Survey and Summary
Buddhism, Buddha, World, Life, Christianity, Universe
To sum up: Buddhism is the humanitarian's, and also the skeptic's, solution of the problem of the universe. Its three great distinguishing characteristics are atheism, metempsychosis and absence of caste. It was in its origin pure democracy. As against despotic priesthood and oppressive hierarchy, it was congregational. Theoretically it is so yet, though far from being so practically. It is certainly sacerdotal and aristocratic in organization. As in any other system which has so vast a hierarchy with so many grades of honor and authority, its theory of democracy is now a memory. First preached in a land accursed by caste and under spiritual and secular oppressions, it acknowledged no caste, but declared all men equally sinful and miserable, and all equally capable of being freed from sin and misery through Buddhahood, that is, knowledge or enlightenment.36
The three-fold principle laid down by Gautama, and now in dogma, literature, art and worship, a triad or formal trinity, is, Buddha, the attainment of Buddha-hood, or perfect enlightenment, through meditation and benevolence; Karma, the law of cause and effect; and Dharma, discipline or order; or, the Lord, the Law and the Church. Paying no attention to questions of cosmogony or theogony, the universe is accepted as an ultimate fact. Matter is eternal. Creation exists but not a Creator. All is god, but God is left out of consideration. The gods are even less than Buddhas. Humanity is glorified and the stress of all teaching is upon this life. In a word: a sinless life, attainable by man, through his own exertions in this world, above all the powers or beings of the universe, is the essence of original Buddhism. Original Nirvana meant death which ends all, extinction of existence.
Gautama's immediate purpose was to emancipate himself and his followers from the fetters of Brahminism. He tried to leave the world of Hindu philosophy behind him and to escape from it.
Did he succeed? Partially.
Buddha hoped also to rise above the superstitions of the common people, but in this he was again only partially successful.37 "The clouds returned after the rain." The old dead gods of Brahminism came back under new names and forms. The malarial exhalations of corrupt Brahmanistic philosophy, continually poisoned the atmosphere which Buddha's disciples breathed. Still worse, as his religion transmigrated into other lands, it became itself a history of transformation, until to-day no religion on earth seems to be such a kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria. Polytheism is rampant over the greater part of the Buddhist world to-day. In the larger portion of Chinese Asia, pantheism dominates the mind. In modern Babism,—a mixture of Mohammedanism, Christianity and Buddhism,—there are streaks of dualism. If Monotheism has ever dawned on the Buddhist world, it has been in fitful pulses as in auroral flashes, soon to leave darkness darker.
For us is this lesson: Buddhism, brought face to face with the problem of the world's evil and possible improvement, evades it; begs the whole question at the outset; prays: "Deliver us from existence. Save us from life and give us as little as possible of it." Christianity faces the problem and flinches not; orders advance all along the line of endeavor and prays: "Deliver us from evil;" and is ever of good cheer, because Captain and leader says: "I have overcome the world." Go, win it for me. "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
|Written By William Elliot Griffis|
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