Buddhism

The Buddha and his Original Teachings

The Buddha and His Original Teachings (M. Masud Ahmad) Christianity and the Religion of Christ seem to be synonymous. As a matter of fact, they are quite different. The religion which Christ brought was something entirely different from the characteristic beliefs and religious customs upon which the present day Christianity is based. This is not said by non-Christian scholars only. Every Christian scholar who has tried to examine the present day Christianity in the light of history without prejudice and objectivity, has reached the conclusion that the two are diametrically opposed to each other. For instance, Mr. Walter E. Bundy, once professor of English Bible at the University of De Pauw expresses the same difference between the present day Christianity and the religion of Christ in the following words. “In its history, early and late, the Christian faith has gone through various developments, transitions, alterations, eliminations, additions, accretions outgrowths, aftergrowths and overgrowths which separate and distinguish it very clearly from the simple yet profound faith that possessed the soul of Jesus. The person of Jesus became the perennial source of speculation wherever Christianity struck permanent root. About his person there evolved great systems of thought, elaborate and intricate structures of belief, theologies and christologies, schemes of salvation, doctrines and dogmas, creeds and confessions. Faith became fixed and formal, beliefs became impersonal and official, and with officiality of belief came orthodoxy of opinion. The historical Jesus was enveloped in a mystical, mythical and metaphysical atmosphere that hid him from the eyes of even the believing Christian world. Theology and Philosophy in Christian garb overgrew and obscured the religion of Jesus, the simple yet strong sources of spiritual life which he knew”.1 What Mr. Walter E. Bundy has written about Christianity can equally well be said about Buddhism. If we replace the words “Christianity” with 1. The Religion of Jesus by Walter E. Bundy. 34 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “Buddhism” and “Jesus” with “Buddha”, there will not be any loss of truth in the passage. What is true of Christianity is equally true of Buddhism. The modern Buddhism and the teachings of the great Asian reformer, the Buddha, have no resemblance at all. Compilation of the Tri-pitaka The prevailing Buddhism is based upon its canon called the Tri-pitaka. Tri-pitaka is a compound word meaning Three Baskets. Although this canon is said to consist of the Buddha’s dialogues, sermons, instructions and commands, it cannot be accepted as his real and unalloyed teachings. The most important and basic reason for this is that he has not left any written record of his teachings whatsoever. He preached and lectured for 45 years. After his death, numerous councils of followers, tried to arrange his teachings; but all these efforts remained confined to oral arrangement and tabulation. Not even in one council they were systematically written down and recorded. These successive councils only decided, through discussion, about the accuracy and correctness of, first, what the Buddha’s leading disciples then their disciples’s disciples remembered of his teachings and sayings. These councils, which are said to be three in number, were not held one after the other after the Buddha’s death. They cover a span of about 250 years. The first council was held at Rajagaha, the capitalof Magadha, in the first monsoon after the Buddha’s death, in 483 B.C. The immediate cause for its being held was that whereas most of the bhikshus were extremely grieved at the Buddha’s death, a bhikshu named Subhadda, who had joined the Sangha very late, was very happy. He addressed the saddened bhikshus: “Friends regret not, cease weeping. Now, that the Buddha has passed away we are left our own masters. We could now act and move as we please. You will do better to rejoice rather than be sorry at your liberation”.2 This astonished the bhikshus. Many opposed this tendency very strongly, and demanded that a council be held so that the authentic teachings of the Buddha may be well defined to prevent anyone from going astray and misleading others. Subhadda misunderstood one of the last advices which the Buddha had given sho’rtly before his death. The Buddha had told the bhikshus near his death that in future they should seek guidance from their own selves; and that they should not look towards others because their salvation did not rest in anyone else but was hidden in their own selves. I shall explain what it really means somewhere else. Here, I only want to point out that the above mentioned saying of Subhadda was considered as heresy by the rest of the bhikshus, and that they felt a need for holding an immediate council to refute it and to secure and safeguard the purity of the Buddha’s teachings which he 2. Buddhism by Bhikshu Ananda p. 121. THE BUDDHA AND HIS ORIGINAL TEACHINGS 35 had imparted from time to time in his sermons. So, a council was held under the patronage of Ajatasattu, the Rajah of Magadha, which was presided over by Buddha’s famous disciple, Maha Kassapa. The Buddha had appointed him his successor, in a way, when, near his death, he