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Eliot, Charles, Sir / Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 1
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Shawn Wheeler and the PG Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.



In three volumes VOLUME I

ROUTLEDGE & KEGAN PAUL LTD Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane, London,

_First published_ 1921 _Reprinted_ 1954 _Reprinted_ 1957 _Reprinted_




The present work was begun in 1907 and was practically complete when the
war broke out, but many circumstances such as the difficulty of
returning home, unavoidable delays in printing and correcting proofs,
and political duties have deferred its publication until now. In the
interval many important books dealing with Hinduism and Buddhism have
appeared, but having been resident in the Far East (with one brief
exception) since 1912 I have found it exceedingly difficult to keep in
touch with recent literature. Much of it has reached me only in the last
few months and I have often been compelled to notice new facts and views
in footnotes only, though I should have wished to modify the text.

Besides living for some time in the Far East, I have paid many visits to
India, some of which were of considerable length, and have travelled in
all the countries of which I treat except Tibet. I have however seen
something of Lamaism near Darjeeling, in northern China and in Mongolia.
But though I have in several places described the beliefs and practices
prevalent at the present day, my object is to trace the history and
development of religion in India and elsewhere with occasional remarks
on its latest phases. I have not attempted to give a general account of
contemporary religious thought in India or China and still less to
forecast the possible result of present tendencies.

In the following pages I have occasion to transcribe words belonging to
many oriental languages in Latin characters. Unfortunately a uniform
system of transcription, applicable to all tongues, seems not to be
practical at present. It was attempted in the _Sacred Books of the
East_, but that system has fallen into disuse and is liable to be
misunderstood. It therefore seems best to use for each language the
method of transcription adopted by standard works in English dealing
with each, for French and German transcriptions, whatever their merits
may be as representations of the original sounds, are often misleading
to English readers, especially in Chinese. For Chinese I have adopted
Wade's system as used in Giles's _Dictionary_, for Tibetan the system of
Sarat Chandra Das, for Pali that of the Pali Text Society and for
Sanskrit that of Monier-Williams's _Sanskrit Dictionary,_ except that I
write ś instead of s. Indian languages however offer many difficulties:
it is often hard to decide whether Sanskrit or vernacular forms are more
suitable and in dealing with Buddhist subjects whether Sanskrit or Pali
words should be used. I have found it convenient to vary the form of
proper names according as my remarks are based on Sanskrit or on Pali
literature, but this obliges me to write the same word differently in
different places, e.g. sometimes Ajâtaśatru and sometimes Ajâtasattu,
just as in a book dealing with Greek and Latin mythology one might
employ both Herakles and Hercules. Also many Indian names such as
Ramayana, Krishna, nirvana have become Europeanized or at least are
familiar to all Europeans interested in Indian literature. It seems
pedantic to write them with their full and accurate complement of
accents and dots and my general practice is to give such words in their
accurate spelling (Râmâyana, etc.) when they are first mentioned and
also in the notes but usually to print them in their simpler and
unaccented forms. I fear however that my practice in this matter is not
entirely consistent since different parts of the book were written at
different times.

My best thanks are due to Mr R.F. Johnston (author of _Chinese
Buddhism_), to Professor W.J. Hinton of the University of Hong Kong and
to Mr H.I. Harding of H.M. Legation at Peking for reading the proofs and
correcting many errors: to Sir E. Denison Ross and Professor L. Finot
for valuable information: and especially to Professor and Mrs Rhys
Davids for much advice, though they are in no way responsible for the
views which I have expressed and perhaps do not agree with them. It is
superfluous for me to pay a tribute to these eminent scholars whose
works are well known to all who are interested in Indian religion, but
no one who has studied the early history of Buddhism or the Pali
language can refrain from acknowledging a debt of gratitude to those who
have made such researches possible by founding and maintaining during
nearly forty years the Pali Text Society and rendering many of the texts
still more accessible to Europe by their explanations and translations.



_May_, 1921.


