« PrécédentContinuer »
otherwise obtained. When we consider, with regard to this question, the extracts which have already been made from the Maha-wansi, there seems to be an evidence of some simple reference to early events connected with genuine history; a fact, which in our view of the case, goes far to confirm the priority of the mythology of Budha ; and when, in the progress of oriental literature, we shall have more clearly deciphered the Singalese writings, we may gain information of importance on its more ancient history; and especially of that eventful period when the Brahmins expelled the Budhists from the Peninsula of India, and the latter became thenceforth located in Ceylon. The source and origin of this quarrel, still remaining in full force, will solve the interesting problem, and reduce the Brahminical pretensions, which are so “cunningly devised,” to the limits of truth and the precincts of legitimate history.
The only tangible epocha of antiquity which the Budhists can pretend to claim, will not carry us further back than 1000 years before the Christian era. Sakia, or Xaca Sinka, according to the Chinese, is placed 1029 A. C. The Thibetian accounts make the era of this Budha still more recent. In the annals of Magadan princes, a change of dynasty, connected
with religious opinions, took place about 1000 years A. C.; and, according to the authority of Sir William Jones, and the Sanscrit inscription at Budha Gaya, a Budha was born 1014 A. C.
The Budha Gaudma, who may be singled out as the most distinguished founder of the faith of Budhism, and whose adventures in the harlequinade pantomime of Wessantara, and the 550 changes of his metempsychosis,) cut so conspicuous a figure in the Singalese mythology, and are seen in their chambers of imagery, pourtrayed on the walls round about,” cannot claim a more distant epocha than 550 years A.C. This is the only tangible graft on the parent stock of ancient Budhism. Mr. Upham remarks, that “ Budhism is in itself a primitive doctrine of parallel pretensions with Brahminism; that the latter faith recognizes its earlier doctrine, and incorporates its author with its philosophy; that the
fatal wars which drove Budhism from India, originated in the principles which we trace in the revival of the present system of the doctrine of Budha; and that the most important link therein, is manifestly the doctrine of metempsychosis ; a principle alike subsisting both in the anterior eras, and in the present Budha-verouse, or law of Gaudma.”
“Turning your eyes," says that eloquent and accomplished scholar, Sir William Jones, « in idea, to the North, you have on your right many important kingdoms in the eastern peninsula : the ancient and wonderful empire of China, with all her Tartarian dependencies ; and that of Japan, with the cluster of precious islands in which so many singular curiosities have too long been concealed. Before you lies that prodigious chain of mountains, which formerly, perhaps, were a barrier against the violence of the sea; and beyond them the very interesting country of Tibet, and the vast regions of Tartary.” Over these immense territories, together with those beyond the Ganges, the Burmese empire, and the kingdoms of Siam, Cambodia, and Cochin-China, did the religion of Budhism once extend and hold the nations in subjection; and though Hindūism now sways, in these countries, the mythological sceptre of Brahma, it is not difficult to decipher the ancient tenets of the parent belief. Mackenzie, in describing a temple of Budha at Villigaam, mentions, among the figures of the mythological paintings, a large white elephant; and we know how remarkably attached to the monopoly of this animal is the king of Siam, who covets no title more lofty than that of the “ king of the white elephants :" with whom, the possession of a white elephant by a neighbouring potentate, would be the tocsin for war; and whose fourfooted estate seem to be fed in “ lordly dishes,” having their food served up to them in golden vessels, and their feet bathed in silver basins. The states of Indo-China admit their having received their arts and religion from the kingdom of Ceylon. There can be no doubt that Mexican
mythology was connected, in one of the epochas of its his
tory at any rate, with that of Budha.
e are inclined to attach little respect to the wild fictions and extravagant legends of the eastern mythologies, or to the moral qualities or mental attainments of the disciples of Budha or Vishnu, who would consider the relics of a Budha as the spolia opima of conquest; and for the possession of “the holy tooth of Gaudma” would
provoke an exterminating war. We hold in low estimation the astronomy which teaches that, in an eclipse of the moon, a mighty dragon devours it ; but is induced to let the morsel go in consequence of the hideous yells of ignorance. We think that geography little worth which teaches that the world is a flower, of which India is the blossom or golden chalice, and other countries the foliage ;-neither are we inclined to attach confidence to the barometrical or geometrical measurement which assigns to the mountains of Meru an altitude of twenty thousand miles; nor to the chronology which ascribes to the first joque or age of the world, a duration of thirty-two millions of years; and to the life of man, in this period, a range of one hundred thousand years: his stature, too, being of corresponding dimensions, namely, twenty-one cubits, or thirty-seven feet nearly. These seem quite in character, and altogether conformable to the legends of the puranas and the fables of Bidpai.
