We call Jainism and Buddhism 'heretical' because these two religions, which began to spread

through the area between the Himalayas and the Ganges in the 7th and 6th centuries before our

era, threw off the Vedic traditioa They were far less concerned with giving mankind power over

Nature than in freeing it from what they considered the basis of existence, the law of

transmigration (samsara). Thus they are doctrines of salvation. Their propaganda does not lay

claim to revelation or to some early authority. It limits itself to showing how a great man of

wisdom found the path of deliverance for himself and for others, although he was wholly human.

Consequently, at any rate at first, they contain no dogma, and no rites, but simply a law and an


Their mythology includes no theology, and is limited to a biography and moral exhortation. But

the miraculous very soon crept into these alleged biographies, and the Churches by many popular

legends multiplied their subjects almost to infinity. On the other hand, the moral mission very

soon became involved in metaphysics, which in turn gave rise to unforeseen gods and myths. For

these reasons, although theoretically all mythology is absent from these doctrines, there was an

immense efflorescence of legends sprouting from the stem of both these heresies, especially from

the Buddhist stem.

The Tirthamkaras. The assumption of Jainism, as of Buddhism, is the proposition that a man at

grips with the normal conditions of existence is carried away by a sort of current, in which he will

most likely succumb, and where he will inevitably be the victim of suffering and want. This

strange conception, which their propaganda

soon imposed on all India, including that of the Brahmans, derives from the fact that these

heresies look upon existence as the result of action - every being is what he has made himself, and

will become what he deserves to become according to the kind and quality of his actions. Death

cannot annihilate the individual existence, because after it, retribution for things done - whether in

the shape of reward or punishment - must be endured. This retribution involves fresh actions

which in turn require new destinies, and so ad infinitum. Heavens and hells merely designate

relative and temporary conditions. It would be madness to hope to reach salvation through the


This law of transmigration of souls which brought even orthodox eschatology into confusion,

seemed an endless servitude and pain to Indian consciences, which felt crushed by it. Henceforth

every species of religious ingenuity and metaphysics strove to discover a means whereby the

individual might escape this seemingly inevitable slavery. To escape from ignorance and want -

that is the attainment of nirvana.

Every man who has 'found a ford' across the swirling, catastrophic current of the samsara is called


Such was the Jina, the initiator of Jainism, and such the Buddha, initiator of Buddhism. Both

traversed the current by a clear intuition of the conditions of human misery reached after

practising a stern asceticism.

To what extent the biography of a sage may be transformed by legend and thereby incorporated

into mythology may be learned from M. A. Guerinot's La Religion Djaina, 1926.

Humanity goes through, alternating phases of progress and regression, and had reached an epoch

when human suffering was continually on the increase. The Jina or Mahavira (Great Man) decided

to leave his heavenly abode to save humanity. 'He took the form of an embryo in the womb of

Devananda, wife of the Brahman Rishabhadatta who lived at Kundapura. That night as

Devananda was in bed and half asleep she saw in her dreams fourteen apparitions of favourable

omen - an elephant, a bull, a lion, the goddess Sri, a garland, the moon, the sun, a standard, a

valuable vase, a lake of lotuses, the ocean, a heavenly dwelling, a heap of jewels, and finally a

flame. Rishabhadatta was delighted. He perceived that a son would be born to him who would

become skilled in the learning of the Brahmans.

'Now, Sakra, the king of the gods in heaven.. .thought it would be preferable to transfer the

embryo of Mahavira from Devananda's womb to that of Trisala, the wife of the kshatriya

Siddhartha. . . He called to him the leader of the heavenly infantry, Harinagamesi (the Man-withthe-

antelope's-head) and ordered him to carry out this transposition. . . When Harinagamesi had

completed his mission he left Trisala resting on a magnificent bed in an ornate dwelling filled with

flowers and perfumes. In her turn she dreamed of fourteen unparalleled manifestations. ..

'From that moment Siddhartha found good fortune was his friend. He increased his possession of

gold, silver, land and corn. His army increased in numbers and in power, and his glory shone in

every direction. He decided that when his son was born he should be given then name of

Vardhamana, he-who-grows, he-who-develops.' (We now come to the birth of Mahavira.)'. .. That

night the gods and goddesses came down from heaven to show their joy. The Demons rained

flowers, fruits, gold and silver, pearls, diamonds, nectar, and sandal-wood on Siddhartha's

palace.. .

'For thirty years (the Mahavira) lived a worldly life. He married Yasoda by whom he had a

daughter, Riyadarsana. Then his parents, who followed the doctrines of Parsva, decided to leave

this world. They lay down on a pile of grass and let themselves die of starvation. Vardhamana was

now free from the vow he had made in his mother's womb, and decided to live after the fashion of

wandering monks. He asked the permission of his brother and of the various authorities of the

kingdom. Then he gave his wealth to the poor, and being thus freed from every bond became an


'.. .The gods came down from heaven, approached. . .and did him homage.. .A procession was

formed, made up of men, gods and demons, all shouting: "Victory! Victory!" The sky was as lovely

as a lake covered with open lotus-flowers, while earth and air echoed with melodious


Vardhamana spent twelve years in ascetic practices. Then once upon a time 'he sat down near an

ancient temple under the tree Sala (teak), and remained motionless for two and a half days,


and plunged in the deepest meditation. When he arose on the third day, enlightenment was

complete. Vardhamana now possessed supreme and absolute knowledge; he was kevalin,

omniscient. . .the perfect wise man, one of the blessed, an arhat: in short a Jina, a hero who had

overcome evil and misery.