The following are the principal abbreviations used:

Ep. Ind. Epigraphia India.

E.R.E. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (edited by Hastings).

I.A. Indian Antiquary.

J.A. Journal Asiatique.

J.A.O.S. Journal of the American Oriental Society.

J.R.A.S. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

P.T.S. Pali Text Society.

S.B.E. Sacred Books of the East (Clarendon Press).







4. ASOKA xxii








12. " " " " lviii

13. " " " " lxii

































1. _Influence of Indian Thought in Eastern Asia_

Probably the first thought which will occur to the reader who is
acquainted with the matters treated in this work will be that the
subject is too large. A history of Hinduism or Buddhism or even of both
within the frontiers of India may be a profitable though arduous task,
but to attempt a historical sketch of the two faiths in their whole
duration and extension over Eastern Asia is to choose a scene unsuited
to any canvas which can be prepared at the present day. Not only is the
breadth of the landscape enormous but in some places it is crowded with
details which cannot be omitted while in others the principal features
are hidden by a mist which obscures the unity and connection of the
whole composition. No one can feel these difficulties more than I do
myself or approach his work with more diffidence, yet I venture to think
that wide surveys may sometimes be useful and are needed in the present
state of oriental studies. For the reality of Indian influence in
Asia—from Japan to the frontiers of Persia, from Manchuria to Java, from
Burma to Mongolia—is undoubted and the influence is one. You cannot
separate Hinduism from Buddhism, for without it Hinduism could not have
assumed its medieval shape and some forms of Buddhism, such as Lamaism,
countenance Brahmanic deities and ceremonies, while in Java and Camboja
the two religions were avowedly combined and declared to be the same.
Neither is it convenient to separate the fortunes of Buddhism and
Hinduism outside India from their history within it, for although the
importance of Buddhism depends largely on its foreign conquests, the
forms which it assumed in its new territories can be understood only by
reference to the religious condition of India at the periods when
successive missions were despatched.

This book then is an attempt to give a sketch of Indian thought or
Indian religion—for the two terms are nearly equivalent in extent—and of
its history and influence in Asia. I will not say in the world, for that
sounds too ambitious and really adds little to the more restricted
phrase. For ideas, like empires and races, have their natural frontiers.
Thus Europe may be said to be non-Mohammedan. Although the essential
principles of Mohammedanism seem in harmony with European monotheism,
yet it has been deliberately rejected by the continent and often
repelled by force. Similarly in the regions west of India[1], Indian
religion is sporadic and exotic. I do not think that it had much
influence on ancient Egypt, Babylon and Palestine or that it should be
counted among the forces which shaped the character and teaching of
Christ, though Christian monasticism and mysticism perhaps owed
something to it. The debt of Manichaeism and various Gnostic sects is
more certain and more considerable, but these communities have not
endured and were regarded as heretical while they lasted. Among the
Neoplatonists of Alexandria and the Sufis of Arabia and Persia many seem
to have listened to the voice of Hindu mysticism but rather as
individuals than as leaders of popular movements.

But in Eastern Asia the influence of India has been notable in extent,
strength and duration. Scant justice is done to her position in the
world by those histories which recount the exploits of her invaders and
leave the impression that her own people were a feeble, dreamy folk,
sundered from the rest of mankind by their sea and mountain frontiers.
Such a picture takes no account of the intellectual conquests of the
Hindus. Even their political conquests were not contemptible and were
remarkable for the distance if not for the extent of the territory
occupied. For there were Hindu kingdoms in Java and Camboja and
settlements in Sumatra[2] and even in Borneo, an island about as far
from India as is Persia from Rome. But such military or commercial
invasions are insignificant compared with the spread of Indian thought.
The south-eastern region of Asia—both mainland and archipelago—owed its
civilization almost entirely to India. In Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Camboja,
Champa and Java, religion, art, the alphabet, literature, as well as
whatever science and political organization existed, were the direct
gift of Hindus, whether Brahmans or Buddhists, and much the same may be
said of Tibet, whence the wilder Mongols took as much Indian
civilization as they could stomach. In Java and other Malay countries
this Indian culture has been superseded by Islam, yet even in Java the
alphabet and to a large extent the customs of the people are still