declared him to be the best of all his disciples. This council was attended by 500 bhikshus. The Bhudda’s closest and most beloved disciple, Ananda, who was his personal attendant, related those teachings of his master which were later on added to Tri-pitaka as a separate collection under the name of the Sutta. Another disciple, Venerable’Upali, narrated the Buddha’s instructions about organisational matters. These became a part of the Tri-pitaka under the heading of the Vinaya. Tradition says that Maha Kassapa narrated the third part of the Tri-pitaka, which is known as the Abhidhamma. But the book Gullavagga, a history of the first two councils, does not mention that Maha Kassapa described any part of-the Buddha’s teachings at the first council. So, this council whose meetings were held for seven months continuously, established the text of the Sutta and the Vinaya, the first two parts of the-Tri-pitaka. It requires special mention, and the Buddhist scholars themselves agree to it, that not a single word of the proceedings of the council was written down. The council established and fixed the texts of the Sutta and the Vinaya orally only, and made it incumbent on the bhikshus to memorise the sayings and instructions of the Buddha in the same order. The second thing to be particularly noted about this council is that Ananda told the council that the Buddha had permitted to leave certain of his orders about the organisation of the Sangha, but that he did not remember at that time /which; of the instructions described by him were those. The majority were of the opinion that under these circumstances all the instructions should be deemed as essential. So, according to the unanimous decision of the council all the instructions and orders were declared as essential.3 Exactly a hundred years later i.e. in 383 B.C. a second council was held at Vaisali, 27 miles to the north of Patna, under the patronage of Kalasoka the Raj a of Magadha. This was attended by 700 bhikshus and continued for about 8 months. It was presided upon by the Venerable Revata. It was held because after the first council a section of bhikshus, disagreeing with the decision of the’ first council had formed a different set of principles of discipline which they wanted to establish. These people were called the Mahasaghikas. When in the 4th century B.C. the Mahasaghikas started gaining power and a clear split among the bhikshus became imminent, the leading bhikshus conferred amongst themselves and the second council was held in 383 B.C. The Mahasaghikas were declared as heretics and turned out of the Sangha. The Sutta and the Vinaya were re-examined and were re-established after considerable discussion. This establishment and demarcation of the text was, like the first one was, also oral. No part of the Sutta or of the Vinaya was set 3. Buddhism by Bhikshu Ananda p. 152. 36 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS down in writing. The bhikshus were again exhorted to memorise these two texts accurately and to convey them to the coming generations. Some time after the second council a great political upheaval took place in Northern India, which ultimately made an -end of all the free states of the area and replaced them by a single big and powerful government. Chandra Gupta Mauria, a high officer in the army of Rajah Nanda of Magadha, killed his Rajah and usurped his throne. Gradually, he extended the boundaries of his kingdom to enclose almost the whole of the country. He ruled for 24 years and was succeeded by his son Bindusara. In 269 B.C. Asoka succeeded his father Bindusara. Although Chandra Gupta and Bindusara followed the Brahmanistic religion they were not unkind to the Buddhist monks. But Asoka, a few years after his coronation adopted Buddhism openly, and tried his best to propagate this religion. By that time the bhikshus were divided into numerous sects. Some traditions report their number to be 18. Asoka saw this split amongst the bhikshus, and especially the dangerously deteriorating relations between the traditional and orthodox sect and a new sect, the Thirthakas. To unite them once again, he called a council of all sects of bhikshus. This council was held at Patna in 247 B.C. It is known as the Patna council. About 1000 bhikshus of different sects attended it and its meetings were held for nine months. This council has the same place in the history of Buddhism which the council of Nicaea occupies in the history of Christianity. The latter was called by Emperor Constantine to remove the mutual differences of the various Christian sects in 325 A.D. Arius and his companions were declared heretics and put out of the pale of Christianity. This council also laid foundation of the prevailing Christianity by formulating the Christian dogma in definite words. Exactly in the same way the Patna council expelled about 60,000 Thirthakas from the Sangha as heretics, and adding a third part, Abidhamma, in addition to the Sutta and the Vinaya, to the Buddhist canon gave the name of the Tri-pitaka to this collection. But all this arrangement was oral and not a single word was written down. Some research scholars think that the Tri-pitaka were written down at the third council. The argument is that a few years before the third council Asoka had some tablets