'.. .The gods were present (thirty years later, after he had spent that time in preaching) when he

entered nirvana and became liberated, mukta, perfect, siddha.'

To sum up - we have a miraculous person vowed from all eternity to the salvation of the world,

more than a god, since like men all the gods are mere supernumeraries compared with him, a

discoverer, and a preacher of universal deliverance, the founder of a community. The Jain

Church,, made up of laymen led by monks and nuns, followed the master in propagating the Law.

The real story was more modest, but with a religious genius of this type legend may be truer than

historical reality.

Other Tirthamkaras. The transposing of a human biography into terms of dogmatic myth is not

solely a matter of adding the supernatural to the personality of the religious founder. It appears in


endless multiplication of his personality into abstract types which mythology strives to make

concrete. There are ten regions of the universe, in each of which arise twenty-four Tirthamkaras in

each of the three ages, past, present and future. Thus we obtain seven hundred and twenty

saviours of the world, of whom seven hundred and nineteen are pale reflections of the Jina.

In this way a stylised convention was formed from the real situation, wherein the Jina was

preceded by the sect of the Nirgranthas, whose master was Parsva, practisers of austerity to the

point of advocating suicide by starvation; but which also provided for a series of patriarchs who

kept alive the tradition of the founder in the community. In the book by Guerinot already quoted

will be found the description of twenty-four Tirthamkaras in that part of the world where India is

situated, during the present epoch. Each one is defined by certain characteristics - such-and-such

proportions of the body, such a colour, such-and-such symbols; such-and-such acolyte in human

form, a yaksha or a yakshini; such-and-such a posture, of special significance from the position of

the hands and legs, etc. To each one a special cult is appropriated.


Everything we have just described in Jainism is to be found under other aspects in Buddhism,

which is indeed Jainism's younger brother. Theoretically the sect should have limited its activity to

moral reform, the institution of a law or dharma, which in humble believers would lead to faith,

and in saints to nirvana. But as a matter of fact, popular superstition and fable immediately

imposed on it an exuberant mythology which completely altered the simplicity of the dogma. Just

as in Europe Christianity followed the pagan cults which were transformed into hagiographies, so

a whole popular religion soaked into the myths of Buddhism - for instance, the traditional

agricultural rites at each season of the year. Such was the myth of Gavampati, the god of drought

and wind, who was immolated to bring rain, of which traces may still be found in most Buddhist

festivals. (See J. Przyluski, Le Candle de Rajagriha, 1926 - 1928).


H. Oldenberg has compiled from Pali writings a 'reasonable' -we will not say too 'historical' -

biography of the sage of the Sakyas (Sakyamuni) who was to become the Buddha, the

Enlightened. On the other hand, E. Senart has composed an entirely legendary biography on the

same subject, derived from Sanskrit documents. In the latter the institutor of Buddhism, far from

dwindling to a sage of human essence, turns out to be an aspect of the solar god, Vishnu, who

came down on earth to save our species. In point of fact all the classic episodes of his life are more

or less touched with the miraculous.

Buddha lived between about 563 and 483 B.C. in the north-east of India.

The future Buddha or Bodhisattva had already passed through thousands of existences to prepare

himself for his final transmigration. Before coming down to earth for the last time he visited the

heaven of the Tushitas (abode of the blessed) and preached the Law to the gods. But one day he

perceived that his hour had come and was incarnated in the family of a king of the Sakyas,

Suddhodhana, who reigned in Kapilavastu, on the borders of Nepal.

Birth and Childhood of Buddha. His conception was miraculous. Queen Maya, whose name

literally means 'Illusions', warned by a presentiment, saw in a dream the Bodhisattva enter her

womb in the shape of a lovely little elephant as white as snow. At this moment the whole universe

showed its joy by miracles- musical instruments played without being touched, rivers stopped

flowing to contemplate the Bodhisattva, trees and plants were covered with flowers and the lakes

with lotuses. Next day Queen Maya's dream was interpreted by sixty-four Brahmans, who

predicted the birth of a son destined to become either a universal emperor or a Buddha.

When the time of his birth drew near the queen retired to the garden of Lumbini and there,

standing and holding on to a branch of the tree Sala with her right hand, she gave birth to the

Bodhisattva who came forth from her right side without causing her the least pain. The child was

received by Brahma and the other gods, but he began at once to walk, and a lotus appeared as

soon as his foot touched the earth. He took seven steps in the direction of the seven cardinal

points, and thus took possession of the world. On the very same day were born Yasodhara Devi

who was to be his wife, the horse Kantaka which he was to ride when he deserted his palace to

seek supreme knowledge, his squire Chandaka, his friend and favourite disciple Ananda, and the

Bo-tree beneath which he came to know Enlightenment.

Five days after his birth the young prince received the name Siddhartha. On the seventh day

Queen Maya died of joy, and was re-born among the gods, leaving her sister Mahaprajapati to

take her place beside the young prince. The complete devotion of this adoptive mother has

become legendary. A saintly old man from the Himalayas, the wealthy Asita, predicted the child's

destiny and observed in him the eighty signs which are the pledges of a high religious vocation.

