RHYS DAVIDS: BUDDHIST INDIA

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Chapter XII

Religion — Animism

IT is the accepted belief that it is in the literature of the brahmins that we find the evidence as to the religious beliefs of the peoples of India in the sixth and seventh centuries B.C. This seems to me more than doubtful. The priests have preserved for us, not so much the opinions the people actually held, as the opinions the priests wished them to hold. When we consider the enormous labour of keeping up and handing down the priestly books — and this had to be done, as we have seen,[1] entirely through learning the books by heart — we are filled with admiration for the zealous and devoted students who have thus preserved for us a literature so valuable for the history of human thought. The learned brahmin, and not only in this respect, is a figure of whom India is justly proud. And when we consider how vague and inaccurate are the accounts preserved in the writings of the Christian fathers of any views except those they themselves considered to be orthodox, we see how unreasonable [211] it would be to expect that the brahmins, whose difficulties were so much greater, should have been able to do more. What they have done they have done accurately and well. But the record they have saved for us is a partial record.

What had happened with respect to religious belief is on a par with what had happened with respect to language. From Takkasilā all the way down to Champā no one spoke Sanskrit. The living language, everywhere, was a sort of Pāli. Many of the old Vedic words were retained in more easily pronounceable forms. Many new words had been formed, on analogy, from the existing stock of roots. Many other new words had been adopted from non-Aryan forms of speech. Many Aryan words, which do not happen to occur in the Vedic texts, had nevertheless survived in popular use. And meanwhile, in the schools of the priests, and there only, a knowledge of the Vedic language (which we often call Sanskrit) was kept up. But even this Sanskrit of the schools had progressed, as some would say, or had degenerated, as others would say, from the Vedic standard. And the Sanskrit in actual use in the schools was as far removed from the Vedic dialect as it is from the so-called classical Sanskrit of the post-Buddhistic poems and plays.

So with the religion. Outside the schools of the priests the curious and interesting beliefs recorded in the Rig Veda had practically little effect. The Vedic thaumaturgy and theosophy had indeed never been a popular faith, that is, as we know it. Both its theological hypotheses and its practical magic (in [212] the ritual) show already a stage very much advanced beyond the simpler faith which they, in fact, presuppose. The gods more usually found in the older systems — the dread Mother Earth, the dryads and the dragons, the dog-star, even the moon and the sun — have been cast into the shade by the new ideas (the new gods) of the fire, the exciting drink, and the thunderstorm. And the charm of the mystery and the magic of the ritual of the sacrifice had to contend, so far as the laity were concerned, with the distaste induced by its complications and its expense.

I am aware that these views as to Vedism are at variance with opinions very widely, not to say commonly, held. Professor Max Müller insisted to the last on the primitive nature of the beliefs recorded in the Rig Veda. Those beliefs seem to us, and indeed are, so bizarre and absurd, that it is hard to accept the proposition that they give expression to an advanced stage of thought. And one is so accustomed to consider the priesthood as the great obstacle, in India, in the way of reform, that it is difficult to believe that the brahmins could ever, as a class, have championed the newer views.

But a comparison with the general course of the evolution of religious beliefs elsewhere shows that the beliefs recorded in the Rig Veda are not primitive. A consideration of the nature of those beliefs, so far as they are not found elsewhere, shows that they must have been, in the view of the men who formulated them, a kind of advance on, or reform of, the previous ideas. And at least three lines [213] of evidence all tend to show that — certainly all the time we are here considering, and almost certainly at the time when the Rig Veda was finally closed — there were many other beliefs, commonly held among the Aryans in India, but not represented in that Veda.[2]

The first of these three lines is the history of the Atharva Veda. This invaluable old collection of charms to be used in sorcery had been actually put together long before Buddhism arose. But it was only just before that time that it had come to be acknowledged by the sacrificial priests as a Veda — inferior to their own three older ones, but still a Veda. This explains why it is that the Atharva is never mentioned as a Veda in the Buddhist canonical books.[3] They are constantly mentioning the three Vedas and the ancient lore connected with the three. They are constantly poking fun at the hocus-pocus of witchcraft and sorcery, and denying any efficiency either to it, or to the magic of the sacrifice. But in the view of the circles in which these books arose the Atharva collection had not yet become a Veda.