In the countries mentioned Indian influence has been dominant until the
present day, or at least until the advent of Islam. In another large
area comprising China, Japan, Korea, and Annam it appears as a layer
superimposed on Chinese culture, yet not a mere veneer. In these regions
Chinese ethics, literature and art form the major part of intellectual
life and have an outward and visible sign in the Chinese written
characters which have not been ousted by an Indian alphabet[3]. But in
all, especially in Japan, the influence of Buddhism has been profound
and penetrating. None of these lands can be justly described as Buddhist
in the same sense as Burma or Siam but Buddhism gave them a creed
acceptable in different forms to superstitious, emotional and
metaphysical minds: it provided subjects and models for art, especially
for painting, and entered into popular life, thought and language.

But what are Hinduism and Buddhism? What do they teach about gods and
men and the destinies of the soul? What ideals do they hold up and is
their teaching of value or at least of interest for Europe? I will not
at once answer these questions by general statements, because such names
as Hinduism and Buddhism have different meanings in different countries
and ages, but will rather begin by briefly reviewing the development of
the two religions. I hope that the reader will forgive me if in doing so
I repeat much that is to be found in the body of this work.

One general observation about India may be made at the outset. Here more
than in any other country the national mind finds its favourite
occupation and full expression in religion. This quality is geographical
rather than racial, for it is possessed by Dravidians as much as by
Aryans. From the Raja to the peasant most Hindus have an interest in
theology and often a passion for it. Few works of art or literature are
purely secular: the intellectual and aesthetic efforts of India, long,
continuous and distinguished as they are, are monotonous inasmuch as
they are almost all the expression of some religious phase. But the
religion itself is extraordinarily full and varied. The love of
discussion and speculation creates considerable variety in practice and
almost unlimited variety in creed and theory. There are few dogmas known
to the theologies of the world which are not held by some of India's
multitudinous sects[4] and it is perhaps impossible to make a single
general statement about Hinduism, to which some sects would not prove an
exception. Any such statements in this book must be understood as
referring merely to the great majority of Hindus.

As a form of life and thought Hinduism is definite and unmistakeable. In
whatever shape it presents itself it can be recognized at once. But it
is so vast and multitudinous that only an encyclopedia could describe it
and no formula can summarize it. Essayists flounder among conflicting
propositions such as that sectarianism is the essence of Hinduism or
that no educated Hindu belongs to a sect. Either can easily be proved,
for it may be said of Hinduism, as it has been said of zoology, that you
can prove anything if you merely collect facts which support your theory
and not those which conflict with it. Hence many distinguished writers
err by overestimating the phase which specially interests them. For one
the religious life of India is fundamentally monotheistic and Vishnuite:
for another philosophic Sivaism is its crown and quintessence: a third
maintains with equal truth that all forms of Hinduism are tantric. All
these views are tenable because though Hindu life may be cut up into
castes and sects, Hindu creeds are not mutually exclusive and repellent.
They attract and colour one another.

2. _Origin and Growth of Hinduism_

The earliest product of Indian literature, the Rig Veda, contains the
songs of the Aryan invaders who were beginning to make a home in India.
Though no longer nomads, they had little local sentiment. No cities had
arisen comparable with Babylon or Thebes and we hear little of ancient
kingdoms or dynasties. Many of the gods who occupied so much of their
thoughts were personifications of natural forces such as the sun, wind
and fire, worshipped without temples or images and hence more indefinite
in form, habitation and attributes than the deities of Assyria or Egypt.
The idea of a struggle between good and evil was not prominent. In
Persia, where the original pantheon was almost the same as that of the
Veda, this idea produced monotheism: the minor deities became angels and
the chief deity a Lord of hosts who wages a successful struggle against
an independent but still inferior spirit of evil. But in India the
Spirits of Good and Evil are not thus personified. The world is regarded
less as a battlefield of principles than as a theatre for the display of
natural forces. No one god assumes lordship over the others but all are
seen to be interchangeable—mere names and aspects of something which is
greater than any god.