inscribed and erected at certain places, therefore, there is no reason why the Tri-pitaka should not have been recorded in writing at the Patna council. The second argument they put forth is that when, in the years immediately after 247 B.C., Asoka’s son Mahindra went to Ceylon to preach Buddhism he had taken a copy of the Tri-pitaka in Pali with him. But this is not supported by the ancient Buddhistic sources; only this can be indirectly gathered that he had taken with him some of the exegesis written by that tune. Although there is no clear proof of it, it is just possible that the exegesis may have been written down; because not being the Buddha’s own words like the Tri-pitaka it was not incumbent upon the bhikshus to commit them to memory. Anyhow it is a fact, which is accepted by some Buddhist scholars too, that the whole of the Tri-pitaka was not committed to writing even at the THE BUDDHA AND HIS ORIGINAL TEACHINGS 37 Patna council. Asoka himself or an individual bhikshu might have had a part kept safe in writing for his own personal convenience later on. But we do not have certain and definite proof for the contention that the Tri-pitaka was preserved in writing according to a systematic plan at the Patna council or even in the years immediately after it. When was the first complete collection of the Tri-pitaka written down then? One well established point of view, which is held by some Buddhist scholars too, is that a complete collection of the Tri-pitaka was recorded in writing in Ceylon and not in India for the first time. Anditwas done so after 43 B.C. i.e., 200 years after the Patna council and about 450 years after the Buddha’s death. It should also be noted that on this first-ever occasion, it was written down in Sinhalese and not in the Pali language. Mahindra, the son of Asoka, in addition to two close relatives of his had also taken four expert and learned bhikshus with him to Ceylon. These bhikshus made the local bhikshus memorise the text of the Tri-pitaka. In this fashion the text of the Tri-pitaka was orally handed down from one generation to another in Ceylon. In 43 B.C. the Sinhalese kings, who had patronised Buddhism, lost power. The Tamil kings came into power after their decline. ‘These kings had no interest in Buddhism. So, in view of the political instability in the country and realising that Buddhism had lost the royal support, the Buddhist scholars, who were known as Mahatheras, resolved to safeguard the Tri-pitaka by writing it down. Therefore, with the help of the bhikshus who remembered the Pali text, it was translated into Sinhalese and put into writing. Dr. Walpola Rahula of Ceylon, in his book “History of Buddhism in Ceylon”, basing himself on the authority of ancient Sinhalese histories “Mahavamsa” and “Dipavamsa”, has this to say about the writing down of the Tri-pitaka for the first time in history: “From 43 B.C. for fourteen years five Tamils ruled in succession at Anuradhapura. King Vattagamani lay in hiding in remote places during the period . . . The Mahatheras and the leaders of the Sinhalese saw that the future of Buddhism was in danger. Its very existence was threatened. There was no Sinhalese king to support it. The continuation of the oral tradition of the three Pitakas which had so far been handed down orally from teacher to pupil appeared no longer possible under the prevailing adverse circumstances. The primary concern of the Sangha during this tragic period was to preserve the teaching of the Buddha which they valued above all else. Therefore far-seeing Mahatheras, under the patronage of a local chief, assembled at Aluvihara at Matale, and committed to writing the whole of the Tri-pitaka with the commentaries thereon for the first time in history in order that the true doctrine might endure.”4 4. History of Buddhism by Walpola Rahula pp. 81-2. 38 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Moreover, Dr. Walapola Rahula, in spite of admitting the possibility that some of the commentaries on the Tri-pitaka might have been present in book form even in the 3rd century B.C., thinks that the Tri-pitaka itself was not at all written down before the first century B.C. He says: “In Ceylon, the Sinhalese commentaries in book form on the Tri-pitaka seem to have been in use soon after Buddhism was introduced into the Island in the 3rd century B.C., though in fact the writing down of the Tri-pitaka itself took place only in the first century B.C.”5 So, it is obvious that even according to the Buddhist scholars themselves the collection of Tri-pitaka was kept safe in the memories of the bhikshus only for about 450 years after the death (483 B.C.) of the Buddha, During this period councils were held after every 100 or 150 years which amended, cancelled from or added to the Tri-pitaka. This process of amending, cancellation or addition by the councils went on until the Tri-pitaka was committed to writing in 43 B.C. for the first time in history. And this reduction in writing was not done in its original language, Pali, but in Sinhalese, the language of Ceylon. Regular new additions were made to Tri-pitaka for another 500 years. Then it was re-rendered into Pali from Sinhalese. And in this way, after about 950 years of the Buddha’s death, the first written copy of the Tri-pitaka