Yet it is quite certain that the beliefs and practices to which the Atharva Veda is devoted are as old, if not older, than those to which the three other Vedas refer; and that they were commonly held and followed by the Aryans in India, The things recorded in the Rig may seem to us as absurd as [214] those in the Atharva. But we cannot avoid the conclusion that the priests who made the older collection were consciously exercising a choice, that they purposely omitted to include certain phases of current belief because those phases did not appeal to them, did not suit their purposes, or did not seem to them worthy of their deities. And when we remember that what they shut out, or nearly shut out, was the lowest kind of savage superstition and sorcery, it is not easy to deny them any credit in doing so.

The second is the general view of religious beliefs, as held by the people, given to us in the Epics, and especially in the Mahā Bhārata. It is, in many respects, altogether different from the general view as given in the Vedic literature. We do not know as yet exactly which of the conceptions in the Mahā Bhārata can be taken as evidence of the seventh century B.C. The poem has certainly undergone one, if not two or even three, alterations at the hand of later priestly editors. But though the changes made in the poems are due to the priests, they were so made because the priests found that ideas not current in their schools had so much weight with the people that they (the priests) could no longer afford to neglect them. They must have recast the poem with two main objects in view — in the first place to insist on the supremacy of the brahmins, which had been so much endangered by the great popularity of the anti-priestly views of the Buddhists and others; and in the second place to show that the brahmins were in sympathy with, and had formally [215] adopted, certain popular cults and beliefs highly esteemed by the people. In any case, there, in the poem, these cults and beliefs, absent from the Vedic literature, are found in full life and power. And though this line of evidence, if it stood alone, would be too weak to bear much weight, the most likely explanation seems to be that here also we have evidence, to some extent at least, of beliefs not included in the Vedic literature, and yet current among, and powerfully affecting, both the Aryan and the semi-Aryan peoples of India.[4]

The third line is based on the references to the religious beliefs, not of the Buddhists themselves, but of the people, recorded in the Buddhist Canon. As these have never yet been collected or analysed, and as they are in many ways both interesting and suggestive, it may be useful to point out shortly here the more important of them.

The standard passages on this question are three, the one in prose, the other two in verse, and all found in our oldest documents. The first is in the Sīlas,[5] and begins thus:

"Whereas some recluses and brahmins, while living on food provided by the faithful, are tricksters, droners out of holy words for pay, diviners, exorcists, ever hungering to add gain to gain, Gotama the recluse holds aloof from such deception and patter."

There then follows a long enumeration, most

Fig. 36 Sirima Devata. [From the Bharahat Tope. Pl. xxiii.]
Fig. 36 Sirīma Devata. [From the Bharahat Tope. Pl. xxiii.]

[216]valuable to the historian, of all kinds of animistic hocus-pocus — evidently forming part of the beliefs of the people in the valley of the Ganges in the sixth century B.C., for how otherwise could such "low arts" have been the source of gain to the brahmins and others who practised them? We are told of palmistry, divination of all sorts, auguries drawn from the celestial phenomena, prognostications by interpretation of dreams, auguries drawn from marks on cloth gnawed by mice, sacrifices to Agni, — it is characteristic to find these in such company, — oblations of various sorts to gods, determining lucky sites, repeating charms, laying ghosts, snake charming, using similar arts [217] on other beasts and birds, astrology, the power of prophecy, incantations, oracles, consulting gods through a girl possessed or by means of mirrors, worshipping the Great One, invoking Sirī (the goddess of Luck), vowing vows to gods, muttering charms to cause virility or impotence, consecrating sites, and more of the same kind. It is a queer list; and very suggestive both of the wide range of animistic superstitions, and of the proportionate importance, then and to the people at large, of those particular ones included in the Veda.

It may be noticed in passing that we have representations, of a very early date, of this Sirī, the goddess of Luck, of plenty and success, who is not mentioned in the Veda. One of these is marked in plain letters Sirīmā Devatā; and like Diana of the Ephesians, she bears on her breast the signs of her productivity. The other shows the goddess seated, with two elephants pouring water over her. It is the oldest instance of the most common representation of this popular goddess; and figures of her, exactly in this form, can be bought today in the bazaars of Northern India. (Figs.36, 48, 37.)

