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RESEMBLANCES BETWEEN THE BUDDHIST AND THE

ROMAN CATHOLIC RELIGIONS.

THIC

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CHOSE who strive to establisha destroys; but all these expressions de

monopoly of labor are accustomed note but One Supreme Being." to sneer at the Chinese as Pagans.” Buddha Sakia is believed to have They urge that citizenship ought not been an incarnation of Vishnu. His to be granted to them, because their advent upon this earth is thus dereligion is different from ours. Yet scribed : “He who is omnipresent and those who talk in this way make no everlastingly to be contemplated, the objection to receiving Irish emigrants Supreme Being, the Eternal One, the and intrusting them with the elective Divinity worthy to be adored, appeared franchise. But is the Buddhist re in this ocean of natural beings, with a ligion, which prevails in China, much portion of his divine nature.” He was more foreign to our customs and our born into a family of a kingly line. His modes of thinking and believing than mother is said to have been a Virgin the Roman Catholic religion is ? There named Maia, who conceived him by a are, in fact, many striking resem ray of light. His birth was foretold blances between the two, and in some by a miraculous dream, and when he particulars the parallel is so close that was born, a marvellous light shone all it is difficult to perceive any differ- around. A holy hermit in far-off forence, except in names. I will verify ests received supernatural information this declaration by pointing out some that Vishnu had just become incarnatof the most obvious points of simi- ed in a human form. He flew through larity.

the air to the place indicated, and said, Buddha Sakia – which means the “I come to see the new-born child.” Holy Sakia, or Saint Sakia – is rever As soon as he looked upon him, he enced by his numerous followers as pronounced him to be an incarnation of Christians reverence Jesus Christ. The Vishnu, who had come into the world date of his birth is veiled in obscurity, to introduce a new religion. The Buddhand varies much in different countries. ist Sacred Books describe him as havAccording to Mongol records it was ing left the joys of Paradise and detwo thousand one hundred and thirty- scended to this earth because he was four years before the Christian era ; filled with compassion for the sins and but, according to Chinese records, it sufferings of mankind. It being a diwas one thousand twenty-nine years. vine law that every sin must be atoned Sir William Jones and other learned for by an ordained amount of suffering, Oriental scholars, who have examined be relinquished his princely rank, dethe subject, think they find sufficient nied himself all worldly pleasures, and evidence that he came into this world underwent severe penances, that he about a thousand years before Christ. might thereby expiate the sins of mor

The Hindoo Trinity consists of tals. So great was his tenderness, that Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva ; often rep- he even descended into the hells to resented by an image with one body teach the souls in bondage there, and and three heads. The populace wor- by his own sufferings abridge their ship these as separate gods, but the period of punishment. By the perfect more intelligent say: “There is but holiness of his life he was enabled to One First Cause, One Supreme Source ascend to Paradise without dying. The of Being, who is invisible, infinite, and rocks in various countries are covered incomprehensible. We say Brahma with inscriptions and sculptures recreates, Vishnu preserves, and Siva cording his sayings and doings. In

one

are

some places he is represented as crush- their prayers and psalms. Women. ing a serpent under his heel. Many were not allowed to devote themselves titles are bestowed upon him : such as to this saintly life; and the lower “ Lion of the Race of Sakia,” “ Lord castes, as well as foreigners, were of the Earth,” “Son of Maia,” “Dis- rigorously excluded from these relipenser of Grace”; but his most com- gious instructions. Buddha Sakia remon title is “ The Saviour of the jected these narrow limitations. He World.” The Buddhist Sacred Writ- declared that the road to oneness with ings describe him as “One with. the God was open to all the world, naSupreme from all eternity”; as tives and foreigners, high and low, substance and three images.” By men and women. This is recorded as prayers offered in his name, his follow- one of his sayings : “ All men ers expect to secure for themselves the equal ; and my doctrines are a favor rewards of Paradise, and to become and grace to all mankind." The priestone with him, as he was one with the ly caste, called Brahmins, despised him Supreme Being. They believe he will for this, and said sneeringly, “ He and again appear on earth to bring man- his disciples teach even

mean and kind into a state of order and happi- criminal men, and most wrongfully adness.

