Like more enlightened systems of religion, the Hindoo faith has degenerated from the purity originally inculcated. The Monotheism, though still existing, has been almost smothered by a system of innumerable incarnations; by means of which the attributes of an unseen Deity were to be brought to the understandings of the ignorant; and, as might be expected, the hidden symbol has been almost lost in the tangible reality. The later Scriptures, or Puranas, are believed to have been compiled between the eighth and sixteenth centuries, A.D.; and though still upholding the existence of a Supreme Being, by whom all things are composed, they introduce a variety of incarnations and divinities almost innumerable. Of these, the three principal are Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, representing respectively the creating, preserving, and destroying principles; and their wives, Sereswutee, Lukshmee, and Dewee. These latter are the active powers which develop the principles represented by the triad. The divinity most commonly portrayed however, though not publicly worshipped, is Gunesh. Almost every dwelling has her effigy rudely painted over the entrance; and she is invoked at the beginning of all undertakings, and is the remover of all difficulties. Her peculiar appearance is accounted for by the fact of her having been killed at an early period of life by Siva, who cut off her head, and, afterwards relenting, replaced it with the first that happened to come to hand, which turned out to be an elephant's!
Gunesh was produced by the intense wishes of Dewee, and is now appealed to at the commencement of almost every act in Hindoo life.
The following invocation to this "household god" will give some idea of the position she holds in public estimation. It is taken from the "Prem Sagur," or Ocean of Love, a history of the life of Krishna, a son of Vishnu, who, with Siva and Dewee, or Mahadewee, monopolises almost the entire public respect and adoration: —
"Oh elephant-faced Deity, obviator of difficulties, of exalted fame resplendent, Grant as a boon, pure language, wisdom, and felicity may be much promoted. Thou on whose two celestial feet the world is gazing, worshipping both day and night, O mother of the universe, grant unto me, remembering thee, true skill and utterance."
The "Ocean of Love" gives a full account of the various incarnations of Krishna, the favourite divinity of the Hindoos, and opens with the scene of his birth. Kans, his uncle, has placed guards, in order that the child may be killed at his first appearance, it having been predicted that Kans himself is to fall by the hands of Krishna. The Cashmerian artist — whose powers of colouring were his chief recommendation — has depicted the moment when Vasadeo and Devakee, the father and mother, viewing Krishna, with long-drawn sighs, both begin to say, "If, by some means, we could send away this child, then it would escape the guilty Kans." Vasadeo says, "Without destiny none can preserve him; the writing of Fate, that only will be accomplished."
Destiny being propitious, the guards fall asleep upon their posts, as shown in the accompanying design, and another child is substituted for Krishna. He is afterwards brought up as a herdsman, and spends his childhood among the milkmaids of Braj, upon whom he plays all sorts of tricks. "One day the divine Krishna played upon the flute in the forest, when, hearing the sound of the instrument, all the young women of Braj arose in confusion, and hastened and assembled in one place. The dark-blue Krishna, with body of the hue of clouds, stood in the midst; and such was the beauty of the fair ones, as they sported, that they resembled golden creepers growing from beneath a blue mountain!"
The description of the state of the world, on Krishna's appearance, is given by the saintly Shukadeo to King Parikshah — "O King, at the time of the divine Krishna appearing, in the minds of all such joy arose, that not even the name of grief remained. With joy the woods and groves began to bear fruits and flowers, their verdure still increasing. The rivers, streams, and lakes were filled with water, and upon them birds of every kind were sporting; and, from city to city, from house to house, from village to village, rejoicings were celebrated. The Brahmins were performing sacrifice; the Regents of the ten divisions of the horizon rejoiced. Clouds were moving over the circuit of Braj. The deities, seated in their cars, rained down flowers; the holders of the magic pill, the celestial musicians, and heavenly bards, continually sounding drums, kettledrums, and pipes, were singing the praises of the divine virtues; and, in one direction, Urvasee, and all the celestial dancers, were dancing. In such a time, then, on Wednesday, the eighth day of the dark half of the month Bhadon, at midnight, while the moon was in the mansion of Rohanee, the divine Krishna was born, of the colour of clouds, moon-faced and lotus-eyed, with a girdle of yellow cloth passing round his loins, wearing a crown, and arrayed in a necklace of five jewels, produced from the elements of nature, and with ornaments set with gems, in a four-armed form, sustaining the shell, the quoit, the mace, and the lotus he presented himself."
Krishna afterwards espouses a fair lady, of the name of Rukminee, and the marriage is thus poetically described. Rukminee has written a letter, filled with love, and sent it by the hand of a Brahmin, to the Root of Joy, Krishna: — "The Brahmin having arrived at Duarika, perceives that the town is in the midst of the ocean, and on the four sides of it there are great mountains and woods and groves, which add beauty to the scene. In these were various kinds of beasts and birds, and the limpid lakes were filled with pure water, and lotus flowers were blooming, upon which swarms upon swarms of black bees were humming. To the distance of many miles orchards, containing an endless variety of fruit and flowers, extended; along these enclosures betel gardens were flourishing. The gardeners, standing at the wells, were singing with sweet strains; and, working waterwheels and buckets, were irrigating the high and low grounds."
Beholding this beautiful scene, and being gladdened thereby, the Brahmin, still advancing, beholds that "on four sides of the city are very lofty ramparts, with four gateways, in which folding-doors, inlaid with gold, are fixed, and, inside the city, houses of five and six stories high, of silver and gold, adorned with jewels, so lofty as to converse with the sky, are glittering. Their minarets and pinnacles are gleaming like lightning, and banners and pennons of many colours are fluttering. The warm fragrance of perfumes was issuing from windows, air-holes, and lattices. At every door were placed pillars of the plantain-tree, with fresh shoots, and golden vessels. Garlands and wreathed flowers were festooned from house to house, and joyful music was sounding. From place to place, the recital of the Puranas and discourse about Krishna was kept up. The eighteen classes were dwelling in case and tranquillity."
On hearing the Brahmin's message, the warder says: — " 'Great sir, be pleased to enter the palace; the divine Krishna reposes, in front of you, on a throne.' Krishna, descending, bows to him, and shows him much respect, and those attentions which a man would show to his friend. Having applied fragrant unguents, and caused him to be bathed and washed, he partakes of food, possessing the six flavours. Afterwards he gave him the betel leaf, made up with areca nut, spices, and chunam; and having perfumed his body with saffron and sandal wood oil, and arranged his dress, and put upon him a necklace of flowers, he conducted him into a palace adorned with jewels, and caused him to repose in a fair curtained bed, studded with gems." After sleeping profoundly, the Brahmin awakes, and relates his mission. Krishna goes to claim his bride, and orders his charioteer, Darak, to prepare his chariot. Darak quickly yokes four horses. Then the divine Krishna, having ascended, and seated the Brahmin, departs from Duarika to Kundalpore. On coming forth from the city, behold! "on the right hand herds upon herds of deer are moving, and in front, a lion and lioness, carrying their prey, are advancing, roaring."
Having seen this auspicious event, the Brahmin, having mentally reflected, said, "Sire, from beholding, at this time, this good omen, it appears to my mind that, just as these are advancing, having accomplished their object, just so you will return, having effected yours." Arrived at Kundalpore, he finds preparations made for the marriage:
"Swept were the streets, the crossings o'er-canopied, and with perfumes sprinkled and sandal oil; Clusters were formed of flowers of white and of red, and interspersed with cocoa-nuts of gold. The green foliage, fruits, and flowers, were in profusion, and from house to house flowering wreaths. Banners and pennons and flowers, in golden tissues, were suspended, and well-fashioned vessels of gold And in every house reigned joy!"
"As for Rukminee, with agitated frame, she gazed in every direction, as the moon is dimmed by the morn. Extreme anxiety showed in the heart of the fair one; she gazed, standing in a lofty balcony; her frame was agitated, her heart most sad; she drew deep sighs. While, through distress, tears rain from her eyes, she says, "Why has not Krishna arrived?" When the marriage-day dawns, she sends, by a Brahmin, to Krishna: "Receptacle of favour, — When two hours of the day remain I shall go to perform worship in the temple of Dewee, to the east of the city." Her companions and attendants, arriving, first filled a square place in the courtyard with pearls, and spread a seat of gold set with pearls, on which they caused Rukminee to sit, and anointed her with oil by the hands of seven married women whose husbands were alive. Afterwards, having rubbed her with fragrant paste, they adorned her with sixteen ornaments, and put on her twelve trinkets, and having arrayed her in a red boddice they seated her, fully adorned. Then the young Rukminee, accompanied by all her handmaidens, went, with the sound of music, to perform her devotions. Screened by a curtain of silk, and surrounded by crowd upon crowd of companions, she appeared among the swarthy group who accompanied her as beautiful, as amid dark blue clouds, the moon with its company of stars!"