The caves of Elora are in harmony with the land of elephants. The legends of fable are peopled with tenants of an unearthly size and mould. Interminable periods and awful forms of gigantic majesty bespeak the tone and temper of fable. Just as, when we ascend some lofty eminence, our shadow, falling on the mantle of mists which hover round the mountain, adumbrates a terrific and gigantic form; so, the legends of the past, when reflected from an opaque mass composed of the mists of superstition, seem to shadow forth beings like Ossian's ghosts—“dim forms of uncircumscribed shade." Let an enlightened philosophy take up the jutakas, (the chief books of the Budhists,) and the institutes of Menù, admitted by the Brahmins to con
tain their purest code, and which embrace their vedas, and puranas, (theistic and philosophic works,) and compare them with the Sacred Volume; the wellinformed mind will be at no loss about coming to a decision. The rays which fall on the shasters of the east, from the lamp of truth, only discover to us, “a darkness which might be felt,” — deeper than that which brooded over the land of Egypt, when
no man knew his brother.”
The astronomical tables of the Hindoos, about which infidelity had been so busy, and which it had hailed as a triumph to its cause, must, from our premises, rest on debatable ground, and render the notions of M. Bailly and his commentator, Playfair, very suspicious. There can be no doubt of Playfair's infidelity ; but, it is truth that is the question at issue; and we, therefore, overlook the sneer about “superstition. It seems that Playfair avowed his conviction of the accuracy and solidity of M. Bailly's calculations and reasonings, which, according to him, made the observations on which the Hindoo chronology were formed, 3000 years before the Christian era; but, according to Delambre, notwithstanding these pretensions of Playfair, (which lead us to infer that he had absolutely verified, by positive calculations, Bailly's results,) he had not even discovered a gross error in the divisor, which neutralized the entire conclusions. This is a very serious impeachment of Playfair; but truth has reluctantly extorted it from Delambre, who had no friendly feelings toward the question of Revelation ; and whose evidence, therefore, cannot be suspected. Laplace, in his Système du Monde, in reference to these tables of Indian chronology, says, that they are not of high antiquity, and tells us, moreover, that one of the epochas is necessarily fictitious, and the other not grounded on observation. None, at all acquainted with Laplace's works, will believe that he was much removed from downright atheism ; at least, his “System of the World,” and “ Theory of Probabilities," seem to carry too lamentable proofs of this miserable defection ; unless the figures he makes to dance
at the close of the former work are to be accepted as the Deity. Delambre observes of Bailly—“he never writes but to prop a system framed beforehand; he glances slightly over the writings of the ancients, reading them in bad translations; and runs over all the calculations, in order to pick out obscure passages which may lend some countenance to his ideas.” This portrait of Bailly, drawn by one of his own countrymen, is not a very flattering one.
Fas est ab hoste doceri." Cuvier's remarks are very interesting and conclusive: “ The whole system of the Indian tables, so elaborately conceived, falls to pieces of itself, now that it has been proved that this epocha was adopted from calculations retrospectively made, the result of which is false. Mr. Bentley has discovered that the tables of Tirvalour, on which the assertions of Bailly were principally founded, must have been computed towards the year 1281; and that the Sourya-Siddhanta, which the Brahmins esteem their most ancient scientific treatise on astronomy, pretending that it was given by revelation more than twenty millions of years since, could have been composed only seven hundred and sixty-seven years before our own period.” We have also the authority of Mr. Davis, who has diligently examined the Hindoo astronomical writings, and who confirms the conclusion, that they are founded on a retrograde calculation, exactly as our Julian period has been. M. Delambre thus concludes his remarks on the subject :
“. It appears, there does not exist, at present, a single Hindoo book which can possess an antiquity higher than one thousand three hundred years, if it makes the slightest mention of these enormous periods; and none of the romances called puranas, date farther back, from the present time, than six hundred and four years, while some of them are more modern still.” Thus has the frost-work of the Hindoo chronology dissolved in the sunbeam of truth, and left the Biblical chronology triumphantly victorious. We are warranted, therefore, exultingly to