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In this vast extent of country Buddha is known under numerous names, and has been identified by learned European writers, alike with the patriarchs of our own sacred history, the sovereigns of Egypt, and the princes of Hindustan. Some have supposed him to have been Noah, Moses, &c.; others Sesac or Sesostris of Egypt; while others, again, have imagined him to have been the same with Woden, the god of the Scandinavians, whose worship extended during the barbarous ages over the various kingdoms of the west. It will be unnecessary to discuss these theories, as it is my object to describe the practices and the creeds of the Hindu religions, as far as I can comprehend them, as they actually prevail, rather than to enter upon abstruse arguments, which, after all, would be only heaping another conjecture upon the unstable pile that has already preceded it. Buddha is now worshipped in Ceylon and the Burman empire, under the name of Gautama or Gaudama. It is variously spelt, but there is no distinct difference in the sound. He has many names, some of which are derived from the postures in which he is placed. In Siam he is called Pout and Sommonokodum ; Pott or Pote, in Thibet; Saka, in China; Xaka, in Japan; and Chacabout, in Tonquin China. Neither Xaka nor Chacabout, at the time of the Hollanders' embassies to Japan, or Taverner's visit to Tonquin China, appear to have been held either in exclusive worship or in the first estimation. The image of Xaka, as represented in Japan, will be seen in fig. 4, plate 37, and noticed farther under the article JAPAN. In the same degree of consideration, according to Dr. F. Buchanan, Buddha would appear to have been held by the Cochin Chinese; but according to Mr. Finlayson, who accompanied Mr. Craufurd’s mission in 1821-2, they seemed to have had no religion at all; at least none that he could comprehend ; unless a belief in charms, putting raw meat on their altars, and scattering scraps of gilt and painted paper, could be termed such. Various data have been assigned to the period of Buddha's existence on earth. The most correct seems to be about five hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ. Whatever pretensions to divinity Buddha may have had previous to his appearance on earth, Gautama (or under what other name he may be known) the present Buddha, was born the son of Soododama Rajah, king of Giamba Dwipa. His mother was Maya Maha. He lived in a most happy, and of course correct manner with his queen Yessadra and forty thousand concubines for thirty-one years, when he turned ascetic for six years, to become a god or something like one. In this brief space of time his sanctity and austerities swept away all preceding peccadilloes. IIe was then Buddha for forty-five years, when he died, and ascended to the “hall of glory.” His government on earth has been since that time, and will be for about two thousand five hundred years more, administered by his regent, Maha Brahma.
But whatsoever Buddha may have been, the doctrines that he inculcated were those of virtue, justice, and benevolence: so that those related of the ninth avatar, and those now ascribed to common practice, are in perfect accordance with each other. His commandments were originally only five; but were afterwards increased to eight, some say to ten. The first five are considered necessary towards salvation; the others are meritorious, but not imperative. The five are:
1st. Not to kill a living creature of any kind.
2d. Not to steal.
3d. Not to commit adultery.
4th. Not to speak an untruth on any occasion.
5th. Not to use intoxicating liquors or drugs.
The meritorious commands are to abstain from female intercourse on the eighth and fifteenth days of the moon's increase, these days being sacred; not to eat after mid-day; and not to sleep on costly, soft, or elevated beds, but on clean mats. The others inculcate, generally, virtue and benevolence, and the practice of individual abstinence.”
* Although Gautama, in the second and fourth commandments, imperatively enjoins honesty and truth, it would appear that, like Vishnu, he did not think cunning and fraud to be sins of a very heinous nature, if they were exercised to answer an end which he deemed good. We accordingly find him practising both against the Assura Nat, to expel them from their heavenly abode Mienmo, in alluring them to drink wine, which he also pretended to do himself, but drank another beverage of a harmless quality. The Assuras followed, as they imagined, the example I am almost afraid to proceed with my abstract of the description given of the god, and became intoxicated. Gautama then called his followers, and dragged them neck
The Buddhas do not, as has been before stated, believe in a creation of a world, but in a succession of worlds, the beginning or end of which Gautama did not obtain a knowledge of. The present universe is composed of many worlds. In the centre of these is a large stone (as it is termed), or country of vast extent, in which dwells Buddha. Around this stone is water, and on the outside of that is another stone; and around these again, others: some of which are inhabited by the planets and celestial bodies, and others are uninhabited. Among these outer circles are four other stones or countries, whose inhabitants possess very superior claims to our consideration: one race of them having faces like half moons; another (Giambu, or in Ava Zabudabar, the earth), triangular faces; a third, perfectly round faces; and a fourth, those of an entirely square formation. These stones are severally red, green, yellow, and white, of which colours the complexions of their inhabitants partake, only our defective organs of vision will not allow us to perceive it. The country which we inhabit is the most southern of these stones, and the age of man in it is eighty years. In two of the other islands the inhabitants live to five hundred years, and are in the one nine, and in the other six cubits high; but in the fourth, or northern island, called Unchigru, the people live for a thousand years a life of enchanting and unchequered ease and enjoyment. For labour there is no occasion, as luxuries of every kind spring spontaneously from a tree called the Padeza Bayn, which instead of fruit produces precious garments, and rice, and meats of most exquisite flavour and in every variety, to suit the particular taste of each individual, ready cooked. Of this food, such is its nature, a person need partake only once a week. In this enviable and happy spot, ease and gratification are the order of the day; for no sooner is the repast finished, than the remains of it in a moment disappear. Danger and sickness are here unknown, while unfading youth casts over the countenances of all the perennial sunshine of happiness and tranquillity.