I am allowed, by the kindness of Mrs. Craven, to add a reproduction of a photograph of an image of this popular deity which was recently found in the south of India. It is probably of about the eleventh century, and is decisive evidence that the worship of this non-Vedic goddess prevailed also in the interval between the date of the oldest sculptures and our own time. (Fig. 38.)

That Sirī was already a popular deity in the [218] Buddha's time explains the fact that the priests had been compelled to acknowledge her and to invent

 

Fig. 37 Modern Image Of Sri As Consort Vishnu. [From Burgess's Cave Temples of lndia, p. 524.]
Fig. 37 Modern Image Of .Srī As Consort Vishṇu. [From Burgess's Cave Temples of lndia, p. 524.]

 

a special legend to excuse their doing so[6] and in that they incidentally mention her, once again, in [219] mystic conjunction with the dread deities of the Moon, and the Sun, and Mother Earth.[7] Even these other three, though noticed in the Veda, are put far into the background compared with Indra, Agni, Soma, and Varuṇa; but it is highly probable that they really occupied a very much larger share in the minds of the people of India than these sparse notices in the Veda would tend to show. In modern mythology Sirī or .Srī is regarded as a consort of Vishṇu.

The other two passages, in verse, form whole Suttantas — the Mahā Samaya Suttanta, No. 20, in the Digha, now edited for the Pāli Text Society, and translated in my Dialogues of the Buddha, vol. ii.; and the Āṭānaṭiya Suttanta, No. 32, in the same collection. In the first of these two poems some unknown early Buddhist poet describes how all the gods of the people come to pay reverence, at Kapilavastu, to the new teacher, and to his order of mendicant recluses. In the second of them another unknown poet describes how certain of the gods come to ask him to adopt a form of words which will turn the hearts of other deities unfriendly to the new doctrine, and make them leave it and its followers in peace. And the form of words gives the names of all the gods whom it is considered desirable thus to propitiate.

These two poems form a suggestive parallel to the method followed by the brahmins of adopting, one by one, the popular faiths. It shows how similar are the motives that influence religious [220] leaders, however diametrically opposed their views may be. And in both cases the effort had a similar result. The object was to reconcile the people to different ideas. The actual consequence was that the ideas of the people, thus admitted, as it were, by the back door, filled the whole mansion, and the ideas it was hoped they would accept were turned out into the desert, there ultimately to pass absolutely away. Nearer home, too, we may call to mind similar events.

Our two poets are naturally anxious to include in their lists all the various beliefs which had most weight with those whom they would fain persuade. The poet of the Mahā Samaya (the Great Concourse) enumerates first the spirits of the Earth and of the great Mountains. Then the Four Great Kings, the guardians of the four quarters, East and South and West and North. One of these four, Vessavaṇa Kuvera, is the god who in the second poem is the spokesman for all the rest. (Fig. 39.)

Then come the Gandharvas, heavenly musicians, supposed to preside over child-bearing and birth, and to be helpful to mortals in many ways. Then come the Nāgas, the Siren-serpents, whose worship has been so important a factor in the folklore, superstition, and poetry of India from the earliest times down today. Cobras in their ordinary shape, they lived, like mermen and mermaids, beneath the waters,[8] in great luxury and wealth, more especially of gems, and sometimes, as we shall see, the name is used of the Dryads,

[221]

Fig. 38 Hindoo Goddess Of Luck
Fig. 38 Hindoo Goddess Of Luck

[222]

Fig. 39 Vessavana Kuvera, King Of The Yakshas, And Regent Of The North.
Fig. 39 Vessavaṇa Kuvera, King Of The Yakshas, And Regent Of The North. [From the Bharahat Tope. Pl. xxii.]

 

Fig. 40 Chakavaka King Of The Nagas.
Fig. 40 Chakavaka King Of The Nāgas. [From Cunningham's Stupa of Bharhut. Pl. xxi. Fig. 3.]

 

[223] the tree-spirits, equally wealthy and powerful. They could at will, and often did, adopt the human form; and though terrible if angered, were kindly and mild by nature. Not mentioned either in

 

Fig. 41 Naga Mermaids In Water. [From Burgess and Grünwedel's Buddhist Art in India.]
Fig. 41 Nāga Mermaids In Water. [From Burgess and Grünwedel's Buddhist Art in India.]

