The Project Gutenberg ebook of The Essence of Buddhism, by Various

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Title: The Essence of Buddhism

Author: Various

Editor: E. Haldeman-Julius

Release Date: April 21, 2006 [EBook #18223]

Language: English


Produced by Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Sankar Viswanathan,

and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius




The Essence of









Copyright, 1922.

Haldeman-Julius Company.


I am glad to be permitted thus to say, in a few words of introduction to this well-meditated little volume, how pleasant and how profitable an idea it must be considered to have designed and compiled a Buddhist anthology. Selecting his cut and uncut jewels from very various Buddhistic sources, Mr. Bowden has here supplied those who buy and use the book with rubies and sapphires and emeralds of wisdom, compassion, and human brotherhood, any one of which, worn on the heart, would be sufficient to make the wearer rich beyond estimation for a day. The author disclaims any attempt to set forth a corpus of Buddhistic morality and doctrine, nor, indeed, would anything of the kind be possible within such narrow limits; but I rejoice to observe how well and faithfully his manifold extracts from the Sacred Books of India and the East exhibit that ever-pervading tenderness of the great Asiatic Teacher, which extended itself to all alike that live. This compassionateness of Gautama, if nothing else had been illustrated by the collection, would render it precious to possess and fruitful to employ; but many another lofty tenet of the "Light" of Asia finds illumination in some brief verse or maxim as day after day glides by; and he who should mark the passage of the months with these simple pages must become, I think, a better man at the year's end than at its beginning. I recommend this compilation without hesitation or reserve.




In this compilation no attempt has been made to present a general view of Buddhism as a religious or philosophical system. The aim has rather been to turn Buddhism to account as a moral force by bringing together a selection of its beautiful sentiments, and lofty maxims, and particularly including some of those which inculcate mercy to the lower animals.

On this point a far higher stand is taken by Buddhism than by Christianity—or at any rate than by Christianity as understood and interpreted by those who ought to know. Not only is the whole question of our duties to the lower animals commonly ignored in Christian works as, for instance, in the famous Imitation of Christ, and scores of others; but, as if this were not enough, a reasoned attempt has actually been made, on the strength of Christian teaching, to explode the notion that animals have any right (e.g., in Moral Philosophy, by Father Joseph Rickaby). Very different in this respect is the tone of the average Buddhist treatise, with its earnest exhortations, recurring as a matter of course, to show mercy on every living thing; and this difference alone is an adequate reason for compiling a Buddhist anthology.

In regard to the sources quoted from, considerable latitude seemed allowable. They do not all, by any means, possess canonical authority. But they are all distinctly Buddhist in character. The supposed dates of the originals range from at least the third century B. C. to medieval and later times.

Hence, it is clear that, should any one think to make use of quotations from this work for controversial purposes, a certain degree of caution will be necessary. The context of the passage, and the date and the authorship of the original work, may all need to be taken into account; while it must also be borne in mind that the religious terms, such as "heaven" and "sin," which have to be employed in English, do not always correspond exactly to the Buddhist conception.

Of the numerous Buddhist works which have now been translated from some eight or ten eastern languages, the greater number, when regarded purely as literature, occupy a very low level. At times they are so remarkably dull and silly that the reader is inclined to ask why they were ever translated. But the one redeeming feature in the voluminous compositions of Buddhist writers is the boundless compassion which they consistently inculcate.

The insertion of a passage in these pages does not necessarily imply that the compiler accepts in its entirety the teaching it conveys. Concerning that oft-repeated injunction, not to kill any living creature whatsoever, we can hardly doubt that there are many cases in which to take life, provided it is taken painlessly, not only is not on the whole an unkindness, but is an act of beneficence. If we sometimes give to this injunction the sense of extending our sympathy to the lowest sentient being, and not causing pain to living creatures while they live, we shall perhaps not be doing violence to the spirit of mercy by which it was prompted. There are many passages in Buddhist works which advocate preference for the spirit over the letter, or the exercise of judgment in accepting what we are taught.

