“He used up years in this manner, and after much reasoning, came to the conclusion that ignorance was misery. He gave himself up to study, and at last came to believe that he had reached the perfection of wisdom. The tree under which he sat when he reached this result was then called Bodhidruma, or the tree of intelligence; and the Buddhists believe the spot where it grew to be the centre of the earth. A tree that passes for this one was discovered by a Chinese, still standing twelve hundred years after the death of the Buddha; and the bo-tree of Ceylon is regarded as its legitimate descendant. You have been told something about it.
“In Benares, having ascertained the cause of human misery, and learned the remedy for it, the Buddha began to preach his peculiar salvation. In the phrase of his religion he ‘turned the wheel of the law.’ One of his titles is Chakravartin, which means ‘the turner of a wheel.’ The doctrines of the Buddha are written out on a wheel, which is set in motion with a crank, though it is sometimes operated by horse-power; and such machines are sometimes seen in front of religious houses in Thibet, and the monks have portable ones.”
“I thought the religion of Thibet was the worship of the Grand Lama,” suggested Louis.
“That is a form of Buddhism. The most important of the converts of the Buddha was the Rajah of Magadha, or Behar, on the Ganges, which gave him a good start, and it has since made almost incredible progress. It would take too long to state the doctrines in detail of this sect, and you get an idea of what it must be from what I said of its founder. Its leading doctrine is the transmigration of souls, also called by that tough word, metempsychosis, though other Hindu systems adopt this belief. It seems to include the recognition of the immortality of the soul, which at the death of the body passes into another form of existence,—a man, a woman, a lower animal, or even a tree or other plant. The Buddha claims to have been born five hundred and fifty times,—a hermit, a slave, a king, a monkey, an elephant, a fish, a frog, a tree, etc. When he reached his highest condition of perfection, he could recall all these different states of being; and he has written them out.
“Some of the negroes of Africa have this belief, and when a child is born they decide upon the ancestor whose soul has returned to the flesh in this world. There are one hundred and thirty-six Buddhist hells, regularly graded in the degree of suffering experienced and the length of time it endures, the shortest term being ten million years. A good life secures an elevated and happy life on earth, or as a blessed spirit in one of the many heavens, where existence is continued for a bagatelle of ten billion years. When the karma is exhausted”—
“What in the world is that?” asked Mrs. Blossom, who was struggling to understand the subject.