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Written by J.H. Oliphant   


Buddhism was represented in the World’s Congress of Religions in 1893 by an intelligent young man from Ceylon. He began his address by saying: “I bring you the good wishes of four hundred and seventy-five millions of Buddhists.” Near one third of the inhabitants of the earth belong to this religion.

This religion dates back five hundred years before Christ. It is the result of an effort to reform Brahmanism by inculcating a benevolent and humane code of morals. “It teaches the necessity of a pure life, and holds that by the practice of six transcendent virtues— alms, morals, science, energy, patience, and charity—a person may hope to reach Nirvana, or eternal repose.” The doctrine of Buddhism is closely akin to modern Arminianism. Buddha is said to have been a pure man is his life. Their doctrine was sent all over the East by missionaries centuries before Christ was born. Their representative at Chicago is described as “not yet thirty years of age; a slender and refined figure; of gentle bearing; a broad brow; serene face; clear, dark eyes; black, curly hair; and enrobed in spotless white; he was all the more effective from being an unassuming apostle. He said that the emperor, Asoka, ‘sent the gentle teachers, the mild disciples of Buddha, in the garb you see on this platform, to instruct the world. In that plain garb they went across the deep rivers, across the Himalayas, to the plains of Mongolia and of China, and to the far-off beautiful isles, the empire of the rising sun; and the influence of that congress, held twenty-one hundred years ago, is today a living power, for everywhere you see mildness in Asia.’”

Buddhism says nothing of a fall in sin, nor of an atonement for sin, nor of the new birth. It urges that, by observing and practicing the six transcendent virtues, we may reach “Nirvana,” or eternal repose. In this system Buddha is deified and held as a divine being, born five hundred and forty-three years before Christ.

In his address at the World’s Fair the young representative pictured the greatness and goodness of Buddha in the strongest colors possible. He said, “Six centuries before Jesus of Nazareth walked over the plains of Galilee, preaching a life of holiness and purity, the Tathagoa Buddha, the enlightened Messiah of the world, with his retinue of Arhats, or holy men, traversed the whole peninsula of India with the message of peace and holiness to the sin-burdened world. Heart-stirring words he spoke * * * ‘Open your ears, * * deliverance from death is found. * * * If ye walk according to my teaching, ye shall be partakers in a short time of that for which sons of noble families leave their homes, and go to homelessness—the highest end of religious effort.’”

Buddhism is strictly Arminian; yet it inculcates many virtues. Buddha taught that, “There is a middle path—a path which opens the eyes and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to eternal peace. This middle path is the noble eight-fold path, viz., right knowledge, the perception of the law of cause and effect, right thinking, right speech, right action, right profession, right exertion, right mindfulness, right contemplation.” These eight virtues lead up to “eternal peace,” as they understand it. “Spiritual progress is impossible for him who does not lead a life of purity and corn passion.” “The basic doctrine is the self-purification of man.” Buddha said, “He who is not generous, who is fond of sensuality, who is disturbed at heart, who is of uneven mind, who is not reflective, who is not of calm mind, who is discontented at heart, who has no control over his senses—such a disciple is far from me, though he is near me in body.” “The attainment of salvation is by the perfection of self through charity, purity, self-sacrifice, self-knowledge, dauntless energy, patience, truth, resolution, love, and equanimity.

These quotations show that Buddhism is Arminian. They make no reference to death in sin, redemption, or regeneration, but depend on their own virtuous life.

Mr. Dharmapala gave some of his objections to missionaries. He said, “We want the lowly, and meek and gentle teachings of Christ, not because we do not have them now, but we want more of them. * * The missionary is intolerant; he is selfish. Why do not the natives mix with him? Because he has not the tolerance he should have. Who are his converts? They are all men of low type. Seeing the selfishness and intolerance of the missionaries, not an intelligent man will accept Christianity. Buddhism had its missionaries before Christianity was preached. It conquered all Asia and made the Mongolians mild. But the influence of western civilization is undoing their work.” This extract shows how they regard the missionaries.

They have some excellent maxims for correct living. I will copy a few to which I call special attention: “Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time. Hatred ceases by love.” “Among men who hate us, let us live free from hatred.” “Let one overcome anger by love. Let him overcome evil by good.” “Let him overcome the greedy by liberality; let the liar be overcome by the truth.” “Let him speak the truth; let him not yield to anger; let him give when asked, even from the little he has. By these things he will enter heaven.” “The man who has transgressed one law and speaks lies and denies a future world, there is no sin he could not do.” “The real treasure is that laid up through charity and piety, temperance and self-control; the treasure thus hid is secured, and passes not away.” “He who controls his tongue, speaks wisely, and is not puffed up; who holds up the torch to enlighten the world, his word is sweet.”

These are beautiful maxims, and some of them compare favorably with the Bible, although written centuries before the birth of Christ. The heathen has the great volume of creation to read, and I suppose the Lord is able to teach these people and to open their minds to see God in his works. I will give one more saying: “As a mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her son, her only son, so let each one cultivate good-will without measure among all beings.”

Mr. Dharmapala, in closing his address at Chicago, read a paper sent by H. Sumangala, the highest official of the Buddhist church of Ceylon. Following are a few extracts from this letter:
“Be it known to you, brethren, that ours is the oldest of missionary religions, the principle of propaganda having been adopted by its promulgator at the very beginning.” Speaking of Buddha: “He taught religious tolerance, the kinship of human families with each other * * * the necessity for the conquest of the passions, the avoidance of cruelty, lying, lustfulness, and all sensual indulgences. * * * He inculcated the practice of all virtues, * * the following of blameless modes of living.”

Rt. Rev. Horin Toki, one of the four Japanese representatives of Buddhism at the congress, said: “Buddhism, as in Christianity, teaches Ten Commandments, such as ‘not to kill; not to steal; not to commit adultery; not to tell a falsehood; not to joke; not to speak evil of others; not to use double tongue; not to be greedy, neither be stingy; not to be cruel. Such commandments guide us into morality and goodness.”

Mr. Hirai, an educated Buddhist of California, gave his objections to the Christian religion. He claimed that Japan (his home) was tolerant of all religions, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, and other isms—that all were tolerated in his homeland. He said there are two causes why Christianity is not so cordially received. “In 1637 the Christian missionaries, combined with the converts, caused a tragic and bloody rebellion against the country * * * This shocked all Japan, and it took a year to suppress this terrible and intrusive commotion.”

I would be glad to copy this whole address, but it is too lengthy. He recites numerous instances of unfairness on the part of Christian nations with heathen nations. He points to serious blemishes in history of other Christian nations. He complains that Christian nations do not carry out the spirit of Christianity in their dealings with other nations. He says, “I read in the Bible, ‘Whosoever shall smite thee on one cheek, turn to him the other also;’ but I cannot discover there any passage which says, ‘Whosoever shall demand justice of thee smite his right cheek, and when he turns smite the other also.’” This is a sample of his method of arraigning Christians.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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