 

the Veda or in the pre-Buddhistic Upanishads, the myth seems to be a strange jumble of beliefs, not altogether pleasant, about a strangely gifted race of actual men; combined with notions derived [224] from previously existing theories of tree-worship, and serpent-worship, and river-worship. But the history of the idea has still to be written. These Nāgas are represented on the ancient bas-reliefs as men or women either with cobra's hoods rising from behind their heads or with serpentine forms from the waist downwards.

Then come the Garulas, or Garuḍas, the Indian counterpart of the harpy and griffin, half man, half bird, hereditary enemies of the Nāgas, on whom they feed. They were also, perhaps, originally a tribe of actual men, with an eagle or a hawk as their token on their banner.

Then come a goodly crowd of Titans, and sixty kinds of gods, of whom only about half a dozen are Vedic, the other names offering only puzzles which await the solution of future enquirers. First we have the gods of kindly nature and good character; then the souls or spirits supposed to animate and to reside in the moon and the sun (the moon is always mentioned first), in the wind, the cloud, the summer heat; then the gods of light; then a curious list of gods, personifications of various mental qualities; then the spirits in the thunder and the rain; and, lastly, the great gods who dwell in the highest heavens (that is, are the outcome of the highest speculation), like Brahmā himself, and Paramatta, and Sanaṃ Kumāra.

The list seems inclusive enough. But why does it make no mention of tree-gods? For if we take as our guide, and we could scarcely do better, Mrs. Philpot's excellent monograph on The Sacred Tree,

[225]

Seated Naga; Back View. [From a frescoe in Cave 11 at Ajanta.]
Fig. 42 Seated Nāga; Back View. [From a frescoe in Cave II at Ajanta.]

 

[226] in which the most important facts as to tree-worship throughout the world are collected and classified, we find that a number of fancies about trees, varying from the most naïve results of the savage soul-theories up to philosophic speculations of an advanced kind, have been widely current among all forms of faith, and have been traced also in India.

Now, so far as I can call to mind, none of these fancies (with one interesting exception, on which see below) is referred to in the principal early books setting out the Buddhist doctrine — the Four Nikāyas, for instance, and the Sutta Nipāta. But in older and later documents several of these beliefs can be found. The conclusion is obvious. Those beliefs as to tree-worship mentioned in pre-Buddhistic literature formed part, at the time of the rise of Buddhism, of the religion of the people. They were rejected by the early Buddhists. But they continued to form part of the religion of those of the people who were uninfluenced by the new teaching. And one or two of them found their way back into one or other of the later schools of Buddhism.

Already in the Vedas themselves we have a number of passages in which trees are invoked as deities.[9] This is decisive of the attitude of mind of the Aryans in early times in India. For it was, of course, not the trees as such, but the souls or spirits supposed to dwell within them, to haunt them, that were looked upon as gods. That this notion sur- [227] vived down to the rise of Buddhism is shown in the Upanishads. If the soul leaves the tree, the tree withers, but the soul does not die.[10] These souls may have dwelt, and may dwell again, in human bodies.[11] And long after the rise of Buddhism ideas associated with this belief are often referred to. Offerings are made to these tree-spirits,[12] even human sacrifices are offered,[13] they were consulted as oracles, and expected to give sons and wealth,[14] they injure those who injure the trees in which they dwell,[15] and they are pleased when garlands are hung upon the branches, lamps are lighted round it, and Bali offerings are made (that is food is thrown), at the foot of the tree.[16] The brahmin priests, too, are enjoined in their books of sacred law and custom to throw such Bali offerings to the tree-spirits.[17]

All the above is tree-worship — or more correctly dryad-worship — pure and simple. When we find the world-soul spoken of as a tree that has its roots in heaven,[18] that is poetry, a simile based perhaps on the mystery of growth, but still only a simile. The idea of the Kalpa-rukkha, the Wishing Tree, which will give one all one wants, has not as yet been traced back earlier than some centuries after the date we are considering.[19]

But Fergusson's explanation of the old monuments [228] as being devoted to tree-worship requires altogether restating. With all his genius he was attempting the impossible when he tried to interpret the work

 

Fig. 43 Elephants Before The Wisdom Tree. [From Cunningham's Stupa of Bharhut. Pl. xxx.]
Fig. 43 Elephants before The Wisdom Tree. [From Cunningham's Stupa of Bharhut. Pl. xxx.]