Indian religion is commonly regarded as the offspring of an Aryan
religion, brought into India by invaders from the north and modified by
contact with Dravidian civilization. The materials at our disposal
hardly permit us to take any other point of view, for the literature of
the Vedic Aryans is relatively ancient and full and we have no
information about the old Dravidians comparable with it. But were our
knowledge less one-sided, we might see that it would be more correct to
describe Indian religion as Dravidian religion stimulated and modified
by the ideas of Aryan invaders. For the greatest deities of Hinduism,
Siva, Krishna, Râma, Durgâ and some of its most essential doctrines such
as metempsychosis and divine incarnations, are either totally unknown to
the Veda or obscurely adumbrated in it. The chief characteristics of
mature Indian religion are characteristics of an area, not of a race,
and they are not the characteristics of religion in Persia, Greece or
other Aryan lands[5].

Some writers explain Indian religion as the worship of nature spirits,
others as the veneration of the dead. But it is a mistake to see in the
religion of any large area only one origin or impulse. The principles
which in a learned form are championed to-day by various professors
represent thoughts which were creative in early times. In ancient India
there were some whose minds turned to their ancestors and dead friends
while others saw divinity in the wonders of storm, spring and harvest.
Krishna is in the main a product of hero worship, but Śiva has no such
historical basis. He personifies the powers of birth and death, of
change, decay and rebirth—in fact all that we include in the prosaic
word nature. Assuredly both these lines of thought—the worship of nature
and of the dead—and perhaps many others existed in ancient India.

By the time of the Upanishads, that is about 600 B.C., we trace three
clear currents in Indian religion which have persisted until the present
day. The first is ritual. This became extraordinarily complicated but
retained its primitive and magical character. The object of an ancient
Indian sacrifice was partly to please the gods but still more to coerce
them by certain acts and formulae[6]. Secondly all Hindus lay stress on
asceticism and self-mortification, as a means of purifying the soul and
obtaining supernatural powers. They have a conviction that every man who
is in earnest about religion and even every student of philosophy must
follow a discipline at least to the extent of observing chastity and
eating only to support life. Severer austerities give clearer insight
into divine mysteries and control over the forces of nature. Europeans
are apt to condemn eastern asceticism as a waste of life but it has had
an important moral effect. The weakness of Hinduism, though not of
Buddhism, is that ethics have so small a place in its fundamental
conceptions. Its deities are not identified with the moral law and the
saint is above that law. But this dangerous doctrine is corrected by the
dogma, which is also a popular conviction, that a saint must be a
passionless ascetic. In India no religious teacher can expect a hearing
unless he begins by renouncing the world.

Thirdly, the deepest conviction of Hindus in all ages is that salvation
and happiness are attainable by knowledge. The corresponding phrases in
Sanskrit are perhaps less purely intellectual than our word and contain
some idea of effort and emotion. He who knows God attains to God, nay he
is God. Rites and self-denial are but necessary preliminaries to such
knowledge: he who possesses it stands above them. It is inconceivable to
the Hindus that he should care for the things of the world but he cares
equally little for creeds and ceremonies. Hence, side by side with
irksome codes, complicated ritual and elaborate theology, we find the
conviction that all these things are but vanity and weariness, fetters
to be shaken off by the free in spirit. Nor do those who hold such views
correspond to the anti-clerical and radical parties of Europe. The
ascetic sitting in the temple court often holds that the rites performed
around him are spiritually useless and the gods of the shrine mere
fanciful presentments of that which cannot be depicted or described.

