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In another respect, however, either the said priests, or the translators, must be held responsible for a still more important error, which has led Mr. Upham, in his Introduction (p. xxii.) to notice, and comment on, the discrepancies of the buddhistical records of Ceylon, as compared with those of Nepal. He observes, "of these personages (the Buddhos mentioned in the Nepal records) only the four last are mentioned in the pages of Singhalese histories. References are indeed occasionally made to an anterior Budhu, but as no names or particulars are given, we are chiefly indebted for our knowledge of these preceding Budhos, viz., Wipasya, Sikhi, and Wisabhu, to the Nepalese and Chinese histories."
It is indeed unfortunate for the native literature of Ceylon, that it should be so misrepresented in an introduction to a work, which in the original contains in the first page, the name of every one of the twenty four Buddhos, stated in the order of their advent; to which work there is a valuable commentary, either giving the history of every one of these Buddhos, or referring to the authorities in which a detailed account of them may be found. Nor can the "two ablest priests of Buddha,” and the other parties employed by Sir A. Johnston in collecting these records, plead ignorance of the existence of that valuable commentary (Mahawansa-Tíká), for I observe in the list of Páli and Singhalese books,vol. iii. p. 170,-two copics of that work are mentioned; one in the temple at Mulgirigalla, from which my copy was taken; and the other in the temple at Bentotte.
This translation, which abounds in errors of the description above noticed, is stated to have been made "under the superintendence of the late native chief of the cinnamon department, (Rájapaxa, maha modliar), who was himself the best Páli and Singhalese scholar in the country." I was personally acquainted with this individual, who was universally and deservedly respected, both in his official and private character. He possessed extensive information, and equally extensive influence, among his own caste at least, if not among his countrymen generally; and as of late years, the intercourse with the budhistical church in the Burmese empire had been chiefly kept up by missions from the priesthood of his (the chalia) caste in Ceylon, the late chief justice could not, perhaps, have applied to any individual more competent to collect the native, as well as Burmese, Páli annals; or more capable of procuring the best qualified translators of that language into Singhalese, from among the Páli scholars resident in the maritime districts of the island, than Rájapaxa was. This was, however, the full extent to which this chief could have efficiently assisted Sir A. Johnston, in his praiseworthy undertaking; for the maha modliar was not himself either a Páli, or an English scholar. That is to say, he had no better acquaintance with the Páli, than a modern European would, without studying it, have of any ancient dead language, from which his own might be derived. As to his acquaintance with the English language, though he imperfectly comprehended any ordinary question which might be put to him, he certainly could not speak, much less write, in reply, the shortest connected sentence in English. He must, therefore, (unless he has practised a most unpardonable deception on Sir A. Johnston) be at once released from all responsibility, as to the correctness, both of the Páli version translated into Singhalese, and of the Singhalese version into English.
* In 1822, five years after Sir A. Johnston left Ceylon, and before I had acquired a knowledge of the colloquial Singhalese, as Magistrate of Colombo, I had to examine Rájapaxa, maha modliar, as a witness in my court. On that occasion, I was obliged to employ an interpreter (the present permanent assessor, Mr. Dias, modliar) not only to convey his Singhalese answers in English to me, but to interpret my English questions in Singhales to him, as he was totally incapable of following me in English. With Europeans he generally conversed in the local Portuguese
There is some similar misapprehension in pronouncing the late Rev. Mr. Fox, by whom the English translation is stated to have been revised in England, to be "the best European Páli and Singhalese scholar at present in Europe." I had not the pleasure of being personally acquainted with this gentleman, who left the colony, I believe, soon after I arrived in it. I have always heard him spoken of with respect, in reference to his zeal in his avocation, and his attainments as an European classical scholar I am, however, credibly informed, that this gentleman also had no knowledge of the Páli language.
A letter from Mr. Fox is inserted in the Introduction, p. xi., of which I extract the three first
"Having very carefully compared the translations of the three Singhalese books submitted to me with the originals, I can safely pronounce them to be correct translations, giving, with great fidelity the sense of the original copies.
