The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.
castes; if it is done incautiously or from necessity, the place must be purified by religious ceremonies.  They must not appear at public markets, and are confined to the use of particular wells, which they are obliged to surround with bones of animals, to warn others against using them.  They dwell in miserable hovels, distant from cities and villages, and are under no restrictions in regard to food, which last is not a privilege, but a mark of ignominy, as if they were so degraded that nothing could pollute them.  The three higher castes are prohibited entirely the use of flesh.  The fourth is allowed to use all kinds except beef, but only the lowest caste is allowed every kind of food without restriction.


Buddha, whom the Vedas represent as a delusive incarnation of Vishnu, is said by his followers to have been a mortal sage, whose name was Gautama, called also by the complimentary epithets of Sakyasinha, the Lion, and Buddha, the Sage.

By a comparison of the various epochs assigned to his birth, it is inferred that he lived about one thousand years before Christ.

He was the son of a king; and when in conformity to the usage of the country he was, a few days after his birth, presented before the altar of a deity, the image is said to have inclined its head as a presage of the future greatness of the new-born prophet.  The child soon developed faculties of the first order, and became equally distinguished by the uncommon beauty of his person.  No sooner had he grown to years of maturity than he began to reflect deeply on the depravity and misery of mankind, and he conceived the idea of retiring from society and devoting himself to meditation.  His father in vain opposed this design.  Buddha escaped the vigilance of his guards, and having found a secure retreat, lived for six years undisturbed in his devout contemplations.  At the expiration of that period he came forward at Benares as a religious teacher.  At first some who heard him doubted of the soundness of his mind; but his doctrines soon gained credit, and were propagated so rapidly that Buddha himself lived to see them spread all over India.  He died at the age of eighty years.

The Buddhists reject entirely the authority of the Vedas, and the religious observances prescribed in them and kept by the Hindus.  They also reject the distinction of castes, and prohibit all bloody sacrifices, and allow animal food.  Their priests are chosen from all classes; they are expected to procure their maintenance by perambulation and begging, and among other things it is their duty to endeavor to turn to some use things thrown aside as useless by others, and to discover the medicinal power of plants.  But in Ceylon three orders of priests are recognized; those of the highest order are usually men of high birth and learning, and are supported at the principal temples, most of which have been richly endowed by the former monarchs of the country.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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