Rather later, but still before the Christian era, another idea makes
itself prominent in Indian religion, namely faith or devotion to a
particular deity. This idea, which needs no explanation, is pushed on
the one hand to every extreme of theory and practice: on the other it
rarely abolishes altogether the belief in ritualism, asceticism and

Any attempt to describe Hinduism as one whole leads to startling
contrasts. The same religion enjoins self-mortification and orgies:
commands human sacrifices and yet counts it a sin to eat meat or crush
an insect: has more priests, rites and images than ancient Egypt or
medieval Rome and yet out does Quakers in rejecting all externals. These
singular features are connected with the ascendancy of the Brahman
caste. The Brahmans are an interesting social phenomenon without exact
parallel elsewhere. They are not, like the Catholic or Moslem clergy, a
priesthood pledged to support certain doctrines but an intellectual,
hereditary aristocracy who claim to direct the thought of India whatever
forms it may take. All who admit this claim and accord a nominal
recognition to the authority of the Veda are within the spacious fold or
menagerie. Neither the devil-worshipping aboriginee nor the atheistic
philosopher is excommunicated, though neither may be relished by average

Though Hinduism has no one creed, yet there are at least two doctrines
held by nearly all who call themselves Hindus. One may be described as
polytheistic pantheism. Most Hindus are apparently polytheists, that is
to say they venerate the images of several deities or spirits, yet most
are monotheists in the sense that they address their worship to one god.
But this monotheism has almost always a pantheistic tinge. The Hindu
does not say the gods of the heathen are but idols, but it is the Lord
who made the heavens: he says, My Lord (Râma, Krishna or whoever it may
be) is all the other gods. Some schools would prefer to say that no
human language applied to the Godhead can be correct and that all ideas
of a personal ruler of the world are at best but relative truths. This
ultimate ineffable Godhead is called Brahman[7].

The second doctrine is commonly known as metempsychosis, the
transmigration of souls or reincarnation, the last name being the most
correct. In detail the doctrine assumes various forms since different
views are held about the relation of soul to body. But the essence of
all is the same, namely that a life does not begin at birth or end at
death but is a link in an infinite series of lives, each of which is
conditioned and determined by the acts done in previous existences
(karma). Animal, human and divine (or at least angelic) existences may
all be links in the chain. A man's deeds, if good, may exalt him to the
heavens, if evil may degrade him to life as a beast. Since all lives,
even in heaven, must come to an end, happiness is not to be sought in
heaven or on earth. The common aspiration of the religious Indian is for
deliverance, that is release from the round of births and repose in some
changeless state called by such names as union with Brahman, nirvana and
many others.

3. _The Buddha_

As observed above, the Brahmans claim to direct the religious life and
thought of India and apart from Mohammedanism may be said to have
achieved their ambition, though at the price of tolerating much that the
majority would wish to suppress. But in earlier ages their influence was
less extensive and there were other currents of religious activity, some
hostile and some simply independent. The most formidable of these found
expression in Jainism and Buddhism both of which arose in Bihar in the
sixth century[8] B.C. This century was a time of intellectual ferment in
many countries. In China it produced Lao-tz[u] and Confucius: in Greece,
Parmenides, Empedocles, and the sophists were only a little later. In
all these regions we have the same phenomenon of restless, wandering
teachers, ready to give advice on politics, religion or philosophy, to
any one who would hear them.

At that time the influence of the Brahmans had hardly permeated Bihar,
though predominant to the west of it, and speculation there followed
lines different from those laid down in the Upanishads, but of some
antiquity, for we know that there were Buddhas before Gotama and that
Mahâvîra, the founder of Jainism, reformed the doctrine of an older
teacher called Parśva.

In Gotama's youth Bihar was full of wandering philosophers who appear to
have been atheistic and disposed to uphold the boldest paradoxes,
intellectual and moral. There must however have been constructive
elements in their doctrine, for they believed in reincarnation and the
periodic appearance of superhuman teachers and in the advantage of
following an ascetic discipline. They probably belonged chiefly to the
warrior caste as did Gotama, the Buddha known to history. The Pitakas
represent him as differing in details from contemporary teachers but as
rediscovering the truth taught by his predecessors. They imply that the
world is so constituted that there is only one way to emancipation and
that from time to time superior minds see this and announce it to
others. Still Buddhism does not in practice use such formulae as living
in harmony with the laws of nature.

