This "Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 2" was written by Charles Eliot in English language.
Historical Sketch, Vol.
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by Charles Eliot
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Title: Hinduism And Buddhism, Volume II. (of 3)
An Historical Sketch
Author: Charles Eliot
Release Date: August 19, 2005 [EBook #16546]
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Link to Volume One
Excerpts from the Preface to the book from Volume 1,
the method of transcription used.
“In the following pages I have occasion to transcribe words
belonging to many oriental languages in Latin characters.
Unfortunately a uniform system of transcription, applicable to all
tongues, seems not to be practical at present. It was attempted in
the Sacred Books of the East, but that system has fallen into
disuse and is liable to be misunderstood. It therefore seems best to
use for each language the method of transcription adopted by
standard works in English dealing with each, for French and
German transcriptions, whatever their merits may be as
representations of the original sounds, are often misleading to
English readers, especially in Chinese. For Chinese I have adopted
Wade's system as used in Giles's Dictionary, for Tibetan the
system of Sarat Chandra Das, for Pali that of the Pali Text Society
and for Sanskrit that of Monier-Williams's Sanskrit Dictionary,
except that I write ś instead of s. Indian languages however offer
many difficulties: it is often hard to decide whether Sanskrit or
vernacular forms are more suitable and in dealing with Buddhist
subjects whether Sanskrit or Pali words should be used. I have
found it convenient to vary the form of proper names according as
my remarks are based on Sanskrit or on Pali literature, but this
obliges me to write the same word differently in different places,
e.g. sometimes Ajâtaśatru and sometimes Ajâtasattu, just as in a
book dealing with Greek and Latin mythology one might employ
both Herakles and Hercules. Also many Indian names such as
Ramayana, Krishna, nirvana have become Europeanized or at
least are familiar to all Europeans interested in Indian literature. It
seems pedantic to write them with their full and accurate
complement of accents and dots and my general practice is to give
such words in their accurate spelling (Râmâyana, etc.) when they
are first mentioned and also in the notes but usually to print them
in their simpler and unaccented forms. I fear however that my
practice in this matter is not entirely consistent since different parts
of the book were written at different times.”
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
[From Volume 1]
The following are the principal abbreviations used:
Ep. Ind. Epigraphia India.
E.R.E. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (edited by Hastings).
I.A. Indian Antiquary.
J.A. Journal Asiatique.
J.A.O.S. Journal of the American Oriental Society.
J.R.A.S. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.
P.T.S. Pali Text Society.
S.B.E. Sacred Books of the East (Clarendon Press).
HINDUISM AND BUDDHISM
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH
SIR CHARLES ELIOT
In three volumes
ROUTLEDGE & KEGAN PAUL LTD
Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane,
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
LONDON - BRADFORD
MAIN FEATURES OF THE MAHAYANA
THE BUDDHAS of MAHAYANISM
CHRONOLOGY OF THE MAHAYANA
FROM KANISHKA TO VASUBANDHU
INDIAN BUDDHISM AS SEEN BY THE CHINESE
DECADENCE OF BUDDHISM IN INDIA
ŚIVA AND VISHNU
FEATURES OF HINDUISM: RITUAL, CASTE, SECT, FAITH
THE EVOLUTION OF HINDUISM. BHÂGAVATAS AND
ŚANKARA. ŚIVAISM IN SOUTHERN INDIA. KASHMIR.