When the child was taken by his parents to the temple, the statues of the gods bowed down before


When the young prince was twelve years old the king called a council of Brahmans. They revealed

to him that the prince would devote himself to asceticism if he beheld the spectacle of old age,

sickness and death, and if he afterwards met a hermit. The king preferred that his son should be a

universal sovereign rather than a hermit. The sumptuous palaces with their vast and beautiful

gardens in which the young man was destined to live were therefore surrounded with a triple

wall well-guarded. Mention of the words 'death' and 'grief was forbidden.

Buddha's Marriage. A little later it occurred to the Rajah that the surest way to bind the prince to

his kingdom was marriage. With a view to discovering a princess who would awaken his son's

love the king collected magnificent jewels, and announced that on a given day Siddhartha would

distribute them among the neighbouring princesses. When all the presents had been given out

there arrived the last girl, Yasodhara, daughter of Mahanama, one of the ministers. She asked the

prince if he had nothing for her, and he, having met her glance, took the valuable ring from his

finger and gave it to her. The exchange of glances and the remarkable gift did not escape

A Jain Tirthamkara. This seated, multi-headed figure represents Chandraprabha, the Lord of the

Moon, the eighth Tirthamkara of the present age, who is said to have been born after his mother

swallowed the moon. Each Tirthamkara has his (or, in one case, her) own characteristics and each

is the object of a special cult, the places associated with them being the destination of pious

pilgrimages. They are always depicted nude. Red sandstone.

the king's attention, and he asked for the girl in marriage.

However, the tradition of Sakyas compelled their princesses to take as husband only a true

Kshatriya who could demonstrate his skill in all the accomplishments of his caste. Yasodhara's

father had his doubts about Siddhartha, who had been brought up in the ease of court life. So a

tournament was organised, and the prince came out first in all the competitions of riding, fencing

and wrestling. Moreover, he was the only one who could string and shoot with the sacred bow of

enormous size bequeathed by his ancestors. Princess Yasodhara was therefore married to him.

The Vocation and the Great Departure. But very soon his divine vocation awoke in him. The music

of the different instruments which sounded in his ears, the graceful movements of the girls

dancing for the delight of his eyes, ceased to move his senses, and on the contrary showed him the

vanity and instability of human life. 'The life of the creature passes like the mountain torrent and

like the flash of lightning.'

One day the prince called his equerry - he wanted to visit the town. The king ordered it to be

swept and decorated and that every ugly or depressing sight should be hidden from his son. But


precautions were useless. As he rode through the streets the prince beheld a trembling, wrinkled

old man, breathless with age, and bowed on his staff. With astonishment the young man learned

that decrepitude is the inevitable fate of those who 'live out their lives'. When he got back to the

palace he asked if there is any way of avoiding old age.

Similarly, another day he came on someone with an incurable disease, and then a funeral

procession, and thus came to know of suffering and death.

Finally heaven threw in his way a begging ascetic, who told him that he had abandoned the world

to pass beyond joy and suffering and attain peace of heart.

These experiences and his meditations on them suggested to Siddhartha that he should abandon

his present life and become an ascetic. He spoke of it to his father - 'O king, all things in this world

are changing and transitory. Let me go forth alone, a begging monk.'

The father was overwhelmed with grief at the thought of losing the son in whom lay all the hopes

of his line. The guards round the walls were doubled, and there were continual amusements and

pleasures devised in the palaces and gardens to prevent the young prince from thinking any more

of leaving.

At this time Yasodhara gave birth to the little Rahula. But even this did not hinder Bodhisattva

from his mission.

His decision became final when one sleepless night he beheld the

spectacle of the harem - wan faces, bodies wilted in the involuntary relaxation of sleep and

unconsciousness, an artless abandonment in the midst of disorder. 'Some dribbled, spattered with

saliva; others ground their teeth; some snored and talked in their sleep. Some had their mouths

wide open... It was like a foretaste of the horrors of the grave.'

His mind was made up. But before leaving, Siddhartha wanted to look for the last time on his

beautiful wife, Yasodhara. She was asleep, holding their new-born child in her arms. He wanted to

kiss his son but was afraid he might waken the mother, so left them both, and lifting the curtain

heavy with jewels went out into the fresh night with its countless stars, and mounted his beautiful

horse Kantaka, accompanied by his equerry Chandaka.

The gods in complicity sent sleep on the guards and lifted the horse's hoofs so that the noise of his

shoes should waken nobody. At the gates of the town Siddhartha gave his horse to Chandaka and

took farewell of these two friends urging them to console his father - and in mute farewell the

horse licked his feet.

With one sweep of his sword the prince cut off his hair, and threw it upwards where it was

gathered by the gods. A little later, meeting a hunter, he exchanged his own splendid garments for

the man's rags, and thus transformed made his way to a hermitage where the Brahmans received

him as a disciple.

Henceforth there was no more Siddhartha. He became the monk

Gautama or, as he is still called, Sakyamuni, the ascetic of the Sakyas. He sought for wisdom as a

disciple of the Yogis, living turn by turn in several hermitages, and especially with Arada Kalapa;

but their doctrines did not teach him what he was seeking. He continued to wander, and at last

stopped at Uruvilva on the bank of a very fine river. There he remained six years, practising

dreadful austerities which reduced his body almost to nothing.

But he realised that excessive macerations destroy a man's strength and instead of freeing the

mind make it impotent. He had to get beyond asceticism, as he had got beyond worldly life.

