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Of this teaching, Dr. Rhys Davids gives a version which differs in toto from these authorities. He affirms that the Buddhists teach that each individual is annihilated at death, but that the causation of his deeds is handed over to another distinct individual.1 If A leads a thoroughly wicked life, B will take up the remorse and moral deterioration that result from A's misdeeds. If B conquers his fate and reforms, C will be happy because B neutralized the errors of A. This, says the doctor, avoids the “irreligious extreme of those who do not believe in moral justice and retribution, ."2 and illustrates the text: “ Whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." 3 Perhaps B might answer that he was reaping what somebody else had sown.
But one thing is certain, Dr. Rhys Davids differs not only with Beal, Hodgson, Burnouf, Colebrooke, etc., but also with Oldenberg, Childers, Spence Hardy, and other writers on Cingalese Buddhism.4
His sole authority for his views is the Brahmajâla Sútra, mentioned at page 201. This Sûtra he considers the great exponent of early Buddhism, whereas I have already shown that it is the main Bible of the Great Vehicle teaching. Three speeches put into the
1 Buddhism, p. 101.
2 Page 103.
Ibid. Oldenberg, “Buddha,” p. 48; Hodgson, pp. 44, 45; Beal, “Romantic History,” p. 10; Colebrooke, “Essays," vol. i. p. 397.
mouth of Buddha must now be considered. These three speeches may be considered the backbone of Dr. Rhys Davids's many lectures, treatises, and magazine articles, all of which on the strength of them charge Buddha with denying a life after death. As so much importance is attached to the speeches, I will give them at length:
"Priests among these Samanas and Brahmins are some who hold the doctrine of future conscious existence, and in sixteen modes teach that the soul consciously exists after death. But the teaching of these Samanas and Brahmins is founded on their ignorance, their want of perception of truth, their own personal experience, and on the Auctuating emotions of those who are under the influence of their passions. “Priests among
these Samanas and Brahmins are some who hold the doctrine of future unconscious existence, and in eight modes teach that the soul exists after death in a state of unconsciousness. But the teaching of these Samanas and Brahmins is founded on ignorance, their want of perception of truth, their own personal experience, and on the fluctuating emotions of those who are under the influence of their passions.
“ Priests among these Samanas and Brahmins are some who hold the doctrine of a future state of being neither conscious nor yet unconscious, and in eight modes teach that the soul will hereafter exist in a state between consciousness and unconsciousness. But the teaching of these Samanas and Brahmins is founded on ignorance, their want of perception of truth, their own personal experience, and on the fluctuating emotions of those who are under the influence of their passions.”
Plainly, says the doctor, conscious existence after death, unconscious existence after death, and existence in a state that is “neither conscious nor unconscious" are here flatly denied. “Would it be possible," he adds triumphantly, “in a more complete and categorical manner to deny that there is any soul, or anything of any kind which continues to exist in any manner after death ? "
Now, considering the enormous superstructure that has been built upon this Sûtra, the first remark that I have to make is : " Has Dr. Rhys Davids read it ?” I will continue the passage quoted. It gives a fourth speech of Buddha on the same subject:
‘Priests among these Samanas and Brahmins are some who affirm that existence is destroyed, and who in seven modes teach that existing beings are cut off, destroyed, annihilated. But the teaching of these Samanas and Brahmins is founded on their ignorance, their want of perception of truth, their own personal
experience, and on the fluctuating emotions of those who are under the influence of their passions.” 1
Now, it would be possible here for a disputant to obtain a cheap victory over the somewhat contradictory doctor ; but I think that these difficult discrepancies merit closer study. We have before us a genuine Scripture of the Gospel of the “Carriage that drives to the Great Nowhere," and we see how that gospel was superposed on the earlier faith. deemed impossible to annul and change the vast literature of Buddhism, so the innovating school contented themselves with placing in the mouth of Buddha a few new speeches contradicting the earlier theology. In the present Sûtra, Buddha is brought on the scene to contradict and condemn every form and aspect of every conceivable question. Burnouf remarked this long ago, and Buddhaghosa praises these "conflicting conflicting” passages
passages as being good for discipline” (Vinaya).2
It is to be added that many of the arguments of the Brahmajâla Sûtra are very obscure, and it is difficult to know, at times, whether a view is being praised or condemned. Every possible aspect of such questions as soul, the eternity of matter, etc., is stated, and then Buddha is brought in to announce that, from his
Sept Suttas Pâlis,” p. 107 (Grimblot). 2 Turnour, Journ. As. Soc. Beng., vol. vi. p. 524.
unaided wisdom, he thoroughly knows the subject, and then he enunciates no opinion at all.
Dr. Rhys Davids, I must mention, cites one other passage from it, to prove the non-existence of the individual after death. It is a passage in which Buddha is made to declare that “after death neither gods nor men will see him."1 But Dr. Rhys Davids's inference is distinctly confuted by another portion of the Sûtra, where Buddha gives his adhesion to the transmigration theory, and says, moreover, that souls after death will go to a portion of the Brahmaloka which is never destroyed by fire. It is to be remembered that Buddha, when he made the speech cited by the doctor, had already been born on earth five hundred and fifty times, and Dr. Rhys Davids himself, with patient labour, has translated a work entitled the
Five Hundred and Fifty Rebirths of Buddha.” Childers affirms that after the Bodhi, when enfranchised Buddhas reach the Arupaloka, four out of five of the Skandhas still exist. The Lalita Vistara draws a line between the aggregations (Skandhas) of the true and the aggregations of the false.
1 “Buddhism,” p. 99.
Sept Suttas Pâlis,” p. 76. 3 Ibid., p. 78.