The idea of a benevolent deity to be worshipped with devotion and faith and not with ceremonies is strange to old Buddhism and old Brahmanism alike. It was a popular idea which became so strong that neither priests nor Bhikshus could ignore it and in its ultimate result it is hard to say whether Buddhist or Brahmanic elements are more prominent. Both Avalokita and Krishna are Devas. The former has the beauty of holiness and the strength which it gives, but also the weakness of a somewhat abstract figure: the latter is very personal and springs from the heart of India but to those who are not Hindus seems wanting in purity and simplicity. The divine character of both figures is due to Brahmanism rather than Buddhism, but the new form of worship which laid stress on a frame of mind rather than on ceremonial and the idea of Avataras or the periodic appearance of superhuman saviours and teachers indicate the influence of Buddhism on Brahmanism.
There is a similar parallel between the newer Buddhist philosophy and the Vedantist school represented by Sankara, and Indian critics detected it. Sankara was called a Pracchanna-bauddha or crypto-buddhist by his theological opponents and the resemblance between the two systems in thought, if not in word, is striking. Both distinguish relative and absolute truth: for both the relative truth is practically theism, for both absolute truth is beyond description and whether it is called Brahman, Dharma-kaya or Sunyata is not equivalent to God in the Christian or Mohammedan sense. Just as for the Vedantist there exist in the light of the highest knowledge neither a personal God nor an individual soul, so the Madhyamika Sutra can declare that the Buddha does not really exist. The Mahayanist philosophers do not use the word Maya but they state the same theory in a more subjective form by ascribing the appearance of the phenomenal world to ignorance, a nomenclature which is derived from the Buddha's phrase, "From ignorance come the Sankharas."
Here, as elsewhere, Buddhist and Brahmanic ideas acted and reacted in such complex interrelations that it is hard to say which has borrowed from the other. As to dates, the older Upanishads which contain the foundations but not the complete edifice of Vedantism, seem a little earlier than the Buddha. Now we know that within the Vedantist school there were divergences of opinion which later received classic expression in the hands of Sankara and Ramanuja. The latter rejected the doctrines of Maya and of the difference between relative and absolute truth. The germs of both schools are to be found in the Upanishads but it seems probable that the ideas of Sankara were originally worked out among Buddhists rather than among Brahmans and were rightly described by their opponents as disguised Buddhism. As early as 520 A.D. Bodhidharma preached in China a doctrine which is practically the same as the Advaita.
The earliest known work in which the theory of Maya and the Advaita philosophy are clearly formulated is the metrical treatise known as the Karika of Gaudapada. This name was borne by the teacher of Sankara's teacher, who must have lived about 700 A.D., but the high position accorded to the work, which is usually printed with the Mandukya Upanishad and is practically regarded as a part of it, make an earlier date probable. Both in language and thought it bears a striking resemblance to Buddhist writings of the Madhyamika school and also contains many ideas and similes which reappear in the works of Sankara. On the other hand the Lankavatara Sutra which was translated into Chinese in 513 and therefore can hardly have been composed later than 450, is conscious that its doctrines resemble Brahmanic philosophy, for an interlocutor objects that the language used in it by the Buddha about the Tathagatagarbha is very like the Brahmanic doctrine of the Atman. To which the Buddha replies that his language is a concession to those who cannot stomach the doctrine of the negation of reality in all its austerity. Some of the best known verses of Gaudapada compare the world of appearance to the apparent circle of fire produced by whirling a lighted torch. This striking image occurs first in the Maitrayana Upanishad (VI. 24), which shows other indications of an acquaintance with Buddhism, and also in the Lankavatara Sutra.
A real affinity unites the doctrine of Sankara to the teaching of Gotama himself. That teaching as presented in the Pali Pitakas is marked by its negative and deliberately circumscribed character. Its rule is silence when strict accuracy of expression is impossible, whereas later philosophy does not shrink from phrases which are suggestive, if not exact. Gotama refuses to admit that the human soul is a fixed entity or Atman, but he does not condemn (though he also does not discuss) the idea that the whole world of change and becoming, including human souls, is the expression or disguise of some one ineffable principle. He teaches too that the human mind can grow until it develops new faculties and powers and becomes the Buddha mind, which sees the whole chain of births, the order of the world, and the reality of emancipation. As the object of the whole system is practical, Nirvana is always regarded as a terminus ad quem or an escape (nissaranam) from this transitory world, and this view is more accurate as well as more edifying than the view which treats Brahman or Sunyata as the origin of the universe. When the Vedanta teaches that this changing troubled world is merely the disguise of that unchanging and untroubled state into which saints can pass, it is, I believe, following Gotama's thought, but giving it an expression which he would have considered imperfect.
[Footnote 163: Translated by Schiefner, 1869. Taranatha informs us (p. 281) that his chief authorities were the history of Kshemendrabhadra, the Buddhapurana of Indradatta and Bhataghati's history of the succession of the Acaryas.]
[Footnote 164: The Tibetans generally translate instead of transliterating Indian names. It is as if an English history of Greece were to speak of Leader of the People instead of Agesilaus.]
[Footnote 165: They place Kanishka, Vasishka, Huvishka and Vasudeva before Kadphises I and Kadphises II.]
[Footnote 166: E.g. Stael Holstein who also thinks that Kanishka's tribe should be called Kusha not Kushan. Vincent Smith in his latest work (Oxford History of India, p. 130) gives 120 A.D. as the most probable date.]
[Footnote 167: My chief difficulty in accepting 78-123 A.D. as the reign of Kanishka is that the Chinese Annals record the doings of Pan Ch'ao between 73 and 102 in Central Asia, with which region Kanishka is believed to have had relations, and yet do not mention his name. This silence makes it prima facie probable that he lived either before or after Pan Ch'ao's career.
The catalogues of the Chinese Tripitaka state that An-Shih-Kao (148-170 A.D.) translated the Margabhumi-sutra of Sangharaksha, who was the chaplain of Kanishka. But this unfortunately proves nothing except that Kanishka cannot have been very late. The work is not a scripture for whose recognition some lapse of time must be postulated. An-Shih-Kao, who came from the west, may very well have translated a recent and popular treatise.]
[Footnote 168: In this connection we may remember Taranatha's statement that Kanishka's Council put an end to dissentions which had lasted about a century. But he also states that it was after the Council that Mahayanist texts began to appear. If Kanishka flourished about 50 A.D. this would fit in with Taranatha's statements and what we know of the history of Buddhism.]
[Footnote 169: B.E.F.E.O. 1911, 339-390. Satischandra Vidyabhushana arrived at the same conclusion in J.A.S.B. 1905, p. 227.]
[Footnote 170: Chap. IV.]
[Footnote 171: Mahaparinib. Sut. III.]
[Footnote 172: Majj. Nik. 72.]
[Footnote 173: Udana. VIII. 1-4.]
[Footnote 174: Accariyabbhutasuttam. Majj. Nik. 123.]
[Footnote 175: Chap. XVI.]
[Footnote 176: That of Rudradaman at Girnar, dated 72 in the Saka Era, has hitherto been considered the oldest, but it is now said that one discovered at Isapur near Muttra is older. See J.R.A.S 1912, p. 114.]
[Footnote 177: E.g. Kadphises II and Vasudeva.]
[Footnote 178: Chaps. XII, XIII.]
[Footnote 179: The last section (42) as translated by Teitaro Suzuki in the Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot may seem an exception, for it contains such statements as "I consider the doctrine of sameness as the absolute ground of reality." But the translation seems to me doubtful.]
[Footnote 180: Sec. 11.]
[Footnote 181: Just as all gods and worlds are seen within Krishna's body, so we are told in the Karanda-vyuha (which is however a later work) that in the pores of Avalokita's skin are woods and mountains where dwell saints and gods.]
[Footnote 182: Bhag. G. VIII. 5.]
[Footnote 183: Commentary on Dhammapada, P.T.S. edition, pp. 25 ff. especially p. 33.]
[Footnote 184: See Ramanuja, Sribhashya, II. 2, 27 and Padma-Purana uttarakanda 43 (quoted by Suhtankar in Vienna Oriental Journ. vol. XXII. 1908). Mayavadam asacchastram pracchannam bauddham ucyate. The Madhvas were specially bitter in their denunciation of Sankara.]
[Footnote 185: Or as itself forming four separate Upanishads. For other arguments in favour of an early date see Walleser, Aelterer Vedanta, pp. 14 ff. He states that the Karika is quoted in the Tibetan translations of Bhavaviveka's Tarkajvala. Bhavaviveka was certainly anterior to the travels of Hsuean Chuang and perhaps was much earlier. But if he died about 600 A.D. a work quoted by him can hardly have been later than 550 and may be much earlier. But see also Jacobi in J.A.O.S. April, 1913, p. 51.]