"A more judicious selection, in my judgment, could not have been made from the numerous buddhist works extant, esteemed of authority among the professors of buddhism, to give a fair view of the civil and mythological history of buddhism, and countries professing buddhism.
"The Mahavansi is esteemed as of the highest authority, and is undoubtedly very ancient. The copy from which the translation is made is one of the temple copies, from which many things found in common copies are excluded, as not being found in the ancient Páli copies of the work. Every temple I have visited is furnished with a copy of this work, and is usually placed next the Játakas or incarnations of Buddha.”
This extract serves to acquit him most fully of laying claim to any knowledge of the Páli language, as he only speaks of having "carefully compared the translations of the three Singhalese books submitted to him with the originals." But what shall I say of the prejudice he has raised against, and the injustice he has done to, the native literature of Ceylon, when he pronounces the wretched jargon into which a mutilated abridgment of the Mahawanso is translated "to be correct translations, giving with great fidelity the sense of the original copies;" and then proceeds to declare, (in refererence to that mutilated abridgment and its accompaniments)," a more judicious selection, in my judgment, could not have been made from the numerous buddhist works extant"!!
Mr. Fox labors also under some unaccountable delusion, when he speaks of "abridged temple copies," and calls the Mahawanso a “sacred work," found in almost all the temples. It is, on the contrary, purely and strictly, an historical work, seldom consulted by the priesthood, and consequently rarely found in the temples; and I have never yet met with, or heard of, any abridged copy of the work. In direct opposition to this statement, as to its being an "abridged copy," Mr. Upham, to whom the publication of these translations was intrusted, and who was the author of "The HISTORY OF BUDDHISM," makes the following note at p. 7 of that work:
"According to the information prefixed in a manuscript note, by the translator, Raja-pakse, a well known intelligent native of Ceylon, the Mahawansi is one of the most esteemed of all the sacred books of his countrymen, and has the character of being among the oldest of their writings, being throughout composed in Palee, the sacred buddhist language. This work has been so carefully preserved, that but slight differences are observable between the most ancient and most modern copies. It does not appear at what period it was composed, but it has been in existence from the period that the books of Ceylon were originally written, and it contains the doctrine, the race, and lineage of Budha,' and is, in fact, the religion and history of buddhism."
I need hardly suggest, after what has been already stated, that Rájapaxa, as an intelligent native of Ceylon, never could have been the real author of this note, in any language, asserting that the Mahawanso "is one of the most esteemed of all the sacred books of his countrymen;" nor could he, without
recording a self-evident absurdity, have represented an history extending to the middle of the last century, and containing in it the specification of the reign in which several portions of it were composed, to have "been in existence from the periods that the books of Ceylon were originally written."
In his preface to the same work, Mr. Upham distinctly "disclaims all pretension to the philological knowledge and local information, requisite to render discussion useful, and illustration pertinent." The spirit of candour in which this admission is made, would entitle Mr. Upham to be considered exclusively in the light of a publisher, irresponsible for any material defect the work he edites may contain. A fatality, however, appears to attach to the proceedings of every individual connected with the publication of these Ceylonese works, from which Mr. Upham himself is not exempt, if the introduction, and the notes appended, to the translation of "The SACRED AND HISTORICAL BOOKS" are to be attributed to him.
