From Our Archives – Gotama the Buddha – A Great Indian Prophet

FROM OUR ARCHIVES We are introducing a new feature in the Review of Religions under the above Caption. This is not an innovation nor a practice which could alienate us from many of the classic present-day values. We believe in ethical evolution and are fully convinced that the future holds the key for the emancipation of the human race. But our past also treasures some beloved memories for which we were proud then, are proud now and would even be prouder a century hence. More important! we would be digging deep into the old files of our Magazine to reproduce articles such as possess a pertinent relevance in the present times. The present article is about Gotama Buddha, a great Indian Prophet. He probably represented the first outpost of the spiritual glory and prophetic righteousness in the dim past of the Indian sub-continent. Very little is known about him, his friends and companions and the era that he graced with his presence. There is not the slightest doubt that Buddha was one of the great Chosen Ones of God, who had preached the Unity of God to the goddesses- ridden and primitive Indian multitudes. All true religions inculcate belief in the Oneness of God and submission to His Will. Buddha’s teachings were no exception to this rule. Despite the oft repeated assertion of some theologians that he was an atheist, the one central and indisputable fact which emerges from a perusal of the Gotamic Scriptures, is that Buddha was never a slave of his environments. He led a very austere and lonely life untill he saw the ‘Light’ in the Jungles of Bihar. He did not say much about the life beyond the grave. His was an injunction of silence against oppression and injustice. The ‘Nirvana’ or the doctrine of self-annihilation was perhaps a fore-runner for the Christian belief in the turning round of the ‘other cheek also.’ May be this provides a clue to the striking similarity in gotamic and Christian themes. It is not the intention here to discuss in detail the Buddhist theory of ‘Nirvana.’ The essence of this teaching is perhaps but one step from the sublime to the absurd. (A.R. Mughal) 47 GOTAMA THE BUDDHA A GRGAT INDIAN PROPHGT (Ch. All Muhammad B.A., B.T.) Gotama the Buddha is universally acknowledged as the founder of a great religion called Buddhism which holds sway over the continent of Asia from the Pamir Plateau to the far-off Japanese islands. Buddhism as a religion has influenced the lives of millions and millions of people of the continent ever since its inception 2,500 years ago. The founder of this great religion, who was born of good and noble royal family of Kapila Vastu, North Bihar, India, being deified by his followers, is now placed upon a high pedestal among the gods and goddesses of Buddhist mythology. The story woven about the life of Buddha from the cradle to the grave is all a myth and it is rather difficult to sift the truth from falsehood which surrounds the personality of this great man of India. The religion of Buddhism as it exists to-day is a labyrinth of perplexities and intri- cacies. The teachings of present-day Buddhism centre round the doctrine of Nirvana or self-annihilation and deliverance from pain. Belief in God and the worship of Him find no place in modern Buddhism and this belief is characteristic of all the works on Buddhism by Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist writers. The aim of the present article is to show that Gotama Buddha, the great founder of Buddhism was not only a believer in the exis- tence of God, but he was the first and foremost of all the believers of his time, in other words he was a prophet of God and as such, he did teach about the existence of God, about His worship and about the nature of the relations between man and God, his Creator. Now, judging from the prevalence of Buddhist ideology as it exists to-day, the hypothesis, that Gotama was a Prophet of God, seems to be a paradox because soon after the death of the Founder, his followers fell out among themselves and the true spirit of their Master’s teachings was lost on them. Does not Gotama himself say that after his death five precious gems would be lost — one of them being his teachings. Says he, “A time will come when this Buddhist Raja will declare whoever remembers even four lines about Buddha may come forth and get Rs. 1,000 in reward’. But none will get it even after the repeated beat of drum in the city.” 48 49 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Buddhism and Christianity There is a striking resemblance between Buddhism and Chris- tianity so far their teachings are concerned. Christianity, as it came in contact with Greek philosophy in Rome, lost its original pristine purity and Christian ministers of religion moulded its teachings in order to suit their pagan master’s belief; similarly Buddhism in India was greatly influenced by Greek and Brahmanic philosophy. It was due to the contact of Greek and Hindu philosophy that Buddhism became a polytheistic religion of the East and Gotama came to be worshipped throughout the length and breadth of India and in the Greek principalities of Central Asia. In order to arrive at the original and real teachings of Gotama, one turns in vain over the pages of modern books on Buddhism. The popular language in which Gotama taught and preached to the people was the