And the exhausted Bodhisattva, thin as a skeleton, accepted the bowl of rice offered him by a

village girl, Sujata, who was moved to compassion by the ascetic's weakness. Then he bathed in

the river. The five disciples who had shared his austerities abandoned him, much perturbed by his


The Enlightenment. Siddhartha then started for Bodhi-Gaya and the tree of Wisdom. As he passed

through the forest such light emanated from his body that the kingfishers and other birds were

attracted and flew in circles about him. The peacocks joined other animals of the forest to escort

him. A Naga king and his wife came out of their underground dwelling to worship him. The

devas hung standards from the trees to show him his way.

And now the Bodhisattva reached the sacred fig-tree. It was the decisive hour of his career. He set

a bundle of new-mown hay and sat down, uttering this vow:

'Here, on this seat, may my body dry up, may my skin and flesh waste away if I raise my body

from this seat until! have attained the knowledge it is hard to attain during numerous kalpas!'

And the earth quaked six times.

Mara, the Buddhist demon, was warned of what was happening which would be the ruin of his

power, and decided to interfere. He sent his three delicious daughters to tempt the Bodhisattva

and divert him from his intentions. The girls sang and danced before his eyes. They were skilled in

all the seductions of desire and pleasure, but the Bodhisattva remained as unmoved in his heart as

in his countenance, as calm as a lotus on the smooth waters of a lake,

as unmoved as the roots of the mountains.

Mara's daughters retired defeated. Then the demon tried an attack, with an army of devils,

horrible creatures, some with a thousand mouths, others pot-bellied and deformed, drinking

blood or devouring snakes, uttering inhuman cries, spreading darkness, armed with spears, bows

and maces. They surrounded the tree of Wisdom, threatening the Bodhisattva, but found

themselves paralysed with their arms bound to their sides.

Mara himself then made the supreme attempt. Riding on the clouds he hurled his terrible disk. But

this weapon which could cut a mountain in two was impotent against the Bodhisattva. It was

changed into a garland of flowers and hung suspended above his head.

Before sunset Mara was beaten. And the motionless Bodhisattva remained in meditation under the

sacred tree. Night came, and with it the dawn of the Enlightenment he sought rose slowly on his

heart. First he knew the exact conditions of all living beings, and then the causes of their rebirth.

Throughout the world and in all ages he beheld beings live, die, and transmigrate. He

remembered his own previous existences, and grasped the inevitable links of causes and effects.

As he meditated on human suffering he was enlightened as to its genesis and the means which

allow it to be destroyed.

When daylight appeared the Bodhisattva had attained perfect Enlightenment (bodhi) and had

become a Buddha. The rays of light from his shining body reached the confines of space.

For seven days Buddha remained in meditation, and then stayed near the tree for another four

weeks. In the fifth week a terrible storm arose, but the Naga king, Musilinda, made a seat for him

from the coils of his body and a canopy with his open hood, and so sheltered him from the storm

and the flood.

Henceforward two paths were open to Buddha. He could at once enter nirvana; or, renouncing for

the time being his own deliverance, he could remain on earth to spread the good word. Mara

urged him to leave the world, and Buddha himself realised that the doctrine is profound while

men are not at all given to wisdom. Should he proclaim the Law to those who cannot understand

it? For an instant

third century A.D.

he hesitated. But the gods united to implore him. Brahma in person came to beg him to preach his

Law, and Buddha yielded to his wishes.

The Preaching. To whom was he first to address his preaching? His thoughts turned to the five

disciples who had abandoned him. He went to Benares, and found them again. Seeing him coming

from afar they agreed together: 'Here comes that Sramana Gautama, the dissolute, the glutton,

spoiled by luxury. . . We have nothing in common with him. We must not go to meet him with

respect, nor stand up. . .We must give him no carpet, no prepared drink, nowhere to set his feet.'

But Buddha understood their thoughts, and turned on them the strength of his love. As a leaf is

swept away by a torrent, so the hermits were conquered by his omnipotent goodness, and rose up

to do homage to him whose first disciples they became.

So the first preaching took place at Benares, in the Gazelles' Park. According to the texts, the

Buddha in his first sermon 'set in

motion the wheel of the Law' (Dharmasakrapravartana). The Master's first message indicated at

the outset the tone of primitive Buddhist doctrine - lucidity, moderation, charity.

'There are two extremes, O monks, which must be avoided. One is a life of pleasure, which is base

and ignoble, contrary to the spirit, unworthy, vain. The other is a life of self-maceration, which is

dreary, unworthy, vain. The Perfect, O monks, kept aloof from these two extremes and discovered

the middle path which leads to rest, to knowledge, to enlightenment, and nirvana . . . Here, O

monks, is the truth about pain. Birth, old age, sickness, death, separation from what we love, are

pain. The origin of pain is the thirst for pleasure, the thirst for existence, the thirst for change. And

here is the truth about the suppression of pain - the extinction of that thirst through the

annihilation of desire.'

And again: 'I am come to fill the ignorant with knowledge. Almsgiving, knowledge, and virtue are

goods which cannot be wasted. To do a little good is better than to accomplish difficult works. . .

The perfect man is nothing if he does not diffuse benefits on creatures, if he does not console the

lonely. . . My doctrine is a doctrine of mercy. . .The way of salvation is open to all. . .Destroy your

passions as an elephant throws down a hut built of reeds, but know that a man deceives himself if

he thinks he can escape his passions by taking refuge in hermitages. The only remedy for evil is

healthy reality.'