Having arrived at the temple of Dewee, the royal maiden, having washed her hands and feet and sipped water, proceeded to offer sandal oil, unbroken grains of rice, flowers, incense, lamps, and consecrated food, and with earnest faith performed the worship of Dewee according to the prescribed ritual.
"After which she fed women of the Brahmin caste with delectable food, and having attired them in fair garments, she drew a mark on their foreheads with a mixture of rice, alum, turmeric, and acid, and having caused to adhere some unbroken grains of rice, she received their benediction. Hearing from an attendant that Krishna has arrived, the Princess is filled with ecstatic delight, so that she cannot contain herself; and leaning on the arm of an attendant, in a graceful attitude, remains slightly smiling, in such a manner that no description can express her beauty. The guards become fascinated and remain immoveable. With trembling frame and coy of heart she finally departs with Krishna."
The domestic life and appearance of Krishna and Rukminee is still further characteristically described in the imaginative pages of the "Ocean of Love:" — "Once on a time, in a palace of gold, studded with jewels, a gem-adorned bedstead, with curtains, was spread, on which a bedding white as foam, and adorned with flowers, with pillows for the cheek and for the head, continued to exhale perfumes. On all four sides of the bed vessels containing camphor, rose-water, saffron, sandal oil, and other ingredients, were placed; various kinds of marvellous pictures were delineated on the walls on all sides. In recesses, here and there, flowers, fruits, sweetmeats, and confections were placed, and all that could be required for enjoyment was at hand. Clothed in a petticoat and a full loose robe of dazzling splendour, embroidered with pearls, and a sparkling boddice, and a long refulgent wrapper, and wearing a glittering veil, covered with ornaments from head to foot; with red lines drawn across the forehead, having a nose-ring of the largest pearls, ornaments for the head, earrings, ornamental line at the parting of the hair, marks between the eyebrows, ornaments for the ears and forehead, a necklace composed of circular pieces of gold, a string of gold beads and coral, a breast ornament, a necklace of five strings and of seven, a pearl necklace, double and triple bracelets of nine gems, armlets, wristlets, and other kinds of fastenings for the arm; bangles, seals; seal rings, a girdle of bells, rings for the great toe, toe ornaments, anklets, and other ornaments of all kinds studded with jewels; the moon-faced, tulip-complexioned, gazelle-eyed, bird-voiced, elephant-gaited, slim-waisted, divine Rukminee, and the cloud-coloured, lotus-eyed Krishna, ocean of beauty, splendour of the three worlds, root of joy, wearing a diadem like the crest of a peacock, and a necklace of forest flowers, a silken robe of yellow hue, and a scarf of the same, were reposing, when, all of sudden, the divine Krishna said to Rukminee, 'Listen, fair one,' " &c.
Krishna afterwards takes 16,100 wives, and always at early dawn, one would wash his face, another would apply a fragrant paste to his body, another would prepare for him and give him to eat food of six flavours, another would make nice betel, with cloves, cardamums, mace, and nutmegs, for her beloved. "Each produced a daughter fair as Rukminee; each ten sons, brave sons were they! 161,000 and all alike, such were the sons of Krishna!"
Such is part of the history of the favourite divinity of the benighted Hindoo as related in the flowery pages of the "Ocean of Love," and the history may be, more or less, read in the every-day scenes of Indian life which pass around one.
The description of Rukminee, strange as it is, corresponds with many other fair portraits in the Hindee; witness that of "Oonmadinee," the daughter of "Rutundutt": —
"Her beauty was like a light in a dark house — her eyes were those of a deer, her curls like female snakes, her eyebrows like a bow, her nose like a parrot's, her teeth like a string of pearls, her lips like the red gourds, her neck like a pigeon's, her waist like a leopard's, her hands and feet like a soft lotus, her face like the moon, with the gait of a goose, and the voice of a cuckoo!"
More apparent even than in the earthly nature of the Hindoo's conception of the Divine attributes, the falsity and the human origin of his Faith may be seen in the effect it produces wherever it is allowed to obtain undivided sway. Combining dirt, idleness, and religion together, the Hindoo Fukeer, attired in the minutest rag of raiment, at times in none at all, wanders from place to place, and with long and matted hair, blood-shot haggard eyes, and scowling visage, fancies himself upon the path which leads direct to Paradise.
Attenuated to the last degree, he suffers all extremes of heat and cold, sleeps upon a bed of ashes, and sits moodily beneath the burning mid-day sun, lives on charity while scorning usually to ask for alms, and bears the reputation of a saint while reducing himself to the very level of the beasts that perish.
Something of the cheerful feelings which actuate these religious mendicants may be found in the following passage: — "He may be called a wise 'Jogee,' or 'Fukeer,' who has dried up the reservoir of hope with the fire of austere devotion, and who has subdued his mind, and kept the organs of sense in their proper place; and this is the condition of persons in this world, that their bodies undergo dissolution, their heads shake, and their teeth fall out. When men become old, they walk about with sticks, and it is thus that time passes away. Night succeeds day, and year succeeds month, and old age succeeds childhood, and we know not who we are ourselves, and who others are; one comes and another departs; and at last all living creatures must depart. And, behold! night passes away, and then day dawns; the moon goes down and the sun rises; thus does youth depart, and old age comes on, and thus Time pursues his course: but although man sees all these things, he does not become wise. There are bodies of many kinds, and minds of many kinds, and affections or fascinations of many kinds, and Brahma has created wickedness of many kinds; but a wise man, having escaped from these, and having subdued hope and avarice, and shaved his head, and taken a stick and water-pot in his hands, having subjugated the passion of love and anger, and become a 'Jogee,' who wanders and travels about with naked feet to places of pilgrimage, obtains final liberation. And, behold, this world is like a dream."
The derivation of the word "Fukeer," and an illustration of the disposition of the mendicant race, is given in a Persian tale, called the "Four Dervishes." The story was originally narrated to amuse a king of Delhi, who was sick, and was afterwards DONE into Hindostanee by a Mussulman author, who styles himself, "This wicked sinner, Meer Ammun of Delhi."
The speaker, a certain prince, who aspires to the title of "generous," has built a lofty house, with forty high and spacious doors, where, at all times, from morning to evening, he gives rupees and gold mohurs to the poor and necessitous, and whoever asks for anything he satisfies him. "One day a Fukeer came to the front door and begged. I gave him a gold mohur; again he came to a second door, and asked for two gold mohurs. I passed over the matter, and gave him two gold mohurs.
"In this manner he came to every door, and asked for an additional gold mohur each time, and I gave him according to his request. Having come to the fortieth door, and received forty gold mohurs, he came in again by the first door, and begged afresh.
"This appeared to me a very bad action on his part. I said to him, 'O avaricious man! what sort of mendicant art thou, who knowest not the three letters of "Fukur" (POVERTY), according to which a Fukeer should act?' The Fukeer said, 'Well, O liberal person, do you explain them to me.' I replied, 'The three letters are F, K, and R. From F comes "faka" (FASTING); from K, "kinaut" (CONTENTMENT); and from R comes "reeazut" (ABSTINENCE). He is not a Fukeer in whom these qualities are not. Oh, avaricious creature! you have taken from forty doors, from one gold mohur to forty. Calculate, therefore, how many you have received. And, in addition to this, your avarice has brought you again to the first door. Expend what you have received, and return and take whatever you ask for. A Fukeer should take thought for one day; on the second day there will be some fresh bestower of alms.' Having heard this speech of mine, he became angry and dissatisfied, and threw all he had received from me on the ground, and said, 'Enough, father; be not so warm; take all your presents back again. Do not again assume the name of "Liberal." You cannot lift the weights of liberality. When will you arrive at that day's journey?'
"When I heard this I was alarmed, and with many solicitations asked him to forgive my fault, and to take whatsoever he wished. He would not accept my gifts at all, and went away saying, 'If you were now to offer me your whole kingdom I would not receive it from you.' "
This studied indifference about a matter of more than a thousand pounds, though perhaps not often exercised upon so large a scale, is just that which these wandering fanatics display towards every offering they receive, and in every action of their useless lives. Whatever may be said against them, however, their profession of poverty and suffering is no mockery, as was that of the well-fed "monks of old," whose reasonings were something similar on religious points.
The Fukeer soliloquizes: "The condition of our being born is, that our griefs are many and our pleasures few, because this world is the root of misery. What happiness, therefore, has man? If any man should climb to the top of a tree, or sit down on the summit of a hill, or remain concealed in water, yet death does not allow him to escape. At the most, man's age is a hundred years, half of which passes away in night, half of the other half is expended in childhood and old age; the remainder is spent in altercation, separation from those we love, and affliction, and the soul is restless as a wave of the sea. No one who has come into the world has escaped from affliction. It is vain to fix one's affections on it, and therefore it is best to cultivate and practise religion." And so, as a remedy for the evil which he has discovered to exist upon the earth, and to work out a successful escape from it, he sits himself down in dust and ashes, and, mistaking the sign-post, adopts the path which leads him furthest from the point he wishes to arrive at.