Thus, p. 83, the translator states that "Mahindo was accompanied with his nephew Sumenow, a samanere priest, seven years old, the son of his sister Sangamittrah;" and p. 97, "The first queen Anulah, and 500 other queens, having obtained the state of Sakertahgamy, and also 500 pleasure women, put on yellow robes, that is, became priestesses." But when this publisher touches upon the same subjects in the following passage, p. 100, " in these days, the queen Anulah, together with 1000 women, were created priestesses by Sangamittrah, and obtained the state of rahat ;" he thinks it necessary to enlighten his readers with a note: and forgetting altogether that he has to deal with " matron queens and pleasure women," he gravely remarks, that "priestesses, although not now existing among the buddhists, were at this period of such sanctity, that an offender when led forth to be put to death, who was so fortunate as to meet one of these sacred virgins, was entitled, at her command, to a pardon; and this privilege was subsequently copied, and adopted among the Romans, in the case of the vestal virgins.” Mr. Upham has no more valid authority for saying that these "matrons and pleasure women were considered either to assume the character of “sacred virgins" by their ordination, or to have been held in greater veneration than the rahat priests, than that the privilege of demanding the pardon of offenders, "was subsequently copied, and adopted among the Romans." Again, p. 222, in a note, he states correctly enough, that the "upasampadá were the priests of the superior quality." But at p. 300, where the ceremony of upasampadá (which simply signifies ordination) is mentioned, he forgets the former, and the correct rendering, and adds a note in these words: "this was the burning the various priests' bodies, and forming them into dawtoos, which had been preserved for that purpose." These instances of the same facts and circumstances being correctly stated in one, and incorrectly in another part, of both these publications, are by no means of infrequent occurrence; which only tend to aggravate the neglect or carelessness of the parties employed in conducting this publication. Where such inaccuracies could be committed in the "SACRED AND HISTORICAL BOOKS," when an occasional note only is attempted, it may readily be imagined what the result must be, when Mr. Upham is employed to write "The HISTORY AND Doctrine of BUDDHISM from Sir A. Johnston's collection of manuscripts."
Imperfect as the information connected with buddhism possessed by Europeans at present is, it would not have been reasonable to have expected any connected and correct account of the metaphysical and doctrinal portions of that creed; and until the "pitakattaya," or the three pitakas, which contain the buddhistical scriptures, and the ancient commentaries on them, are either consulted in the original, or correctly translated, there must necessarily prevail great diversity of opinions on these abstruse and
intricate questions. But in the historical portion, at least, for which the data are sufficiently precise. and readily obtained, in the native annals of this island, "The HISTORY OF BUDDHISM" ought to have been exempt from any material inaccuracies. Even in this respect, however, the work abounds in the grossest errors. Thus, p. 1., in describing Ceylon, Mr. Upham speaks of "that island which the Buddha Guādma, this distinguished teacher of the eastern world, has chosen to make the scene of his birth, and the chief theatre of his acts and miracles: p. 2. refering to Adam's peak, he says, "it is celebrated for possessing the print of Buddha's foot left on the spot, whence he ascended to the Déwalóka heavens :" p. 73. "The buddhist temple of Mulgirigala on Adam's peak, is declared to be within this region (Jugandara Parwatte.")
It is scarcely possible for a person, not familiar with the subject, to conceive the extent of the absurdities involved in these, and other similar passages. It is no burlesque to say, that they would be received, by a Ceylonese buddhist, with feelings akin to those with which an Englishman would read a work, written by an Indian, professedly for the purpose of illustrating the history of christianity to his countrymen, which stated,-that England was the scene of the birth of our Saviour; that his ascension took place from Derby peak; and that Salisbury cathedral stood on Westminster abbey.
And yet these are the publications put forth, as correct translations of, and compilations from, the native annals of Ceylon. Such is the force, respectability, and apparent competency of the attestations by which "The SACRED AND HISTORICAL WORKS OF CEYLON" are sustained, that they have been considered worthy of being dedicated to the king, patronised by the court of directors, and sent out to this island, by the secretary of state, to be preserved among the archives of this government !!
After this signal failure in Sir A. Johnston's well intentioned exertions, and after the disappointments which have hitherto attended the labors of orientalists, in their researches for historical annals, comprehensive in data, and consistent in chronology, I have not the hardihood to imagine, that the translation alone of a Páli history, containing a detailed, and chronologically continuous, history of Ceylon, for twenty four centuries; and a connected sketch of the buddhistical history of India, embracing the interesting period between B. c. 600, and B. c. 300; besides various other subsequent references, as well to India, as the eastern peninsula, would, without the amplest evidence of its authenticity, receive the slightest consideration from the literary world. I have decided, therefore, on publishing the text also, printed in roman characters, pointed with diacritical marks.
