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Christianity and Buddhism are two of the world's great religions. One is a teaching that defines good and evil under the presence of a mightier being, and one is a philosophical path for the individual without a higher divinity. Are there any common threads between the two?
What concepts and precepts define these two faiths? Born from different backgrounds, can either religion truly define the condition of man or beast, of the living, of the dead, the reason for good or evil? Is there any reason to think that Christianity is more or less superior to Buddhism? The author has sought to explore these two diverse beliefs. Each has its historical aspects; each has its own set of defined goals, perceptions and higher ideals. Buddhism and Christianity is a riveting analysis, a thought provoking study of the dilemma of life.
In endeavoring to sketch in so limited a space even the most salient features of the many sided religion of Buddhism it is possible that here and there I may have misrepresented it. If so, I hope the fault will be attributed to inadvertence, or rather to disadvantages under which I have worked. The sacred beliefs of any section of mankind are entitled to receive at our hands not only justice but kindly consideration, and a religion so vast and in some respects so wonderful as Buddhism ought to have much to commend it to our sympathy. Long and patient study of it has indeed greatly modified opinions originally formed concerning it, but it has only tended to increase respect for so earnest an effort of the intellect to solve the mystery of human life and destiny. Even Christians may have something to learn from Buddhists. The divers and seemingly antagonistic Churches of Christendom help to educate and reform each other, and non-Christian religions may perform a similar office to Christianity in bringing into prominence some universal truths, which its creeds have allowed to slip into forgetfulness. Our perception and apprehension of what Christianity really is will be the clearer and firmer for an impartial study of the system formulated so long ago by Gotama the Buddha.
The aim of the Lecture has not been to use the extravagances of Buddhism as a foil to set off the excellencies of Christianity. That Christianity as a religion is immensely superior to Buddhism goes without saying, unless in the case of a very small and conceited and purblind minority. I have tried by a fair exposition of what is best and highest in this religion to discover its feeling after something better and higher still, and to suggest rather than indicate the place which it occupies in the religious education of humanity. As
So Christianity, while having in it in fuller measure and clearer form every truth that has vivified any other religion, has in it, as the new creation to which the long travail of the soul under every form of faith has from the first been pointing, something peculiar and contrasted-which is the Divine answer to all their aspirations. This we do not need to demonstrate: indeed it may be a verity, as incapable of demonstration as is that of the existence of Deity or the immortality of the soul. It is sure eventually to be almost universally recognized, and meanwhile, whether accepted or denied, we may say- E pur si muove.
Very gratefully would I acknowledge my profound obligations to all who have instructed me in this subject. Thought we no longer regard the Saddharma-Pundarika and Lalita Vistara as good specimens of Buddhism, we still venerate the great scholars who first introduced them to our notice. The splendid productions of Burnouf, Foucaus, Koppen, Stanislas Julien, Hodgson and Turnour; the excellent works of Spence Hardy, Gogerly, Bigandet and H. H. Wilson, and among the best of all the laborious and faithful Dictionary of Professor Childers, though several of them are unfortunately out of print, are not likely to be soon out of date. It is with pleasure that we find them so frequently quoted or referred to by our latest and best authorities. Still, ever since Professor Max Muller organized his truly catholic enterprise of the translation of the Sacred Books of the East, he has brought us very considerably nearer to real Buddhist teachers themselves. To praise the scholarship of himself, and oldenberg, and Rhys Davids, and Kern, and Fausboll and others of his collaborateurs, would be unwarrantable presumption on my part; but as a humble disciple very willing to learn, I am glad to have this opportunity of publicly expressing my appreciation of the great services which in their editions of old Eastern texts, and in these series of translations, they are rendering to the cause of religion.
The lectures were drafted and in great part written before I read the very valuable works of Sir Monier Williams on Buddhism and of Dr. Kellogg on the Light of Asia and the Light of the World. I specially mention these books as likely to prove very useful guides to any one desirous of prosecuting the subject of the present Lecture. In the notes I have marked my indebtedness to them, and to many authors of what has already become a great literature. Many others whose works have been of service to me in a course of reading extending over many years are not noted, simply because in the caprices of memory my peculiar obligations to them could not at the time be recalled.
For in regard to Buddhism I do not profess to add any original information to the stock already acquired. Others have extracted the ore from these old and interesting fields, and minted it into gold and silver. What has thus been rendered available many like myself can only reduce into copper or bronze, but if only our work be faithfully done, we may thus help in increasing the currency and in extending its circulation. With this in view I accepted the honour which the Croall Trustees conferred upon me in calling me to undertake this Lecture, and if the only effect of my efforts be to stimulate other ministers of the church more advantageously situated to prosecute their researches to much better purpose, no one will be more pleased than myself.
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