[Footnote 186: For the resemblances to Nagarjuna see J.R.A.S. 1910, pp. 136 ff. Especially remarkable are II. 32 na nirodho na cotpattir, etc., and IV. 59 and the whole argument that causation is impossible. Noticeable too is the use of Buddhist terms like upaya, nirvana, buddha and adibuddha, though not always in the Buddhist sense.]
FROM KANISHKA TO VASUBANDHU
Tradition, as mentioned above, connects the rise of the Mahayana with the reign of Kanishka. Materials for forming a picture of Indian life under his rule are not plentiful but it was clearly an age of fusion. His hereditary dominions were ample and he had no need to spend his reign in conquests, but he probably subdued Kashmir as well as Khotan, Yarkand and Kashgar. Hostages from one of these states were sent to reside in India and all accounts agree that they were treated with generosity and that their sojourn improved the relations of Kanishka with the northern tribes. His capital was Purushapura or Peshawar, and the locality, like many other features of his reign, indicates a tendency to amalgamate India with Persia and Central Asia. It was embellished with masterpieces of Gandharan sculpture and its chief ornament was a great stupa built by the king for the reception of the relics of the Buddha which he collected. This building is described by several Chinese pilgrims and its proportions, though variously stated, were sufficient to render it celebrated in all the Buddhist world. It is said to have been several times burnt, and rebuilt, but so solid a structure can hardly have been totally destroyed by fire and the greater part of the monument discovered in 1908 probably dates from the time of Kanishka. The base is a square measuring 285 feet on each side, with massive towers at the corners, and on each of the four faces projections bearing staircases. The sides were ornamented with stucco figures of the Buddha and according to the Chinese pilgrims the super-structure was crowned with an iron pillar on which were set twenty-five gilded disks. Inside was found a metal casket, still containing the sacred bones, and bearing an inscription which presents two points of great interest. Firstly it mentions "Agisala the overseer of works at Kanishka's vihara," that is, probably Agesilaus, a foreigner in the king's service. Secondly it states that the casket was made "for the acceptance of the teachers of the Sarvastivadin sect," and the idea that Kanishka was the special patron of the Mahayana must be reconsidered in the light of this statement.
Legends ascribe Kanishka's fervour for the Buddhist faith not to education but to conversion. His coinage, of which abundant specimens have been preserved, confirms this for it presents images of Greek, Persian, Indian and perhaps Babylonian deities showing how varied was the mythology which may have mingled with Gandharan Buddhism. The coins bearing figures of the Buddha are not numerous and, as he undoubtedly left behind him the reputation of a pious Buddhist, it is probable that they were struck late in his reign and represent his last religious phase. Hsuean Chuang repeats some legends which relate that he was originally anti-Buddhist, and that after his conversion he summoned a council and built a stupa.
The substance of these legends is probable. Kanishka as a barbarian but docile conqueror was likely to adopt Buddhism if he wished to keep abreast of the thought and civilisation of his subjects, for at that time it undoubtedly inspired the intellect and art of north-western India. Both as a statesman and as an enquirer after truth he would wish to promote harmony and stop sectarian squabbles. His action resembles that of Constantine who after his conversion to Christianity proceeded to summon the Council of Nicaea in order to stop the dissensions of the Church and settle what were the tenets of the religion which he had embraced, a point about which both he and Kanishka seem to have felt some uncertainty. Our knowledge of Kanishka's Council depends chiefly on the traditions reported by Hsuean Chuang which present many difficulties. He tells us that the king, acting in consultation with Parsva, issued summonses to all the learned doctors of his realm. They came in such crowds that a severe test was imposed and only 499 Arhats were selected. There was some discussion as to the place of meeting but finally Kashmir was selected and the king built a monastery for the Brethren. When the Council met, there arose a question as to whether Vasumitra (who is not further described) should be admitted seeing that he was not an Arhat but aspired to the career of a Bodhisattva. But owing to the interposition of spirits he was not only admitted but made president.
The texts of the Tripitaka were collected and the Council "composed 100,000 stanzas of Upadesa Sastras explanatory of the canonical sutras, 100,000 stanzas of Vinaya-vibhasha Sastras explanatory of the Vinaya and 100,000 of Abhidharma-vibhasha Sastras explanatory of the Abhidharma. For this exposition of the Tripitaka all learning from remote antiquity was thoroughly examined; the general sense and the terse language (of the Buddhist scriptures) was again and again made clear and distinct, and learning was widely diffused for the safe-guiding of disciples. King Kanishka caused the treatises when finished to be written out on copper plates and enclosed these in stone boxes which he deposited in a tope made for the purpose. He then ordered spirits to keep and guard the texts and not to allow any to be taken out of the country by heretics; those who wished to study them could do so in the country. When leaving to return to his own country, Kanishka renewed Asoka's gift of all Kashmir to the Buddhist Church."
Paramartha (499-569 A.D.) in his Life of Vasubandhu gives an account of a council generally considered to be the same as that described by Hsuean Chuang, though the differences in the two versions are considerable. He says that about five hundred years after the Buddha's death (i.e. between 87 B.C. and 13 A.D. if the Buddha died 487 B.C.) an Indian Arhat called Katyayani-putra, who was a monk of the Sarvastivadin school, went to Kipin or Kashmir. There with 500 other Arhats and 500 Bodhisattvas he collected the Abhidharma of the Sarvastivadins and arranged it in eight books called Ka-lan-ta (Sanskrit Grantha) or Kan-tu (Pali Gantho). This compilation was also called Jnana-prasthana. He then made a proclamation inviting all who had heard the Buddha preach to communicate what they remembered. Many spirits responded and contributed their reminiscences which were examined by the Council and, when they did not contradict the sutras and the Vinaya, were accepted, but otherwise were rejected. The selected pieces were grouped according to their subject-matter. Those about wisdom formed the Prajna Grantha, and those about meditation the Dhyana Grantha and so on. After finishing the eight books they proceeded to the composition of a commentary or Vibhasha and invited the assistance of Asvaghosha. When he came to Kashmir, Katyayani-putra expounded the eight books to him and Asvaghosha put them into literary form. At the end of twelve years the composition of the commentary was finished. It consisted of 1,000,000 verses.... Katyayani-putra set up a stone inscribed with this proclamation. "Those who hereafter learn this law must not go out of Kashmir. No sentence of the eight books, or of the Vibhasha must pass out of the land, lest other schools or the Mahayana should corrupt the true law." This proclamation was reported to the king who approved it. The sages of Kashmir had power over demons and set them to guard the entrance to the country, but we are told that anyone desirous of learning the law could come to Kashmir and was in no way interrupted.
There follows a story telling how, despite this prohibition, a native of Ayodhya succeeded in learning the law in Kashmir and subsequently teaching it in his native land. Paramartha's account seems exaggerated, whereas the prohibition described by Hsuean Chuang is intelligible. It was forbidden to take the official copies of the law out of Kashmir, lest heretics should tamper with them.
Taranatha gives a singularly confused account of the meeting, which he expressly calls the third council, but makes some important statements about it. He says that it put an end to the dissensions which had been distracting the Buddhist Church for nearly a century and that it recognized all the eighteen sects as holding the true doctrine: that it put the Vinaya in writing as well as such parts of the Sutra-pitaka and Abhidharma as were still unwritten and corrected those which already existed as written texts: that all kinds of Mahayanist writings appeared at this time but that the Sravakas raised no opposition.
It is hard to say how much history can be extracted from these vague and discrepant stories. They seem to refer to one assembly regarded (at least in Tibet) as the third council of the Church and held under Kanishka four or five hundred years after the Buddha's death. As to what happened at the council tradition seems to justify the following deductions, though as the tradition is certainly jumbled it may also be incorrect in details.
(a) The council is recognized only by the northern Church and is unknown to the Churches of Ceylon, Burma and Siam. It seems to have regarded Kashmir as sacred land outside which the true doctrine was exposed to danger. (b) But it was not a specially Mahayanist meeting but rather a conference of peace and compromise. Taranatha says this clearly: in Hsuean Chuang's account an assembly of Arhats (which at this time must have meant Hinayanists) elect a president who was not an Arhat and according to Paramartha the assembly consisted of 500 Arhats and 500 Bodhisattvas who were convened by a leader of the Sarvastivadin school and ended by requesting Asvaghosha to revise their work. (c) The literary result of the council was the composition of commentaries on the three Pitakas. One of these, the Abhidharma-mahavibhasha-sastra, translated into Chinese in 437-9 and still extant, is said to be a work of encyclopaedic character, hardly a commentary in the strict sense. Paramartha perhaps made a confusion in saying that the Jnana-prasthana itself was composed at the council. The traditions indicate that the council to some extent sifted and revised the Tripitaka and perhaps it accepted the seven Abhidharma books of the Sarvastivadins. But it is not stated or implied that it composed or sanctioned Mahayanist books. Taranatha merely says that such books appeared at this time and that the Hinayanists raised no active objection.
