Page images

ment. The challenge was accepted by Nágásena, and the whole body of monks returned to Ságala which once more “glittered with the yellow robes” of the Buddhist fraternities. The disputation, which was held in the king's palace in the presence of ten selected Sthaviras, ended in the immediate conversion of Milindu to Buddhism, and in his ultimate ordination as a monk.

8. The teaching of Nágárjuna extended through the reigns of Milindu of Sakala, and of Kanishka of Kashmir.* By his influence five hundred Kashmirian Arhans were deputed to Tibet for the propagation of Buddhism, and to the enthusiasm created by his example must be attributed the contemporary extension of the Buddhist religion to the island of Java at the beginning of the Christian era, when twenty thousand families arrived from India.t The conversion of the Javanese to the faith of Sákya is attested by the numerous Buddhist remains, which still exist on the island.

9. About twenty years later, when the sophist Apollonius visited India, the dominion of the Parthian Bardanes extended to the banks of the Indus. I A petty chief named Phraortes reigned at Taxila; and a more powerful but nameless sovereign possessed all the country between the Hyphasis and the Ganges. The whole story of this sophist's travels is so full of fables that it is difficult to know what to believe and what to reject; but from the agreement of several passages, it may be inferred that both of the Indian kings were Buddhists. The Gangetic prince abstained from animal food, * and his Sag'es (that is wise "men, or Bauddhas) let their hair grow long, wore white mitres on their heads, and had no clothing save short tunics. This is an exact description of the Bodhisatwa, or upper class of Buddhist monks, who throughout the Sánchi bas-reliefs are représented seated in abstract meditation with long hair, covered by a low conical cap or mitre, and with no clothing save the kilt or sangháti.

• Csoma, Tibetan Grammar, p. 182, states that Nagarjuna was born in B.c. 93. The Raja Tarangini places him 500 years after the death of Buddha, and makes him a contemporary of the IndoScythian Kanishka.

+ Klaproth, in Prinsep's Useful Tables, places this event between the years 24—57, A.D. Raffles, Java üi. 69, places it in A.D. 10. The difference is only a few years.

| Philostratus, ii. 18. Tacitus, Ann. xi. 10.

10. For the next four centuries the history of India is almost a blank; and for this dark period we must be guided by the feeble glimmer of a few slight notices preserved by the Chinese. From them we learn that the Yuchi or Scythian Tochári retained their power in Northern India until the beginning of the third century of our era.t They abstained from wine and from animal food, and practised the law of Buddha. The prevalence of Buddhism at this period is also attested by several classical authors, of whom

* Pbilostratus, iii. 15-26.

+ Until A. D. 222. See Chinese account of India, in Prinsep's Journal, vi. 63.

Klemens of Alexandria is the most precise. He flourished from 180 to 230 A.D., when the power of the Yuchi was already on the decline. The Brahmans are said to have been worshippers of Herakles and Pan; while the Exuvo (Srámanas or Monks) and the Etuvai (Srámanás or Nuns) were distinguished by the worship of certain pyramids which they believed to contain the bones of some God.* This is a most accurate description of the Buddhist fraternities, with their adoration for Topes or Chaityas, which contained relics of Buddha, or of some of his more eminent disciples and followers.

11. About a century later (A. D. 270-303), the learned Porphyrius divided the Gymnosophists (or half-naked philosophers of India) into two classes, the Brachmanes and Samanæi : the former being a family or tribe, the latter a mixture of all classes.t The Samanæi or Srámanas shaved their heads, wore nothing but a stole or tunic, abandoned their families and property, and lived together in colleges outside the city walls. Their time was spent in holy conversation, and at the sound of a bell they assembled for prayers; for the monks no longer begged their daily bread, but each received his dish of rice from the

* Σεβoυσι τινα πυραμιδα υφην οστεα τινος θεου.

+ Ε' ξ ενός γαρ πατρός και μίας μητρός παντες διάγουσι ; that is, the Brahmans--but of the Sramanas, he says, Sapavali our cioè του γένους αυτών, αλλ' εκ παντός του των Ινδών έθνους, ωσ έφαμεν, συνειλεγμένοι.

king. Colonel Sykes * has already remarked the close agreement of this description with the account of the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hian, who travelled through India just one century after the death of Porphyrius. But the details given by Porphyrius become the more valuable, when we know that his own religion and philosophical principles were almost the same as those of the Indian Buddhists. He believed in one Supreme Being; and held that “Reason” or Intellect (Buddha) was superior to “ Nature” (Dharma); for by reason we are uplifted towards the Deity, while we are only degraded by our natural appetites and material desires. Man's chief object therefore should be to free himself from all outward and sensual influences. With this view Porphyrius rejected animal food, and refrained from making material offerings to the Supreme Being, because all material objects are unclean. Like the Buddhist also Porphyrius recognized four degrees or classes of virtue, of which the lowest was political virtue, or the moral goodness acquired by temperance and moderation of the passions. The next grade was purifying virtue, in which man has entirely conquered all human affections. In the third grade man is wholly influenced by Reason, and more and more resembles the Deity, until at last he has acquired such perfection that he becomes “one with the one

• Notes on Ancient India, in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Supreme Being.' These principles have so much in common with the doctrines of Buddhism, that we can only account for the coincidence by supposing that Porphyrius must have possessed the most ample and correct details of the religious beliefs and philosophical speculations which then prevailed in India. We need therefore no longer wonder at the accuracy with which he has described the daily discipline and outward observances of the Buddhist monks. The learned Pagan was in fact a European Buddhist.

12. The travels of Palladius and of the Thebæan Scholastikos only preceded the pilgrimage of Fa Hian by a few years. The former, it is true, did not reach India ; but he could have obtained much information regarding the Indians from the merchants of Egypt and of Persia ; and he gives at some length the account of Scholastikos, who was detained for six years as a prisoner in the pepper districts of Malabar. The result of his information is given in some imaginary conversations between Alexander the Great and the Indian Sage Dandamis; in which the Indian declares that “God, the great king, causes injury to no man; but gives light, peace, and life, a human body and soul; and that God was his master and only Lord.” This sage Dandimis was therefore a monotheistic Buddhist, as indeed might be inferred from his name which is evidently a compound of

* C. P. Mason: Article Porphyrius, in Dr. Smith's New Biographical Dictionary.

« PreviousContinue »