As the Hindoo is the most ancient of religions, so the Buddhist is the one which is professed by the largest portion of the human race. It is the religion of Burmah, Ceylon, China, Siam, Thibet, and Russian Tartary, and is computed to claim as many as three hundred and sixty-nine millions among its Votaries. "Gautama," or "Sakya mounee," its founder, was born in Bengal about the seventh century before Christ. Yet India at present contains no modern temples of its worship, and no native of India, that I have ever met, knew anything of its founder, or was even acquainted with the term "Buddha," or "Buddhist." Its doctrines are the most curious of those that have ever been promulgated, and appear even now to be scarcely understood in all their ramifications. According to original Buddhism, there is no Creator, nor being that is self-existent and eternal. The great object is the attainment, in this life, of complete abstraction from all worldly affairs and passions, and the ultimate result, of entire annihilation. Like the Hindoo, the Buddhist believes in transmigration of souls, and until utter annihilation is reached, he is doomed to shift his earthly tenement, from form to form, according to the deeds done in the flesh. It is, therefore, the great object of all beings, who would be released from the sorrows of successive birth, to seek the destruction of the moral cause of continued existence, that is, the cleaving to existing objects or evil desire. It is only possible to accomplish this end by attending to a prescribed course of discipline, and by fixing the mind upon the perfections of Buddha. Those who after successive births have entirely destroyed all evil desires are called "Rahuts," and after death the Rahut attains "Nirwana," or ceases to exist. The actual meaning of the word "Rahut," is "Tranquillity," and it appears to be the same word which is used on a small scale, to express the soothing qualities of that far-famed Eastern sweetmeat, the Rahut-lukma, or "Morsels of tranquillity."
The Buddhas themselves are beings who appear after intervals of time inconceivably vast. Previous to their reception of the state, they pass through countless phases of being, at, one time appearing in human form, at another as a frog, or fish, &c., in each of which states they acquire a greater degree of merit.
In the birth in which they become Buddha, they are always of woman born, and pass through infancy and youth like ordinary mortals, until at the prescribed age they abandon the world and retire to the wilderness, where they receive the supernatural powers with which the office is endowed. Their highest glory is that they receive the wisdom by which they can direct sentient beings to the path that leads to the desired cessation of existence.
The Buddhism of Thibet appears to be an innovation on the original system of religion. It was introduced into the country about the seventh century of our era; and although Sakya mounee, who is supposed by the Thibetians to have lived one thousand years before Christ, is still believed to be the founder of the present system, the Delai Lama, at Lassa, is regarded as an incarnation of Buddha, and is the supreme infallible head of the whole Thibetian religious community.
The original tenets, too, have been modified, and the modern Scriptures have been adapted to three different capacities of mankind — viz. the lowest, mean (or middle), and the highest. The principles thus declared are as follows : —
"1. Men of vulgar capacity must believe that there is a God, a future life, and that they shall therein reap the fruits of their works in this life.
"2. Those that are in a middle degree of intellectual and moral capacity, besides admitting the former position, must know that every compound thing is perishable, that there is no reality in things, that every imperfection is pain, and that deliverance from pain or bodily existence is final happiness.
"3. Those of the highest capacities, besides the above enumerated articles, must know that, from the body to the supreme soul, nothing is existing by itself, neither can it be said that it will continue always or cease absolutely, but that everything exists by a dependant or casual connexion."
One cause of the extension of the religion of Buddha appears to be the broad basis upon which admission to the priesthood has 'been placed. No one can become a Brahmin except by birth, but the privileges of becoming a Lama are open to all who are willing to receive them upon the conditions implied in their acceptance. The principal duties to be attended to, by one about to become a priest, are thus laid down: — "He who, with a firm faith in the religion of Truth, believes in Buddha, shall rise before daylight, and, having cleaned his teeth, shall then sweep all the places appointed to be swept in the vicinity of the 'Vihara,' or monastery; after which he shall fetch the water that is required for use, filter it, and place it ready for drinking. When this is done, he shall retire to a solitary place, and for the space of three hours meditate on the obligations of his vow. The bell will then ring, and he must reflect that greater than the gift of 100 elephants, 100 horses, and 100 chariots, is the reward of him who takes one step towards the place where worship is offered. Thus reflecting, he shall approach the 'Dagoba,' where relics of holy men are placed, and perform that which is appointed; he shall offer flowers just as if Buddha were present in person, meditate on the nine virtues of Buddha with a fixed and determined mind, and seek forgiveness for his faults, just as if the sacred relics were endowed with life. He shall then meditate on the advantages to be derived from carrying the alms-bowl and putting on the yellow robe." The injunctions on the priesthood relative to their abstracting their thoughts and desires from all earthly matters whatever, are of the strictest nature. "The door of the eye is to be kept shut. When the outer gates of the city are left open, though the door of every separate house and store be shut, the enemy will enter the city and take possession; in like manner, though all the ordinances be kept, if the eye be permitted to wander, affection for worldly objects will be produced." A story is told of a priest named Chittagutta, who resided once in a cave, upon the walls of which the history of Buddha was painted "in the finest style of art."
The cave was visited by some priests, who expressed their admiration of the paintings to Chittagutta, but the devotee replied that he had lived there sixty years and had never seen them, nor would he, except for their information, ever have become aware of their existence. There was near the door of his cave a spreading tree; but he only knew that it was there by the fall of its leaves or flowers; the tree itself he never saw, as he carefully observed the precept not to look upwards, or to a distance!
The priest of Buddha must possess but eight articles: three of these are matters of dress; the others, a girdle for the loins, an alms-bowl, a razor, a needle, and a water-strainer. The bowl receives the food presented in alms; the razor is for shaving the head; the needle keeps his yellow wardrobe in order; and the water-strainer is the most serviceable of all, for "if any priest shall knowingly drink water containing insects, he shall be ejected from the priesthood."
The Dagobas, or shrines of relics, which abound in such numbers in Thibet, have also been found in India and other countries. Some of them when opened have been found to contain what appears to be remains of a funeral pile, also vessels of stone or metal, and, occasionally, caskets of silver and gold, curiously wrought. "Some of these have been chased with a series of four figures, representing Buddha in the act of preaching; a mendicant is on his right, a lay follower on his left, and behind the latter a female disciple." This somewhat describes the appearance of the stone-carved figures at the monastery of Hemis. These caskets have been set with rubies and chased with the leaves of the lotus. Besides these have also been found small pearls, gold buttons, rings, beads, pieces of clay and stone bearing impressions of figures, bits of bone, and teeth of animals, pieces of cloth, &c. The images are sometimes recumbent, at other times standing upright, with the hand uplifted in the act of giving instruction. Sometimes they have three heads and six or more arms.
In order to form clear and accurate ideas of the religion of Buddha, it would be necessary to study a vast number of volumes, some of them contradictory and of very doubtful authority, and the result would appear hardly to compensate for the trouble, so altered has modern Buddhism become from ancient, and into so many different systems has it been divided in the many different countries in which it is professed. Among its doctrines there is much that is virtuous and true. It preaches benevolence and goodwill towards men, but enjoins no active efforts to prove the sincerity of such goodwill. It requires its members to "confess their sins with a contrite heart, to ask forgiveness of them, and to repent truly, with a resolution not to commit such again. To rejoice in the moral merit and perfection of human beings, and to wish that they may attain beatitude; further, to pray and exhort others to turn the wheel of religion, that the world may be benefited thereby." Its general aim seems to be to overcome all emotions and preferences of the mind, and all that would disturb its repose and quiet. It seeks to destroy the human passions and not to regulate them; and with faith in Buddha only as its aid, it succeeds about as well as might have been anticipated.