But if the above is the gist of the traditions, the position described is not clear. The council is recognized by Mahayanists yet it appears to have resulted in the composition of a Sarvastivadin treatise, and the tradition connecting the Sarvastivadins with the council is not likely to be wrong, for they are recognized in the inscription on Kanishka's casket, and Gandhara and Kashmir were their headquarters. The decisions of councils are often politic rather than logical and it may be that the doctors summoned by Kanishka, while compiling Sarvastivadin treatises, admitted the principle that there is more than one vehicle which can take mankind to salvation. Perhaps some compromise based on geography was arranged, such as that Kashmir should be left to the Sarvastivadin school which had long flourished there, but that no opposition should be offered to the Mahayanists elsewhere.
The relations of the Sarvastivadins to Mahayanism are exceedingly difficult to define and there are hardly sufficient materials for a connected account of this once important sect, but I will state some facts about it which seem certain.
It is ancient, for the Kathavatthu alludes to its doctrines. It flourished in Gandhara, Kashmir and Central Asia, and Kanishka's casket shows that he patronized it. But it appears to have been hardly known in Ceylon or Southern India. It was the principal northern form of Hinayanism, just as the Theravada was the southern form. I-Ching however says that it prevailed in the Malay Archipelago.
Its doctrines, so far as known, were Hinayanist but it was distinguished from cognate schools by holding that the external world can be said to exist and is not merely a continual process of becoming. It had its own version of the Abhidharma and of the Vinaya. In the time of Fa-Hsien the latter was still preserved orally and was not written. The adherents of this school were also called Vaibhashikas, and Vibhasha was a name given to their exegetical literature.
But the association of the Sarvastivadins with Mahayanists is clear from the council of Kanishka onwards. Many eminent Buddhists began by being Sarvastivadins and became Mahayanists, their earlier belief being regarded as preliminary rather than erroneous. Hsuean Chuang translated the Sarvastivadin scriptures in his old age and I-Ching belonged to the Mulasarvastivadin school; yet both authors write as if they were devout Mahayanists. The Tibetan Church is generally regarded as an extreme form of Mahayanism but its Vinaya is that of the Sarvastivadins.
Though the Sarvastivadins can hardly have accepted idealist metaphysics, yet the evidence of art and their own version of the Vinaya make it probable that they tolerated a moderate amount of mythology, and the Mahayanists, who like all philosophers were obliged to admit the provisional validity of the external world, may also have admitted their analysis of the same as provisionally valid. The strength of the Hinayanist schools lay in the Vinaya. The Mahayanists showed a tendency to replace it by legends and vague if noble aspirations. But a code of discipline was necessary for large monasteries and the code of the Sarvastivadins enjoyed general esteem in Central Asia and China.
Three stages in the history of Indian Buddhism are marked by the names of Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna and the two brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu. It would be easier to give a precise description of its development if we were sure which of the works ascribed to these worthies are authentic, but it seems that Asvaghosha represents an ornate and transitional phase of the older schools leading to Mahayanism, whereas Nagarjuna is connected with the Prajna-paramita and the nihilistic philosophy described in the preceding chapter. Asanga was the founder of the later and more scholastic system called Yogacara and is also associated with a series of revelations said to have been made by Maitreya.
As mentioned above, tradition makes Asvaghosha, one of the most brilliant among Sanskrit writers, live at the court of Kanishka and according to some accounts he was given to the Kushans as part of a war indemnity. The tradition is confirmed by the style and contents of his poems and it has been noted by Foucher that his treatment of legends is in remarkable accord with their artistic presentment in the Gandharan sculptures. Also fragmentary manuscripts of his dramas discovered in Central Asia appear to date from the Kushan epoch. Asvaghosha's rank as a poet depends chiefly on his Buddhacarita, or life of the Buddha up to the time of his enlightenment. It is the earliest example of a Kavya, usually translated as artificial epic, but here literary skill is subservient to the theme and does not, as too often in later works, overwhelm it. The Buddha is its hero, as Rama of the Ramayana, and it sings the events of his earlier life in a fine flow of elaborate but impassioned language. Another of his poems, discovered only a few years ago, treats of the conversion of Nanda, the Buddha's half-brother.
Various other works are ascribed to Asvaghosha and for the history of Buddhism it is of great interest to decide whether he was really the author of The Awakening of Faith. This skilful exposition of a difficult theme is worthy of the writer of the Buddhacarita but other reasons make his authorship doubtful, for the theology of the work may be described as the full-blown flower of Mahayanism untainted by Tantrism. It includes the doctrines of Bhuta-tathata, Alaya-vijnana, Tathagatagarbha and the three bodies of Buddha. It would be dangerous to say that these ideas did not exist in the time of Kanishka, but what is known of the development of doctrine leads us to expect their full expression not then but a century or two later and other circumstances raise suspicions as to Asvaghosha's authorship. His undoubted works were translated into Chinese about 400 A.D. but The Awakening of Faith a century and a half later. Yet if this concise and authoritative compendium had existed in 400, it is strange that the earlier translators neglected it. It is also stated that an old Chinese catalogue of the Tripitaka does not name Asvaghosha as the author.
The undoubted works of Asvaghosha treat the Buddha with ornate but grave rhetoric as the hero of an epic. His progress is attended by miracles such as Indian taste demands, but they hardly exceed the marvels recounted in the Pali scriptures and there is no sign that the hero is identified, as in the Ramayana of Tulsi Das or the Gospel according to St. John, with the divine spirit. The poet clearly feels personal devotion to a Saviour. He dwells on the duty of teaching others and not selfishly seeking one's own salvation, but he does not formulate dogmas.
The name most definitely connected with the early promulgation of Mahayanism is Nagarjuna. A preponderance of Chinese tradition makes him the second patriarch after Asvaghosha and this agrees with the Kashmir chronicle which implies that he lived soon after Kanishka. He probably flourished in the latter half of the second century. But his biographies extant in Chinese and Tibetan are almost wholly mythical, even crediting him with a life of several centuries, and the most that can be hoped is to extract a few grains of history from them. He is said to have been by birth a Brahman of Vidarbha (Berar) and to have had as teacher a Sudra named Saraha or Rahulabhadra. When the legend states that he visited the Nagas in the depths of the sea and obtained books from them, it seems to admit that he preached new doctrines. It is noticeable that he is represented not only as a philosopher but as a great magician, builder, physician, and maker of images.
Many works are attributed to him but they have not the same authenticity as the poems of Asvaghosha. Some schools make him the author of the Prajna-paramita but it is more usually regarded as a revelation. The commentary on it known as Maha-prajna-paramita-sastra is generally accepted as his work. A consensus of tradition makes him the author of the Madhyamika aphorisms of which some account has been given above. It is the principal authority of its school and is provided with a commentary attributed to the author himself and with a later one by Candrakirti. There is also ascribed to him a work called the Suhrillekha or friendly letter, a compendium of Buddhist doctrines, addressed to an Indian king. This work is old for it was translated into Chinese in 434 A.D. and is a homily for laymen. It says nothing of the Madhyamika philosophy and most of it deals with the need of good conduct and the terrors of future punishment, quite in the manner of the Hinayana. But it also commends the use of images and incense in worship, it mentions Avalokita and Amitabha and it holds up the ideal of attaining Buddhahood. Nagarjuna's authorship is not beyond dispute but these ideas may well represent a type of popular Buddhism slightly posterior to Asvaghosha.
In most lists of patriarchs Nagarjuna is followed by Deva, also called Aryadeva, Kanadeva or Nilanetra. I-Ching mentions him among the older teachers and a commentary on his principal work, the Satasastra, is attributed to Vasubandhu. Little is known of his special teaching but he is regarded as an important doctor and his pupil Dharmatrata is also important if not as an author at least as a compiler, for Sanskrit collections of verses corresponding to the Pali Dhammapada are ascribed to him. Aryadeva was a native of southern India.
The next epoch in the history of Buddhism is marked by the names of Asanga and Vasubandhu. The interval between them and Deva produced no teacher of importance, but Kumaralabdha, the founder of the Sautrantika school and perhaps identical with Kumarata the eighteenth Patriarch of the Chinese lists, may be mentioned. Hsuean Chuang says that he was carried off in captivity by a king who reigned somewhere in the east of the Pamirs and that he, Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna and Deva were styled the four shining suns.
Asanga and Vasubandhu were brothers, sons of a Brahman who lived at Peshawar. They were both converted from the Sarvastivadin school to Mahayanism, but the third brother Virincivatsa never changed his convictions. Tradition connects their career with Ayodhya as well as with Peshawar and Vasubandhu enjoyed the confidence of the reigning monarch, who was probably Candragupta I. This identification depends on the hypothesis that Vasubandhu lived from about 280 to 360 A.D. which, as already mentioned, seems to me to have been proved by M. Peri. The earlier Gupta kings though not Buddhists were tolerant, as is shown by the fact that the king of Ceylon was allowed to erect a magnificent monastery at Nalanda in the reign of Samudragupta (c. 330-375 A.D.).