Prakrit, Pali. The Pali script was there but it was not frequently made use of. No books, therefore, were written in Gotama’s time, all he said was committed to memory by his dis- ciples. For three hundred years all his teachings remained confined to the memory of the Buddhist preachers till Emperor Asoka who embraced Buddhism, caused them to be engraved on stone pillars or caves in the Pali script. These engravings were the earliest books in stone that preserved to a certain extent, the teachings of Gotama and it was only in the sixth century after him that the Buddha’s teachings were produced in black and white. During the long span of six centuries much of the pristine purity of his teachings was lost, there being various interpolations, additions and subtractions; thus the beautiful face of his teachings was distorted and disfigured. It was during the closing years of the nineteenth century that the brother Prophet, Ahmad of Qadian, made the wonderful discovery that Gotama, the Great Founder cf Buddhism, was indeed a Prophet of God. He announced that the belief, that Gotama did not believe in God and that he never mentioned God in his teachings is a scandal, a blasphemy. It is an allegation pure and simple and is basically untrue. The basis of his claim he said, rests on the following verses of the Holy Quran: “And there is not a people to whom a warner has not been sent.” (35 : 25) “And there has been a guide for every people.” (13 : 8) “And We did raise among every people a messenger preaching worship Allah and shun the Evil One.” (16 : 37) THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 50 On the strength of the above mentioned verses of the Holy Quran Prophet Ahmad argued that the Indian nation as such cannot be an exception to the rule. It must have been blessed with the appearance of one or more prophets. It is no wonder, therefore, that Gotama, Rama and Krishna were the prophets of God raised to redeem the Indian people. He further argued that the love, devotion and esteem in which followers of Gotama hold him even to this day, is in itself, a strong argument to show that Gotama was the Messenger of God for it is sheer impossibility that a false prophet with all his tall pretentions to prophethood should succeed in commanding the love and respect of his followers for generations together. If this be so, what criterion there is between a true and a false prophet. Hazrat Ahmad says: — “We do not doubt the claims to prophethood of prophets that were raised among nations. We hold the belief that the various prophets that have appeared among the different nations of the world were the true prophets of God for the very reason that millions of people have bowed down to them and held them in high esteem and respect for centuries together.” This is the reason why we Ahmadi Muslims, believe Gotama, Rama and Krishna to be the prophets of God, and as such Buddha cannot be supposed to be an atheist; on the contrary he was an humble servant of God who was sent to teach the unity of God and draw the Indian people to His worship. In order to prove the truth of our assertion we must, of nece- ssity, resort to and scan Buddhist Tripitakas’. Thanks to the efforts of some of the European writers who have carried out valuable research in the Buddhist lore and disclosed hidden secrets to public gaze. English translations of some important books, are now within our easy reach. Of the Buddhist books, known as ‘Tripitakas’ or three baskets, the second one i.e. the Digha Nikaya and the Majjhim Nikaya contain a series of dialogues between Gotama, the Buddha and a young Brahman, Vasethha by the well known English scholar I.W. Rhys Davids and are known as “Dialogues of the Buddha” which form part of the second volume of prof. Max Muller’s “Sacred Books of the Buddhists”. As the story goes Vesethha and his compa- nion Bharadvaga were discussing as to whose spiritual guru had the ability to lead to God. When they could not arrive at a definite conclusion they decided to refer the matter to Gotama the Buddha who happened to be residing in the vicinity. Then the young Brah- man Vasethha and the young Brahman Bharadvaga went to the place where the Exalted One was, where they exchanged with him the 51 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS usual greetings and compliments of politeness and courtesy , and sat down beside him. And while they were thus seated the young Brahman Vasethha said to the Exalted One: ‘As we, Gotama, were taking exercise and walking up and down, there sprung up a conversation between us on which is the true path and which the false.’ I said thus: “This is the straight path, this is the direct way which makes for salvation, and leads him who acts according to it, into a state of union with Brahma (God). I mean that which has been announced by the Brahman Pokkharasedi.’ Bharadvaga said thus: “This is the straight path, this is the direct way which makes for salvation, and leads him, who acts according to it into a state of union with Brahma (God). I mean that which has been an- nounced by the Brahman Tarukkha.” ‘Regarding this matter, Gotama, there is a strife, a dispute, a difference of opinion between us.’ ‘Just, Gotama, as near a village or a town there are many and various paths, yet they all meet together in the village — j u s t in that way are all the various paths taught by various Brahmans. Are all these saving paths? Are they all paths which will lead him, who acts according to them, into a state of union with Brahma’? ‘Do you say that they all lead a right Vasethha’? ‘I say, so, Gotama.’ ‘But yet, Vasethha, is there a single one of the Brahmans versed in the Three Vedas who has ever seen Brahma face to face’? No, indeed. Gotama. ‘Or is there then Vesethha, single one of the pupils of the teachers of the Brahmans versed in the Three Vedas who has seen Brahma (God) face to face’? ‘No, indeed, Gotama’! Or is there then, Vesethha, a single one of the Brahmans up to the seventh generation who has seen Brahma face to face’? ‘No, indeed, Gotama’! ‘Well, then, Vasethha, those ancient Rishis or the Brahmans versed in the Three Vedas, the authors of the verses, the utterers THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 52 of the verses, whose ancient form of words so chanted, uttered, or composed, the Brahmans of to-day chant over again or repeat; in- toning or reciting exactly as has been intoned or recited . . . . to wit, Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaga, Vasethha, Kassapa, and Bhagu did even they speak thus, saying:- “We know it, we have seen it, where Brahma is, whence Brahma is, whither Brahma is”? ‘Not so Gotama’! Then you say, Vasethha, that none of the Brahmans, or of their teachers, or of their pupils, even up to the seventh generation, has ever seen Brahma face to face. And that even the Rishis of old, the authors and utterers of the verse, of the ancient form of words which the Brahmans of to-day so carefully intone and recite preci- sely as they have been handed down . . even they did not pretend to know or to have seen where or whence or whither Brahma is. So that the Brahmans versed in the Three Vedas have, forsooth, said thus:- “What we know not, what we have not seen, to a state of union with that we can show the way, and can say: This is the straight path, this is the direct way which makes for salvation and leads him, who acts according to it, into a state of union with Brahma!” When he had thus spoken, the young Brahman Vasethha said to the Blessed One: ‘It has been told me, Gotama, that the Samana Gotama knows the way to the state of union with Brahma.’ ‘What do you think, Vasethha, is not Manasakata near to this spot, not distant from this spot’? ‘Just so Gotama. Manasakata is near to, is not far from here’. ‘Now what think you, Vasethha, suppose there were a man born in Manasakata, and people should ask him, who never till that time had left Manasakata, which was the way to Manasakata. Would that man, born and brought up in Manasakata, be in any doubt or difficulty’? ‘Certainly not, Gotama; and why? If the man had been born and brought up on Manasakata, every road that leads to Manasakata would be perfectly familiar to him’. That man, Vasethha, born and brought up at Manasakata might, if he were asked the way to Manasakata, fall into doubt and difficulty, but to the Tathagata, when asked touching the path which 53 THE REVIEWOF RELIGIONS leads to the world of Brahma, (Kingdom of God) there can be neither doubt nor difficulty. For Brahma, I know, Vasethha, and the world of Brahma, and the path which leadeth unto it. Yea, I know it even as one who has entered the Brahma-world and has been born within it’! Just so has it been told me Gotama, even that the Samna Gotama knows the way to a state of union with Brahma (God). It is well; Let the venerable Gotama be pleased to show the way to a state of union with Brahma, let the venerable Gotama save the Brahman race’. The above dialogue clearly gives us to understand that Gotama was a firm believer in the existence of God, that he was thoroughly acquainted with the ways of God, because he was born and bred, as it were, in the world of Barhma (kingdom of God). His training and education were conducted on lines peculiar to the chosen ones of God who have to redeem the world on coming of age. It is a pity that a great reformer who preached the absolute unity of God should be declared a God himself and worshipped like the One true God. That he was a true Messenger of God sent for the redemption of the world like Abraham, Moses and Jesus, the following quotation may be cited here with advantage: ‘Know, Vasethha, that (from time to time) a Tathagata (Mess- enger) is born into the world, an Arahat, a fully awakened one, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals, willing to be led, a teacher of gods and men. A Blessed One a Buddha, he, by himself, thoroughly understands, and sees, as it were face to face this universe — including the worlds above with gods, the Maras, and the Brahmas; and the world below with its Samanas and Brahmans, its princes and peoples; and he then makes his knowledge known to others. The truth doth he proclaim both in the letter and in the spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its con- summation: the higher life doth he make known, in all its purity and in all its perfectness’.1 The last quotation throws a flood of light on the assumption that Gotama was a Messenger of God, a Tathagata, an Arahat. He proclaimed the Truth ‘lovely in its origin and lovely in its consum- mation’ to the people of this world. He made known the higher (heavenly) life to the people because he himself had known the kingdom of heaven whence he had come. (Review of Religions Nov. 1962)