VISHNUISM IN SOUTH INDIA
LATER VISHNUISM IN NORTH INDIA
AMALGAMATION OF HINDUISM AND ISLAM. KABIR AND THE
MAIN FEATURES OF THE MAHAYANA
The obscurest period in the history of Buddhism is that which follows the reign
of Asoka, but the enquirer cannot grope for long in these dark ages without
stumbling upon the word Mahayana. This is the name given to a movement
which in its various phases may be regarded as a philosophical school, a sect
and a church, and though it is not always easy to define its relationship to other
schools and sects it certainly became a prominent aspe
ct of Buddhism in India
about the beginning of our era besides achieving enduring triumphs in the Far
East. The word
signifies Great Vehicle or Carriage, that is a means of
conveyance to salvation, and is contrasted with Hinayana, the Little Vehicle, a
name bestowed on the more conservative party though not willingly accepted
by them. The simplest description of the two Vehicles is that given by the
Chinese traveller I-Ching (635-713 A.D.) who saw them both as living realities
in India. He says
"Those who worship Bodhisattvas and read Mahayana
Sutras are called Mahayanists, while those who do not do this are called
Hinayanists." In other words, the Mahayanists have scriptures of their own, not
included in the Hinayanist Canon and adore superhuman beings in the stage
of existence immediately below Buddhahood and practically differing little from
Indian deities. Many characteristics could be added to I-Ching's description but
they might not prove universally true of the Mahayana nor entirely absent from
the Hinayana, for however divergent the two Vehicles may have become when
separated geographically, for instance in Ceylon and Japan, it is clear that
when they were in contact, as in India and China, the distinction was not
always sharp. But in general the Mahayana was more popular, not in the
sense of being simpler, for parts of its teaching were exceedingly abstruse, but
in the sense of striving to invent or include doctrines agreeable to the masses.
It was less monastic than the older Buddhism, and more emotional; warmer in
charity, more personal in devotion, more ornate in art, literature and ritual,
more disposed to evolution and development, whereas the Hinayana was
conservative and rigid, secluded in its cloisters and open to the plausible if
unjust accusation of selfishness. The two sections are sometimes described as
northern and southern Buddhism, but except as a rough description of their
distribution at the present day, this distinction is not accurate, for the
Mahayana penetrated to Java, while the Hinayana reached Central Asia and
China. But it is true that the development of the Mahayana was due to
influences prevalent in northern India and not equally prevalent in the South.
The terms Pali and Sanskrit Buddhism are convenient and as accurate as can
be expected of any nomenclature covering so large a field.
Though European writers usually talk of
Yânas or Vehicles—the great and
the little—and though this is clearly the important distinction for historical
purposes, yet Indian and Chinese Buddhists frequently enumerate
These are the
, the vehicle of the ordinary Bhikshu who hopes to
become an Arhat, the
for the rare beings who are able to
become Buddhas but do not preach the law to others, and in contrast to both
of these the
or vehicle of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As a rule
these three Vehicles are not regarded as hostile or even incompatible. Thus
maintains that there is really but one vehicle though by a
wise concession to human weakness the Buddha lets it appear that there are
three to suit divers tastes. And the Mahayana is not a single vehicle but rather
a train comprising many carriages of different classes. It has an unfortunate but
distinct later phase known in Sanskrit as Mantrayâna and Vajrayâna but
generally described by Europeans as Tantrism. This phase took some of the
worst features in Hinduism,
such as spells, charms, and the worship of
goddesses, and with misplaced ingenuity fitted them into Buddhism. I shall
treat of it in a subsequent chapter, for it is chronologically late. The silence of
Hsüan Chuang and I-Ching implies that in the seventh century it was not a
noticeable aspect of Indian Buddhism.
Although the record of the Mahayana in literature and art is clear and even
brilliant, it is not easy either to trace its rise or connect its development with
other events in India. Its annals are an interminable list of names and
doctrines, but bring before us few living personalities and hence are dull. They
are like a record of the Christian Church's fight against Arians, Monophysites
and Nestorians with all the great figures of Byzantine history omitted or called
in question. Hence I fear that my readers (if I have any) may find these
chapters repellent, a mist of hypotheses and a catalogue of ancient paradoxes.
I can only urge that if the history of the Mahayana is uncertain, its teaching
fanciful and its scriptures tedious, yet it has been a force of the first magnitude
in the secular history and art of China, Japan and Tibet and even to-day the
most metaphysical of its sacred books, the Diamond Cutter, has probably more
readers than Kant and Hegel.
