuang, the king's vassals offered him jewels and robes so that the treasury was replenished. This was the sixth quinquennial distribution which Harsha had held and the last, for he died in 648. He at first favoured the Hinayana but subsequently went over to the Mahayana, being moved in part by the exhortations of Hsüan Chuang.

Yet the substance of Hsüan Chuang's account is that though Buddhism was prospering in the Far East it was decaying in India. Against this can be set instances of royal piety like those described, the fame enjoyed by the shrines and schools of Magadha and the conversion of the king of Tibet in 638 A.D. This event was due to Chinese as well as Indian influence, but would hardly have occurred unless in north-eastern India Buddhism had been esteemed the religion of civilization. Still Hsüan Chuang's long catalogue of deserted monasteries[249] has an unmistakable significance. The decay was most pronounced in the north-west and south. In Gandhara there were only a few Buddhists: more than a thousand monasteries stood untenanted and the Buddha's sacred bowl had vanished. In Takshaśîla the monasteries were numerous but desolate: in Kashmir the people followed a mixed faith. Only in Udyâna was Buddhism held in high esteem. In Sind the monks were numerous but indolent.

No doubt this desolation was largely due to the depredations of Mihiragula. In the Deccan and the extreme south there was also a special cause, namely the prevalence of Jainism, which somewhat later became the state religion in several kingdoms. In Kalinga, Andhra and the kingdom of the Colas the pilgrim reports that Jains were very numerous but counts Buddhist monasteries only by tens and twenties. In Dravida there were also 10,000 monks of the Sthavira school but in Malakuta among many ruined monasteries only a few were still inhabited and here again Jains were numerous.

For all Central India and Bengal the pilgrim's statistics tell the same tale, namely that though Buddhism was represented both by monasteries and monks, the Deva-temples and unbelievers were also numerous. The most favourable accounts are those given of Kanauj, Ayodhya and Magadha where the sacred sites naturally caused the devout to congregate.

The statistics which he gives as to sects are interesting.[250] The total number of monks amounted to about 183,000. Of these only 32,000 belonged definitely to the Mahayana: more than 96,000 to the Hinayana, and 54,500 studied both systems or at any rate resided in monasteries which tolerated either course of study. Some writers speak as if after our era Mahayanism was predominant in India and the Hinayana banished to its extreme confines such as Ceylon and Kashmir. Yet about A.D. 640 this zealous Mahayanist[251] states that half the monks of India were definitely Hinayanist while less than a fifth had equally definite Mahayanist convictions. The Mahayana laid less stress on monasticism than the Hinayana and therefore its strength may have lain among the laity, but even so the admitted strength of the Hinayana is remarkable. Three Hinayanist schools are frequently mentioned, the Sthaviras, Sarvâstivâdins and Sammitîyas. The first are the well-known Sinhalese sect and were found chiefly in the south (Conjeevaram) and in East Bengal, besides the monks of the Sinhalese monastery at Gaya. The Sarvâstivâdins were found, as their history would lead us to expect, chiefly in the north and beyond the frontiers of India proper. But both were outnumbered by the Sammitîyas, who amounted to nearly 44,000 monks. The chief doctrine[252] of this sect is said to have been that individuals (puggalo) exist as such in the truest sense. This doctrine was supported by reference to the sutra known as the Burden and the Burden bearer.[253] It does not assert that there is a permanent and unchangeable soul (attâ) but it emphasizes the reality and importance of that personality which all accept as true for practical purposes. It is probable that in practice this belief differed little from the ordinary Brahmanic doctrine of metempsychosis and this may be one reason for the prevalence of the sect.

I-Ching, though he does not furnish statistics, gives a clear conspectus of Buddhist sects as they existed in his time. He starts from the ancient eighteen sects but divides them into four groups or Nikayas. (a) The Ârya-Mahâsanghika-nikâya. This comprised seven subdivisions but was apparently the least influential school as it was not predominant anywhere, though it coexisted with other schools in most parts. The Lokottaravâdins mentioned by Hsüan Chuang as existing at Bamiyan belonged to it. They held that the Buddha was not subject to the laws of nature. (b) Ârya-Sthavira-nikâya. This is the school to which our Pali Canon belongs. It was predominant in southern India and Ceylon and was also found in eastern Bengal. (c) The Ârya-Mûla-sarvâstivâda-nikâya with four subdivisions. Almost all belonged to this school in northern India and it was nourishing in Magadha. (d) The Ârya-Sammitîya-nikâya with four subdivisions flourished in Lâṭa and Sindhu. Thus the last three schools were preponderant in southern, northern and western India respectively. All were followed in Magadha, no doubt because the holy places and the University of Nâlandâ attracted all shades of opinion, and Bengal seems to have been similarly catholic. This is substantially the same as Hsüan Chuang's statement except that I-Ching takes a more favourable view of the position of the Sarvâstivâda, either because it was his own school or because its position had really improved.