Asanga founded the school known as Yogacara and many authorities ascribe to him the introduction of magical practices and Tantrism. But though he is a considerable figure in the history of Buddhism, I doubt if his importance or culpability is so great as this. For if tradition can be trusted, earlier teachers especially Nagarjuna dealt in spells and invocations and the works of Asanga known to us are characterized by a somewhat scholastic piety and are chiefly occupied in defining and describing the various stages in the spiritual development of a Bodhisattva. It is true that he admits the use of magical formulae as an aid in this evolution but they form only a slight part of his system and it does not appear that the Chen-yen or Shingon sect of the Far East (the Sanskrit Mantrayana) traced its lineage back to him.
Our estimate of his position in the history of Buddhism must depend on our opinion as to the authorship of The Awakening of Faith. If this treatise was composed by Asvaghosha then doctrines respecting the three bodies of Buddha, the Tathagatagarbha and the Alaya-vijnana were not only known but scientifically formulated considerably before Asanga. The conclusion cannot be rejected as absurd—for Asvaghosha might speak differently in poems and in philosophical treatises—but it is surprising, and it is probable that the treatise is not his. If so, Asanga may have been the first to elaborate systematically (though not to originate) the idea that thought is the one and only reality. Nagarjuna's nihilism was probably the older theory. It sounds late and elaborate but still it follows easily if the dialectic of Gotama is applied uncompromisingly not only to our mental processes but to the external world. Yet even in India the result was felt to be fantastic and sophistical and it is not surprising if after the lapse of a few generations a new system of idealism became fashionable which, although none too intelligible, was abstruse rather than paradoxical.
Asanga was alleged to have received revelations from Maitreya and five of his works are attributed to this Bodhisattva who enjoyed considerable honour at this period. It may be that the veneration for the Buddha of the future, the Messiah who would reign over his saints in a pure land, owed something to Persian influence which was strong in India during the decadence of the Kushans. Both Mithraism and Manichaeism classified their adepts in various ranks, and the Yogacara doctors who delight in grading the progress of the Bodhisattva may have borrowed something from them. Asanga's doctrine of defilement (klesa) and purification may also owe something to Mani, as suggested by S. Levi.
In spite of his literary merits Asanga remains a doctor rather than a saint or poet. His speculations have little to do with either Gotama or Amitabha and he was thus not in living touch with either the old or new schools. His brother Vasubandhu had perhaps a greater position. He is reckoned as the twentieth Patriarch and Tibetan tradition connects him with the worship of Amitabha.
Paramartha's life of Vasubandhu represents him as having frequented the court of Vikramaditya (to be identified with Candragupta I), who at first favoured the Sankhya philosophy but accorded some patronage to Buddhism. During this period Vasubandhu was a Sarvastivadin but of liberal views and while in this phase wrote the Abhidharma-kosa, a general exposition of the Abhidharma, mainly according to the views of the Vaibhashikas but not without criticism. This celebrated work is not well known in Europe but is still a text-book amongst Japanese Buddhist students. It gained the esteem of all schools and we are given to understand that it presupposed the philosophy of the Vibhasha and of the Jnana-prasthana. According to Paramartha the original work consisted of 600 aphorisms in verse which were sent by the author to the monks of Kashmir. They approved of the composition but, as the aphorisms were concise, asked for fuller explanations. Vasubandhu then expanded his verses into a prose commentary, but meanwhile his views had undergone a change and when he disapproved of any Vaibhashika doctrine, he criticized it. This enlarged edition by no means pleased the brethren of Kashmir and called forth polemics. He also wrote a controversial work against the Sankhya philosophy.
Late in life Vasubandhu, moved by the entreaties of his brother Asanga, became a devout Mahayanist and wrote in his old age Mahayanist treatises and commentaries.
[Footnote 187: The uncertainty as to the date of Kanishka naturally makes it uncertain whether he was the hero of these conquests. Kashmir was certainly included in the dominions of the Kushans and was a favourite residence of Kanishka. About 90 A.D. a Kushan king attacked Central Asia but was repulsed by the Chinese general Pan-Ch'ao. Later, after the death of Pan-Ch'ao (perhaps about 103 A.D.), he renewed the attempt and conquered Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan. See Vincent Smith, Early History of India, 3rd ed. pp. 253 ff.]
[Footnote 188: See Fa-Hsien, ed. Legge, p. 33, B.E.F.E.O. 1903 (Sung Yuen), pp. 420 ff. Watters, Yuean Chwang, I. pp. 204 ff. J.R.A.S. 1909, p. 1056, 1912, p. 114. For the general structure of these stupas see Foucher, L'art Greco-Bouddhique du Gandhara, pp. 45 ff.]
[Footnote 189: J.R.A.S. 1909, p. 1058. "Acaryanam Sarvastivadinam pratigrahe."]
[Footnote 190: Similarly Harsha became a Buddhist late in life.]
[Footnote 191: Watters, vol. I. p. 203. He places Kanishka's accession 400 years after the death of the Buddha, which is one of the arguments for supposing Kanishka to have reigned about 50 B.C., but in another passage (Watters, I. 222, 224) he appears to place it 500 years after the death.]
[Footnote 192: Watters, vol. I. 270-1.]
[Footnote 193: But Taranatha says some authorities held that it met at Jalandhara. Some Chinese works say it was held at Kandahar.]
[Footnote 194: Walters, l.c.]
[Footnote 195: Translated by Takakusu in T'oung Pao, 1904, pp. 269 ff. Paramartha was a native of Ujjain who arrived at Nanking in 548 and made many translations, but it is quite possible that this life of Vasubandhu is not a translation but original notes of his own.]
[Footnote 196: Chinese expressions like "in the five hundred years after the Buddha's death" probably mean the period 400-500 of the era commencing with the Buddha's death and not the period 500-600. The period 1-100 is "the one hundred years," 101-200 "the two hundred years" and so on. See B.E.F.E.O. 1911, 356. But it must be remembered that the date of the Buddha's death is not yet certain. The latest theory (Vincent Smith, 1919) places it in 554 B.C.]
[Footnote 197: Chap. XII.]
[Footnote 198: See Watters, I. pp. 222, 224 and 270. It is worth noting that Hsuean Chuang says Asoka lived one hundred years after the Buddha's death. See Watters, I. p. 267. See also the note of S. Levi in J.R.A.S. 1914, pp. 1016-1019, citing traditions to the effect that there were 300 years between Upagupta, the teacher of Asoka, and Kanishka, who is thus made to reign about 31 A.D. On the other hand Kanishka's chaplain Sangharaksha is said to have lived 700 years after the Buddha.]
[Footnote 199: See Takakusu in J.P.T.S. 1905, pp. 67 ff. For the Sarvastivadin Canon, see my chapter on the Chinese Tripitaka.]
[Footnote 200: See above, vol. I. p. 262. For an account of the doctrines see also Vasilief, 245 ff. Rockhill, Life of the Buddha, pp. 190 ff.]
[Footnote 201: Its connection with Gandhara and Kashmir is plainly indicated in its own scriptures. See Przyluski's article on "Le Nord-Ouest de l'Inde dans le Vinaya des Mula-sarvastivadins," J.A. 1914, II. pp. 493 ft. This Vinaya must have received considerable additions as time went on and in its present form is posterior to Kanishka.]
[Footnote 202: The distinction between Sarvastivadin and Mulasarvastivadin is not clear to me. I can only suggest that when a section of the school accepted the Mahavibhasha and were known as Vaibhashikas others who approved of the school chiefly on account of its excellent Vinaya called themselves Primitive Sarvastivadins.]
[Footnote 203: See Sylvain Levi, J.A. 1908, XII. 57 ff., and Winternitz, Ges. Ind. Lit. II. i. pp. 201 ff.]
[Footnote 204: The only reason for doubting it is that two stories (Nos. 14 and 31) in the Sutralankara (which appears to be a genuine work) refer to Kanishka as if he had reigned in the past. This may be a poetic artifice or it may be that the stories are interpolations. See for the traditions Watters on Yuean Chwang, II. 102-4 and Takakusu in J.R.A.S. 1905, p. 53 who quotes the Chinese Samyukta-ratna-pitaka-sutra and the Record of Indian Patriarchs. The Chinese list of Patriarchs is compatible with the view that Asvaghosha was alive about 125 A.D. for he was the twelfth Patriarch and Bodhidharma the twenty-eighth visited China in 520. This gives about 400 years for sixteen Patriarchs, which is possible, for these worthies were long-lived. But the list has little authority.]
