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There have been many mystic and long-drawn discussions as to whether Nirvana means the annihilation of the soul, or an eternal existence of the soul in a state of trance. It can mean neither, for the simple reason that the Buddha did not teach the existence of any soul at all in the Christian sense; and the confusion which gave rise to these varied interpretations was entirely in the minds of the interpreters. They took for granted that the summum bonum must be in a future life. That any one could seek for a salvation to be perfected here, on earth, did not occur to them. That the highest aim of man could be considered to consist only of an inward subjective change, during this llfe, was an idea so strange that it was beyond the grasp of those who were accustomed to think the highest happiness could only be obtained in heaven, when all the outward conditions of men's existence would be changed. When they were told, therefore, that the Buddhist salvation was Nirvana, they not unnaturally presumed it to be some sort of future life; and in attempting to apply to a future life and to a soul expressions meant to apply to a state of mind to be reached here on earth, and used by thinkers whose system was independent of the idea of soul, they inevitably fell into those curious errors and misconceptions which make their discussions of Nirvana as wearisome as they are unreliable.* These misconceptions might, perhaps, have been avoided had the disputants gone to the original Pali texts, instead of to second-hand authorities; but probably such errors are inevitable whenever two systems, whose elementary principles are so radically opposed, come first into contact.

The fact is, that in spite of the general belief to the contrary, Christianity is at heart more pessimist even than Buddhism. To the majority of average Christians this world is a place of probation, a vale of tears, though its tears will be wiped away and its sorrows changed into unutterable joy in a better world beyond. To the Buddhist such hopes seem to be without foundation, to indulge in them is only possible to the foolish and ignorant; while thus to despair of the present life, thus to postpone the highest fruit of salvation to a world beyond the grave, is base, unworthy, and unwise. Here and now, according to the Buddhist, we are to seek salvation, and to seek it in " right views and high aims, kindly and upright behaviour, a harmless livelihood, perseverance in welldoing, intellectual activity, and earnest thought.

One question remains which ought to be cleared up. Has then the Buddhist salvation, the salvation of a religion which once counted among its adherents half the human race, and which has

*The etymology and meaning of the word Nirvana play a great part in the discussions referred to; but Nirvana, of course, for the reason stated cannot be the "going out" of the soul: it is the going out in the heart of the three ares of lust. anger, and delusion, and of the craving from which they arise.

even now more followers than the Roman Church, the Greek Church, and all other sects of Christians put together-was this a salvation without any reference at all to God? Strange as it may seem, it was so. Doubtless the doctrine would have changed, certainly its expression would have changed, had it been formulated in modern times, and in the West, where the faith in one God has driven out the faith in many. But the popular gods of India—as numerous and as varied in character as their relations, the gods of Greece and Rome-seemed to the Buddha to form no exception to his rules. They were liable to all the evils inseparable from individuality. Their characters were such that they themselves stood in need of salvation, and to salvation the only way, for men and gods alike, was along the Noble Eightfold Path. Hindu thinkers, indeed, before the time of Buddha had evolved a unity out of the many popular impersonations of the forces of nature, had postulated under various names a Primeval Being of whom all the other gods, and all men, and all matter, were but the sportive and temporary manifestations. But this belief was still confined to the schools, and the Buddha denied the cogency of the arguments by which it was supported. He only regarded the newer and purer divinities, born of Hindu philosophy, as more well-meaning and more powerful than the gods of the multitude. But they were alike liable to error, dazed with the delusion of individuality, and in need of salvation; and the Arahat, the man who had reached Nirvana here on earth, was, in spite of his lesser material advantages, in spite of his less favourable outward conditions, better, and wiser, and greater than they. This was one of the most important tenets of early Buddhism, and very fairly represents the position which the gods have always occupied in the varying creeds of Buddhist believers. We find it not only in the earlier books, but in later and popular representations of Buddhist belief and I annex a curious story from the Jataka Book as evidence of the form which this belief had afterwards adopted among average Buddhists in India.

But to return now from this theological digression to our sermon. Without attempting to estimate its value as a permanent solution of the questions with which this paper opened, it may fairly be contended that it marked a great advance on the systems of salvation supported by its principal opponents in India, and that some of its most essential doctrines are not without their value even now. But its chief value, after all, is historical. It shows us that in India, as elsewhere, after the belief in many gods had given rise to the belief in one, there arose a school to whom theological questions had lost their interest, and who sought for a new solution of the questions to which theology had given inconsistent answers in a new system in which man was to work out his own salvation. In

this respect the resemblance, which Mr. Frederick Pollock has pointed out, between Nirvana and the teaching of the Stoics, has a peculiar interest; and their place in the progress of thought may help us to understand how it is that there is so much in common between the agnostic philosopher of India, and some of the newest schools in France, in Germany, and among ourselves.

T. W. RHYS DAVIDS, in Fortnightly Review.


Long ago Brahma-datta was king in Benares, in the land of Kasi. At the time the Bodhisatwa was conceived in the womb of his chief queen, and on the naming-day they called him Prince Mahingsasa. When he could run alone, another son was born to the King, whom they called the Moon Prince. And when he could run alone the mother of the Bodhisatwa died, and the King appointed another lady to be chief queen. She became very near and dear to the King, and in due course she had a son, whom they called the Sun Prince. When the King saw his son, he said in his delight, "My love, for this son I will give you whatever you ask!" But the Queen postponed her choice to some more suitable time, and so kept the gift in reserve.