mit them to a state of grace." As the Hindoos believed themselves to be new sect increased, its innovations not exclusively intrusted with revelations only offended the spiritual pride of the of divine truth. They held no com Brahmins, but also alarmed their selfishmunication with foreigners, regarding ness; for if all men were allowed to them as spiritually unclean, because become teachers of righteousness, the they had not been purified according hereditary priesthood must, as an inevto their own religious rites. The laws itable consequence, find its importance of their Sacred Books divided society and its revenues diminished. Perseinto four castes, and the higher castes cution waxed hotter and hotter. Great became polluted by any companionship numbers of Buddhists were put to with the lower. Buddha Sakia con- death. They were finally driven enformed in the main to the religious tirely out of Hindostan, where the doctrines, ceremonies, and customs of sect has been extinct for many centuhis native land; but he sought to in- ries. But persecution only fired them troduce several important reforms, the with increased zeal for their doctrines, most offensive of which was his abro-' which they preached in all the surgation of the laws of caste. Many cen- rounding regions. It is said that turies before his time, it was a very eighty thousand Buddhists went forth common thing for Hindoo devotees to from Hindostan as missionaries to retire from the world and live in the other lands. Their doctrines spread depths of forests, where they devoted peacefully and quietly, but with wonthemselves to perpetual prayer and to derful rapidity. Their religion now the mortification of the senses by a. prevails in China, Japan, Thibet, Ceyvariety of painful penances, as the ap- lon, the Birman Empire, and a large pointed means of becoming one with part of Tartary. Its votaries are comthe Supreme Being, an object which puted at four hundred millions, was with them paramount to all others. than one third of the whole human These devotees gained such great repu

The birth of Buddha Sakia is tation for wisdom and holiness, that the era from which many nations count. they were believed to be inspired teach- His followers everywhere consider Hiners and workers of miracles. The dostan as their Holy Land, and great young flocked to them in great num- numbers of them make pilgrimages to bers to be instructed ; and in this way Benares, which they especially regard religious communities grew up in the as their Holy City. forests, filling the solemn silence with Thousands of years ago, the Hin

more

race.

doo hermits and communities of saints, titude of saints, which people believe who lived in the forests, were accus- to be safeguards against peril, and entomed to go through their ritual of dowed with miraculous power to help many prayers by the help of strings of them in emergencies. A small image beads. Buddhists have retained this of a Lamb, called Agnus Dei, is almost ancient habit. Pilgrims are constantly universally worn by the peasantry of met on their way to Benares repeating Catholic countries, who have undoubtprayers incessantly, while they passing faith that the consecrating ceremotheir fingers over long strings of beads, nies. performed over it by the priests just as Catholic pilgrims, on their way have rendered it a sure protection to Jerusalem or Rome, may be seen against evil spirits. performing their devotions by the help In Japan almost every mountain, hill, of rosaries.

and cliff is sacred to some Buddhist Centuries before Buddha Sakia was saint, to whom travellers are requested born, it was one of the leading doc- to address a prayer. In all parts of trines of the Hindoos that each indi- Catholic Europe images of the Virgin vidual sin must be expiated by an ex- and the saints are placed by the roadact admeasurement of suffering, and side, with inscriptions inviting the travits consequences averted or diminished eller to leave offerings on their altars, by a prescribed number of prayers; accompanied by the recitation of a and it was believed that these penances prayer. could be borne and these prayers re- Every Buddhist house contains the peated efficaciously by proxy. Hence, image of some saint, to whom the inif a man inflicted upon himself more mates pray for abundant harvests, penances and recited more prayers than healthy children, prosperous journeys, were necessary for the expiation of his and such other blessings as they may own sins, the overplus might be placed desire. If they fail to receive what to the credit of deceased relatives or they pray for, they sometimes beat the friends, whose term of punishment was poor images and call them ugly names. supposed to be abridged thereby. As The people of Catholic countries make prayers were deemed efficacious in pro- similar intercessions to the images and portion to the holiness of the interces- pictures of saints which they keep in sor, it became a general practice to pay their dwellings; and if their prayers priests for reciting prayers for the dead. prove fruitless, they often turn the picThis mode of helping souls out of pur- ture of their saint to the wall, or strike gatory brings in a large revenue to the his image, saying, “You ungrateful Buddhist priesthood as well as to the good-for-nothing! Every day I have Roman Catholic.