Between these two religions of Brahma and Buddha, that of the "Jains" sprang up, apparently a heresy from both. It has nearly died out in India, though many ruins of its temples remain. The Jains agree with the Buddhists as to the transmigration of souls, and carry their respect for life to the still greater extent, that besides a strainer to remove all animalculae from the water they imbibe, they carry a broom to sweep away the insects from their path. They differ from the Brahmins in repudiating their minor incarnations and gods, as the following translation will serve to show: — "A rajah, of the name of Gondshekur, had a minister, Abhuechund, who converted him to the Jain religion. He prohibited the worship of Vishnu, and all gifts of cows, land, and balls of flour and rice, and would not allow any one to carry away bones to the Ganges. One day the minister began to say, 'O great king, be pleased to listen to the judgments and explanations of religion: Whosoever takes another's life, that other takes his life in another world. The birth of a man after he has again come into the world does not escape from this sin; he is born again and again, and dies again and again. For this reason it is right for a man, who has been born in the world, to cultivate religion. Behold! Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahadeo, being under the influence of love, anger, and fascination, descend upon the earth in various ways; but a cow is superior to them all, for it is free from anger, enmity, intoxication, rage, avarice, and inordinate affection, and affords protection to the subject; and her sons also behave kindly to, and cherish the animals of the earth, and therefore all the gods and sages regard the cow with respect. For this reason, it is not right to regard the gods — in this world, respect the cow. It is virtuous to protect all animals, from the elephant to the ant, and from beasts and birds to man. In the world there is no act so impious as for men to increase their own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures. They who do not sympathise in the griefs of animated beings, and who kill and eat other animals, do not live long on the earth, and are born lame, maimed, blind, dwarfs, and humpbacked, &c.; and it is a great sin to drink wine and eat flesh; wherefore to do so is improper. The minister, having thus explained his sentiments to the rajah, converted him to the Jain religion, so that he did whatever the minister said, and no longer paid any respect to Brahmins, Fukeers, Jogies, Dervishes, &c., and carried on his government according to this religion."
Next among the religions of the East, whose outward observances so forcibly attract attention, comes that of the Moslem — "The marvellous reformation wrought by Mahomet and the Koran in the manners, morals, and religious feelings of so many millions."
Mahomet, in truth, although "THE False Prophet," would appear to have been a considerable benefactor to his species. The Arabs, at the time of his birth, were sunk in idolatry and the worship of the stars, while their morals were under no control either of law or religion. The Prophet's aim appears, in the first instance, to have been, to secure a system of orderly government, and at the same time to gain, for his own family, a dignity which should be exalted beyond all fear of competition-the dignity of lordship over the holy city of Mecca. This was then held under no higher tenure than the sufferance and caprice of the Arab tribes. To perpetuate this lordship by assuming an hereditary and inviolable pontificate was Mahomet's first idea, and at a banquet given to the whole of his kinsmen he revealed his scheme. They, however, rejected his appeal, and he then proclaimed himself as an apostle to all, and setting aside existing forms and traditions proceeded to a higher flight of ambition. For election by blood, he substituted election of God; and assuming a direct revelation from on high, he, by force of an ardent and ambitious will, carried out his project even at Mecca itself, where, to all who visited his shrine, he preached without distinction. From the powerful opposition brought against him, Mahomet was at last obliged to fly; but before doing so, and casting off the high position he held among his own tribe and kinsmen, he assembled his followers together on a mountain near Mecca, and there, without distinction of blood or calling, he enrolled them as equal followers in one community, and entered with them into a solemn and binding agreement. "That night Mahomet fled from Mecca to Medina, and then took its rise a pontificate, an empire, and an era." This hegira, or "flight," is believed to have occurred on the 19th June, A.D. 622 but has been variously stated; it is, however, the era now in general use among no less than one hundred and sixty millions of people.
Although himself an undoubted impostor, and the Koran a manifest forgery, Mahomet would appear to deserve a larger share of appreciation, or at least of charitable judgment, than he usually receives.
"He was one richly furnished with natural endowments, showing liberality to the poor, courtesy to every one, fortitude in trial, and, above all, a high reverence for the name of God. He was a preacher of patience, charity, mercy, beneficence, gratitude, honouring of parents and superiors, and a frequent celebrator of Divine praise." The great doctrine of the Koran is the Unity of God, and in this creed Mahomet himself seems to have been a sincere believer. "Its design was to unite the professors of the three different religions then followed in Arabia — who for the most part were without guides, the greater number being idolaters, and the rest Jews and Christians, mostly of erroneous and heterodox belief — in the knowledge and worship of one eternal and invisible God, and to bring them to obedience of Mahomet as the only prophet and ambassador of the truth." The "fatiha," or opening chapter of the Koran, is said to contain the essence of the whole, and forms part of the daily prayers of all zealous Mussulmans. It commences with the formula pronounced at the beginning of their reading on all occasions whenever an animal is slaughtered for food, and upon the undertaking of all important actions whatever:
"In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. Praise be to God, the Lord of the Creation, the all-merciful, the all-compassionate! Ruler of the day of reckoning!
"Thee we worship, and Thee we invoke for help. Lead us in the straight path — the path of those upon whom thou hast been gracious, not of those that are the objects of wrath or that are in error."
The Moslem faithful pray five times in the twenty-four hours: in the morning before sunrise, at noon, before sunset, after sunset, and before the first watch of the night: and that these observances were not originally instituted merely that their prayers might be seen before men, would appear from the injunction which lays down that "what is principally to be regarded in the duty of prayer, is the inward disposition of the heart, which is its entire life and spirit, the most punctual observance being of no avail if performed without devotion, reverence, attention, and hope."
Prayer was held by Mahomet to be the "pillar of religion" and the "key of paradise," and in the performance of it, his disciples are enjoined to lay aside their ornaments and costly habits, and all that might savour of either pride or arrogance.
Its observance, however, at five stated times appears to be nowhere mentioned in the Koran, although the custom is now an essential part, and the most noticeable and characteristic feature of Mahomedanism.
Saints and sinners join equally in the form. A crime just committed, or one in immediate contemplation, in no way interferes with the "five-time prayers," and the neglect of them amounts to an abnegation of the Faith. The summons to prayer was originally only one sentence, "To public prayer." Mahomet, however, afterwards bethought himself that a more elaborate and striking call would be an improvement, and the present "Azzan," or call to prayer, was introduced.
While the matter was under discussion, Mahomet being unable to decide upon any suitable form, a certain Abdallah dreamed that he met a man arrayed in green raiment carrying a bell. Abdallah sought to buy it, thinking it would just suit the Prophet for assembling together the Faithful. The stranger, however, replied, "I will show you a better way than that; let a crier call aloud —
"Great is the Lord! great is the Lord! I bear witness that there is no God but the Lord; I bear witness that Mahomet is the Prophet of God! Come unto prayer, come unto happiness — God is great! God is great! There is no God but the Lord!"
Mahomet, learning the particulars of Abdallah's dream, believed it to have been a vision from on high, and sent his servant forthwith to execute the Divine command. Ascending to the top of a lofty house, this first of established Muezzins, on the earliest appearance of light, startled all around from their slumbers with the newly-adopted call, adding to it, "Prayer is better than sleep! Prayer is better than sleep!" And ever since, at the customary five hours, have his successors thus summoned the people to their devotions.
Concerning the future state, the Mahomedan believes that all will be examined at the day of Judgment as to their words and actions in this life.
"Their time, as to how they spent it; their wealth, by what means they acquired it, and how they employed it; their bodies, wherein they exercised them; their knowledge and learning, what use they made of them," &c. "They enter Paradise, however, not by their own good works, but by the mercy of God. At that day each person will make his defence in the best manner he can, endeavouring to find excuses for his own conduct by casting blame on others; so much so, that disputes shall even arise between the Soul and Body. The Soul saying, "Lord, I was created without a hand to lay hold with, a foot to walk with, an eye to see with, or an understanding to apprehend with, until I came and entered the Body : therefore punish it, but deliver me." The Body, on the other side, will make this apology, "Lord, thou createdst me like a stock of wood, being neither able to hold with my hand, nor to walk with my feet, till this Soul, like a ray of light, entered into me, and my tongue began to speak, my eye to see, and my foot to walk: therefore punish it, but deliver me." Then shall the following parable be propounded: — "A certain king having a pleasant garden, in which were ripe fruits, set two persons to keep it, one of whom was blind, and the other lame — the former not being able to see the fruit, nor the latter to gather it. The lame man, however, seeing the fruit, persuaded the blind man to take him on his shoulders; and by that means he easily gathered the fruits, which they divided between them. The lord of the garden coming some time after, and inquiring after the fruit, each began to excuse himself; the blind man said he had no eyes to see it with, and the lame man that he had no feet to approach the trees. Then the king, ordering the lame man to be set on the blind, passed sentence on them both, and punished them together.
"In like manner shall be judged the Body and the Soul."
Such are some few of the religious tenets of those among whom one's lot is cast while wandering in the East. Sunk for the most part in ignorance, and held as infidels for wanting faith in what they never heard, they nevertheless attract attention chiefly by their Faith, and by their zealous worship of the Being, whom, although in darkest ignorance as to His attributes and laws, their original creed would teach them to believe the one Eternal God.
Some idea of the number represented by these different sects may be derived from the following table: —
Asiatic Religions Buddhists 369,000,000 Hindoos 231,000,000 Mussulmen 160,000,000
ChristiansRoman Catholics 170,000,000 Protestants 80,000,000 Greek Church 76,000,000
Other Religions 200,000,000
And when we reflect how great is the proportion of those who sit in darkness, and that "even all who tread the earth are but a handful to the tribes that slumber in its bosom," it is but natural to consider what our own belief would bid us hold as to the future destiny of so large a portion of the human family.
