First published in 1894 and reprinted several times since. The Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus has attained the stature of a classic today. This book is not designed to contribute to the solution of historical problems nor is it an attempt at popularizing the Buddhist religious writings. It sketches the picture of a religious leader of the remote past with the view of making it to bear upon the living present and become a factor in fashioning the future. The bulk of its contents is derived from the Old Buddhist canons: many passages, and indeed the most important ones, are literally copied in translations from the original texts; some are rendered freely; others have been rearranged; and still others are abbreviated. Dr. Paul Carus Captures in his simple and sensitive prose, as Olga Kopetzky has done in her delicate drawings to the volume, the radiant spirit of Buddhism and the poetic grandeur of the Buddha's personality.
This booklet needs no preface for those who are familiar with the sacred boos of Buddhism, which have been made accessible to the Western world by the indefatigable zeal and industry of scholars like Beal, Bigandet, Buhler, Burnouf, Childers, Alexander Csoma, Rhys Davids, Butoit, Eitel, Fausboll, Foucaux, Francke, Ednund hardy, Spence Hardy, Hodgson, Charles R.Lanman, F. Max Muller, Karl Eugen Neumann, oldenberg, Pischel, Schiefner, Senart, Seidenstucker Bikkhu Nyaratiloka, D.M Strong, Henry Clarke warren, Wassiljew, Weber, windisch, winterniz & c. To those not familiar with the subject it may be stated that the bulk of its contents is derived from the old Buddhist canon. Many passages and indeed the most important ones, are literally copied in translations from the original texts. Some are rendered rather freely in order to make them intelligible to the present generation; others have been rearranged; and still others are abbreviated. Besides the three introductory and the three concluding chapters there are only a few purely original additions, which however, are neither mere literary embellishments nor deviations from Buddhist doctrines. Wherever the compiler has admitted modernization he has done so with due consideration and always in the spirit of a legitimate development. Additions and modifications contain nothing but ideas for which prototypes can be found somewhere among the traditions of Buddhism, and have been introduced as elucidations of its main principles.
The best evidence that this book characterizes the spirit of Buddhism correctly can be found in the welcome it has received throughout the entire Buddhist world. It has even been officially introduced in Buiddhist schools and temples of Japan and Ceylon. Soon after the appearance of the first edition of 1894 the Right Rev. Shaku Soyen, a prominent Buddhist abbot of Kamakura, Japan, had a Japanese translation made by Thitaro Suzuki, and soon afterwards a Chinese version was made by Mr O'Hara of Otzu, the talented editor of a Buddhist periodical, who in the meantime has unfortunately met with a premature death. In 1895, the Open Court Publishing Company brought out a German edition by E.F.L Gauss, and Dr. L. de MIlloue, the curator of the Muse Guimet, of Pariis, followed with a French translation. Dr Federigo Rodriguez has translated the Book into Spanish and Felix Orth into Dutch. The privilege of translating the book into Russsian, Czechic, Italian, also into Siamese and other Oriental tongues has been granted, but of these latter the publishers have received only a version in the Urdu Language, a dialect of eastern India.
In as much as twelve editions of The Gospel of Buddha have been exhausted and the Plates are worn out, the publishers have decided to bring out an edition de luxe and have engaged Miss Olga Kopetzky, of Munich, to supply illustration. The artist has undertaken the task methodically and with great zeal. She has studied in the Ajanta caves the Buddhist paintings and sculptures and other monuments of Gandhara. Thus the drawings faithfully reflect the spirit of the classical period of Buddhist art.
For those who want to trace the Buddhism of this book to its fountainhead, a table of reference has been added, which indicates as briefly as possible the main sources of the various chapters and points out the parallelisms with Western thought, especially in the Christian Gospels.
Buddhism, like Christianity, is split up into innumerable sects, and these sects not infrequently cling to their sectarian tenets as being the main and most indispensable features of their religion. The present book follows none of the sectarian doctrines, but takes an ideal position upon which all true Buddhists may stand as ideal position upon which all true Buddhists may stand as upon common ground. Thus the arrangement into a harmonious and systematic from is the main original feature of this Gospel of Buddha. Considering the bulk of the various details of the Buddhist canon, however it must be regarded as a mere compilation, and the aim of the compiler has been to treat his material in about the same way as he thinks that the author of the Fourth Gospel of the New Testament utilized the accounts of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He has ventured to present the data of the Buddha's life in the light of their religio-philosophical importance; he has cut out most of their apocryphal adornments, especially those in which the Northern tradition abound, yet be did not deem it wise to shrink from preserving the marvellous that appears in the old records, whenever its moral seemed to justify its mention; he only pruned away the exuberance of wonder which delights in relating the most incredible things, apparently put on to impress while in fact they can only tire. Miracles have ceased to me religious text; yet the belief in the miraculous powers of the Master still bears witness to the holy awe of the first disciple and reflects their religious enthusiasm.
Lest the fundamental idea o the Buddha's doctrines be misunderstood, the reader is warned to take the term 'self' in the sense in which the Buddha uses it. The "self" of man translates the word atman which can be and has been understood, even in the Buddhist cannon, in a sense to which the Buddha would never have made any objection. The Buddha denies the existence of a "self" as it was commonly understood in his time; he does not deny man's mentality, his spiritual constitution, the Importance of his personality, in a word, his soul. But he does deny the mysterious ego-entity, the atman, in the sense of a kind of soul monad which by some schools was supposed to reside behind or within man's bodily and physical activity as a distinct being, a kind of thing in itself, and a metaphysical agent assumed to be the soul.
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