Thus began a wandering mission which lasted forty-four years. Buddha went up and down the

land, followed by his disciples, converting all who heard him. Many episodes of this long

ministration have been popularised in art or in legends. We mention here a few of the principal


THE ANGRY ELEPHANT. Devadatta, Buddha's cousin, became his enemy. He made a royal

elephant drunk, and turned it free in the streets at the moment when Buddha was going round to

give alms. Smitten with terror the inhabitants fled, while the animal trampled on carriages and

passers-by, and overthrew houses. Buddha's disciples implored him to leave, but he calmly kept

on his way. But when a little girl carelessly crossing the road was almost killed by the raging

elephant, Buddha spoke to it: 'Spare that innocent child - you were sent to attack me.' As soon as

the elephant perceived Buddha, its rage was soothed as if by magic, and it came to kneel at the feet

of the Blessed.

THE GREAT MIRACLE OF SRAVASTI. King Prasenajit organised a contest between Buddha and

the members of a heretical sect he wished to convert. Numerous miracles were performed by

Sakyamuni during this battle of miraculous powers. Two remained especially famous. The first is

known as the miracle of water and fire. 'Bhagavat (the Blessed) plunged into meditation so

profound that as soon as his spirit entered into it, he disappeared from the place where he was

seated and shot into the air towards the West, where he appeared in the four postures of decency -

that is to say. he walked, he stood up, he sat down, he lay down. He then rose to the region of

ligh;, and no sooner had he reached it than different lights spread from his body - blue, yellow, red

and white lights.

and others with the loveliest tints of crystal. He performed other miracles. Flames spread from the

lower part of his body, while from the upper part fell a rain of cold water. He repeated in the

South what he had done in the West and again in the four points of space.'

In the second episode Buddha is seen seated on a large golden lotus with a diamond stem formed

by the Naga kings, with Brahma to his right and Indra to his left. Through the prestige of his

omnipotence Buddha filled the whole sky with a countless number of similar lotuses, and in each

of them was a Buddha similar to himself.

CONVERSION OF BUDDHA'S FAMILY. Buddha successively converted to his doctrine his father

king Suddhodhana, his son Rahula, his cousin Ananda (who became his favourite disciple), his

wife, and his adoptive mother, the good Mahaprajapati. Buddha ascended into heaven where he

was greeted by his mother and the gods, who asked him to teach them the Law. At the end of

three months this mission was ended, and the Blessed one returned to the earth by a ladder of

gold and silver, with rungs of coral, ruby and emerald. And the gods escorted him.

The conversion of Nanda. Buddha's half-brother, was more difficult, and introduces a very human

note, both poignant and comic. The young man had just married the prettiest girl in the district.

The Blessed one came to the door. Nanda filled his bowl with alms, but Buddha refused to take it

and go away. Nanda followed him, holding out the bowl, but received not a word or a gesture in

reply. They came to the hermitage, and the mysterious, smiling Buddha caused his brother's head

to be shaved, and forced him to put off his sumptuous clothes and dress in a monk's gown.

Poor Nanda submitted, but he was continually haunted by the charming memory of his young

wife. One day he tried to run away, but mysterious powers prevented his escape. Sakyamuni took

him on to a hill, where they saw a blind old monkey. 'Is your wife as beautiful as that monkey?'

said Buddha to Nanda. Nanda's indignation was not soothed down until the Blessed carried him

to the heaven of the thirty-three gods and into a magnificent palace inhabited by divine nymphs of

incomparable beauty. Obviously his

wife was a mere monkey compared with them. The nymphs revealed to him that after his death

he was destined to become their lord and master.

On their return to the monastery Nanda became the most zealous of disciples, in the hope of being

re-born in the heaven of the thirty-three gods. But a little later Buddha took him to hell, and

showed him a vat of boiling water in which he would fall after his heavenly existence, in order to

expiate his sensual desires. These successive visions led Nanda to meditate the doctrine, and he

became a saint.

THE CHILD'S OFFERING. A little child wanted to make Buddha an offering, but had nothing in

the world. So he collected the dust, and joining his two open hands childishly offered it to the

Blessed. He was touched by this gesture of faith, and smilingly accepted the gift. Later on this

innocent child was re-born in the form of the great Indian emperor, Asoka.

THE MONKEY'S OFFERING. A monkey offered Buddha a bowl of honey. Delighted to see his gift

accepted, the monkey cut a caper, fell, and was killed. He was immediately re-born as the son of a


Buddha's Death. At the age of eighty Buddha felt he had grown old. He visited all the

communities he had founded, set them in order, and prepared for his end. He died at Kusinagara

after eating an indigestible meal with one of his disciples, who was a smith. He died peacefully

beside the river Hiranyavati, in a grove where Ananda had prepared his bed. The trees about him

were covered with flowers. The Gandharvas played heavenly music. The disciples surrounded the

dying man, and some wept despite their Master's exhortations.

'O disciples, everything created must perish. A man must separate from everything he has loved.

Say not, we no longer have a Master . . .When I am gone the doctrine I have preached will be your

Master. Watch and pray without respite.'

After speaking these words, Buddha entered into meditation and then into ecstasy, and finally

passed into nirvana. His body was burned on a funeral pyre which lighted itself, and was

extinguished at the right moment by a miraculous rain. Relics of the Blessed one were preserved

in the 'Stupas' which soon after were raised in India.

This biography which alongside the miraculous contains traits of high morality, not only flowered

on the surface with repeated types of the Buddha in divergent forms, but also as it were in depth -

Sakyamuni having deserved to become Buddha because of all his former lives, which formed part

of his personality.