 

of Indian artists without a knowledge of Indian literature. His mistake was really very natural. At first sight such bas-reliefs as those here figured (Figures 43 and 44) seem most certainly to show [229] men and animals worshipping a tree, that is the spirit residing in a tree. But on looking farther we

 

The Wisdom Tree Of Kassapa, The Buddha. [From Cunningham's Stupa of Bharhut, Pl. xxx.]
Fig. 44 The Wisdom Tree Of Kassapa, The Buddha. [From Cunningham's Stupa of Bharhut, Pl. xxx.]

 

see that the tree has over it an inscription stating that it is "the Bodhi Tree. the tree of wisdom, of Kassapa the Exalted One" Every Buddha is sup- [230] posed to have attained enlightenment under a tree. The tree differs in the accounts of each of them. Our Buddha's "Wisdom Tree," for instance, is of the kind called the Assattha or Pippal tree. Now while in all the oldest accounts of Gotama's attainment of Buddha-hood there is no mention of the tree under which he was sitting at the time,[20] yet already in a Suttanta[21] it is incidentally mentioned that this event took place under a Pippal tree; and this is often referred to in later books. In these old sculptures the Buddha himself is never represented directly, but always under a symbol. What we have here then is reverence paid to the tree, not for its own sake, and not to any soul or spirit supposed to be in it, but to the tree either as the symbol of the Master or because (as in the particular case represented in the figures) it was under a tree of that kind that his followers believed that a venerated Teacher of old had become a Buddha. In either case it is a straining of terms, a misrepresentation or at best a misunderstanding, to talk of tree-worship. The Pippal was sacred tree at the date of these sculptures, — sacred that is, to the memory of the beloved Master who had passed away; and it had acquired the epithet of "Tree of Wisdom." But the wisdom was the wisdom of the Master not of the tree or of the tree-god, and could not be obtained by eating of its fruit.

These ideas are of course post-Buddhistic. They could have arisen in a perfectly natural way simply because the tradition was that Gotama had, at that crisis in his life, sat under a Pippal tree. And it is [231] very possible that the tradition may, so soon afterwards, have been perfectly right. We know as an actual fact that thinking was much more frequent, in that beautiful climate, in the open air, than between four walls. The appreciation of the beauties of nature, so conspicuous in many of the early Buddhist poems, is an Indian, not a Buddhist trait. And it was to a prevalent Indian, not only a Buddhist, sentiment that the Buddha is represented to have appealed, when at the end of some earnest dialogue on a weighty point of ethics or philosophy, he is said to have been wont to close with the appeal: "Here are trees; think this matter out!" It is therefore by no means impossible that it was under a Pippal tree the Buddha clenched the essential points in his new doctrine of life. And, if so, is it not quite conceivable that his disciples should have recollected so simple and natural a fact connected with what thsy regarded, not only as the turning-point in his career, as his Nirvana, but as the turning-point in the history of the world?

Another hypothesis is possible — that the disciples, in all good faith, associated their Master with this particular tree because it already, before his time, had been especially sacred above all other trees. The tradition may then have been the result of this feeling. The tree was certatnly held in high esteem even as early as the Vedic poems. Vessels for the mystic Soma cult were made of its wood; and so were the caskets containing the medicinal herbs used in the mystic craft of the physician of the day. The upper portion in the fire-drill — and the production [232] of fire was held to be a mystery — was of the wood of the Pippal tree. And in one passage the tree in heaven under which the souls of the blessed recline is likened to a Pippal.[22] Whether this would be sufficient reason for the rise of the tradition may be doubtful. But such associations would certainly add to its hold on popular imagination, if it had once otherwise arisen.