At the same time, the question, "Are there few that be saved?" not having been answered eighteen centuries ago, would appear to be one to which no definite reply was intended to be rendered, and which might well be left till now unanswered, by those who hold the religion of Faith, Hope, and Charity. When, however, the Church to which we belong boldly affirms, in words which as the public profession of its faith, should be beyond all doubt or misconception by either friend or foe, that none CAN be saved but those who hold the Catholic Faith, as she would have them hold it, then, at least, we may fairly consider the matter so far as to doubt whether the answer thus forced upon us is one which, even on such high authority, we are bound to accept. Before, at least, concurring in a solution of the question which, thus virtually bringing it within the limits of a simple arithmetical calculation, would summarily dispose of so many millions of the human race, we may remember that some things have been taught as possible which men, and even saints, may deem impossible; and, before attempting to reduce "goodwill toward men" to human and determinable proportions, we may also remember that "good tidings of great joy" were promised to ALL people, and that they may possibly prove therefore to have in some way benefited even those who have never heard them with their mortal ears.
Meanwhile, in the matter of "Turks and Infidels," we may perhaps learn something even from an Infidel creed, and, borrowing a definition from the religion of Islam, may be allowed to hold with it, that
"Truly to despair of the goodness of God — this is 'INFIDELITY.' "
CHAPTER A type=appendix
The Temples of Cashmere.
Extract from "An Essay on the Arian Order of Architecture, as exhibited in the Temples of Kashmir," by Capt. A. Cunningham. "Journal of the Asiatic Society," Vol. XVII.
The architectural remains of Kashmir are perhaps the most remarkable of the existing monuments of India, as they exhibit undoubted traces of the influence of Grecian art. The Hindu temple is generally a sort of architectural pasty, a huge collection of ornamental fritters, huddled together with or without keeping; while the "Jain" temple is usually a vast forest of pillars, made to look as unlike one another as possible, by some paltry differences in their petty details.
On the other hand, the Kashmirian fanes are distinguished by the graceful elegance of their outlines, by the massive boldness of their parts, and by the happy propriety of their decorations.
They cannot, indeed, vie with the severe simplicity of the Parthenon, but they possess great beauty — different, indeed, yet quite their own.
The characteristic features of the Kashmirian architecture are its lofty pyramidal roofs, its trefoiled doorways, covered by pyramidal pediments, and the great width of the intercolumniations.
Most of the Kashmirian temples are more or less injured, but more particularly those at Wantipur, which are mere heaps of ruins. Speaking of these temples, Trebeck says: "It is scarcely possible to imagine that the state of ruin to which they have been reduced has been the work of time, or even of man, as their solidity is fully equal to that of the most massive monuments of Egypt. Earthquakes must have been the cause of their overthrow." In my opinion, their OVERTHROW is too complete to have been the result of an earthquake, which would have simply PROSTRATED the buildings in large masses. But the whole of the superstructure of these temples is now lying in one confused heap of stones, totally disjointed from one another.
I believe, therefore, that I am fully justified in saying, from my own experience, that such a complete and DISRUPTIVE OVERTURN could only have been produced by gunpowder.
The destruction of the Kashmirian temples is universally attributed, both by history and by tradition, to the bigoted Sikander. (A.D. 1396.) He was reigning at the period of Timur's invasion of India, with whom he exchanged friendly presents, and from whom, I suppose, he may have received a present of the VILLAINOUS SALTPETRE.
As it would appear that the Turks had METAL cannon at the siege of Constantinople in 1422, I think it no great stretch of probability to suppose that gunpowder itself had been carried into the East, even as far as Kashmir, at least ten or twenty years earlier — that is, about A.D. 1400 to 1420, or certainly during the reign of Sikander, who died in 1416.
Even if this be not admitted, I still adhere to my opinion, that the complete ruin of the Wantipur temples could only have been effected by gunpowder; and I would, then, ascribe their overthrow to the bigoted "Aurungzib."
"Ferishta" attributed to Sikander the demolition of all the Kashmirian temples save one, which was dedicated to Mahadeo, and which only escaped "in consequence of its foundations being below the surface of the neighbouring water."
In A.D. 1580, "Abul Fazl" mentions that some of the idolatrous temples were in "perfect preservation;" and Ferishta describes many of these temples as having been in existence in his own time, or about A.D. 1600.
As several are still standing, though more or less injured, it is certain that Sikander could not have destroyed them all. He most likely gave orders that they should be overturned; and I have no doubt that many of the principal temples were thrown down during his reign.
But, besides the ruthless hand of the destroyer, another agency, less immediate, but equally certain in its ultimate effects, must have been at work upon the large temples of Kashmir. The silent ravages of the destroyer, who carries away pillars and stone, for the erection of other edifices, has been going on for centuries. Pillars, from which the architraves have been thus removed, have been thrown down by earthquakes, ready to be set up again for the decoration of the first Musjid that might be erected in the neighbourhood. Thus every Mahomedan building in Kashmir is constructed either entirely or in part of the ruins of Hindu temples.
Takt I Suliman.
The oldest temple in Kashmir, both in appearance and according to tradition, is that upon the hill of "Takt i Suliman," or Solomon's Throne. It stands 1,000 feet above the plain, and commands a view of the greater part of Kashmir.
The situation is a noble one, and must have been amongst the first throughout the whole valley which was selected as the position of a temple. Its erection is ascribed to Jaloka, the son of Asoka, who reigned about 220 B.C.
The plan of the temple is octagonal, each side being fifteen feet in length. It is approached by a flight of eighteen steps, eight feet in width, and inclosed between two sloping walls. Its height cannot now be ascertained, as the present roof is a modern plastered dome, which was probably built since the occupation of the country by the Sikhs. The walls are eight feet thick, which I consider one of the strongest proofs of the great antiquity of the building.
This name means the old capital, or ancient chief town. The name has, however, been spelt by different travellers in many different ways. "Moorcroft" calls it Pandenthan, "Vigne" Pandrenton, and "Hugel" Pandriton.
The building of this temple is recorded between A.D. 913 and 921; and it is afterwards mentioned between the years 958 and 972, as having escaped destruction when the King Abhimanyu — Nero-like — set fire to his own capital.
As this is the only temple situated in the old capital, there can be very little, if any, doubt that it is the very same building which now exists. For as it is surrounded by water, it was, of course, quite safe amid the fire, which reduced the other buildings to mere masses of quicklime.
Baron Hugel calls the Pandrethan edifice a "Buddhist temple," and states that there are some well-preserved Buddhist figures in the interior. But he is doubly mistaken, for the temple was dedicated to Vishnu, and the figures in the inside have no connexion with Buddhism.
Trebeck swam into the interior, and could discover no figures of any kind; but as the whole ceiling was formerly hidden by a coating of plaster, his statement was, at that time, perfectly correct.
The object of erecting the temples in the midst of water must have been to place them more immediately under the protection of the Nagas, or human-bodied and snake-tailed gods, who were zealously worshipped for ages through Kashmir.
Of all the existing remains of Kashmirian grandeur, the most striking in size and situation is the noble ruin of Marttand.
This majestic temple stands at the northern end of the elevated table-land of "Matan," about three miles to the eastward of Islamabad.
This is undoubtedly the finest position in Kashmir. The temple itself is not now (1848) more than forty feet in height, but its solid walls and bold outlines towering over the fluted pillars of the surrounding colonnade give it a most imposing appearance.
There are no petty confused details; but all are distinct and massive, and most admirably suited to the general character of the building.
Many vain speculations have been hazarded regarding the date of the erection of this temple and the worship to which it was appropriated.
It is usually called the "House of the Pandus" by the Brahmins, and by the people "Mattan."
The true appellation appears to be preserved in the latter, Matan being only a corruption of the Sanscrit Marttand maartta.n.d, or the sun, to which the temple was dedicated.
The true date of the erection of this temple — the wonder of Kashmir — is a disputed point of chronology; but the period of its foundation can be determined within the limits of one century, or between A.D. 370 and 500.
The mass of building now known by the name of Matan, or Marttand, consists of one lofty central edifice, with a small detached wing on each side of the entrance, the whole standing on a large quadrangle surrounded by a colonnade of fluted pillars, with intervening trefoil-headed recesses. The central building is sixty-three feet in length, by thirty-six in width.
As the main building is at present entirely uncovered, the original form of the roof can only be determined by a reference to other temples, and to the general form and character of the various parts of the Marttand temple itself.
The angle of the roof in the Temple of Pandrethan, and in other instances, is obtained by making the sides of the pyramid which forms it parallel to the sides of the doorway pediment, and in restoring the Temples of Patrun and Marttand I have followed the same rule.