And when her son had grown up, she said to the King, "Your Majesty, on the day my son was born, offered me anything I would ask. Give me the kingdom for my son!"




"My two sons," said the King, are glorious as pillars of fire! I cannot give your son the kingdom." And he refused her. But when he found her beseeching him again and again, he thought, "This woman may devise some mischief against the boys." sending for his sons, he said to them, My children, when the Sun Prince was born I pledged myself to grant a boon; and now his mother is demanding the kingdom for him. I am not willing to grant this; but womankind is cruel-she may plot some evil against you. Do you retire into the forest, and when I am dead, rule over this city, our family's hereditary right." Thus weeping, and lamenting, and kissing their foreheads, he dismissed them.

Now the Sun Prince himself was playing in the palace yard, and saw them descending from the palace after taking leave of the King, and perceiving how the matter stood, he said to himself, "I too will go with my brothers," and went away with them.

They entered the Himalaya Mountains, and the Bodhisatwa, leaving the path, sat down at the foot of a tree, and said to the Sun Prince, "Dear Sun, go to yonder pond, and first bathe and drink yourself, and then bring us too some water in the leaves of the lotus plant."

Now that tank had been granted to a water-sprite by Wessawana

(the king of the bad fairies), Wessawana saying to him, "All those whoo down into this pond, save only those who understand divinity, are your prey, but you have no power over those who do not enter the water. Thenceforward the evil genius asked all those who went down into the water what were the divine beings, and devoured those who did not know.

Now the Sun Prince went to the tank, and without hesitation descended into the water. And the evil genius seized him, and asked him, "Do you know what beings are divine?"

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The gods," said he, "are the Sun aad the Moon."

"You don't know divinity!" was the reply; and dragging him down, he put him in his cave.

The Bodhisatwa, finding that the Sun Prince delayed, sent the Moon Prince. The evil genius seized him, and asked him, "Do you know what beings are divine?”

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Certainly I do! ~ The divine being is the far-spreading sky,”* answered he.

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You don't know divinity," said the genius; and seizing on him too, put him in the same place.

And when he, too, delayed, the Bodhisatwa, thinking some accident must have happened, went there himself. Seeing the mark of both their footsteps, as they had gone down, he was convinced that the pond must be haunted by a demon, and took his stand with girded sword and bow in hand The water-sprite, seeing that the Bodhisatwa did not enter the water, took the form of a woodman, and said to him, "Well, my man, you seem tired with your journey. Why don't you get into the pond, and bathe, and quench your thirst, and then go on merrily eating the edible stalks of the water-lilies?"

When the Bodhisatwa saw him, he knew this must be the demon," and he called out, "It is you who have seized my brothers!"


Certainly, it is I!"

"What for?"

'I have been granted all who go down into the pond.'

What, all!"

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Well, if so, I will teach you divinity."

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Yes, it is."

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Speak, then, and I shall hear who have the nature of gods."

'I would tell you who they are," said the Bodhisatwa, "but I am all unclean."

*Literally, "the four directions." The elder of the lads is more advanced in hie theology

Then the demon bathed the Bodhisatwa, and gave him food, and brought him water, and decked him with flowers, and anointed him with perfumes, and spread a seat for him in a beautiful bower. The Bodhisatwa seated himself with the demon at his feet, and saying, "Give ear, then, attentively, and hear who it is that have the real attributes of gods," he uttered this stanza :

"Pure men, and modest, kind, and upright men,

These are the so-called divine beings in the world."

The genius, when he had heard the discourse, was converted, and said, "Oh, Pundit, I have received peace through you! I will give you one of your brothers; which shall I bring?"

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Bring the younger."

"Pundit, you know all theology, but you act not up to it." Why so?"

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"Because in passing over the elder, and telling me bring the younger, you do not pay the honour due to seniority."

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"I both know theology, O demon, and walk according to it. It is on his account that we came to this forest. For him his mother begged of our father the kingdom, and our father, unwilling to grant the boon, permitted us for our own safety this life in the forest. That lad came here all the way with us. Should I now say, A demon has eaten him in the wilderness,' who would believe it? Therefore is it that I, fearing reproach, tell you to bring him."


You speak well, teacher, most well! You not only know theology, but walk according to it," said the water-sprite, honouring the Bodhisatwa with believing heart; and he brought his two brothers and gave them over to him.

Then the Bodhisatwa said to him, "Friend, it is by the evil you have done in a former birth that, you are born as a demon, feeding on the flesh and blood of others. Yet now you still sin. This your sin will prevent your being saved from hell. Henceforth, therefore, put away sin, and do good." And he succeeded in subduing him.

After converting the demon, he continued to dwell in that very spot, under his protection, until, one day, when observing the stars, he found out that his father had died. Then, taking the watersprite with him, he returned to Benares and assumed the sovereignty, and appointed the Moon Prince heir-apparent, and the Sun Prince Commander of the Forces. And for the sprite he had a residence prepared in a pleasant spot, and made arrangements so that he should get the best flowers and food supplied to him. And ruling the kingdom in righteousness, he passed away according to his deeds.

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