( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Buddhism.—The religion known as Buddhism is one of the oldest existing religions, and traces its origin back to Siddhartha or Buddha, a Hindoo prince. In Hindustan, the land of its birth, it has now little hold, except among the Nepaulese and some other northern tribes, but it bears full sway in Ceylon and over the whole eastern peninsula. It divides the adherence of the Chinese with the system of Confucius. It prevails also in Japan and north of the Himalayas. It is the religion of Thibet, and of the Mongolian population of Central Asia, Its adherents are estimated at 340,000,000. According to the Buddhist belief, when a man dies he is immediately born again, or appears in a new shape; and that shape may, According to his merit or demerit, be any of the innumerable orders of being composing the Buddhist universe, from a clod to a divinity. If his demerit would not be sufficiently punished by a degraded earthly existence — in the form, for instance, of a woman or a slave, of a persecuted or a disgusting animal, of a plant or even of a piece of inorganic matter—he will be born in some one of the one hundred and thirty-six Buddhist hells situated in the interior of the earth. These places of punishment have a regular gradation in the intensity of the suffering and in the length of time the sufferers live, the least term of life being 10,000,000 years, the longest term being almost beyond the powers of even Indian notation to express. A meritorious life, on the other hand, secures the next birth either in an exalted and happy position on earth or as a blessed spirit, or even divinity, in one of the many heavens in which the least duration of life is about 10,000,000,000 years. But however long the life, whether of misery or bliss, it has an end, and at its close the individual must be born again, and may again be either happy or miserable. The Buddha himself is said to have gone through every conceivable form of existence on the earth, in the air and in the water, in hell and in heaven, and to Lave filled every condition in human life; and a great part of the Buddhist legendary literature is taken up in narrating his I exploits when he lived as an elephant, as a bird, as a stag, and so on. A second Buddhist doctrine is embodied in the Four Sublime Verities." The first asserts that pain exists; the second that the cause of pain is desire or attachment; the third that pain can be ended by Nirvana and the fourth shows the way that leads to Nirvana, from simple faith to complete regeneration. Theoretically this religion has no priests, nor clergy, nor public religious rites. Every man is his own priest and confessor, and the monks are ascetics only for their own advancement in holy living; but in fact Buddhist countries swarm with priests or religious teachers, so reputed. The central object iii a Buddhist temple, corresponding to the altar in a Roman Catholic church, is an image of the Buddha, or a dagoba or shrine containing his relics. Here flowers, fruit, and incense are daily offered, and processions are made, with singing of hymns. Of the relics of the Buddha, the most famous are the teeth, that are preserved with intense veneration in various places. The quantities of flowers used as offerings are prodigious. A royal devotee in Ceylon, in the fifteenth century, offered on one occasion 6,480,320 flowers at the shrine of the tooth, and at one temple it was provided that there should be offered "every day 100,000 flowers, and each day a different flower."