The Jatakas. Jatakas is the name given the stories relating to the lives of the Bodhisattva before the

life in which he received the Bodhi, Enlightenment. Innumerable folklore stories have been

incorporated in this literature. Many of the fables already current in India took on a Buddhist

appearance. Moreover the Jatakas have a dogmatic value, since they show at work in reality that

causal connection, which according to Buddhist philosophy forms the structure of things - every

event in the present is to be explained by facts going farther and farther back into the past. This is

the justification of the law of Kharma, by virtue of which every being, and the Bodhisattva in

particular, becomes what he makes himself. Metaphysical dogma and popular belief thus coincide

in the very idea of the Jataka.

Here, for instance, is the tale of The Devotion of the King-Monkey (Mahakapi-Jataka). In those

days the Bodhisattva was a king-monkey. One day when he was disporting himself in an orchard


mangoes along with eighty thousand of his subjects, the archers were ordered to surround the

monkeys and to kill them. The poor creatures could only escape by crossing the Ganges. The kingmonkey

fastened to his waist a bamboo rope and tied the other end to the branch of a tree. He

then crossed the river with one huge jump, but the rope was too short, and he could reach the

bank only by clinging to a tree. On the living bridge thus formed the eighty thousand monkeys

crossed and saved their lives. But Devadatta, Buddha's future cousin, was among the fugitives.

Already the betrayer, he pretended to stumble, fell heavily on the back of the king-monkey and

broke it as he passed. The heroic monkey was succoured by the king of Benares and made an

edifying death, not without bestowing on his host some salutary advice for the government of his


One of the principal Buddhist virtues is endless compassion for all creatures. We find an example

in the story of the king, the dove and the falcon (Sibi-Jataka).

To test the integrity and charity of the king of the Sibis, Indra assumed the form of a falcon

pursuing a dove, which itself is also a form of the metamorphosed god. The harried dove took

refuge in the king's bosom. 'Fear nothing, beautiful bird, whose eyes are like the flowers of the

asoka tree,' said the king. 'I save all living things which come to me for protection, even though I

should lose my kingdom and my life itself.'

But now the falcon spoke: 'This dove is my food. By what right do you deprive me of the prey I

have conquered by my exertions?

I am devoured by hunger. You have no right to intervene in the differences of the birds of the air.

If you mean to protect the dove, think of me and how I shall die of hunger. If you refuse to yield

me this bird you are cherishing, give me an equal weight of the flesh of your own body.'

'You are right,' said the king of the Sibis. 'Bring the scales.' He then cut off some of the flesh of his

thigh and threw it into the scale, having put the dove on the other one. The queens, the ministers,

and the attendants began to utter lamentations which rose up from the palace as the muttering of

thunder from piled-up masses of cloud. The earth itself quaked at this act of integrity.

But the king continued to cut the flesh from his legs, his arms and his breast. The scale was piled

up in vain, for the dove grew heavier and heavier. So much so that the king, now reduced to a

skeleton, decided he must give all himself, and entered the scale.

Then the gods appeared, and heavenly music was heard. A shower of ambrosia drenched the

king's body, and completely healed him. Flowers fell from heaven, the Gandharvas and Apsaras

danced and sang. Indra resumed his divine form, and announced to the king of the Sibis that he

would be re-incarnated in the body of the next Buddha.

Multiplication of Buddhas. The most ancient Buddhism or Little Vehicle admits that since the

Sakyamuni had shown the path to salvation, other sages might in their turn attain bodhi and

nirvana, and thus become Buddhas. It particularly noticed the future Buddha, Maitreya.

Making use of the opportunity to multiply the number of Saviours, the Great Vehicle, which came

into existence about the beginning of the Christian era and dominated Indian philosophy during

the first seven centuries of that era, created the notion of transcendent persons, positive Buddhist

divinities, although they were still called Bodhisattvas or Buddhas.

While the sage of the Sakyas represented the ideal of a slightly Brahman clan in the middle

Ganges valley, the cults of the Great Vehicle came into existence on the borders of Iran in lands

where there had been interpenetration of Hellenic, Persian and Indian influences.

The Graeco-Syrian gnosis, the Iranian religion of light, and Vishnu-ite sectarianism played their

part in it, and perhaps also to some extent the faith of the Semites and Manichaeism. We must not

forget that most of the biographies of the Sakyamuni were composed under the influence of the

Great Vehicle, and that they owe to it the metaphysics which abounds in them.

The Artistic Representation of the Buddha Sakyamuni. A tangible proof of Western influence is

shown by the artistic representation of the Buddha. Native art had always refrained from

depicting the Blessed one's features, and he was symbolised by an empty throne or a solar wheel.

When it was decided to give him plastic form, a Greek type was chosen. The Western sculptors

dwelling in Bactriana represented him as Apollo. A. Foucher has demonstrated the continual

evolution by imperceptible and gradual degrees from the most Hellenic Buddha to the most


The Indian elements of this iconography were imposed by the Master's biography. The Buddha

must be a monk, the Bodhisattva a prince. Here and there the same royal and divine type (the

gods were kings in heaven, the kings gods on earth) appeared, but when the Buddha was to be

represented the type was divested of lay ensigns of power and of worldly wealth. Both have a

lens-shaped mark between the eyebrows, urna, which symbolised a tuft of luminous and radiant

hair, but the Buddha has a protuberance of the skull, ushnisha, which incorporates with his

anatomy the shape of a turban bound round a knot of hair. The attitudes of the body, asanas,

express the kind and quality of his meditation; the position of the hands, mudras, complete this

expression or indicate the action accomplished.