The height of the Pandrethan temple — of the cloistered recesses, porch pediments, and niches of Marttand itself — were all just double their respective widths. This agreement in the relative proportions of my restored roof of Marttand with those deduced from other examples, is a presumptive proof of the correctness of my restoration. The entrance-chamber and the wings I suppose to have been also covered by similar pyramidal roofs. There would thus have been four distinct pyramids, of which that over the inner chamber must have been the loftiest, the height of its pinnacle above the ground being about seventy-five feet.
The interior must have been as imposing as the exterior. On ascending the flight of steps — now covered by ruins — the votary of the sun entered a highly-decorated chamber, with a doorway on each side covered by a pediment, with a trefoil-headed niche containing a bust of the Hindu triad, and on the flanks of the main entrance, as well as on those of the side doorways, were pointed and trefoil niches, each of which held a statue of a Hindu divinity.
The interior decorations of the roof can only be conjecturally determined, as I was unable to discover any ornamented stones that could with certainty be assigned to it. Baron Hugel doubts that Marttand ever had a roof; but, as the walls of the temple are still standing, the numerous heaps of large stones that are scattered about on all sides can only have belonged to the roof.
I can almost fancy that the erection of this sun-temple was suggested by the magnificent sunny prospect which its position commands. It overlooks the finest view in Kashmir, and perhaps in the known world, Beneath it lies the paradise of the East, with its sacred streams and cedarn glens, its brown orchards and green fields, surrounded on all sides by vast snowy mountains, whose lofty peaks seem to smile upon the beautiful valley below. The vast extent of the scene makes it sublime; for this magnificent view of Kashmir is no petty peep into a half-mile glen, but the full display of a valley sixty miles in breadth and upwards of a hundred miles in length, the whole of which lies beneath "the ken of the wonderful Marttand."
The principal buildings that still exist in Kashmir are entirely composed of a blue limestone, which is capable of taking the highest polish — a property to which I mainly attribute the beautiful state of preservation in which some of them at present exist.
Even at first sight one is immediately struck by the strong resemblance which the Kashmirian colonnades bear to the classic peristyles of Greece. Even the temples themselves, with their porches and pediments, remind one more of Greece than of India; and it is difficult to believe that a style of architecture which differs so much from all Indian examples, and which has so much in common with those of Greece, could have been indebted to chance alone for this striking resemblance.
One great similarity between the Kashmirian architecture and that of the various Greek orders is its stereotyped style, which, during the long flourishing period of several centuries, remained unchanged. In this respect it is so widely different from the ever-varying forms and plastic vagaries of the Hindu architecture that it is impossible to conceive their evolution from a common origin.
I feel convinced myself that several of the Kashmirian forms, and many of the details, were borrowed from the temples of the Kabulian Greeks, while the arrangements of the interior and the relative proportions of the different parts were of Hindu origin. Such, in fact, must necessarily have been the case with imitations by Indian workmen, which would naturally have been engrafted upon the indigenous architecture. The general arrangements would still remain Indian, while many of the details, and even some of the larger forms, might be of foreign origin.
As a whole, I think that the Kashmirian architecture, with its noble fluted pillars, its vast colonnades, its lofty pediments, and its elegant trefoiled arches, is fully entitled to be classed as a distinct style. I have therefore ventured to call it the Arian order — a name to which it has a double right; first, because it was the style of the Aryas, or Arians, of Kashmir; and, secondly, because its intercolumniations are always of four diameters — an interval which the Greeks called Araiostyle.
Extract from Vigne's "Travels in Kashmir."
The Hindu temple of Marttand is commonly called the House of the Pandus. Of the Pandus it is only necessary to say that they are the Cyclopes of the East. Every old building, of whose origin the poorer class of Hindus in general have no information, is believed to have been the work of the Pandus. As an isolated ruin, this deserves, on account of its solitary and massive grandeur, to be ranked not only as the first ruin of the kind in Kashmir, but as one of the noblest among the architectural relics of antiquity that are to be seen in any country. Its noble and exposed situation at the foot of the hills reminded me of that of the Escurial. It has no forest of cork-trees and evergreen-oaks before it, nor is it to be compared, in point of size, with that stupendous building; but it is visible from as great a distance. And the Spanish sierra cannot for a moment be placed in competition with the verdant magnificence of the mountain-scenery of Kashmir.
Few of the Kashmirian temples, if any, I should say, were Buddhist. Those in or upon the edge of the water were rather, I should suppose, referable to the worship of the Nagas, or snake-gods. The figures in all the temples are almost always in an erect position, and I have never been able to discover any inscription in those now remaining.
I had been struck with the great general resemblance which the temple bore to the recorded disposition of the Ark and its surrounding curtains, in imitation of which the Temple at Jerusalem was built; and it became for a moment a question whether the Kashmirian temples had not been built by Jewish architects, who had recommended them to be constructed on the same plan for the sake of convenience merely. It is, however, a curious fact, that in Abyssinia, the ancient Ethiopia, which was also called "Kush," the ancient Christian churches are not unlike those of Kashmir, and that they were originally built in imitation of the temple, by the Israelites who followed the Queen of Sheba, whose son took possession of the throne of Kush, where his descendants are at this moment Kings of Abyssinia.
Without being able to boast, either in extent or magnificence, of an approach to equality with the temple of the sun at Palmyra, or the ruins of the palace at Persepolis, Marttand is not without pretensions to a locality of scarcely inferior interest, and deserves to be ranked with them as the leading specimen of a gigantic style of architecture that has decayed with the religion it was intended to cherish, and the prosperity of a country it could not but adorn.
In situation it is far superior to either. Palmyra is surrounded by an ocean of sand, and Persepolis overlooks a marsh; but the temple of the sun in Marttand is built upon a natural platform at the foot of some of the noblest mountains, and beneath its ken lies what is undoubtedly the finest and the most PRONONCE valley in the known world.
We are not looking upon the monuments of the dead. We step not aside to inspect a tomb, or pause to be saddened by an elegy. The noble pile in the foreground is rather an emblem of age than of mortality; and the interest with which we perambulate its ruins is not the less pleasurable because we do not know much that is certain of its antiquity, its founders, or its original use.
The Mystic Sentence of Thibet.
Explication et origine de la formule bouddhique: — "Om mani padme houm" Par M. Klaproth. "Nouveau Journal Asiatique."
Les Tubetains et les Mongols ont perpetuellement cette priere dans la bouche. Les mots de cette inscription sont Sanscrits, et donnent un sens complet dans cette langue. En voici la transcription en devanagri: —
o.m ma.ni padme hu.m
"Om" est, chez les Hindous, le nom mystique de la divinite, par lequel toutes les prieres commencent. Cette particule mystique equivaut a l'interjection, OH! prononcee avec emphase et avec une entiere conviction religieuse. Mani signifie LE JOYAU; Padma LE LOTUS. Enfin Houm est une particule qui equivaut a notre "AMEN." Le sens de la phrase est tres clair; "Om mani padme houm" signifie "OH! LE JOYAU DANS LE LOTUS, AMEN." Malgre ce sens indubitable, les Bouddhistes du Tubet se sont evertues a chercher un sens mystique a chacune des six syllabes qui composent cette phrase. Ils ont rempli des livres entiers de ces explications imaginaires.
Cette formule est particuliere aux Bouddhistes du Tubet.
Selon l'histoire de ce pays la formule Om mani padme houm, y a ete apportee de l'Inde vers la moitie du 7e siecle de notre ere.
La legende suivante traduite du Mongol contient des details sur la conversion du Tubet par le dieu Padma pani, et sur l'origine des six syllabes sacrees, Om mani padme houm. Ce dieu est appele en Sanscrit "Avalokites' vara" ou "le maitre qui contemple avec amour;" ce que les Tubetains ont rendu par "le tout-voyant aux mille mains et aux mille yeux:" Les Chinois on traduit le nom par "celui qui contemple les sous du inonde."
"Autrefois, quand le 'GLORIEUX-ACCOMPLI' (Sakya mouni ou Buddh) sejournait dans la foret 'd'Odma,' il advint un jour, qu'etant entoure de ses nombreux disciples un rayon de lumiere de cinq couleurs sortit tout-a-coup entre ses deux sourcils, forma un arc-en-ciel, et se dirigea du cote de l'Empire septentrional de neige (Thibet). Les regards du Bouddha suivaient ce rayon, et sa figure montra un sourire de joie inexprimable. Un de ses disciples lui demanda de lui en expliquer la raison, et sur sa priere le glorieux-accompli lui dit:
" 'Fils d'illustre origine! dans le pays qu'aucun Bouddha des trois ages n'a pu convertir, et qui est rempli d'une foule d'etres malfaisans, la loi se levera comme le soleil et s'y repandra dans les temps futurs.
" 'L'apotre de cet Empire de neige apre et sauvage, sera le Khoutoukhtou' (Padma pani).