in the Pali language came into existence. The manner in which this first Pali copy came into existence is also very interesting. Due to the efforts of Asoka, Buddhism not only spread into Ceylon and other nearby areas but even in India itself very large numbers of people embraced it in a short time. Large and rapid conversions seemed to be a source of strength for Buddhism; but in reality this proved to be the reason for its decline in India. Because of the royal patronage for the new religion people started embracing it without really shedding the deeply engraved influences of Brahmanism upon their minds, thoughts, actions and way of life. The result was that after Asoka, with the passage of time, Buddhism gradually started merging with Brahmanism. And at last according to a deliberately thought out plan of the Brahmans it had almost completely lost its separate and permanent entity in the 5th century A.D. The teachings of the Tri-pitaka which had been safe in the minds of the bhikshus only up to now became so unremembered that scholars having a thorough knowledge of them became almost extinct. Confronted with this desperate situation Buddhaghosa, a well known Buddhist, went to Ceylon in the 5th century A.D.6 After years of hard work he re-rendered the Tri-pitaka and its commentaries into Pali from Sinhalese. And in this way the first ever Pali copy of the Tri-pitaka came into existence. What changes it had suffered and what additions had been made to it can be judged from the following words of Dr. Walpola Rahula.7 5. History of Buddhism in Ceylon by Walpola Rahula p. 288. 6. Historians History of the World Vol. 11 p. 543. 7. History of Buddhism in Ceylon by Walpola Rahula p. XlX-Introduction. THE BUDDHA AND HIS ORIGINAL TEACHINGS 39 . “Although there is evidence to prove the growth of the Pali scriptures during the early centuries of Buddhism in India and Ceylon, there is no reason to doubt that their growth was arrested and the text was finally fixed in the 5th century A.C. when the Sinhalese commentaries on the Tri-pitaka were translated into Pali by Buddhagosa”. From the above mentioned details about the tabulation and collection of the Tri-pitaka it becomes quite obvious that its prevailing Pali text which took its final form 950 years after the death of the Buddha is not at all the exact copy of the original text. As a matter of fact, it is a re-translation of a translation. And in these 950 years quite a lot of amendments, cancellations and additions were made to it. Moreover the local influences of Ceylon and touches of Brahmanism also intruded in and coloured it. In these circumstances it cannot be accepted that the contents of the Tri-pitaka are a faithful reproduction of the Buddha’s real teachings. These can be called the basis of the present day Buddhism but on no account can we call them original teachings of the Buddha. Neither can we say, with any amount of certainty, that the beliefs and tenners, described in the Tri-pitaka are exactly the same as preached by the Buddha in his own life time. Western Research and its Conclusions As this altered and amended text of the Tri-pitaka was in Pali, the non-Buddhist world knew nothing about its contents even as recently as the middle of the 19th century. In the later half of the 19th century some Western scholars, after having mastered the Pali language, started translating it in English, and, in this way, for the first time, the rest of the world came to know what was written in it and what were the basic beliefs and attitudes of the prevailing Buddhism. But in the very beginning the Western scholars committed the mistake of accepting the Tri-pitaka as authentic and true in its entirety. They accepted its contents as a true picture of, and entirely based upon, the teachings of the Buddha. Some of them did point out that it was not necessary that everything mentioned in the Tri-pitaka consisted of the Buddha’s real teachings. But they emphasised the fact that as 2400 years had passed since the death of the Buddha there was no other way of ascertaining his real teachings. Under these circumstances, they felt, there was nothing for them but to accept the Tri-pitaka as the original and authentic teachings of the Buddha. Professor Max Muller (1823-1900), the famous orientalist of the 19th century, in the introduction to his translation of Dhammapada, one of the books of the Tri-pitaka, raised the question whether it was possible for us to decide which parts of it consisted of the Buddha’s real teachings and which parts were added later on. Answering this question he says: “My belief is that, in general, all honest inquirers must oppose a ‘No’ to this question, and confess that it is useless to try to cast a glance beyond the boundaries of the Buddhist Canon. What we find in the Canonical 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS books in the so-called ‘Three Baskets’ is orthodox Buddhism and the doctrine of Buddha, similarly as we must accept in general whatever we find in the four Gospels as Orthodox Christianity and the doctrine of Christ”. For a long time this view of Professor Muller was accepted as correct in the West and Western scholars considered the Tri-pitaka as the authentic teachings of the Buddha. But when they studied it carefully and examined