Indian literature is notoriously concerned with ideas rather than facts
but the vigorous personality of the Buddha has impressed on it a
portrait more distinct than that left by any other teacher or king. His
work had a double effect. Firstly it influenced all departments of Hindu
religion and thought, even those nominally opposed to it. Secondly it
spread not only Buddhism in the strict sense but Indian art and
literature beyond the confines of India. The expansion of Hindu culture
owes much to the doctrine that the Good Law should be preached to all

The teaching of Gotama was essentially practical. This statement may
seem paradoxical to the reader who has some acquaintance with the
Buddhist scriptures and he will exclaim that of all religious books they
are the least practical and least popular: they set up an anti-social
ideal and are mainly occupied with psychological theories. But the
Buddha addressed a public such as we now find it hard even to imagine.
In those days the intellectual classes of India felt the ordinary
activities of life to be unsatisfying: they thought it natural to
renounce the world and mortify the flesh: divergent systems of ritual,
theology and self-denial promised happiness but all agreed in thinking
it normal as well as laudable that a man should devote his life to
meditation and study. Compared with this frame of mind the teaching of
the Buddha is not unsocial, unpractical and mysterious but human,
business-like and clear. We are inclined to see in the monastic life
which he recommended little but a useless sacrifice but it is evident
that in the opinion of his contemporaries his disciples had an easy
time, and that he had no intention of prescribing any cramped or
unnatural existence. He accepted the current conviction that those who
devote themselves to the things of the mind and spirit should be
released from worldly ties and abstain from luxury but he meant his
monks to live a life of sustained intellectual activity for themselves
and of benevolence for others. His teaching is formulated in severe and
technical phraseology, yet the substance of it is so simple that many
have criticized it as too obvious and jejune to be the basis of a
religion. But when he first enunciated his theses some two thousand five
hundred years ago, they were not obvious but revolutionary and little
less than paradoxical.

The principal of these propositions are as follows. The existence of
everything depends on a cause: hence if the cause of evil or suffering
can be detected and removed, evil itself will be removed. That cause is
lust and craving for pleasure[9]. Hence all sacrificial and sacramental
religions are irrelevant, for the cure which they propose has nothing to
do with the disease. The cause of evil or suffering is removed by
purifying the heart and by following the moral law which sets high value
on sympathy and social duties, but an equally high value on the
cultivation of individual character. But training and cultivation imply
the possibility of change. Hence it is a fatal mistake in the religious
life to hold a view common in India which regards the essence of man as
something unchangeable and happy in itself, if it can only be isolated
from physical trammels. On the contrary the happy mind is something to
be built up by good thoughts, good words and good deeds. In its origin
the Buddha's celebrated doctrine that there is no permanent self in
persons or things is not a speculative proposition, nor a sentimental
lament over the transitoriness of the world, but a basis for religion
and morals. You will never be happy unless you realize that you can make
and remake your own soul.

These simple principles and the absence of all dogmas as to God or
Brahman distinguish the teaching of Gotama from most Indian systems, but
he accepted the usual Indian beliefs about Karma and rebirth and with
them the usual conclusion that release from the series of rebirths is
the _summum bonum_. This deliverance he called saintship (_arahattam_)
or nirvana of which I shall say something below. In early Buddhism it is
primarily a state of happiness to be attained in this life and the
Buddha persistently refused to explain what is the nature of a saint
after death. The question is unprofitable and perhaps he would have
said, had he spoken our language, unmeaning. Later generations did not
hesitate to discuss the problem but the Buddha's own teaching is simply
that a man can attain before death to a blessed state in which he has
nothing to fear from either death or rebirth.