"Apres que 'Sakya mouni' eut prononce ces paroles, un rayon de lumiere, eclatant comme un lotus blanc, sortit de son coeur et illumina toutes les regions du monde et se plongea dans le coeur du BOUDDHA INFINIMENT RESPLENDISSANT. Alors un autre eclat de lumiere sortit du Bouddha resplendissant et se plongea dans la mer des fleurs de PADMA (lotus), et y transmit cette pensee du Bouddha, qu'il s'en eleverait et qu'il en naitrait un Khoubilkhan divin, destine a la conversion de l'Empire de neige.
"Le Roi Dehdou qui etait parvenu a participer a la beatitude de l'empire de Soukhawatee, voulant un jour offrir au Bouddha un sacrifice des fleurs, depecha quelques-uns des siens aux bords de la mer des PADMA (Lotus), pour y cueillir de ces fleurs. Ses envoyes apercurent dans la mer une tres grande tige de Lotus au milieu de laquelle il y avait un bouton colossal entoure d'une foule de grandes feuilles, et jetant des rayons de lumiere de differentes couleurs. Les envoyes en firent leur rapport au roi, qui, rempli d'etonnement, se rendit avec sa cour sur un grand radeau a la place de la mer ou se trouvait cette tige merveilleuse.
"Y'etant arrive, il presenta ses offrandes et prononca la benediction; le bouton s'ouvrit alors des quatre cotes, et au milieu apparut l'apotre de l'empire de neige, ne comme 'Khoubilkhan.' Il y etait assis, les jambes croisees, avait mi visage et quatre mains; les deux mains anterieures etaient jointes devant le coeur, la troisieme de droite tenait un rosaire de cristal, et la quatrieme a gauche une fleur de Lotus blanche, qui penchait vers l'oreille.
"Sur sa figure, dont l'eclat se repandait vers les dix regions du monde, se montrait un sourire qui penetra dans tous les coeurs.
"Le roi et sa suite porterent le 'Khoubilkhan' au palais, en poussant des cris de joie et entonnant des hymnes. Le roi se rendit devant le Bouddha eternel et lui demanda la permission d'adopter pour fils, le 'Khoubilkhan' ne dans la mer de lotus. Mais sa demande ne fut pas agree et il apprit, la veritable origine de ce 'Khoubilkhan.' Le Bouddha infiniment resplendissant posa alors sa main sur la tete de celui-ci et dit 'Fils d'illustre origine! Les etres qui habitent l'apre empire de la neige, qu'aucun Bouddha des temps passes n'a pu convertir, qu'aucun du temps futurs ne convertira, et qu'aucun du temps present n'a converti, le seront par la force et la benediction de ton voeu. C'est excellant; c'est excellant! Khoutoukhtou!
" 'Aussitot que les habitans de l'apre empire de neige te verront et qu'ils entendront le son des six syllabes (Om mani padme houm) ils seront delivres des trois naissances de mauvaise nature, et trouveront la beatitude par la renaissance comme etres d'une nature superieure. Les esprits malfaisans de l'apre empire de neige, ainsi que tous les etres donnant des maladies ou la mort, aussitot, Khoutoukhtou, qu'ils te verront et qu'ils entendront le son des six syllabes, ils quitteront la fureur et la mechancete qui les anime, et deviendront compatissans.
" 'Les tigres, les pantheres, les loups, les ours et autres animaux feroces, aussitot, O Khoutoukhtou! qu'ils te verront et entendront le son des six syllabes ils adouciront leurs hurlemens, et leur fureur sanguinaire se changera en douceur bienveillante. Khoutoukhtou! ta figure et le son des six syllabes rassaiseront les affames et calmeront la soif des alteres; il tombera comme une pluie d'eau benite, et elle remplira tous leurs desirs. Khoutoukhtou! tu es l'etre gracieux destine a annoncer la volonte du Bouddha a cet empire de neige.
" 'Selon ton example, un grand nombre de Bouddhas s'y montreront, dans les temps futurs, et y repandront la foi.
" 'Les six syllabes sont le sommaire de toute doctrine et l'apre empire de neige, sera rempli de cette doctrine par la force de ces six syllabes —
Om ma ni pad me houm.'
"Apres cette consecration, le Khoutoukhtou s'agenouilla devant le Bouddha, joignit les mains et prononca le voeu suivant: 'Puisse-je etre en etat de pouvoir faire parvenir a la beatitude les six especes d'etres vivans dans les trois royaumes! Puisse-je, avant tout, conduire sur le chemin du bonheur, les etres vivans de l'empire de neige (Thibet).
" 'Loin de moi le desir de retourner dans mon Empire de joie, avant d'avoir acheve l'oeuvre si difficile de la conversion de ces etres. Si une telle pensee, produite par le degout et la mauvaise humeur, s'empare de moi, que ma tete se fende en dix parties, et mon corps, comme cette fleur de lotus, en mille.'
"Apres ces mots, il se rendit dans le royaume de l'enfer, prononca les six syllabes et detruisit les peines des enfers frois et chauds. De la il s'eleva au royaume des animaux, prononca les six syllabes et detruisit la peine que leur produit la chasse. Puis il se rendit dans l'empire des hommes, prononca les six syllabes et detruisit la peine de la naissance, de l'age, des maladies et de la mort. Il s'eleva apres a l'empire des genies du ciel, prononca les six syllabes et detruisit l'envie qui les tourmente pour se disputer et se combattre. Enfin, il aborda le grand Royaume de neige (le Tubet).
"Ici, il apercut la mer d' 'Otang' comme un enfer terrible, et il vit que derechef, plusieurs millions d'etres y'etaient, bouillis, brules, et martyrises.
"Le Khoutouktou se rendit au bord de la mer et dit: 'Oh! que tant de milliers d'etres qui se trouvent dans cette mer, ou ils souffrent des tourmens inexprimables par la chaleur, le froid, la faim, et la soif, puissent rejeter loin d'eux leur enveloppe funeste et renaitre dans mon paradis commes etres superieures. Om mani padme houm!'
"A peine le 'Khoutoukhtou' avait-il prononce ces mots que les tourmens des damnes cesserent; leur esprit fut tranquillise, et ils se virent transportes sur le chemin du Bouddha. Le Khoutoukhtou ayant ainsi rendu propres a la delivrance les six especes des etres vivans dans les trois royaumes du monde, se trouva fatigue, se reposa et tomba dans un etat de contemplation interieure!
"Apres quelques temps il vit qu'a peine la centieme partie des habitans de l'empire de neige avaient ete conduits sur le chemin de la delivrance. Son ame en fut si douloureusement affectee qu'il eut le desir de retourner dans son paradis. A peine l'avait-il concu, qu'ensuite de ce voeu, sa tete se fendit en dix et son corps en mille pieces.
"Le Bouddha infiniment resplendissant lui apparut dans le meme moment, guerit la tete et le corps fendus du Khoutoukhtou, le prit par la main et lui dit: "Fils d'illustre origine! Vois les suites inevitables de ton voeu; mais parce que tu l'avais fait pour l'illustration de tous les Bouddhas, tu as ete gueri sur-le-champ. Ne sois donc plus triste, car quoique ta tete se soit fendue en dix pieces, chacune aura, par ma benediction, une face particuliere, et au-dessus d'elles sera place mon propre visage rayonnant. Cet onzieme visage de L'INFINIMENT RESPLENDISSANT, place au-dessus de tes dix autres, te rendra l'objet de l'adoration.
" 'Quoique ton corps se soit fendu en mille morceaux, ils deviendront, par ma benediction, mille mains qui representeront les mille Bouddhas d'un age complet du monde (en sanscrit Kalpa), et qui te rendront l'objet le plus digne d'adoration.' "
Cette legende nous explique, non seulement l'extreme importance que les Bouddhistes du Tubet attachent a la formule "Om mani padme houm," mais elle nous demontre aussi que son veritable sens est celui que j'ai donne plus haut: Oh! le joyau dans le lotus; Amen! Il est evident qu'elle se rapporte a "Avalokites' vara" ou "Padma pani" lui-meme, qui naquit dans une fleur de lotus.
Um Mani Panee.
As will be seen by the foregoing extract from M. Klaproth's explanation, the mystic sentence, instead of being as I have represented it, is in reality, "Om mani padme houm," or, in a form of spelling more English, if not more intelligible, "Om muni pudmay hoom," and the meaning, supposing its derivation from the Sanscrit to be beyond doubt, would, as therein translated, be, "Oh the jewel in the Lotus, Amen!" Almost every traveller who has mentioned the inscription in question appears to have followed M. Klaproth's pronunciation as above; but this, although the one actually given by the value of the Thibetian letters, is certainly not that in use by the people among whom it is chiefly, if not alone, to be found. This I can vouch for, as the words were so incessantly in the mouths of all to whom I applied for information, that I had ample opportunity of hearing and remembering their sound; and having written them on the spot in the Persian character, the pronunciation would not be open to the misapprehension or uncertainty to which, after the sounds themselves had been forgotten, the English form of spelling might have rendered them liable.