Since the early history of the Mahayana is a matter for argument rather than
precise statement, it will perhaps be best to begin with some account of its
doctrines and literature and proceed afterwards to chronology. I may, however,
mention that general tradition connects it with King Kanishka and asserts that
the great doctors Aśvaghosha and Nâgârjuna lived in and immediately after his
reign. The attitude of Kanishka and of the Council which he summoned
towards the Mahayana is far from clear and I shall say something about this
difficult subject below. Unfortunately his date is not beyond dispute for while a
considerable consensus of opinion fixes his accession at about 78 A.D., some
scholars place it earlier and others in the second century A.D.
this, it appears established that the Sukhâvatî-vyûha which is definitely
Mahayanist was translated into Chinese between 147 and 186 A.D. We may
assume that it was then already well known and had been composed some
time before, so that, whatever Kanishka's date may
have been, Mahayanist
doctrines must have been in existence about the time of the Christian era, and
perhaps considerably earlier. Naturally no one date like a reign or a council can
be selected to mark the beginning of a great school. Such a body of doctrine
must have existed piecemeal and unauthorized before it was collected and
recognized and some tenets are older than others. Enlarging I-Ching's
definition we may find in the Mahayana seven lines of thought or practice. All
are not found in all sects and some are shared with the Hinayana but probably
none are found fully developed outside the Mahayana. Many of them have
parallels in the contemporary phases of Hinduism.
1. A belief in Bodhisattvas and in the power of human beings to become
2. A code of altruistic ethics which teaches that everyone must do good in the
interest of the whole world and make over to others any merit he may acquire
by his virtues. The aim of the religious life is to become a Bodhisattva, not to
become an Arhat.
3. A doctrine that Buddhas are supernatural beings, distributed through infinite
space and time, and innumerable. In the language of later theology a Buddha
has three bodies and still later there is a group of five Buddhas.
4. Various systems of idealist metaphysics, which tend to regard the Buddha
essence or Nirvana much as Brahman is regarded in the Vedanta.
5. A canon composed in Sanskrit and apparently later than the Pali Canon.
6. Habitual worship of images and elaboration of ritual. There is a dangerous
tendency to rely on formulæ and charms.
7. A special doctrine of salvation by faith in a Buddha, usually Amitâbha, and
invocation of his name. Mahayanism can exist without this doctrine but it is
tolerated by most sects and considered essential by some.
many southern provinces); Japanese,
Sanskrit the synonyms agrayâna and uttama-yâna are also found.
Record of Buddhist practices. Transl. Takakusu, 1896, p. 14. Hsüan
Chuang seems to have thought that acceptance of the Yogâcâryabhûmi
(Nanjio, 1170) was essential for a Mahayanist. See his life, transl. by
Beal, p. 39, transl. by Julien, p. 50.
̣ḍarîka, chap. III. For brevity, I usually cite this work by
the title of The Lotus.
The date 58 B.C. has probably few supporters among scholars now,
especially after Marshall's discoveries.
Let us now consider these doctrines and take first the worship of Bodhisattvas.
This word means one whose essence is knowledge but is used in the technical
sense of a being who is in process of obtaining but has not yet obtained
Buddhahood. The Pali Canon shows little interest in the personality of
Bodhisattvas and regards them simply as the preliminary or larval form of a
Buddha, either Śâkyamuni
or some of his predecessors. It was incredible
that a being so superior to ordinary humanity as a Buddha should be suddenly
produced in a human family nor could he be regarded as an incarnation in the
strict sense. But it was both logical and edifying to suppose that he was the
product of a long evolution of virtue, of good deeds and noble resolutions
extending through countless ages and culminating in a being superior to the
Devas. Such a being awaited in the Tushita heaven the time fixed for his
appearance on earth as a Buddha and his birth was accompanied by marvels.
