Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and eBook

James Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 892 pages of information about Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and.



It is difficult to attempt any condensed, and at the same time perspicuous, sketch of the national religion of Ceylon—­a difficulty which arises not merely from the voluminous obscurity of its sacred history and records; but still more from confusion in the variety of forms under which Buddhism exhibits itself in various localities, and the divergences of opinion which prevail as to its tenets and belief.  The antiquity of its worship is so extreme, that doubts still hang over its origin and its chronological relations to the religion of Brahma.  Whether it took its rise in Hindustan, or in countries farther to the West, and whether Buddhism was the original doctrine of which Brahmanism became a corruption, or Brahmanism the original and Buddhism an effort to restore it to its pristine purity[2],—­all these are questions which have yet to be adjusted by the results of Oriental research.[3] It is, however, established by a concurrence of historical proofs, that many centuries before the era of Christianity the doctrines of Buddha were enthusiastically cultivated in Baha, the Magadha, or country of the Magas, whose modern name is identified with the Wiharas or monasteries of Buddhism.  Thence its teachers diffused themselves extensively throughout India and the countries to the eastward;—­upwards of two thousand years ago it became the national religion of Ceylon and the Indian Archipelago; and its tenets have been adopted throughout the vast regions which extend from Siberia to Siam, and from the Bay of Bengal to the western shores of the Pacific.[4]

[Footnote 1:  The details of the following chapter have been principally taken from SIR J. EMERSON TENNENT’S Christianity in Ceylon, ch. v.]

[Footnote 2:  Those early writers on the religions of India who drew their information exclusively from Brahmanical sources, incline to favour the pretensions of that system as the most ancient of the two.  Klaproth, a profound authority, was of this opinion; but in later times the translations of the Pali records and other sacred volumes of Buddhism in Western India, Ceylon, and Nepal, have inclined the preponderance of opinion, if not in favour of the superior antiquity of Buddhism, at least in support of its contemporaneous development.  A summary of the arguments in favour of the superior antiquity of Buddhism will be found in the “Notes,” &c., by Colonel SYKES, in the 12th volume of the Asiatic Journal—­and in the Essai sur l’Origine des Principaux Peuples Anciens, par F.L.M.  MAUPIED, chap. viii.  The arguments on the side of those who look on Brahmanism as the original, are given by MOUNTSTUART ELPHINSTONE in his History of India, vol. i. b. ii. c. 4.  An able disquisition will be found in MAX MUELLER’s History of Sanskrit Literature, pp. 33, 260, &c.  Mr. GOGERLY, the most accomplished

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Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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