and heels away from Mienmo. This story, if it have not the same foundation, is much upon a par with that related of Vishnu at Kashi.
of this fairy land by Dr. F. Buchanan, from whose excellent essay on the Burmans I have gleaned my knowledge of it, lest in this age of emigration I should frustrate some of the laudable and considerate plans of our Colonial Secretary. However, as it is proper that so interesting a country should be more extensively known, I must venture to continue my relation, with as much brevity and as much adherence to veracity as the subject will admit of. Women in this delightful island bring forth their children in the streets without pain, and there leave them. In this there is nothing whatever unnatural, as the children thus left do not die; for the passengers put the extremities of their fingers into the mouths of the infants, who from thence suck a most exquisite nectareous liquor, by which they are refreshed and nourished for seven days, in which time they become full grown. No one knows his own relations, not only for the above-mentioned reason, but also because all the inhabitants of the northern island are of the same form and golden colour. Whenever, therefore, a man and woman, struck with mutual love, wish to contract marriage, they retire under the shade of a most agreeable kind of tree. If they be not nearly related, this tree bends down its branches and leaves, and forms for them a delightful bower; but if they be related, they immediately discover their consanguinity by the then unbending branches. These islanders are thirteen cubits high, and are very handsome, especially the women, who excel in softness, suppleness, and elegance of limbs. Skies of heavenly serenity and a delightful temperature reign for ever in this enviable country. Its trees exude gums of aromatic fragrance; and streams of sandal-wood, in which the natives bathe, issue from every part of the island. All this is blissful and wonderful enough for common understandings; but if any of my readers should be pleased to soar into the regions of romance, wherein I beg to assure them I have not, comparatively speaking, yet entered, I must refer them to the eighth article of the sixth volume of the Asiatic Researches, where they will find the Nats, or inhabitants of the heavens above the country in question, blessed in an inconceivably multifold degree with the luxuries of very surpassing trees, and numerous other et ceteras, which turn the legends of the Arabian Nights and Fairy Tales. into mere bagatelles. But as that volume may not be at hand, the following description of the elephant of the Nat sovereign may for the moment suffice: “This elephant has thirty-three heads, corresponding to the thirty-three Nat princes. Every head has seven teeth, which are fifty juzana in length. In every tooth are seven lakes; in every lake, seven flowering trees; on every tree, seven flowers; in every flower, seven leaves; in every leaf, seven thrones; in every throne, seven chambers; in every chamber, seven beds; and in every bed, seven Nat dancing girls. “The stature of these Natis three gaut; the duration of their lives thirtysix millions of years; and they do not require the light of the sun and moon, since that from their own bodies is quite sufficient, as they shine like so many suns and stars.” These planets are, however, the palaces of Nats. He of the solar orb has his of gold and crystal, while that of the gentleman who inhabits the moon is of silver and carbuncle. But, after all, the Nat and the Padeza Bayn trees are nothing to Gautama and the tree (Gnaing Bayn) under which he received his divine nature. Under this tree resides the king of the elephants, in all the luxury of an elephant Sardanapalus. The Buddhas, like the Brahmans, have had their Assuras or Nat demons, and furious wars have taken place between them; which have, of course, terminated in favour of the most worshipful party. Both sides, on those occasions, performed prodigies of valour, though no one was killed on either. These contests were at length decided by a trial of skill instead of prowess, the Nat prince having challenged Gautama to decide their supremacy by the power which either had to conceal himself from the other. The challenge having been accepted, the Assura changed himself, while Gautama closed his eyes, into a grain of sand, and descended to the centre of the earth. This the god, by his omniscience, knew very well, and accordingly clapped his left hand over the hole, and with the right tossed about the earth like a tee-totum, till his opponent became, if the term may be used, completely sea-sick. On his coming up from his hiding place,