It would seem that in the estimation of both pilgrims the Maha-and Hinayana are not schools but modes in which any school can be studied. The Nikâya[254] or school appears to have been chiefly, though not exclusively, concerned with the rule of discipline which naturally had more importance for Buddhist monks than it has for European scholars. The observances of each Nikâya were laid down in its own recension of the scriptures which was sometimes oral and sometimes in writing. Probably all the eighteen schools had separate Vinayas, and to some extent they had different editions of the other Pitakas, for the Sarvâstivâdins had an Abhidharma of their own. But there was no objection to combining the study of Sarvâstivâdin literature with the reading of treatises by Asanga and Vasubandhu[255] or sutras such as the Lotus, which I-Ching's master read once a day for sixty years. I-Ching himself seems to regard the two Vehicles as alternative forms of religion, both excellent in their way, much as a Catholic theologian might impartially explain the respective advantages of the active and contemplative lives. "With resolutions rightly formed" he says "we should look forward to meeting the coming Buddha Maitreya. If we wish to gain the lesser fruition (of the Hinayana) we may pursue it through the eight grades of sanctification. But if we learn to follow the course of the greater fruition (of the Mahayana) we must try to accomplish our work through long ages."[256]

I-Ching observes that both Vehicles agree in prescribing the same discipline, in prohibiting the same offences and enjoining the practice of the noble truths. His views, which are substantially those of Hsüan Chuang,[257] must be those current in the seventh century when the Hinayana was allowing the Mahayana to overgrow it without resistance, but the relations of the two creeds are sometimes stated differently. For instance the Angulimâliya sutra,[258] known only in a Tibetan translation, states that whereas for the Hinayana such formulæ as the four truths and the eightfold path are of cardinal importance, the Mahayana does not recognize them, and it is undoubtedly true that the Vaipulya sutras frequently ignore the familiar doctrines of early Buddhism and hint that they belong to a rudimentary stage of instruction.

I-Ching makes no mention of persecution but he deplores the decay of the faith. "The teaching of the Buddha is becoming less prevalent in the world from day to day" he says. "When I compare what I have witnessed in my younger days and what I see to-day in my old age, the state is altogether different and we are bearing witness to this and it is hoped we shall be more attentive in future." Though he speaks regretfully of lax or incorrect discipline, he does not complain of the corruption of the faith by Tantrism and magical practices. He does however deprecate in an exceedingly curious passage the prevalence of religious suicide.[259]

Except for progressive decay, the condition of Indian Buddhism as described by the two pilgrims is much the same. Meals were supplied to monks in the monasteries and it was no longer usual to beg for food in the streets, since the practice is mentioned by I-Ching as exceptional. On Upavasatha days it was the custom for the pious laity to entertain the monks and the meal was sometimes preceded by a religious service performed before an image and accompanied by music. I-Ching describes the musical services with devout enthusiasm. "The priests perform the ordinary service late in the afternoon or in the evening twilight. They come out of the monastery and walk three times round a stupa, offering incense and flowers. Then they all kneel down and one of them who sings well begins to chant hymns describing the virtues of the great Teacher and continues to sing ten or twenty ślokas. They then return to the place in the monastery where they usually assemble and, when all have sat down, a reciter mounting the lion-seat (which is near the head priest) reads a short sutra. Among the scriptures for such an occasion the 'Service in three parts' is often used. This is a selection of Aśvaghosha. The first part contains ten ślokas of a hymn. The second part is a selection from some scripture consisting of the Buddha's words. Then there is an additional hymn as the third part of the service, of more than ten ślokas, being prayers that express the wish to bring one's merits to maturity. After the singing the assembled Bhikshus exclaim Subhâshita or Sâdhu, that is well-said or bravo. The reader descends and the Bhikshus in order salute the lion-seat, the seats of Bodhisattvas and Arhats, and the superior of the monastery."[260]