[Footnote 205: The traditions are conveniently collected in the introduction to Teitaro Suzuki's translation of The Awakening of Faith.]
[Footnote 206: The Saundaranandakavya.]
[Footnote 207: See Nanjio, Nos. 1182, 1351, 1250, 1299. It is noticeable that the translator Paramartha shows a special interest in the life and works of Asanga and Vasubandhu.]
[Footnote 208: See Winternitz, Ges. Ind. Lit. II. i. p. 211. It is also noticeable that The Awakening of Faith appears to quote the Lankavatara sutra which is not generally regarded as an early Mahayanist work.]
[Footnote 209: Nagarjuna cannot have been the founder of the Mahayana for in his Maha-prajna-paramita-sastra (Nanjio, 1169, translation by Kumarajiva) he cites inter alia the Lotus, the Vimalakirti-sutra, and a work called Mahayana-sastra. See B.E.F.E.O. 1911, p. 453. For Nagarjuna see especially Gruenwedel, Mythologie, pp. 29 ff. and the bibliography given in the notes. Jour. Budd. Text. Soc. V. part iv. pp. 7 ff. Watters, Yuean Chwang, pp. 200 ff. Taranatha, chap. XV and Winternitz, Ges. Ind. Lit. II. i. pp. 250 ff.]
[Footnote 210: He is omitted from the list of Buddhabhadra, giving the succession according to the Sarvastivadins, to which school he did not belong. I-Ching classes him with Asvaghosha and Aryadeva as belonging to the early period.]
[Footnote 211: Rajatarangini, i. 173, 177.]
[Footnote 212: Edited in the Bibliotheca Buddhica by De la Vallee Poussin and (in part) in the Journal of the Buddhist Text Soc. See too Walleser, Die Mittlere Lehre des Nagarjuna nach der Tibetischen Version uebertragen, 1911: nach der Chinesischen Version uebertragen, 1912.]
[Footnote 213: The ascription of these works to Nagarjuna is probably correct for they were translated by Kumarajiva who was sufficiently near him in date to be in touch with good tradition.]
[Footnote 214: The name of this king, variously given as Udayana, Jetaka and Satavahana, has not been identified with certainty from the various transcriptions and translations in the Chinese and Tibetan versions. See J. Pali Text Soc. for 1886 and I-Ching Records of the Buddhist Religion (trans. Takakusu), pp. 158 ff. The Andhra kings who reigned from about 240 B.C. to 225 A.D. all claimed to belong to the Satavahana dynasty. The stupa of Amaravati in the Andhra territory is surrounded by a stone railing ascribed to the period 160-200 A.D. and Nagarjuna may have addressed a pious king living about that time.]
[Footnote 215: For other works attributed to Nagarjuna see Nanjio, Nos. 1169, 1179, 1180, 1186 and Walleser's introduction to Mittlere Lehre nach der Chinesischen Version The Dharmasangraha, a Sanskrit theological glossary, is also attributed to Nagarjuna as well as the tantric work Pancakrama. But it is not likely that the latter dates from his epoch.]
[Footnote 216: Nanjio, No. 1188.]
[Footnote 217: The very confused legends about him suggest a comparison with the Dravidian legend of a devotee who tore out one of his eyes and offered it to Siva. See Gruenwedel, Mythologie, p. 34 and notes. Polemics against various Hinayanist sects are ascribed to him. See Nanjio, Nos. 1259, 1260.]
[Footnote 218: Watters, Yuean Chwang, II. p. 286. Hsuean Chuang does not say that the four were contemporary but that in the time of Kumaralabdha they were called the four Suns.]
[Footnote 219: For Asanga and Vasubandhu see Peri in B.E.F.E.O. 1911, pp. 339-390. Vincent Smith in Early History of India, third edition, pp. 328-334. Winternitz, Ges. Ind. Lit. II. i. p. 256. Watters, Yuean Chwang, I. pp. 210, 355-359. Taranatha, chap. XXII. Gruenwedel, Mythologie, p. 35.]
[Footnote 220: Meghavarman. See V. Smith, l.c. 287.]
[Footnote 221: Two have been preserved in Sanskrit: the Mahayana-sutralankara (Ed. V. Transl., S. Levi, 1907-1911) and the Bodhisattva-bhumi (English summary in Museon, 1905-6). A brief analysis of the literature of the Yogacara school according to Tibetan authorities is given by Stcherbatskoi in Museon, 1905, pp. 144-155.]
[Footnote 222: Mahayana-sutral. XVIII. 71-73. The ominous word maithuna also occurs in this work, XVIII. 46.]
[Footnote 223: Vincent Smith, l.c. p. 275.]
[Footnote 224: But there are of course abundant Indian precedents, Brahmanical as well as Buddhist, for describing various degrees of sanctity or knowledge.]
[Footnote 225: The wooden statues of Asanga and Vasubandhu preserved in the Kofukaji at Nara are masterpieces of art but can hardly claim to be other than works of imagination. They date from about 800 A.D. See for an excellent reproduction Tajima's Select Relics, II. X.]
[Footnote 226: See Eitel and Gruenwedel, but I do not know in what texts this tradition is found. It is remarkable that Paramartha's life (T'oung Pao, 1904, pp. 269-296) does not say either that he was twentieth patriarch or that he worshipped Amida.]
[Footnote 227: On receiving a large donation he built three monasteries, one for Hinayanists, one for Mahayanists and one for nuns.]
[Footnote 228: The work consists of 600 verses (Karika) with a lengthy prose commentary (Bhashya) by the author. The Sanskrit original is lost but translations have been preserved in Chinese (Nanjio, Nos. 1267, 1269, 1270) and Tibetan (see Cordier, Cat. du Fonds tibetain de la Bib. Nat. 1914, pp. 394, 499). But the commentary on the Bhashya called Abhidharma-kosa-vyakhya, or Sphutartha, by Yasomitra has been preserved in Sanskrit in Nepal and frequently cites the verses as well as the Bhashya in the original Sanskrit. A number of European savants are at present occupied with this literature and Sir Denison Ross (to whom I am indebted for much information) contemplates the publication of an Uigur text of Book I found in Central Asia. At present (1920), so far as I know, the only portion of the Abhidharma-kosa in print is De la Vallee Poussin's edition and translation of Book III, containing the Tibetan and Sanskrit texts but not the Chinese (De la Vallee Poussin—Vasubandhu et Yasomitra, London, 1914-18). This chapter deals with such topics as the structure of the universe, the manner and place of rebirth, the chain of causation, the geography of the world, the duration and characteristics of Kalpas, and the appearance of Buddhas and Cakravartins.]
[Footnote 229: See Nanjio, pp. 371-2, for a list of his works translated into Chinese. Hsuean Chuang's account differs from the above (which is taken from Paramartha) in details. He also tells a curious story that Vasubandhu promised to appear to his friends after death and ultimately did so, though he forgot his promise until people began to say he had gone to hell.]
INDIAN BUDDHISM AS SEEN BY THE CHINESE PILGRIMS
About the time of Vasubandhu there existed four schools of Indian Buddhism called Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Madhyamika and Yoga or Yogacara. They were specially concerned with philosophy and apparently cut across the older division into eighteen sects, which at this period seem to have differed mainly on points of discipline. Though not of great practical importance, they long continued to play a certain part in controversial works both Buddhist and Brahmanic. The first two which were the older seem to have belonged to the Hinayana and the other two even more definitely to the Mahayana. I-Ching is quite clear as to this. "There are but two kinds of the so-called Mahayana" he says, "first the Madhyamika, second the Yoga.... These two systems are perfectly in accordance with the noble doctrine. Can we say which of the two is right? Both equally conform to truth and lead us to Nirvana" and so on. But he does not say that the other two systems are also aspects of the truth. This is the more remarkable because he himself followed the Mula-sarvastivadins. Apparently Sarvastivadin and Vaibhashika were different names for the same school, the latter being applied to them because they identified themselves with the commentary (Vibhasha) already mentioned whereas the former and older designation came to be used chiefly with reference to their disciplinary rules. Also there were two groups of Sarvastivadins, those of Gandhara and those of Kashmir. The name of Vaibhashika was applied chiefly to the latter who, if we may find a kernel of truth in legends which are certainly exaggerated, endeavoured to make Kashmir a holy land with a monopoly of the pure doctrine. Vasubandhu and Asanga appear to have broken up this isolation for they first preached the Vaibhashika doctrines in a liberal and eclectic form outside Kashmir and then by a natural transition and development went over to the Mahayana. But the Vaibhashikas did not disappear and were in existence even in the fourteenth century. Their chief tenet was the real existence of external objects. In matters of doctrine they regarded their own Abhidharma as the highest authority. They also held that Gotama had an ordinary human body and passed first into a preliminary form of Nirvana when he attained Buddhahood and secondly into complete Nirvana at his death. He was superhuman only in the sense that he had intuitive knowledge and no need to learn. Their contempt for sutras may have been due to the fact that many of them discountenance the Vaibhashika views and also to a knowledge that new ones were continually being composed.