From Dipankara to Maitreya the Manushi-Buddhas. The most ancient precursor of Sakyamuni

whose name has been preserved to us is Dipankara. During a former existence our Buddha

presented him with flowers, and in return received from him an announcement, of his own

mission. The legend of the distant predecessor reconciles as best it can the two etymologies of the

name - dvipa an island, or dipa a lamp - by the idea of a luminous manifestation in the

midst of the waters, a divinity protecting sailors, especially in the 'Southern Isles'.

The epoch of the world to which we belong received six Blessed ones before the sage of the Sakyas

- Vipasyin. Sikhin, Visvabhu, Krakuchanda, Kanakamuni, Ksyapa. An eighth is expected,

Maitreya, who is still in the stage of a Bodhisattva. This pseudo-historical succession of Masters,

who are given a role in the evolution of humanity, forms the series of'human' Buddhas, Manushi.

The Dhyani-Buddhas. On the other hand the Buddhas of Meditation, Dhyani, are metaphysical

essences, and yet iconography has much more frequently represented them in the creation of that

section of Buddhism, the Great Vehicle, which conquered Tibet as well as the Far East. There are

five of them: Vairocana, whose colour is white, whose attribute is the disk,

and his steed a dragon. He must derive from some solar hero. He became extremely popular with

the Japanese Shingon sect.

Ratnasambhava is yellow, wears a jewel, and rides a lion. He reigns over the South.

Amitabha, Infinite Light, or Amitayus, Infinite Duration, is red, holds a lotus, and is escorted by a

peacock. He reigns over the West, where he presides over a marvellous paradise, Sukhavati. All

who believe in him will be re-born before final deliverance.

Amoghasiddhi is green, carries a double thunder-bolt, and is borne up by an eagle. His region is

the North.

Akshobhya is blue, provided with a thunder-bolt and rides on an elephant. He watches over the


The Dhyani-Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara. From the meditation of the Dhyani-Buddhas emanate

the Dhyani-Bodhisattvas: Samantabhadra,

Vajrapani, Ratnapani, Avalokitesvara, Visvapani. Samantabhadra, one of the most

constant intimates of Sakvamuni in the Mahayana texts, has the bearing of a god of action and

symbolises happiness. He is green and rides an elephant. His cult is especially developed at Womeichen

(Setzu-Zan) and in Nepal.

Vajrapani, wieldcr of the thunder-bolt, appears in the Gandharva sculptures sometimes as a Zeus,

sometimes an Eros, even as a Hercules, a Pan or a Dionysus.

The representations show us the history of Vajrapani. He was first a yaksha, a faithful companion,

a replica of Sakyamuni, and then becomes important in the Great Vehicle as a 'Bodhisattva of

benign aspect or furious bearing', the ideal of the faithful and terror of the impious. (Foucher.)

Avalokitesvara, the Lord gifted with complete Enlightenment, remained in this world for the

salvation of creatures, and is at the head of the Merciful. Under the name of Padmapani he holds a

pink lotus, and to show that he derives from Amitabha he bears an effigy of him bound up with

his hair. No person in suffering appeals to him in vain. As he has plenty of work in this world of

misery a 'thousand' arms are not too many for him. The Karunduw uha describes his charitable

wanderings, whether he takes cooling drinks to the damned in hell, or converts the she-ogres

(Rakshasi) of Ceylon, or preaches the Eaw to beings incarnated as insects or worms in the region

of Benares. So although his normal residence is the paradise of Amitabha, his chosen dwelling is

the world of suffering which he prefers to the peace of nirvana.

China has transformed this Bodhisattva in a very curious way. To honour his capacity for love the

Chinese have endowed him with the feminine aspect of the goddess Kuanyin (Kwannon) who, as

she carries a child in her arms, has such a strange resemblance to the Virgin Mary and her divine

son. In contrast to this very concrete image, India imagined this compassionate saviour as a cosmic

being with innumerable forms:

'From his eyes were derived the sun and the moon, from his forehead Mahesvara, from his

shoulders Brahma and other gods, from his heart Narayana, from his thighs Sarasvati, from his

mouth the winds, from his feet the earth, from his belly Varuna. . . He is a lamp to the blind, a

sunshade to those consumed by the heat of the sun, a stream for the thirsty; he takes away all fear

from those who dread a disaster, he is a doctor to the sick, a father and mother to the unhappy

(Karandavyuha, 14 and 18).' Mother! That was the shape in which he conquered the Far East.

Other Bodhisattvas Manjusri, Maitreya, Kshitigarbha. Legend attributes a Chinese origin to the

Bodhisattva Manjusri or Man-jughsha. At least in the time of I-tsing the Hindus considered him as

living in China, and he was especially venerated in the monastery of Ou-tai-Chan (Changsa). His

name is only a translation of the Sanskrit Pancasika or Pancasirsha, the mountain with five peaks,

certainly Indian, where a certain Kumarabhua, whose surname was Manjusri, attained to sanctity.

According to Sylvain Levi, Manju is the Cutch translation of Kumara. The Svayambhuprana

makes this Bodhisattva the patron of grammatical science and wisdom. He is portrayed as yellow,

seated on a blue lion with a red maw, in the posture of teaching, a blue lotus in his hand - often

with a sword, the sword of knowledge, or a book.