brought you prayers and offerings, and Buddhists revere a multitude of not a thing have you done for me." saints, who by their great holiness Buddhist priests exhibit many relics became one with Buddha Sakia, and of saints, which are believed to have thereby attained to his power of work- the same power of working miracles ing miracles. Large images of these that the saints themselves had while saints abound in their temples, and living. The temples which contain small ones are consecrated by the the most celebrated relics attract the priests with divers ceremonies and largest number of pilgrims, whose offerforms of prayer. These last are sold ings become a great source of wealth. in great numbers to the people, who The richest of all is a temple in Ceywear them as amulets, and believe them lon, where is preserved a tooth of to be a sure protection from witchcraft Buddha Sakia, said to have worked and other forms of evil. The Roman many wonderful miracles.

It is enCatholic priesthood likewise derive a shrined within four golden cases, set large revenue from the sale of Crosses with precious gems. A vast concourse and images of the Virgin and of a mul- of pilgrims continually resort thither,

with the hope of being cured of "all cles. If the Chinese were to visit the the ills that flesh is heir to." Roman churches and chapels of Catholic EuCatholic churches abound with similar rope and see the numerous images of holy relics, to which miraculous power the Virgin Mary in spangled garments is ascribed. The cross on which Jesus of blue and crimson, with a gilded was crucified was said to be dug up on halo round her head, and that of the Mount Calvary three centuries after- infant Jesus she carries in her arms, ward. Small bits of the wood, set in they might easily mistake them for repgold and adorned with precious gems, resentations of their Shing Mou. It were eagerly bought by the people and is said that holy images in Buddhist worn as a protection against dangers countries sometimes raise their eyelids and all sorts of evil influences. The and nod their heads in response to demand was so great it would have prayer ; and, even within a few years been impossible to supply it, had not we have heard of similar miracles the priests discovered that the holy performed by images of the Virgin wood was endowed with a miraculous Mary. power of reproducing itself as fast Water from the Ganges and other as it was diminished. An immense holy rivers is supposed by Buddhists amount of it is now extant. There are to be imbued with some supernatural two entire skeletons of St. Denis, be qualities. They travel far to obtain side two other skulls of him, exhibited jars of it to use for religious purposes. in different places, each having a papal Catholics have a similar feeling concerncertificate of genuineness. Samples of ing the river Jordan, from which water the Virgin's hair are enshrined in vari was brought for the especial purpose ous churches ; some of it is flaxen, of baptizing the Prince Imperial of some brown, some red, and some black. France. Buddhist priests also conseThe house where she lived is believed crate water with prayers and ceremoto have been brought in the night by nies, and sell it to the people as a an angel to Loretto in Italy, where a protection from evil. They are often magnificent church was built over it. summoned to sprinkle it over the sick Thousands of pilgrims go there to de- and the dying, on the thresholds of posit offerings, more or less costly, for dwellings where a bridal pair are enterthe privilege of dipping their rosaries ing, and over new-born infants. Cath

in a little mug from which it is sup- olics also attach great value to water · posed the infant Jesus was accustomed which their priests have consecrated

to drink. Volumes might be filled with by certain religious ceremonies. It is accounts of Catholic relics and the mir a common practice with them to keep. acles they are said to have performed. little vials of such holy water under