I-Ching, who ends his work by asserting that all his statements are according to the Arya-mula-sarvastivada-nikaya and no other, gives an interesting summary of doctrine.
"Again I say: the most important are only one or two out of eighty thousand doctrines of the Buddha: one should conform to the worldly path but inwardly strive to secure true wisdom. Now what is the worldly path? It is obeying prohibitive laws and avoiding any crime. What is the true wisdom? It is to obliterate the distinction between subject and object, to follow the excellent truth and to free oneself from worldly attachments: to do away with the trammels of the chain of causality: further to obtain merit by accumulating good works and finally to realize the excellent meaning of perfect reality."
Such a statement enables us to understand the remark which he makes elsewhere that the same school may belong to the Hinayana and Mahayana in different places, for, whatever may be meant by wisdom which aims at obliterating the difference between subject and object, it is clearly not out of sympathy with Yogacara doctrines. In another place where he describes the curriculum followed by monks he says that they learn the Yogacarya-sastra first and then eight compositions of Asanga and Vasubandhu. Among the works prescribed for logic is the Nyayadvara-sastra attributed to Nagarjuna. The monk should learn not only the Abhidharma of the Sarvastivadins but also the Agamas, equivalent to the Sutra-pitaka. So the study of the sutras and the works of Asanga and Vasubandhu is approved by a Sarvastivadin.
The Sautrantikas, though accounted Hinayanists, mark a step in the direction of the Mahayana. The founder of the school was Kumaralabdha, mentioned above. In their estimation of scripture they reversed the views of the Vaibhashikas, for they rejected the Abhidharma and accepted only the sutras, arguing that the Abhidharma was practically an extract from them. As literary criticism this is correct, if it means that the more ancient sutras are older than the oldest Abhidharma books. But the indiscriminate acceptance of sutras led to a creed in which the supernatural played a larger part. The Sautrantikas not only ascribed superhuman powers to the Buddha, but believed in the doctrine of three bodies. In philosophy, though they were realists, they held that external objects are not perceived directly but that their existence is inferred.
Something has already been said of the two other schools, both of which denied the reality of the external world. The differences between them were concerned with metaphysics rather than theology and led to no popular controversies.
Up to this point the history of Indian Buddhism has proved singularly nebulous. The most important dates are a matter of argument, the chief personages half mythical. But when the records of the Chinese pilgrims commence we are in touch with something more solid. They record dates and facts, though we must regret that they only repeat what they heard and make no attempt to criticize Indian traditions or even to weave them into a connected chronicle.
Fa-Hsien, the first of these interesting men, left China in 399 and resided in India from 405 to 411, spending three years at Pataliputra and two at Tamralipti. He visited the Panjab, Hindustan and Bengal and his narrative leaves the impression that all these were in the main Buddhist countries: of the Deccan which he did not visit he heard that its inhabitants were barbarous and not Buddhists, though it contained some Buddhist shrines. Of the Middle Kingdom (which according to his reckoning begins with Muttra) he says that the people are free and happy and neither kill any living creature nor drink intoxicating liquor. He does not hint at persecution though he once or twice mentions that the Brahmans were jealous of the Buddhists. Neither does he indicate that any strong animosity prevailed between Maha and Hinayanists. But the two parties were distinct and he notes which prevailed in each locality. He left China by land and found the Hinayana prevalent at Shen-shen and Wu-i (apparently localities not far from Lob-Nor) but the Mahayana at Khotan. Nearer India, in countries apparently corresponding to parts of Kashmir and Gilgit, the monks were numerous and all Hinayanist. The same was the case in Udyana, and in Gandhara the Hinayanists were still in the majority. In the Panjab both schools were prevalent but the Hinayana evidently strong. In the district of Muttra the Law was still more flourishing, monasteries and topes were numerous and ample alms were given to the monks. He states that the professors of the Abhidharma and Vinaya made offerings to those works, and the Mahayanists to the book Prajna-paramita, as well as to Manjusri and Kwan-shih-yin. He found the country in which are the sacred sites of Sravasti, Kapilavastu and Kusinara sparsely inhabited and desolate, but this seems to have been due to general causes, not specially to the decay of religion. He mentions that ninety-six varieties of erroneous views are found among the Buddhists, which points to the existence of numerous but not acutely hostile sects and says that there still existed, apparently in Kosala, followers of Devadatta who recognized three previous Buddhas but not Sakyamuni. He visited the birth-places of these three Buddhas which contained topes erected in their honour.
He found Magadha prosperous and pious. Of its capital, Patna, he says "by the side of the topes of Asoka has been made a Mahayana monastery very grand and beautiful, there is also a Hinayana one, the two together containing 600 or 700 monks." It is probable that this was typical of the religious condition of Magadha and Bengal. Both schools existed but the Mahayana was the more flourishing. Many of the old sites, such as Rajagriha and Gaya, were deserted but there were new towns near them and Bodh Gaya was a place of pilgrimage with three monasteries. In the district of Tamralipti (Tamluk) on the coast of Bengal were 22 monasteries. As his principal object was to obtain copies of the Vinaya, he stayed three years in Patna seeking and copying manuscripts. In this he found some difficulty, for the various schools of the Vinaya, which he says were divided by trivial differences only, handed down their respective versions orally. He found in the Mahayanist monastery one manuscript of the Mahasanghika rules and considered it the most complete, but also took down the Sarvastivadin rules.
After the death of Vasubandhu few names of even moderate magnitude stand out in the history of Indian Buddhism. The changes which occurred were great but gradual and due not to the initiative of innovators but to the assimilative power of Hinduism and to the attractions of magical and emotional rites. But this tendency, though it doubtless existed, did not become conspicuous until about 700 A.D. The accounts of the Chinese pilgrims and the literature which has been preserved suggest that in the intervening centuries the monks were chiefly occupied with scholastic and exegetical work. The most distinguished successors of Asanga were logicians, among whom Dinnaga was pre-eminent. Sthiramati and Gunamati appear to have belonged to the same school and perhaps Bhavaviveka too. The statements as to his date are inconsistent but the interesting fact is recorded that he utilized the terminology of the Sankhya for the purposes of the Mahayana.
Throughout the middle ages the study of logic was pursued but Buddhists and Jains rather than by Brahmans. Vasubandhu composed some treatises dealing exclusively with logic but it was his disciple Dinnaga who separated it definitely from philosophy and theology. As in idealist philosophy, so in pure logic there was a parallel movement in the Buddhist and Brahmanic schools, but if we may trust the statements of Vacaspatimisra (about 1100 A.D.) Dinnaga interpreted the aphorisms of the Nyaya philosophy in a heterodox or Buddhist sense. This traces the beginnings of Indian logic to a Brahmanic source but subsequently it flourished greatly in the hands of Buddhists, especially Dinnaga and Dharmakirti. The former appears to have been a native of Conjevaram and a contemporary of Kalidasa. Both the logician and the poet were probably alive in the reign of Kumaragupta (413-455). Dinnaga spent much time in Nalanda, and though the Sanskrit originals of his works are lost the Tibetan translations are preserved.
The Buddhist schools of logic continued for many centuries. One flourished in Kashmir and another, founded by Candragomin, in Bengal. Both lasted almost until the Mohammedan conquest of the two countries.
From about 470 to 530 A.D. northern India groaned under the tyranny of the Huns. Their King Mihiragula is represented as a determined enemy of Buddhism and a systematic destroyer of monasteries. He is said to have been a worshipper of Siva but his fury was probably inspired less by religious animosity than by love of pillage and slaughter.
About 530 A.D. he was defeated by a coalition of Indian princes and died ten years later amid storms and portents which were believed to signify the descent of his wicked soul into hell. It must have been about this time that Bodhidharma left India for he arrived in Canton about 520. According to the Chinese he was the son of a king of a country called Hsiang-Chih in southern India and the twenty-eighth patriarch and he became an important figure in the religion and art of the Far East. But no allusion to him or to any of the Patriarchs after Vasubandhu has been found in Indian literature nor in the works of Hsuean Chuang and I-Ching. The inference is that he was of no importance in India and that his reputation in China was not great before the eighth century: also that the Chinese lists of patriarchs do not represent the traditions of northern India.
Religious feeling often ran high in southern India. Buddhists, Jains and Hindus engaged in violent disputes, and persecution was more frequent than in the north. It is easy to suppose that Bodhidharma being the head of some heretical sect had to fly and followed the example of many monks in going to China. But if so, no record of his school is forthcoming from his native land, though the possibility that he was more than an individual thinker and represented some movement unknown to us cannot be denied. We might suppose too that since Nagarjuna and Aryadeva were southerners, their peculiar doctrines were coloured by Dravidian ideas. But our available documents indicate that the Buddhism of southern India was almost entirely Hinayanist, analogous to that of Ceylon and not very sympathetic to the Tamils.