My object in undertaking this publication (as I have already stated) is, principally, to invite the attention of oriental scholars to the historical data contained in the ancient Páli buddhistical records. as exhibited in the Mahawanso; contrasted with the results of their profound researches, as exhibited in their various publications and essays, commencing from the period when Sir W. Jones first brought oriental literature under the scrutiny and analysis of European criticism.
Half a century has elapsed since that eminent person formed the Bengal Asiatic Society, which justly claims for itself the honor of having "numbered amongst its members all the most distinguished students of oriental literature, and of having succeeded in bringing to light many of the hidden stores of Asiatic learning." Within the regions to which their researches were in the first instance directed, the prevailing religion had, from a remote period, extending back, perhaps, to the christian era, been uninterruptedly hinduism. The priesthood of that religion were considered to be exclusively possessed of the knowledge of the ancient literature of that country, in all its various branches. The classical language in which that literature was embodied was SANSCRIT.
The rival religion to hinduism in Asia, promulgated by Buddhos antecedant to Gótamó, from a period too remote to admit of chronological definition, was buddhism. The last successful struggle of buddhism for ascendency in India, subsequent to the advent of Gótamó, was in the fourth century before the christian era. It then became the religion of the state. The ruler of that vast empire was, at that epoch, numbered amongst its most zealous converts; and fragments of evidence, literary, as well as of the arts, still survive, to attest that that religion had once been predominant throughout the most civilized and powerful kingdoms of Asia. From thence it spread to the surrounding nations; among whom, under various modifications, it still prevails.
Hinduism, as the religion at least of its rulers, after an apparently short interval, regained its former ascendency in India; though the numerical diminution of its antagonists would appear to have been more gradually brought about. Abundant proofs may be adduced to shew the fanatical ferocity with which these two great sects persecuted each other,—a ferocity which mutually subsided into passive hatred and contempt, only when the parties were no longer placed in the position of actual collision. European scholars, therefore, on entering upon their researches towards the close of the last century, necessarily, by the expulsion of the buddhists, came into communication exclusively with hindu pundits; who were not only interested in confining the researches of orientalists to Sanscrit literature, but who, in every possible way, both by reference to their own ancient prejudiced authorities, and their individual representations, labored to depreciate in the estimation of Europeans, the literature of the buddhists, as well as the PA'LI or MA'GADHI language, in which that literature is recorded.
The profound and critical knowledge attained by the distinguished Sanscrit scholars above alluded to, has been the means of elucidating the mysteries of an apparently unlimited mythology; as well as of unravelling the intricacies of Asiatic astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences,—of analysing their various systems of philosophy and metaphysics,—and of reducing tracts, grammatical as well as philological, into condensed and methodised forms; thereby establishing an easier acquirement of that ancient language, and of the varied information contained in it.
The department in which their researches have been attended with the least success, is HISTORY; and to this failure may perhaps be justly attributed the small portion of interest felt by the European literary world in oriental literature. The progress of civilization in the west has, from age to age, nay, from year to year, added some fresh advancement or refinement to almost every branch of the arts, sciences, and belles lettres; while there is scarcely any discovery made, as hitherto developed in Asiatic literature, which could be considered either as an acquisition of practical utility to European civilization, or as models for imitation or adoption in European literature.
In the midst, nevertheless, of this progressively increasing discouragement, the friends of oriental research have proportionately increased their exertions, and extended the base of their operations. The formation of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and of similar institutions on the continent of Europe; and the more rapid circulation of discoveries made in Asia, through the medium of the monthly journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, during the last four years, afford undeniable proofs of unabated exertion in those researches. To those who have watched the progress of the proceedings of these institutions, no small reward will appear to have crowned the gratuitous labors of orientalists. In the pages of the Asiatic Journal alone, the decyphering of the alphabets, in which the ancient inscriptions scattered over Asia are recorded, (which is calculated to lead to important