It is, however, never to the Pippal tree to which the folklore quoted above attributed divine power. It happens always to be some other tree. And we know too little to be able to be quite sure that this is merely a matter of chance. The tree-deities were called Nāgas, and were able at will, like the Nāgas, to assume the human form; and in one story[23] the spirit of a banyan tree who reduced the merchants to ashes is called a Naga-rāja, the soldiers he sends forth from his tree are Nāgas, and the tree itself is "the dwelling-place of the Naga." This may explain why it is that the tree-gods are not specially and separately mentioned in the Mahā Samaya list of deities who are there said by the poet to have come to pay reverence to the Buddha. In any case we must add tree-worship, the worship of powerful spirits supposed to dwell in trees, to the list of those beliefs, scarcely noticed in the Vedas, that were an important part of the religion of the peoples of Northem India at the time of the rise of Buddhism.

In neither of these two lists is Indra, the great god

[233]

Fig. 45 The Buddha Preaching To Nagas Dwelling In A Sacred Tree. From A Buddhist Carving At Takt-I-Bahi. [J.R.A.S. 1899.]
Fig. 45 The Buddha Preaching To Nagas Dwelling In A Sacred Tree. From A Buddhist Carving At Takt-I-Bahi. [J.R.A.S. 1899.]

 

[234] of the Veda, even mentioned. His place, as bearer of the thunderbolt, is taken by Sakka, who is in many, if not in most, respects a quite different conception. We should never forget in what degree all these gods are real. They had no real objective existence. But they were real enough as ideas in men's minds. At any given moment the gods of a nation seem eternal, unchangeable. As a matter of fact they are constantly slightly changing. No two men, thinking of the same god, even on the same day, and amid the same surroundings, have quite the same mental image; nor is the proportionate importance of that god as compared with their respective conceptions of other gods (that is, as compared with their other ideas) quite the same. Just as a man's visible frame, though no change may at any moment be perceptible, is never really the same for two consecutive moments, and the result of constant minute variations becomes clear after a lapse of time, so the idea summed up by the name of a god becomes changed by the gradual accretion of minute variations; and this change, after a lapse of time (it may be generations, it may be centuries), becomes so clear that a new name arises, and gradually, very gradually, ousts the older one. Then the older god is dead. As the Buddhist poets put it, "the flowers of the garlands he wore are withered, his robes of majesty have waxed old and faded, he falls from his high estate, and is re-born into a new life." He lives again, as we might say, in the very outcome of his former life, in the new god who, under the new name, reigns in men's hearts.

[235] So Jupiter ousted Chronos, and Indra himself had almost ousted Trita, even in the Veda; and Indra and others had almost ousted Varuṇa. So in the period we are considering had Sakka, in his turn, almost ousted Indra. Though the epic poets afterwards did their best to re-establish Indra on the throne, they had but poor success; for his name and his fame had dwindled away. And we catch sight of him, in these records, just as he is fading dimly away on the horizon, and changing his shape into that of the successor to his dignity and power.[24]

It is the same, but in each case in different degrees, with other Vedic gods. It were tedious here to go at length into each case. Isana, the vigorous and youthful form of the dread Siva of the future, is already on a level with Soma and Varuṇa. And Pajāpati and Brahmā[25] wiil soon come to be considered as co-partners with Sakka in the lordship over all the gods.[26] The worship of Agni is scoffod at as on a par with the hocus-pocus of witchcraft and divination,[27] and it is soon to be laughed to scorn in the amusing tales of the folklore of the people.[28] Vāyu, the wind god, never very important, is just mentioned in our list, but nowhere else in texts of that age, and will soon also be the laughing-stock of the story-teller.[29] Varuṇa is still a power, ranked with the highest,[30] but he will soon be reduced to a tree-god,[31] a Nāga king,[32] a lord of the oracle girls,[33] [236] who, possessed by the god, will, as Pythias, prophesy smooth things. And Vishṇu, though mentioned in our poem under the name of Veṇhu, has scarcely as yet appeared above the horizon. Pajjunna is still the rain-god in the Suttantas; he is mentioned in both poems; and has retained this character even in the folklore.[34]

I know of no other Vedic gods mentioned in this literature. Dyaus, Mitra, and Sāvitri, Pūshan, the Ādityas, the Asvins and the Maruts, Aditi and Diti and Urvasī, and many more, are all departed. They survive only within the enclosures of the Vedic schools. The people know them no longer.