The pilgrims Sung-Yuen and Hui-Sheng visited Udyana and Gandhara during the time of the Hun domination (518-521). They found the king of the former a pious Buddhist but the latter was governed by an Ephthalite chieftain, perhaps Mihiragula himself, who was a worshipper of demons. Of the Yetha or Ephthalites they make the general observation that "their rules of politeness are very defective." But they also say that the population of Gandhara had a great respect for Buddhism and as they took back to China 170 volumes, "all standard works belonging to the Great Vehicle," the Ephthalite persecution cannot have destroyed the faith in north-western India. But the evil days of decay were beginning. Henceforward we have no more pictures of untroubled piety and prosperity. At best Buddhism receives royal patronage in company with other religions; sectarian conflicts increase and sometimes we hear of persecution. About 600 A.D. a king of Central Bengal named Sasanka who worshipped Siva attempted to extirpate Buddhism in his dominions and destroyed the Bo tree at Bodh Gaya. On the other hand we hear of the pious Purnavarman, king of Magadha, who made amends for these sacrileges, and of Siladitya, king of the country called Mo-lo-po by the Chinese, who was so careful of animal life, that he even strained the water drunk by his horses and elephants, lest they should consume minute insects.
We know more of Indian Buddhism in the seventh century than in the periods which precede or follow it. The epoch was marked by the reign of the great king, or rather emperor, Harsha-Vardhana (606-648 A.D.), and the works written by Bana, Bhartrihari and others who frequented his court have come down to us. Also we are fortunate in possessing the copious narrative of Hsuean Chuang, the greatest of the Chinese pilgrims, who spent sixteen years (629-645) in India as well as the work known as the "Record of the Buddhist religion as practised in India and the Malay Archipelago," composed by I-Ching who travelled in those countries from 671 to 695. I-Ching also wrote the lives of sixty Chinese pilgrims who visited India during the seventh century and probably there were many others of whom we have no record.
The reign of Harsha is thus illustrated by a number of contemporary dateable works unusual in India. The king himself wrote some Buddhist hymns, and three dramas are ascribed to him but were probably composed by some of the literary men whom he patronized. For all that, the religious ideas which they contain must have had his approval. The Ratnavali and Priyadarsika are secular pieces and so far as they have any religious atmosphere it is Brahmanic, but the Nagananda is a Buddhist religious drama which opens with an invocation of the Buddha and has a Jataka story for its plot. Bana was himself a devout Brahman but his historical romance Harshacarita and his novel called Kadambari both describe a mixture of religions founded on observation of contemporary life. In an interesting passage he recounts the king's visit to a Buddhist ascetic. The influence of the holy man causes the more intelligent animals in his neighbourhood, such as parrots, to devote themselves to Buddhist lore, but he is surrounded by devotees of the most diverse sects, Jains, Bhagavatas, Pancaratras, Lokayatikas with followers of Kapila, Kanada and many other teachers. Mayura, another literary protege of Harsha's, was like Bana a Brahman, and Subandhu, who flourished a little before them, ignores Buddhism in his romance called Vasavadatta. But Bhartrihari, the still popular gnomic poet, was a Buddhist. It is true that he oscillated between the court and the cloister no less than seven times, but this vacillation seems to have been due to the weakness of the flesh, not to any change of convictions. For our purpose the gist of this literature is that Hinduism in many forms, some of them very unorthodox, was becoming the normal religion of India but that there were still many eminent Buddhists and that Buddhism had sufficient prestige to attract Harsha and sufficient life to respond to his patronage.
About 600 A.D. India was exhausted by her struggle with the Huns. After it there remained only a multitude of small states and obscure dynasties, but there was evidently a readiness to accept any form of unifying and tranquillizing rule and for nearly half a century this was provided by Harsha. He conquered northern India from the Panjab to Bengal but failed to subdue the Deccan. Though a great part of his reign was spent in war, learning and education flourished. Hsuean Chuang, who was his honoured guest, gives a good account of his administration but also makes it plain that brigandage prevailed and that travelling was dangerous.
After 643 Harsha, who was growing elderly, devoted much attention to religion and may be said to have become a Buddhist, while allowing himself a certain eclectic freedom. Several creeds were represented among his immediate relatives. Devotion to Siva was traditional in the family: his father had been a zealous worshipper of the Sun and his brother and sister were Buddhists of the Sammitiya sect. Harsha by no means disowned Brahmanic worship, but in his latter years his proclivity to Buddhism became more marked and he endeavoured to emulate the piety of Asoka. He founded rest houses and hospitals, as well as monasteries and thousands of stupas. He prohibited the taking of life and the use of animal food, and of the three periods into which his day was divided two were devoted to religion and one to business. He also exercised a surveillance over the whole Buddhist order and advanced meritorious members.
Hsuean Chuang has left an interesting account of the religious fetes and spectacles organized by Harsha. At Kanauj he attended a great assembly during which a solemn procession took place every day. A golden image of Buddha was borne on an elephant and Harsha, dressed as Indra, held a canopy over it, while his ally Raja Kumara, dressed as Brahma, waved a fly-whisk. It was subsequently washed by the king's own hands and in the evening his Majesty, who like Akbar had a taste for religious discussion, listened to the arguments of his Chinese guest. But the royal instructions that no one was to speak against the Master of the Law were so peremptory that even his biographer admits there was no real discussion. These edifying pageants were interrupted by disagreeable incidents which show that Harsha's tolerance had not produced complete harmony. A temporary monastery erected for the fetes caught fire and a fanatic attempted to stab the king. He confessed under examination that he had been instigated to the crime by Brahmans who were jealous of the favours which the Buddhists received. It was also established that the incendiaries were Brahmans and, after the ringleaders had been punished, five hundred were exiled. Harsha then proceeded to Allahabad to superintend a quinquennial distribution of alms. It was his custom to let treasure accumulate for five years and then to divide it among holy men and the poor. The proceedings lasted seventy-five days and the concourse which collected to gaze and receive must have resembled the fair still held on the same spot. Buddhists, Brahmans and Jains all partook of the royal bounty and the images of Buddha, Surya and Siva were worshipped on successive days, though greater honour was shown to the Buddha. The king gave away everything that he had, even his robes and jewels, and finally, arrayed in clothes borrowed from his sister, rejoiced saying "all I have has entered into incorruptible and imperishable treasuries." After this, adds Hsuean Chuang, the king's vassals offered him jewels and robes so that the treasury was replenished. This was the sixth quinquennial distribution which Harsha had held and the last, for he died in 648. He at first favoured the Hinayana but subsequently went over to the Mahayana, being moved in part by the exhortations of Hsuean Chuang.
Yet the substance of Hsuean Chuang's account is that though Buddhism was prospering in the Far East it was decaying in India. Against this can be set instances of royal piety like those described, the fame enjoyed by the shrines and schools of Magadha and the conversion of the king of Tibet in 638 A.D. This event was due to Chinese as well as Indian influence, but would hardly have occurred unless in north-eastern India Buddhism had been esteemed the religion of civilization. Still Hsuean Chuang's long catalogue of deserted monasteries has an unmistakable significance. The decay was most pronounced in the north-west and south. In Gandhara there were only a few Buddhists: more than a thousand monasteries stood untenanted and the Buddha's sacred bowl had vanished. In Takshasila the monasteries were numerous but desolate: in Kashmir the people followed a mixed faith. Only in Udyana was Buddhism held in high esteem. In Sind the monks were numerous but indolent.
No doubt this desolation was largely due to the depredations of Mihiragula. In the Deccan and the extreme south there was also a special cause, namely the prevalence of Jainism, which somewhat later became the state religion in several kingdoms. In Kalinga, Andhra and the kingdom of the Colas the pilgrim reports that Jains were very numerous but counts Buddhist monasteries only by tens and twenties. In Dravida there were also 10,000 monks of the Sthavira school but in Malakuta among many ruined monasteries only a few were still inhabited and here again Jains were numerous.
For all Central India and Bengal the pilgrim's statistics tell the same tale, namely that though Buddhism was represented both by monasteries and monks, the Deva-temples and unbelievers were also numerous. The most favourable accounts are those given of Kanauj, Ayodhya and Magadha where the sacred sites naturally caused the devout to congregate.