I-Ching also tells us of the ceremonial bathing of images and prefaces his description by the remark that "the meaning of the Truths is so profound that it is a matter beyond the comprehension of vulgar minds while the ablution of the holy images is practicable for all. Though the Great Teacher has entered Nirvana yet his image exists and we should worship it with zeal as though in his presence. Those who constantly offer incense and flowers to it are enabled to purify their thoughts and those who perpetually bathe his image are enabled to overcome the sins that involve them in darkness."[261] He appears to contemplate chiefly the veneration of images of Sâkyamuni but figures of Bodhisattvas were also conspicuous features in temples, as we know not only from archæology but from the biography of Hsüan Chuang, where it is said that worshippers used to throw flowers and silk scarves at the image of Avalokita and draw auguries from the way they fell.

Monasteries were liberally decorated with statues, carvings and pictures.[262] They often comprised several courts and temples. Hsüan Chuang says that a monastery in Magadha which he calls Ti-lo-shi-ka had "four courts with three storeyed halls, lofty terraces and a succession of open passages.... At the head of the road through the middle gate were three temples with disks on the roof and hung with small bells; the bases were surrounded by balustrades, and doors, windows, beams, walls, and stairs were ornamented with gilt work in relief." In the three temples were large images representing the Buddha, Târâ and Avalokita.

The great centres of Buddhist learning and monastic life, mentioned by both pilgrims, were Valabhî or Balabhi in Gujarat and Nalanda. The former was a district rather than a single locality and contained 100 monasteries with 6000 monks of the Sammitîya school. Nalanda was in Magadha not far from Gaya. The date of its foundation is unknown but a great temple (though apparently not the first) was built about 485 A.D.[263] Fa-Hsien mentions a village called Nala but without indicating that it was a seat of learning. Hence it is probable that the University was not then in existence or at least not celebrated. Hsüan Chuang describes it as containing six monasteries built by various kings and surrounded by an enclosing wall in which there was only one gate. I-Ching writing later says that the establishment owned 200 villages and contained eight halls with more than 3000 monks. In the neighbourhood of the monastery were a hundred sacred spots, several marked by temples and topes. It was a resort for Buddhists from all countries and an educational as well as a religious centre. I-Ching says that students spent two or three years there in learning and disputing after which they went to the king's court in search of a government appointment. Successful merit was rewarded not only by rank but by grants of land. Both pilgrims mention the names of several celebrities connected with Nalanda. But the worthies of the seventh century did not attain to more than scholastic eminence. The most important literary figure of the age is Śântideva of whose life nothing is known. His writings however prove that the Buddhism of this period was not a corrupt superstition, but could inspire and nourish some of the most beautiful thoughts which the creed has produced.

 

FOOTNOTES:




[230] See Vasilief, Le Bouddhisme, Troisième supplément, pp. 262 ff. Köppen, Rel. des Buddha, I. 151. Takakusu in J. Pali Text Society, 1905, pp. 67-146.

[231] Records, translated by Takakusu, p. 15.

[232] They are mentioned in the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha.

[233] Kern (Indian Buddhism, p. 126) says they rejected the authority of the Sûtras altogether but gives no reference.

[234] See Vasilief, pp. 301 ff. and various notices in Hsüan Chuang and Watters. Also de la Vallée Poussin's article in E.R.E.

[235] Hsüan Chuang informs us that when he was in Śrughna he studied the Vibhâshâ of the Sautrântikas, but the precise significance of this term is not plain.

[236] Fa-Hsien's Travels, chap. XVI.

[237] This figure is probably deduced from some artificial calculation of possible heresies like the 62 wrong views enumerated in the Brahma-Jala sûtra.

[238] He must have lived in the fourth century as one of his works (Nanjio, 1243) was translated between 397 and 439.

[239] Watters, Yüan Chwang, II. 221-224. Nanjio, 1237. The works of Guṇamati also are said to show a deep knowledge of the Sânkhya philosophy.

[240] For the history of logic in India, see Vidyâbhusana's interesting work Mediæval School of Indian Logic, 1909. But I cannot accept all his dates.

[241] Diṅnâga's principal works are the Pramâṇa-samuccaya and the Nyâya-praveśa. Hsüan Chuang calls him Ch'en-na. See Watters, II. 209. See Stcherbatskoi in Muséon, 1904, pp. 129-171 for Diṅnâga's influence on the development of the Naiyâyika and Vaiśeshika schools.