The Buddha attacked both the ritual and the philosophy of the Brahmans.
After his time the sacrificial system, though it did not die, never
regained its old prestige and he profoundly affected the history of
Indian metaphysics. It may be justly said that most of his philosophic
as distinguished from his practical teaching was common property before
his time, but he transmuted common ideas and gave them a currency and
significance which they did not possess before. But he was less
destructive as a religious and social reformer than many have supposed.
He did not deny the existence nor forbid the worship of the popular
gods, but such worship is not Buddhism and the gods are merely angels
who may be willing to help good Buddhists but are in no wise guides to
religion, since they need instruction themselves. And though he denied
that the Brahmans were superior by birth to others, he did not preach
against caste, partly because it then existed only in a rudimentary
form. But he taught that the road to salvation was one and open to all
who were able to walk in it[10], whether Hindus or foreigners. All may
not have the necessary qualifications of intellect and character to
become monks but all can be good laymen, for whom the religious life
means the observance of morality combined with such simple exercises as
reading the scriptures. It is clear that this lay Buddhism had much to
do with the spread of the faith. The elemental simplicity of its
principles—namely that religion is open to all and identical with
morality—made a clean sweep of Brahmanic theology and sacrifices and put
in its place something like Confucianism. But the innate Indian love for
philosophizing and ritual caused generation after generation to add more
and more supplements to the Master's teaching and it is only outside
India that it has been preserved in any purity.

4. _Asoka_

Gotama spent his life in preaching and by his personal exertions spread
his doctrines over Bihar and Oudh but for two centuries after his death
we know little of the history of Buddhism. In the reign of Asoka
(273-232 B.C.) its fortunes suddenly changed, for this great Emperor
whose dominions comprised nearly all India made it the state religion
and also engraved on rocks and pillars a long series of edicts recording
his opinions and aspirations. Buddhism is often criticized as a gloomy
and unpractical creed, suited at best to stoical and scholarly recluses.
But these are certainly not its characteristics when it first appears in
political history, just as they are not its characteristics in Burma or
Japan to-day. Both by precept and example Asoka was an ardent exponent
of the strenuous life. In his first edict he lays down the principle
"Let small and great exert themselves" and in subsequent inscriptions he
continually harps upon the necessity of energy and exertion. The Law or
Religion (Dhamma) which his edicts enjoin is merely human and civic
virtue, except that it makes respect for animal life an integral part of
morality. In one passage he summarizes it as "Little impiety, many good
deeds, compassion, liberality, truthfulness and purity." He makes no
reference to a supreme deity, but insists on the reality and importance
of the future life. Though he does not use the word _Karma_ this is
clearly the conception which dominates his philosophy: those who do good
are happy in this world and the next but those who fail in their duty
win neither heaven nor the royal favour. The king's creed is remarkable
in India for its great simplicity. He deprecates superstitious
ceremonies and says nothing of Nirvana but dwells on morality as
necessary to happiness in this life and others. This is not the whole of
Gotama's teaching but two centuries after his death a powerful and
enlightened Buddhist gives it as the gist of Buddhism for laymen.

Asoka wished to make Buddhism the creed not only of India but of the
world as known to him and he boasts that he extended his "conquests of
religion" to the Hellenistic kingdoms of the west. If the missions which
he despatched thither reached their destination, there is little
evidence that they bore any fruit, but the conversion of Ceylon and some
districts in the Himalayas seems directly due to his initiative.

5. _Extension of Buddhism and Hinduism beyond India_

This is perhaps a convenient place to review the extension of Buddhism
and Hinduism outside India. To do so at this point implies of course an
anticipation of chronology, but to delay the survey might blind the
reader to the fact that from the time of Asoka onward India was engaged
not only in creating but also in exporting new varieties of religious

The countries which have received Indian culture fall into two classes:
first those to which it came as a result of religious missions or of
peaceful international intercourse, and second those where it was
established after conquest or at least colonization. In the first class
the religion introduced was Buddhism. If, as in Tibet, it seems to us
mixed with Hinduism, yet it was a mixture which at the date of its
introduction passed in India for Buddhism. But in the second and smaller
class including Java, Camboja and Champa the immigrants brought with
them both Hinduism and Buddhism. The two systems were often declared to
be the same but the result was Hinduism mixed with some Buddhism, not
_vice versâ_.

