Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 454 pages of information about Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 2.

[Footnote 65:  E.g. Watters, I. p. 229, II. 215.]

[Footnote 66:  Kshitigarbha is translated into Chinese as Ti-tsang and Jizo is the Japanese pronunciation of the same two characters.]

[Footnote 67:  In Ostasiat.  Ztsft. 1913-15.  See too Johnston, Buddhist China, chap.  VIII.]

[Footnote 68:  The Earth goddess is known to the earliest Buddhist legends.  The Buddha called her to witness when sitting under the Bo tree.]

[Footnote 69:  Three Sutras, analysed by Visser, treat of Kshitigarbha.  They are Nanjio, Nos. 64, 65, 67.]

[Footnote 70:  A celebrated monastery in the portion of An-hui which lies to the south of the Yang-tse.  See Johnston, Buddhist China, chaps, VIII, IX and X.]

[Footnote 71:  There is some reason to think that even in Turkestan Kshitigarbha was a god of roads.]

[Footnote 72:  In Annam too Jizo is represented on horseback.]



This mythology did not grow up around the Buddha without affecting the central figure.  To understand the extraordinary changes of meaning both mythological and metaphysical which the word Buddha undergoes in Mahayanist theology we must keep in mind not the personality of Gotama but the idea that he is one of several successive Buddhas who for convenience may be counted as four, seven or twenty-four but who really form an infinite series extending without limit backwards into the past and forwards into the future.[73] This belief in a series of Buddhas produced a plentiful crop of imaginary personalities and also of speculations as to their connection with one another, with the phenomena of the world and with the human soul.

In the Pali Canon the Buddhas antecedent to Gotama are introduced much like ancient kings as part of the legendary history of this world.  But in the Lalita-vistara (Chap.  XX) and the Lotus (Chap.  VII) we hear of Buddhas, usually described as Tathagatas, who apparently do not belong to this world at all, but rule various points of the compass, or regions described as Buddha-fields (Buddha-kshetra).  Their names are not the same in the different accounts and we remain dazzled by an endless panorama of an infinity of universes with an infinity of shining Buddhas, illuminating infinite space.

Somewhat later five of these unearthly Buddhas were formed into a pentad and described as Jinas[74] or Dhyani Buddhas (Buddhas of contemplation), namely, Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi.  In the fully developed form of this doctrine these five personages are produced by contemplation from the Adi-Buddha or original Buddha spirit and themselves produce various reflexes, including Bodhisattvas, human Buddhas and goddesses like Tara.  The date when these beliefs first became part of the accepted Mahayana creed cannot be fixed but probably the symmetrical arrangement of five Buddhas is not anterior to the tantric period[75] of Buddhism.

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