But though the Pali Canon thus recognizes the Bodhisattva as a type which, if
rare, yet makes its appearance at certain intervals, it leaves the matter there. It
is not suggested that saints should try to become Bodhisattvas and Buddhas,
or that Bodhisattvas can be helpers of mankind.
But both these trains of
thought are natural developments of the older ideas and soon made
themselves prominent. It is a characteristic doctrine of Mahayanism that men
can try and should try to become Bodhisattvas.
In the Pali Canon we hear of Arhats, Pacceka Buddhas, and perfect Buddhas.
For all three the ultimate goal is the same, namely Nirvana, but a Pacceka
Buddha is greater than an Arhat, because he has greater intellectual powers
though he is not omniscient, and a perfect Buddha is greater still, partly
because he is omniscient and partly because he saves others. But if we admit
that the career of the Buddha is better and nobler, and also that it is, as the
Introduction to the Jâtaka recounts, simply the result of an earnest resolution
to school himself and help others, kept firmly through the long chain of
existences, there is nothing illogical or presumptuous in making our goal not
the quest of personal salvation, but the attainment of Bodhisattvaship, that is
the state of those who may aspire to become Buddhas. In fact the Arhat,
engrossed in his own salvation, is excused only by his humility and is open to
the charge of selfish desire, since the passion for Nirvana is an ambition like
any other and the quest for salvation can be best followed by devoting oneself
entirely to others. But though my object here is to render intelligible the
Mahayanist point of view including its objections to Hinayanism, I must defend
the latter from the accusation of selfishness. The vigorous and authoritative
character of Gotama led him to regard all mankind as patients requiring
treatment and to emphasize the truth that they could cure themselves if they
would try. But the Buddhism of the Pali Canon does not ignore the duties of
loving and instructing others;
it merely insists on man's power to save himself
if properly instructed and bids him do it at once: "sell all that thou hast and
follow me." And the Mahayana, if less self-centred, has also less self-reliance,
and self-discipline. It is more human and charitable, but also more easygoing: it
teaches the believer to lean on external supports which if well chosen may be a
help, but if trusted without discrimination become paralyzing abuses. And if we
look at the abuses of both systems the fossilized monk of the Hinayana will
with the tantric adept. It was to the corruptions of the
Mahayana rather than of the Hinayana that the decay of Buddhism in India
The career of the Bodhisattva was early divided into stages (bhûmi) each
marked by the acquisition of some virtue in his triumphant course. The stages
are variously reckoned as five, seven and ten. The Mahâvastu,
which is the
earliest work where the progress is described, enumerates ten without
distinguishing them very clearly. Later writers commonly look at the
Bodhisattva's task from the humbler point of view of the beginner who wishes
to learn the initiatory stages. For them the Bodhisattva is primarily not a
supernatural being or even a saint but simply a religious person who wishes to
perform the duties and enjoy the privileges of the Church to the full, much like
a communicant in the language of contemporary Christianity. We have a
manual for those who would follow this path, in the Bodhicaryâvatâra of
Śântideva, which in its humility, sweetness and fervent piety has been rightly
compared with the De Imitatione Christi. In many respects the virtues of the
Bodhisattva are those of the Arhat. His will must be strenuous and
concentrated; he must cultivate the strictest morality, patience, energy,
meditation and knowledge. But he is also a devotee, a
: he adores all the
Buddhas of the past, present and future as well as sundry superhuman
Bodhisattvas, and he confesses his sins, not after the fashion of the
Pâtimokkha, but by accusing himself before these heavenly Protectors and
vowing to sin no more.
Śântideva lived in the seventh century
but tells us that he follows the
scriptures and has nothing new to say. This seems to be true for, though his
book being a manual of devotion presents its subject-matter in a dogmatic
form, its main ideas are stated and even elaborated in the Lotus. Not only are
eminent figures in the Church, such as Sâriputra and Ânanda, there designated
as future Buddhas, but the same dignity is predicted wholesale for five hundred