The countries of the first class comprise Ceylon, Burma and Siam,
Central Asia, Nepal, China with Annam, Korea and Japan, Tibet with
Mongolia. The Buddhism of the first three countries[11] is a real unity
or in European language a church, for though they have no common
hierarchy they use the same sacred language, Pali, and have the same
canon. Burma and Siam have repeatedly recognized Ceylon as a sort of
metropolitan see and on the other hand when religion in Ceylon fell on
evil days the clergy were recruited from Burma and Siam. In the other
countries Buddhism presents greater differences and divisions. It had no
one sacred language and in different regions used either Sanskrit texts
or translations into Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian and the languages of
Central Asia.

1. Ceylon. There is no reason to doubt that Buddhism was introduced
under the auspices of Asoka. Though the invasions and settlements of
Tamils have brought Hinduism into Ceylon, yet none of the later and
mixed forms of Buddhism, in spite of some attempts to gain a footing,
ever flourished there on a large scale. Sinhalese Buddhism had probably
a closer connection with southern India than the legend suggests and
Conjevaram was long a Buddhist centre which kept up intercourse with
both Ceylon and Burma.

2. Burma. The early history of Burmese Buddhism is obscure and its
origin probably complex, since at many different periods it may have
received teachers from both India and China. The present dominant type
(identical with the Buddhism of Ceylon) existed before the sixth
century[12] and tradition ascribes its introduction both to the labours
of Buddhaghosa and to the missionaries of Asoka. There was probably a
connection between Pegu and Conjevaram. In the eleventh century Burmese
Buddhism had become extremely corrupt except in Pegu but King Anawrata
conquered Pegu and spread a purer form throughout his dominions.

3. Siam. The Thai race, who starting from somewhere in the Chinese
province of Yünnan began to settle in what is now called Siam about the
beginning of the twelfth century, probably brought with them some form
of Buddhism. About 1300 the possessions of Râma Komhëng, King of Siam,
included Pegu and Pali Buddhism prevailed among his subjects. Somewhat
later, in 1361, a high ecclesiastic was summoned from Ceylon to arrange
the affairs of the church but not, it would seem, to introduce any new
doctrine. Pegu was the centre from which Pali Buddhism spread to upper
Burma in the eleventh century and it probably performed the same service
for Siam later. The modern Buddhism of Camboja is simply Siamese
Buddhism which filtered into the country from about 1250 onwards. The
older Buddhism of Camboja, for which see below, was quite different.

At the courts of Siam and Camboja, as formerly in Burma, there are
Brahmans who perform state ceremonies and act as astrologers. Though
they have little to do with the religion of the people, their presence
explains the predominance of Indian rather than Chinese influence in
these countries.

4. Tradition says that Indian colonists settled in Khotan during the
reign of Asoka, but no precise date can at present be fixed for the
introduction of Buddhism into the Tarim basin and other regions commonly
called Central Asia. But it must have been flourishing there about the
time of the Christian era, since it spread thence to China not later
than the middle of the first century. There were two schools
representing two distinct currents from India. First the Sarvâstivâdin
school, prevalent in Badakshan, Kashgar and Kucha, secondly the Mahâyâna
in Khotan and Yarkand. The spread of the former was no doubt connected
with the growth of the Kushan Empire but may be anterior to the
conversion of Kanishka, for though he gave a great impetus to the
propagation of the faith, it is probable that, like most royal converts,
he favoured an already popular religion. The Mahâyâna subsequently won
much territory from the other school.

5. As in other countries, so in China Buddhism entered by more than one
road. It came first by land from Central Asia.

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