That Buddhism is a stream which has its source in the complex and elusive system of Brahmanism known today as Hinduism; that it is rightly called by the name of Gotama Buddha, the great moral reformer of the sixth century B.C. because he shaped its course and purified its waters; that as the stream flowed in an ever widening bed out over the Eastern World, tributaries poured into it from every side, swelling, coloring, and sometime defiling it -all this is generally accepted. This book is an attempt to describe that remarkable process; and as in the case of the great sister- religion, Christianity, it is difficult to say anything which does not need qualification. The tributaries of both religions are many and diverse, and the streams are very complex. In Buddhism, in the first place, there are several philosophical systems, ranging from a naïve realism to a subtle mystical pantheism, and all claiming to be derived from the word of Sakyamuni. The persons of the Founder has, in the second place played a widely different role in different schools, from that of an ethical teacher, "supernormal perhaps but not supernatural," to that supreme god among the gods. In the third place, the moral reform for which he is so justly famous has been placed now upon one and now upon another part of his teachings, until the Buddhist world finds itself divided between the ideals of a self- centered, individualistic mind- culture, on the one hand and a passionate, altruistic self- sacrifice, on the other.
Such is the destiny of great and complex teachers; and it is my purpose in this book to show the noble qualities which he embodied have led almost inevitably to a polytheistic cult, as the stream has found its way into other lands and first one then another was emphasized and embodied in a new "god," and the trace its course and the tributaries which have entered it. To put all this into more Buddhistic imagery -the lotus of Buddhism has grown apace; its seeds have been pollinated from plants of another species; producing hybrids; and some have germinated in desert swamps, becoming weeds. In describing this process it is not my object to criticize or to discriminate between the true and false growths. That must be left to the Buddhist world. My task is merely that of a sympathetic chronicler; yet it is my sincere desire to help Christian and Buddhist scholars toward a friendly and frank discussion. I belonged for some time to a group representing many religions in India; and many were the delightful evenings we spent without heart or conscious propaganda learning one another's point of view and growing as we all beloved in the process. I remember the great Buddhist scholar, Oldenberg coming into our midst and saying: "I did not know such a thing was possible." It is possible and it ought to be done in every intellectual center in the world; indeed, the mutual respect and understanding of the nations can not be based upon rock until numerous groups of this kind are meeting in an honest attempt to study the great streams which have made our civilizations what they are.
The Buddhist, on the other hand may see in some of the more philosophical and mystical expressions of Christianity a Buddhist elements; and this is true- that there are in Christianity elements which are not much understood or used by the Christian church, but which are the very breath of life to the devout Buddhist; such, for instance, as the doctrine of the devout Buddhist such for instance as the doctrine of the unity of all life and the practice of communion with it. The followers of the two Ways have every reason to associate in friendship and to unite in social service. They are both faced with immensely difficult problems of social and international relations. I hope this book may in some measure be a bridge between them. " They who have lived with the eternal World are Christians -even though we call them atheists." And the spirit of Christ can only pass between us who call ourselves by his august Name and our Buddhist friends if we are trying to understand and to respect one another.
Back of the Book
The lotus of Buddhist has grown apace; its seeds have germinated and borne rich fruit. But some have been pollinated from the plants of another species, producing hybrids. As the streams of Buddhism have flowed in an ever widening bed out over the eastern world, tributaries poured into it from every side, swelling, colouring and sometimes defining it.
This book is an attempt to describe remarkable process. In doing so the author refrains from criticizing or discriminating between true and false, or original and attributed. He has performed the talk of a sympathetic chronicler.
The work is also an sincere effort to help lead Christian and Buddhist scholars towards a frank and friendly discussion, since the tributaries of both religious are many and diverse, and the streams are complex. There are several Christian elements, not much appreciated by the Christan Church but which are very breath of life to devout Buddhists- the doctrine of the unity of all life and the practice of communion with it. In view such a handshaking potential, the author intends this book to be some measure a bridge between them.
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