“Buddhism,” says the author of its accepted catechism, “teaches goodness without a God, existence without a soul, immortality without life, happiness without a heaven, salvation without a saviour, redemption without a redeemer, and worship without rites.” The failure of Buddhism, both as a philosophy and a religion, is a confirmation of the great historical fact, that in the ancient Pagan world no efforts of reason enabled man unaided to arrive at a true—that is, a helpful and practically elevating—knowledge of deity. Even Buddha, one of the most gifted and excellent of all the sages who have enlightened the world, despaired of solving the great mysteries of existence, and turned his attention to those practical duties of life which seemed to promise a way of escaping its miseries. He appealed to human consciousness; but lacking the inspiration and aid which come from a sense of personal divine influence, Buddhism has failed, on the large scale, to raise its votaries to higher planes of ethical accomplishment. And hence the necessity of that new revelation which Jesus declared amid the moral ruins of a crumbling world, by which alone can the debasing superstitions of India and the godless materialism of China be replaced with a vital spirituality,—even as the elaborate mythology of Greece and Rome gave way before the fervent earnestness of Christian apostles and martyrs.
It does not belong to my subject to present the condition of Buddhism as it exists to-day in Thibet, in Siam, in China, in Japan, in Burmah, in Ceylon, and in various other Eastern countries. It spread by reason of its sympathy with the poor and miserable, by virtue of its being a great system of philanthropy and morals which appealed to the consciousness of the lower classes. Though a proselyting religion it was never a persecuting one, and is still distinguished, in all its corruption, for its toleration.
The chief authorities that I would recommend for this chapter are Max Mueller’s History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature; Rev. S. Seal’s Buddhism in China; Buddhism, by T. W. Rhys-Davids; Monier Williams’s Sakoontala; I. Muir’s Sanskrit Texts; Burnouf’s Essai sur la Veda; Sir William Jones’s Works; Colebrook’s Miscellaneous Essays; Joseph Muller’s Religious Aspects of Hindu Philosophy; Manual of Buddhism, by R. Spence Hardy; Dr. H. Clay Trumbull’s The Blood Covenant; Orthodox Buddhist Catechism, by H. S. Olcott, edited by Prof. Elliott C. Coues. I have derived some instruction from Samuel Johnson’s bulky and diffuse books, but more from James Freeman Clarke’s Ten Great Religions^ and Rawlinson’s Religions of the Ancient World.