Maitreya, the Buddha of the future, still dwells in the heaven of Tushita whence the Sakyamuni of

old descended. One of the latter's disciples, Kasyapa, having attained nirvana, dwells on the slope

of mount Kukkutapada waiting for the moment when he will present the future Buddha with the

robe of precedence most carefully preserved. Maitreya, who is represented as the colour of gold, is

related at least by his name to Mitra, the solar god of the Iranians. Texts in Eastern Iranian studied

by Ernest Leumann demonstrate the importance of the messianism of Maitreya in the southern

part of Chinese Turkestan. Perhaps some historical character must be recognised as the origin of

the cult of this bodhisattva - at least, such is the opinion of J. Takasuku and H. Ui, two Japanese

Bud-dhologists' who attribute some famous works of Yogasara inspiration to a certain Maitreya.

Kshitigarbha, very little honoured in India, but with effigies widely spread throughout central

Asia, plays the part of an es-chatological god. He regulates and surveys the six paths (gati) which

are taken by souls after they have been judged - destinies of men, asuras, demons, of gods,

animals, and the starving damned.

The paintings of Yueyen-Kwang show ten kings of hell gravitating about him. Here is reflected the

mythical cosmography of Buddhism, which also appears by the admission of the four guards of

the cardinal points, the Lokapalas, locked in their armour. This judgment, these judicial or police

gods, are utterly in contradiction with the primitive Buddhist conception of Kharma, according to

which every action in itself implied the just and necessary retribution, without any divine

intervention. The development of the myth has carried us as far away from real Buddhism as from

India proper. The overwhelming monotony of these figures is not unintentional. The infinite

number of these effigies, mythically different but metaphysically equivalent, was meant to

reassure the faith of the humble, by showing how numerous the elect were. On the other hand it

reveals to him who can understand, the essential truth of the Great Vehicle - that as the Law does

not differ from nirvana, and as all is emptiness, Buddha is reduced to an empty form. If any life,

denounced of course as illusory, circulates through these abstractions, it was provided by popular

devotion to the extent that it treats the Buddhas as gods.

Buddhistic Hinduism. The popular cults forced their way even into the cold and lofty dogma of

the Great Vehicle - there was a Buddhistic Hinduism as there had been a Brahmanic Hinduism.

Hideous, grimacing, grotesque figures point to an inspiration entirely different from the serenity

of the saints. Yamantaka, the companion of Manjusri, wore a necklace of skulls, like Siva. He

possesses several terrifying faces, and waves a number of arms. Trailokya-vijaya has four heads

and four threatening arms, and tramples on Siva's head. These two monsters demonstrate that a

certain type of Buddhism tried to exceed the horror even of the Siva myths.

Alongside terror we have the ridiculous - the god of wealth, Jambhala, outrageously fat, and

holding a lemon and a mangosteen, an amusing parody of the Brahman god Kuvera.

An unmistakable sign of Hinduism is the reappearance with scarcely any change of the old

Dravidian she-ogres. Like Vishnu and Siva, the Buddhas had their saktis, who furnished mortals

with knowledge, prajna, or compassion, karuna, while their quasi-husbands showed the path of

salvation, upaya.

Tara, the most revered, shared in the cult devoted to Avalokites-vara, at least in Tibetan Tantrism.

She was born from his tears. When she is red, yellow, blue, she threatens; when white or green,

she is gentle and loving - a double character present in Siva's wife.

This sort of Bodhisattva of a feminine nature is among the Vid-yadevis or Matrikadevis, goddesses

of knowledge, or mother-goddesses, among whom may be noted:

Bhrikuti Tara, a special form of the preceding;

Kurukulla, represented as reddish, seated in a cavern, has four arms, of which the upper two

threaten, and the lower two soothe;

Cunda - concerning whom the Tibetan Taranatha relates a fairy tale: 'Lucky for him was it that the

son of the tree nymph and the Kshatriya chose her as patron, for with her help he slew the wicked

queen whose bed every night was a grave for a new king of Bengal.' She has four or sixteen arms.

'Her kindly air contrasts with her threatening attributes. Thunder-bolt, disk, mace, sword, bow,

arrow, axe, trident, etc. - nothing is absent from her arsenal; but for the worshipper who knows

how to look, her first pair of hands is in the position of teaching, another in that of charity, while

others hold the rosary, the golden lotus, and the flask of ambrosia; so that this strange divinity is

as propitious to the good as she is terrible to the wicked' (Foucher, Iconographie bouddhique du II

siecle, 144, 146);

Marici, the ray of dawn, a Buddhist Ushas, with a frontal eye, is sometimes terrible with her three

grimacing faces and ten threatening arms.

Among the saktis of the Manushi-Buddhas is Sarasvati, the wife of Manjusri and goddess of


On the summit of this feminine pantheon reigns Prajna, Knowledge, corresponding to the

supreme masculine abstraction, Adibud-dha, original and fundamental essence of all Buddhas.

As the antithesis to this serenity let us mention Hariti, the mother suckling five hundred demons.

She is associated with Pancika, a genius of opulence - her wealth is her fecundity, probably a relic

of ancient agricultural rites.

This invasion of Buddhism by Tantrist mythology, attested by Tibetan Lamaism, illuminates a big

historical problem with a very

crude light. Let us not be surprised that Buddhism has disappeared from India, with the exception

of Ceylon and Nepal - like the orthodoxy of Vedic tradition it has been absorbed by the sectarian