A form, however, different from both these, is given by one who, with the exception perhaps of M. Hue, had better opportunities than most others for ascertaining the meaning of the words and hearing their actual pronunciation: this was Captain Turner, who was nominated by Warren Hastings, in the year 1783, to undertake an embassy to the Court of Thibet, at Lassa.
He, however, makes no mention of the Sanscrit translation above given, and confesses his inability to obtain, even at the head-quarters of Thibetian Buddhism, a satisfactory explanation of the origin or import of the sentence. The following account, taken from Captain Turner's Report on his Mission, may be of interest, as it explains the circumstances under which an event so unusual as an embassy to the Court of Thibet was agreed to by the Grand Lama.
In 1772, a frontier warfare having broken out between the "Booteas," dependants of Thibet, and the English Government, in consequence of the aggression of the former, Teshoo Lama, at the time regent of Thibet and guardian of the Delai Lama, his superior in religious rank, united in his own person the political authority and the spiritual hierarchy of the country, subservient only to the Emperor of China. The Lama, interested for the safety of Bootan, sent a deputation to Calcutta, with a letter addressed to the governor, of which the following is a translation: — "The affairs of this quarter in every respect flourish. I am, night and day, employed in prayers for the increase of your happiness and prosperity. Having been informed, by travellers from your country, of your exalted fame and reputation, my heart, like the blossoms of spring, abounds with satisfaction, gladness, and joy.
"Praise be to God that the star of your fortune is in its ascension! Praise be to Him that happiness and ease are the surrounding attendants of myself and family! Neither to molest, nor persecute, is my aim. It is even the characteristic of our sect to deprive ourselves of the necessary refreshment of sleep, should an injury be done to a single individual; but in justice and humanity, I am informed, you far surpass us.
"May you ever adorn the seat of justice and power, that mankind may, in the shadow of your bosom, enjoy the blessings of peace and affluence."
The Lama then enters into the subject of the disturbances between his dependants and the British Government, and concludes: — "As to my part, I am but a Fakeer; and it is the custom of my sect, with the rosary in our hands, to pray for the welfare of all mankind, and especially for the peace and happiness of the inhabitants of this country; and I do now, with my head uncovered, intreat that you will cease from all hostilities in future. In this country the worship of the Almighty is the profession of all. We poor creatures are in nothing equal to you. Having, however, a few things in hand, I send them to you as tokens of remembrance, and hope for your acceptance of them."
The Lama being in this unusually agreeable frame of mind, the British Government yielded without hesitation to his intercession.
The governor himself readily embraced the opportunity, which he thought the occurrence afforded, of extending the British influence to a quarter of the world but little known, and with which we possessed hardly any commercial connexion.
In 1774 a deputation was sent to carry back an answer to the Lama, and to offer him suitable presents. It was furnished also with a variety of articles of English manufacture, to be produced as specimens of the trade in which the subjects of the Lama might be invited to participate. The result was, that in 1779, when the Lama visited the Emperor of China at Pekin, desirous of improving his connexion with the Government of Bengal, he desired the British envoy to go round by sea to Canton, promising to join him at the capital. The Emperor's promise was at the same time obtained to permit the first openings of an intercourse between that country and Bengal, through the intermediate channel furnished by the Lama.
The death of both the Lama and the envoy, however, which happened nearly at the same time, destroyed the plans thus formed.
Soon after the receipt of the letters announcing the Lama's death, intelligence arrived of his reappearance in Thibet! His soul, according to the doctrines of their faith, had passed into and animated the body of an infant, who, on the discovery of his identity by such testimony as their religion prescribes, was proclaimed by the same title as his predecessor.
Warren Hastings then proposed a second deputation to Thibet, and Captain Turner was accordingly nominated on the 9th January, 1783.
His mention of the sculptured stones and inscription is as follows: —
"Another sort of monument is a long wall, on both faces of which near the top are inserted large tablets with the words 'Oom maunee paimee oom' carved in relief. This is the sacred sentence repeated upon the rosaries of the Lamas, and in general use in Tibet. Of the form of words to which ideas of peculiar sanctity are annexed by the inhabitants, I could never obtain a satisfactory explanation. It is frequently engraven on the rocks in large and deep characters, and sometimes I have seen it on the sides of hills; the letters, which are formed by means of stones fixed in the earth, are of so vast a magnitude as to be visible at a very considerable distance."
M. Hue's account of an explanation of the formula, which he received from the highest authority at Lassa, is as follows: — "Living beings are divided into six classes — angels, demons, men, quadrupeds, birds, and reptiles. These six classes of beings correspond to the syllables of the formula, 'Om mani padme houm.' Living beings by continual transformations, and according to their merit or demerit, pass about in these six classes until they have attained the apex of perfection, when they are absorbed and lost in the grand essence of Buddha. Living beings have, according to the class to which they belong, particular means of sanctifying themselves, of rising to a superior class, of obtaining perfection, and of arriving in process of time at the period of their absorption. Men who repeat very frequently and devotedly 'Om mani padme houm,' escape falling after death into the six classes of animate creatures, corresponding to the six syllables of the formula, and obtain the plenitude of being, by their absorption into the eternal and universal soul of Buddha."
One traveller only I have been able to find who mentions the sentence as I have done. M. Jacquemont writes, in his "Letters from Cashmere and Thibet," in 1830: — "I am returned from afar; I have often been very cold; I have had a hundred and eighteen very bad dinners: but I think myself amply recompensed for these trans-Himalayan miseries by the interesting observations and vast collections which I have been able to make in a country perfectly new. The Tartars are a very good sort of people. It is true that to please them I made myself a little heathen after their fashion, and joined without scruple in the national chorus, 'Houm mani pani houm.' "
Judging by the system of spelling he has adopted in other instances in his letters, this would be nearly — as regards the two main words — the same pronunciation as I have given. He however, in another part, follows it still more closely, and at the same time shows that he is aware of a translation which, although probably the true one, has no connexion whatever with the words as he himself actually represents them.
He says — "In Thibet they sing a good deal also — that is, one or two inhabitants per square league — but only a single song of three words — 'Oum mani pani;' which means, in the learned language, 'Oh, diamond water-lily!' and leads the singers direct into Buddha's paradise.
"But, though composed of three Thibetian words, it is evidently of Indian origin, and I have proved it BOTANICALLY. The lotus is a plant peculiar to the lukewarm and temperate waters of India and Egypt. There is not one of its genus, or even of its family, in Thibet."
The words, however, are not, as M. Jacquemont says, Thibetian, but Sanscrit; and, although one of the characters in which they are clothed is the current Thibetian, it would appear that neither their true pronunciation nor actual meaning is known to the people who thus make such frequent use of them.
The sentence itself is in the mouths of all. In the monastery of Hemis alone, probably as many as a hundred wheels are in continual motion, bearing it within their folds not less than 1,700,000 times. The very stones by the wayside present its well-known characters in countless numbers, and the hills repeat it, and yet to those into whose daily religious observances it thus so largely enters, it comes but as a vain and empty sound, without either sense or signification. The Lamas themselves, no doubt, believe that the doctrine contained in these marvellous words is immense, and the higher dignitaries of the Church may know their derivation; but, to the great majority, even the mystic meaning and dim legendary history which the true pronunciation and rightful origin of the words would bring to their minds, are unknown, and they are thus deprived of that large amount of comfort and consolation which they would otherwise derive from the glowing and all-powerful sentence —
"Oh, the jewel in the lotus, Amen!"
A Sketch of the History of Cashmere.
A Mahomedan Writer, "Noor ul deen," who begins the history of Cashmere with the Creation, affirms that the valley was visited by Adam after the Fall; that the descendants of Seth reigned over the country for 1,110 years; and that, after the deluge, it became peopled by a tribe from Turkistan.
The Hindoo historians add, that, after the line of Seth became extinct, the Hindoos conquered the country, and ruled it until the period of the deluge; and that the Cashmerians were afterwards taught the worship of one God by "Moses;" but, relapsing into Hindoo idolatry, were punished by the local inundation of the province, and the conversion of the valley into a vast lake.
It would appear, from chronicles actually existing, that Cashmere has been a regular kingdom for a period far beyond the limits of history in general. From the year B.C. 2666 to A.D. 1024 it seems to have been governed (according to these authorities) by Princes of Hindoo and Tartar dynasties, and their names, to the number of about a hundred, have been duly handed down to posterity. Of the titles of these worthies, "Durlabhaverddhana" and "Bikrumajeet" will perhaps be sufficient as specimens. During these years, the religion seems at first to have been the worship of snakes, and afterwards Hindooism.