In every Chinese house there is an their pillows or by their bedside. A altar covered with inscriptions and vase of it is always placed at the enimages of saints, before which the trance of their churches, in which they members of the family kneel and say dip their fingers and make therewith prayers, as Catholics do before the the sign of the cross. Priests also image, usually set up in some part of scatter it over their congregations with their dwellings. The most common little sprinklers. image on Chinese household altars is Buddhists burn fragrant sandal-wood that of Shing Mou, which means the for incense in their temples. Catholics Mother Goddess. It represents a wo make similar use of frankincense in man with a glory round her head and a their churches. babe in her arms. The tradition is On the approach of evening all the that she was a Virgin who conceived men, women, and children in Thibet, by contact with a water-lily, and gave at a signal given by the priests, quit birth to a wonderful child, who became their avocations and plays and assema holy man and performed great mira. ble in the public squares, where they

kneel and chant prayers. Catholics do priests follow him barefoot, and prosthe same at the sound of the vesper- trate themselves before him. One of bell.

the ceremonies be performs is dispensAs Buddhists became numerous, the ing little bits of consecrated dough, huts they originally used for places of which are eagerly sought for amulets. worship disappeared, and magnificent On state occasions he wears a yellow temples rose, gorgeous with gilding mitre and a mantle of purple silk, and and filled with painted and sculptured carries in his hand a long staff in the representations of Buddha Sakia and form of a cross. the saints. Most of these have the There is no known record concerngrotesqueness characteristic of Asiaticing the period when the devotees, who works of art. But the likenesses of from time immemorial had lived a life of Buddha Sakia have always a serene, celibacy and prayer in the great forests, majestic expression, with large, mild began to congregate together in buildeyes, and long, curling hair. Lassa, in ings. But institutions strikingly simniThibet, is the Rome of the Buddhists; lar to monasteries have been numerous and the temple they have erected there in Buddhist countries for many centuranks above other temples in grandeur, ries. It is said that the city of Lassa as St. Peter's does above other Catho- alone contains three thousand such lic churches. It is four stories high, establishments, which are called Lamsurrounded with columns covered with aseries.

They are usually built on gold, and terminating in a dome roofed mountains or hills, in the most pictuwith golden plates. The interior is resque situations, and are the handadorned with innumerable sculptures, somest buildings in Asia, except the and filled with sacred images in gold royal palaces. Some of them are ocand silver.

cupied by sisterhoods of holy women. The priests of Thibet are called La- All who adopt this mode of life take a mas, which means Shepherds. The vow of celibacy, shave their heads, Supreme Pontiff is called the Grand and drop the name by which they were Lama, or Great Shepherd. He resides known in the world. Children are at Lassa, which originally became a sent to the Lamaseries to be taught holy city by the presence of Buddha religious ceremonies and doctrines, La, or Saint La, a celebrated follower and instructed in such knowledge as of Buddha Sakia, who by exceeding Asiatics have to impart. The sick and holiness became one with him, as he the poor are received there, and are was one with the Supreme. The soul kindly ministered unto. The other of Saint La supposed to be regularly occupations of the Lamas are to recite transmitted to every successive Grand prayers and perform ceremonies to Lama, who thereby becomes the direct shorten the puuishment of the dead successor and visible representative of and protect the living from the influthe immortal old saint. By this pro- ences of evil spirits; to consecrate cess he is supposed to be rendered im- images and other amulets ; to distribute maculate and infallible. He is regard- holy water; to gather herbs, prepare ed as the vicegerent of God, with power medicines, and preserve fruit. They to dispense blessings on whomsoever sell many extracts from their Sacred he will. His exposition of the Sacred Books, which they write with great Books is regarded as Divine inspira- care and often embellish with gilding tion; and when he lays his hand on the and bright colors. Many rich men head of a worshipper, he is supposed to seek to obtain the rewards of Paradise confer remission of sins. When he is by leaving large bequests for the ereccarried in grand procession to the tem- tion of Lamaseries, where prayers are ple, princes and beggars alike prostrate said for their souls, where the sick are themselves as he passes; and when he tended, the poor relieved, and travellers enters the holy building, the attendant hospitably entertained. Borri, a Jesuit

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