The statistics which he gives as to sects are interesting. The total number of monks amounted to about 183,000. Of these only 32,000 belonged definitely to the Mahayana: more than 96,000 to the Hinayana, and 54,500 studied both systems or at any rate resided in monasteries which tolerated either course of study. Some writers speak as if after our era Mahayanism was predominant in India and the Hinayana banished to its extreme confines such as Ceylon and Kashmir. Yet about A.D. 640 this zealous Mahayanist states that half the monks of India were definitely Hinayanist while less than a fifth had equally definite Mahayanist convictions. The Mahayana laid less stress on monasticism than the Hinayana and therefore its strength may have lain among the laity, but even so the admitted strength of the Hinayana is remarkable. Three Hinayanist schools are frequently mentioned, the Sthaviras, Sarvastivadins and Sammitiyas. The first are the well-known Sinhalese sect and were found chiefly in the south (Conjeevaram) and in East Bengal, besides the monks of the Sinhalese monastery at Gaya. The Sarvastivadins were found, as their history would lead us to expect, chiefly in the north and beyond the frontiers of India proper. But both were outnumbered by the Sammitiyas, who amounted to nearly 44,000 monks. The chief doctrine of this sect is said to have been that individuals (puggalo) exist as such in the truest sense. This doctrine was supported by reference to the sutra known as the Burden and the Burden bearer. It does not assert that there is a permanent and unchangeable soul (atta) but it emphasizes the reality and importance of that personality which all accept as true for practical purposes. It is probable that in practice this belief differed little from the ordinary Brahmanic doctrine of metempsychosis and this may be one reason for the prevalence of the sect.
I-Ching, though he does not furnish statistics, gives a clear conspectus of Buddhist sects as they existed in his time. He starts from the ancient eighteen sects but divides them into four groups or Nikayas. (a) The Arya-Mahasanghika-nikaya. This comprised seven subdivisions but was apparently the least influential school as it was not predominant anywhere, though it coexisted with other schools in most parts. The Lokottaravadins mentioned by Hsuean Chuang as existing at Bamiyan belonged to it. They held that the Buddha was not subject to the laws of nature. (b) Arya-Sthavira-nikaya. This is the school to which our Pali Canon belongs. It was predominant in southern India and Ceylon and was also found in eastern Bengal. (c) The Arya-Mula-sarvastivada-nikaya with four subdivisions. Almost all belonged to this school in northern India and it was nourishing in Magadha. (d) The Arya-Sammitiya-nikaya with four subdivisions flourished in Lata and Sindhu. Thus the last three schools were preponderant in southern, northern and western India respectively. All were followed in Magadha, no doubt because the holy places and the University of Nalanda attracted all shades of opinion, and Bengal seems to have been similarly catholic. This is substantially the same as Hsuean Chuang's statement except that I-Ching takes a more favourable view of the position of the Sarvastivada, either because it was his own school or because its position had really improved.
It would seem that in the estimation of both pilgrims the Maha-and Hinayana are not schools but modes in which any school can be studied. The Nikaya or school appears to have been chiefly, though not exclusively, concerned with the rule of discipline which naturally had more importance for Buddhist monks than it has for European scholars. The observances of each Nikaya were laid down in its own recension of the scriptures which was sometimes oral and sometimes in writing. Probably all the eighteen schools had separate Vinayas, and to some extent they had different editions of the other Pitakas, for the Sarvastivadins had an Abhidharma of their own. But there was no objection to combining the study of Sarvastivadin literature with the reading of treatises by Asanga and Vasubandhu or sutras such as the Lotus, which I-Ching's master read once a day for sixty years. I-Ching himself seems to regard the two Vehicles as alternative forms of religion, both excellent in their way, much as a Catholic theologian might impartially explain the respective advantages of the active and contemplative lives. "With resolutions rightly formed" he says "we should look forward to meeting the coming Buddha Maitreya. If we wish to gain the lesser fruition (of the Hinayana) we may pursue it through the eight grades of sanctification. But if we learn to follow the course of the greater fruition (of the Mahayana) we must try to accomplish our work through long ages."
I-Ching observes that both Vehicles agree in prescribing the same discipline, in prohibiting the same offences and enjoining the practice of the noble truths. His views, which are substantially those of Hsuean Chuang, must be those current in the seventh century when the Hinayana was allowing the Mahayana to overgrow it without resistance, but the relations of the two creeds are sometimes stated differently. For instance the Angulimaliya sutra, known only in a Tibetan translation, states that whereas for the Hinayana such formulae as the four truths and the eightfold path are of cardinal importance, the Mahayana does not recognize them, and it is undoubtedly true that the Vaipulya sutras frequently ignore the familiar doctrines of early Buddhism and hint that they belong to a rudimentary stage of instruction.
I-Ching makes no mention of persecution but he deplores the decay of the faith. "The teaching of the Buddha is becoming less prevalent in the world from day to day" he says. "When I compare what I have witnessed in my younger days and what I see to-day in my old age, the state is altogether different and we are bearing witness to this and it is hoped we shall be more attentive in future." Though he speaks regretfully of lax or incorrect discipline, he does not complain of the corruption of the faith by Tantrism and magical practices. He does however deprecate in an exceedingly curious passage the prevalence of religious suicide.
Except for progressive decay, the condition of Indian Buddhism as described by the two pilgrims is much the same. Meals were supplied to monks in the monasteries and it was no longer usual to beg for food in the streets, since the practice is mentioned by I-Ching as exceptional. On Upavasatha days it was the custom for the pious laity to entertain the monks and the meal was sometimes preceded by a religious service performed before an image and accompanied by music. I-Ching describes the musical services with devout enthusiasm. "The priests perform the ordinary service late in the afternoon or in the evening twilight. They come out of the monastery and walk three times round a stupa, offering incense and flowers. Then they all kneel down and one of them who sings well begins to chant hymns describing the virtues of the great Teacher and continues to sing ten or twenty slokas. They then return to the place in the monastery where they usually assemble and, when all have sat down, a reciter mounting the lion-seat (which is near the head priest) reads a short sutra. Among the scriptures for such an occasion the 'Service in three parts' is often used. This is a selection of Asvaghosha. The first part contains ten slokas of a hymn. The second part is a selection from some scripture consisting of the Buddha's words. Then there is an additional hymn as the third part of the service, of more than ten slokas, being prayers that express the wish to bring one's merits to maturity. After the singing the assembled Bhikshus exclaim Subhashita or Sadhu, that is well-said or bravo. The reader descends and the Bhikshus in order salute the lion-seat, the seats of Bodhisattvas and Arhats, and the superior of the monastery."
I-Ching also tells us of the ceremonial bathing of images and prefaces his description by the remark that "the meaning of the Truths is so profound that it is a matter beyond the comprehension of vulgar minds while the ablution of the holy images is practicable for all. Though the Great Teacher has entered Nirvana yet his image exists and we should worship it with zeal as though in his presence. Those who constantly offer incense and flowers to it are enabled to purify their thoughts and those who perpetually bathe his image are enabled to overcome the sins that involve them in darkness." He appears to contemplate chiefly the veneration of images of Sakyamuni but figures of Bodhisattvas were also conspicuous features in temples, as we know not only from archaeology but from the biography of Hsuean Chuang, where it is said that worshippers used to throw flowers and silk scarves at the image of Avalokita and draw auguries from the way they fell.
Monasteries were liberally decorated with statues, carvings and pictures. They often comprised several courts and temples. Hsuean Chuang says that a monastery in Magadha which he calls Ti-lo-shi-ka had "four courts with three storeyed halls, lofty terraces and a succession of open passages.... At the head of the road through the middle gate were three temples with disks on the roof and hung with small bells; the bases were surrounded by balustrades, and doors, windows, beams, walls, and stairs were ornamented with gilt work in relief." In the three temples were large images representing the Buddha, Tara and Avalokita.
The great centres of Buddhist learning and monastic life, mentioned by both pilgrims, were Valabhi or Balabhi in Gujarat and Nalanda. The former was a district rather than a single locality and contained 100 monasteries with 6000 monks of the Sammitiya school. Nalanda was in Magadha not far from Gaya. The date of its foundation is unknown but a great temple (though apparently not the first) was built about 485 A.D. Fa-Hsien mentions a village called Nala but without indicating that it was a seat of learning. Hence it is probable that the University was not then in existence or at least not celebrated. Hsuean Chuang describes it as containing six monasteries built by various kings and surrounded by an enclosing wall in which there was only one gate. I-Ching writing later says that the establishment owned 200 villages and contained eight halls with more than 3000 monks. In the neighbourhood of the monastery were a hundred sacred spots, several marked by temples and topes. It was a resort for Buddhists from all countries and an educational as well as a religious centre. I-Ching says that students spent two or three years there in learning and disputing after which they went to the king's court in search of a government appointment. Successful merit was rewarded not only by rank but by grants of land. Both pilgrims mention the names of several celebrities connected with Nalanda. But the worthies of the seventh century did not attain to more than scholastic eminence. The most important literary figure of the age is Santideva of whose life nothing is known. His writings however prove that the Buddhism of this period was not a corrupt superstition, but could inspire and nourish some of the most beautiful thoughts which the creed has produced.