Now there is no doubt a long interval of time between the close of the Rig Veda collection of hymns and the rise of Buddhism. The Vedic anthology, small as it is, may not give, even for its own time, a complete statement of Indian belief. Some of the differences between Vedic mythology and popular religion at the time of the rise of Buddhism may therefore be due to the influence of an unrecorded past. But this can only explain a part, and probably a small part, of the difference. The old gods, that is the old ideas, when they have survived, have been so much changed; so many of them have not survived at all; so many new ones have sprung into vigorous life and wide-reaching influence, that one conclusion is inevitable. The common view that the Indians were very different from other folk in similar stages of development, that to that difference was due the stolid, not to say stupid, conserva- [237] tism of their religious conceptions, that they were more given to superstition, less intellectual, than for instance the Greeks and Romans, must be given up. Derived partly from a too exclusive study of the priestly books, partly from reading back into the past a mistaken view of modern conditions, it cannot stand against the new evidence derived from the Jain and Buddhist literatures written, or rather composed, in independence of the priests. The real facts lead to the opposite view. They show a constant progress from Vedic times onwards. Some reasons for this will be suggested in the next chapter. But whatever the facts, and whatever the reasons for them, we are not likely to cease from hearing that parrot cry of self-complacent ignorance, "The immovable East" — the implied sop to vanity is too sweet to be neglected.

 


[1] Above, p. 110, Chapter VII.

[2] On religious ideas popular among the people, but only incidentally referred to in the Veda, and not admitted into it as part of the priestly system of belief, see Kirste in the Vienna Oriental Journal, 1902, pp. 63, foll.

[3] See Dialogues of the Buddha, i. 109.

[4] Compare Professor Hopkins, J.A.O.S. 1899, pp. 315, 365; and Religions of India, chap. xiv.

[5] Translated by Rh. D. Dialogues of the Buddha, 1. 15.

[6] Satapatha Brahmaṇa, xi. 4, 3.

[7] Taittirīya Up. 1. 4.

[8] See, for instance, Saŋyutta, vol. v. pp. 47, 63.

[9] See Macdonell, Vedic Mythology, p. 154.

[10] Chand, Up. vi. 11; see Jāt. 4. 154.

[11] Kāthaka Up. v. 7.

[12] J.R.A.S. 1901, p. 886.

[13] Jāt. 5. 472, 474, 488.

[14] Jāt. Nos. 98, 109, 307, 493.

[15] Jāt. 4. 210. 353.

[16] Jāt. 3. 23; 4. 153.

[17] Manu, iii. 88, etc.

[18] Kaāṭhaka Up. vi. 1; Svet. Up., iii. 9.

[19] The earliest reference to this idea I have been able to find is the Āyāranga, p. 127 (see Jacobi, Jaina Sutras, 1. 197).

[20] M. 1. 22, 117, 249.

[21] D. 2. 52.

[22] See, on all these points, the passages quoted by Zimmer, Altindisches Leben, p. 58.

[23] Jātaka No. 493.

[24] Jāt., 4. 8.

[25] D. 1. 244; S. 1. 219.

[26] Jacobi, Jaina Sutras, 1, 198.

[27] D. 1. 67.

[28] Jātakas Nos. 35 and 162.

[29] Jātaka No. 17.

[30] S. 1. 219; Jāt. 5. 28, 6. 201.

[31] Jāt. 4. 8.

[32] Jāt. 6. 164, 257–329.

[33] The Vāruṇis, Jāt. 6. 586.

[34] J. 1. 332, 4. 253; C.P. 3. 10. 7.

 

 

 


Next: Chapter XIII: The Brahmin Position
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[Preface]  [Table of Contents][1. The Kings]  [2. The Clans and Nations]  [3. The Village]  [4. Social Grades]  [5. In the Town]  [6. Economic Conditions]  [7. Writing — The Beginnings]  [8. Writing — It's Development]  [9. Language and Literature. I. General View]  [10. Literature. II. The Pali Books]  [11. The Jataka Book]  [12. Religion — Animism]  [13. The Brahmin Position]  [14. Chandragupta]  [15. Asoka]  [16. Kanishka]  [Appendix]  [Index]

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