[242] His personal name is said to have been P'u-ti-to-lo and his surname Ch'a-ti-li. The latter is probably a corruption of Kshatriya. Hsiang-Chih possibly represents a name beginning with Gandha, but I can neither find nor suggest any identification.

[243] See B.E.F.E.O. 1903, pp. 379 ff.

[244] His evil deeds are several times mentioned by Hsüan Chuang. It required a miracle to restore the Bo tree.

[245] See Ettinghausen, Harshavardhana, Appendix III.

[246] The appearance of Gaurî as a dea ex machina at the end hardly shows that Harsha's Buddhism had a Śâktist tinge but it does show that Buddhists of that period turned naturally to Śivaite mythology.

[247] Harshacarita, chap. VII. The parrots were expounding Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kośa. Bâṇa frequently describes troops of holy men apparently living in harmony but including followers of most diverse sects. See Kâdambari, 193 and 394: Harshacar. 67.

[248] It is curious that Bâṇa (Harshacarita, VII.) says of this prince that from childhood he resolved never to worship anyone but Śiva.

[249] The Râshṭra-pâla-paripṛicchâ (Ed. Finot, pp. ix-xi, 28-33) inveighs against the moral degeneration of the Buddhist clergy. This work was translated into Chinese between 589 and 618, so that demoralisation must have begun in the sixth century.

[250] See Rhys Davids in J.R.A.S. 1891, pp. 418 ff.

[251] Hsüan Chuang was not disposed to underrate the numbers of the Mahayana for he says that the monks of Ceylon were Mahayanists.

[252] See the beginning of the Kathâvatthu. The doctrine is formulated in the words Puggalo upalabbhati saccikaṭṭhaparamaṭṭhenâti, and there follows a discussion between a member of the orthodox school and a Puggalavâdin, that is one who believes in the existence of a person, soul or entity which transmigrates from this world to another.

[253] Sam. Nik. XXII. 221.

[254] This use of Nikâya must not be confused with its other use to denote a division of the Sûtra-Pitaka. It means a group or collection and hence can be used to denote either a body of men or a collection of treatises. These Nikâyas are also not the same as the four schools (Vaibhâshikas, etc.), mentioned above, which were speculative. Similarly in Europe a Presbyterian may be a Calvinist, but Presbyterianism has reference to Church government and Calvinism to doctrine.

There were in India at this time (1) two vehicles, Maha-and Hinayana, (2) four speculative schools, Vaibhâshikas, etc., (3) four disciplinary schools, Mûla-sarvâstivâdins, etc. These three classes are obviously not mutually exclusive. Thus I-Ching approved of (a) the Mahayana, (b) the Mâdhyamika and Yogâcâra, which he did not consider inconsistent and (c) the Mûla-sarvâstivâda.

[255] I-Ching, transl. Takakusu, p. 186.

[256] Three Asankhya Kalpas. I-Ching, Takakusu's transl. pp. 196-7. He seems to regard the Mahayana as the better way. He quotes Nâgârjuna's allusions to Avalokita and Amitâyus with apparent approval; he tells us how one of his teachers worshipped Amitâyus and strove to prepare himself for Sukhâvatî and how the Lotus was the favourite scripture of another. He further tells us that the Mâdhyamika and the Yoga systems are both perfectly correct.

[257] Hsüan Chuang speaks of Mahayanists belonging to the Sthavira school.

[258] Quoted by Rockhill, Life of the Buddha, pp. 196 ff.

[259] Chaps. XXXVIII and XXXIX. He seems to say that it is right for the laity to make an offering of their bodies by burning but not for Bhikshus. The practice is recognized and commended in the Lotus, chap. XXII, which however is a later addition to the original work.

[260] I-Ching, transl. Takakusu, pp. 153-4 somewhat abridged. I-Ching (pp. 156-7) speaks of Mâtricheta as the principal hymn writer and does not identify him with Aśvaghosha.

[261] I believe the golden image in the Arakan Pagoda at Mandalay is still washed with a ceremonial resembling that described by I-Ching.

[262] I-Ching says that monasteries commonly had a statue of Mahâkâla as a guardian deity.

[263] By the Gupta king, Narasinha Gupta Bâlâditya. Much information about Nâlandâ will be found in Satis Chandra Vidyabhusana's Mediæval School of Indian Logic, pp. 145-147. Hsüan Chuang (Life, transl. Beal, p. 111) says that it was built 700 years before his time, that is, in the first century B.C. He dwells on the beauty of the buildings, ponds and flowers.



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