A few passages, though not many, have been included more because they are striking or poetical than for the sake of their moral teaching.

As the references given are mostly to the Oriental origins, it is only fair to insert here a list of the English and French translations which have been principally used in compiling this book. The following works comprise most of those which have proved directly of service for the purpose—"Sacred Books of the East," namely:

Vol. 10. Dhammapada, by F. Max Muller; and Sutta-Nipata, by V. Fausboll.

Vol. 11. Buddhist Suttas, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Vol. 13. Vinaya Texts, part 1, by T. W. Rhys Davids and H. Oldenberg.

Vol. 17. Vinaya Texts, part 2, by T. W. Rhys Davids and H. Oldenberg.

Vol. 19. Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, by Rev. S. Beal.

Vol. 20. Vinaya Texts, part 3, by T. W. Rhys Davids and H. Oldenberg.

Vol. 21. Saddharma-pundarika, by H. Kern.

Vol. 35. Questions of King Milinda, part 1, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Vol. 36. Questions of King Milinda, part 2, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Vol. 49. Buddhist Mahayana Texts, by E. B. Cowell, F. Max Muller, and J. Takakusu.

"Sacred Books of the Buddhists," namely:

Vol. 1. Jatakamala, by J. S. Speyer.

Vol. 2. Dialogues of the Buddha, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

The Jataka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births, translated under the editorship of Professor E. B. Cowell.

Buddhism of Tibet, by L. A. Waddell.

Buddhism in Translations, by H. C. Warren.

Travels of Fa-hien, by James Legge.

Selected Essays, by F. Max Muller.

Buddhist Birth Stories, or Jataka Tales, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Hibbert Lectures for 1881, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Buddhism, by T. W. Rhys Davids.

Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Rev. S. Beal.

Abstract of Four Lectures on Buddhist Literature in China, by Rev. S. Beal.

Romantic Legend of Sakya Buddha, by Rev. S. Beal.

Texts from the Buddhist Canon known as Dhammapada, by Rev. S. Beal.

Udanavarga, by W. W. Rockhill.

Lalita Vistara, by Rajendralala Mitra.

Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal, by Rajendralala Mitra.

Mahavamsa, by L. C. Wijesinha.

Attanagalu-vansa, by James D'Alwis.

Archaeological Survey of Southern India (new series of reports), vol. 1, by James Burgess, with translations by Georg Buhler.

Archaeological Survey of Western India, vol. 4, by James Burgess.

Sutta-Nipata, by Sir M. Coomara Swamy.

Katha Sarit Sagara, by C. H. Tawney.

Grammar of the Tibetan Language, by A. Csoma de Koros.

Nagananda: a Buddhist Drama, by Palmer Boyd.

Buddhaghosa's Parables, by Capt. T. Rogers.

Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold.

Ancient Proverbs and Maxims from Burmese Sources, by James Gray.

Jinalankara, or Embellishments of Buddha, by James Gray.

We-than-da-ya: a Buddhist Legend, by L. Allan Goss.

The English Governess at the Siamese Court, by Mrs. A. H. Leonowens.

The Catechism of the Shamans, by C. F. Neumann.

View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos, by Rev. W. Ward.

Horace Sinicae: Translations from the Popular Literature of the Chinese, by Rev. Robert Morrison.

Contemporary Review for February, 1876.

Cornhill Magazine for August, 1876.

The Buddhist, vol. 1.

Journal of Pali Text Society for 1886.

Journal of Buddhist Text Society of India, vols. 1, 3, 4 and 5.

Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, new series, vol. 2; also vol. for 1894.

Journal of Ceylon Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, No. 2.

Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 36.

Transactions of Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. 22.

Journal of American Oriental Society, vol. 4.

Journal Asiatique, septieme serie, vols. 17, 19 and 20.

Lalita Vistara, by P. E. Foucaux.

La Guirlande Pricieuse des Demandes et des Responses, by P. E. Foucaux.

Sept Suttas Palis, tires du Dighanikaya, by P. Grimblot.

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