its contents in the light of the peculiar conditions and history of the Buddha’s age and time they felt that it was quite possible to find out his real teachings. They felt, if a proper study were made on scientific lines, it could be ascertained as to what was the Buddha’s real Gayan and message he had brought for the Hindu society of the time as compared with the teachings of the Tri-pitaka. Some of the scholars even went to the length of calling Professor Muller’s idea that the teachings of the Tri-pitaka alone must be considered the authentic teachings of the Buddha as downright silly. Mr. K. Cook M.A. LL.D. was of the same opinion and he, in 1886, in his book “The Fathers of Jesus”, strongly criticising Professor Max Muller’s point of view, wrote that it was a result of a very regrettable resignation to difficulties. He further pointed out that it was not impossible to reach the real facts by critically examining the views put forth in the Tri-pitaka; but like other scientific studies it demanded a lot of diligence, patience and perseverance. In the same book he said: “This is a most lame and impotent conclusion, and in each case in which an accepted Christian text has been discovered to be the gloss of a commentator, and not found in the earliest manuscripts, and is. at the same time manifestly at variance from the doctrine of the Founder, Professor Muller’s argument can evidently be reduced to an absurdity. Had he said simply that the Three Baskets are the accepted scriptures of orthodox Buddhism like the Four Gospels of orthodox Christianity, he would have uttered that which, if a truism, is at least a fact. “It is disappointing to find a distinguished student of comparative religious lore so resigning himself to the abandonment of a difficulty. It must, however, be allowed that Western Civilization is still very young in philosophic experience. Doctrinal fetters have long cramped the mind, and prevented its expansion in the ethical direction. Moreover, our country has not long emerged from insular barbarism, and four centuries ago was almost without culture in foreign languages and foreign thought. The time is not long past when, if a few bones of extinct animals had been placed before a naturalist, and he were asked to reconstruct the whole anatomy upon their basis, he would have smiled with the superior wisdom of ignorance upon his inquirer’s absurd folly. Now he will not only build up the probable anatomical form, but certainly separate from bones placed before him such as do not consist with the others but belong to creatures of a different type. THE BUDDHA AND HIS ORIGINAL TEACHINGS 41 “May we not hope, therefore, that as sympathetic study of ancient philosophy progresses, there may be found to grow a faculty of distinguishing between characteristic expressions of thought, as is done with different varieties of bones; and that to body forth the thoughts of a distinctive thinker with more or less fullness and certitude, we shall require but to have before us authentic relics known to have proceeded from him? For the criticism of thought, time must be allowed as for other scientific studies”.8 When Professor Max Muller’s ideas were so strongly challenged by academic circles, there developed, in Europe a strong tendency of studying the gradual collection and arrangement of the Tri-pitaka and other ancient Buddhist literature objectively. Research scholars thoroughly re-examined all this literature. After extensive and deep studies they reached the conclusion that the real teachings of the Buddha could not be the same as have been ascribed to him in this very extensive literature which has been flourishing for centuries. Sir Monier Williams (1819-1899), describes the result of his researches on the question in these words briefly: “It cannot therefore surprise us if Buddhism developed into apparently contradictory systems in different countries and under varying climatic conditions. In no two countries did it preserve the same features. Even in India, the land of its birth, it had greatly changed during the first ten centuries of its prevalence. So much so that had it been possible for its founder to reappear upon earth in the fifth century after Christ, he would have failed to recognise his own child, and would have found that his own teaching had not escaped the operation of law which experience proves to be universal and inevitable”.9 Theodore Kern expressed the same thought in clear and unambiguous words that the original teachings of the Buddha could not be the same as given in the Tri-pitaka and other Buddhist literature. He says: “The more we try to remove the difficulty (i.e. in accounting for certain doctrines) the more we are driven to the suspicion that original Buddhism was not exactly that of canonical books”.10 Mrs. Rhys Davids, the president of Pali Text Society of London was one of the most well known of the scholars who made a critical study of Buddhism in the beginning of the 20th century. She, after having studied the Pali literature directly and in the original, declared the Tri-pitaka as interpolated and altered. She not only said this but also emphasised that, even now, a deep and careful study of the Tri-pitaka could reveal what the Buddha might have said and what he might not have said. She did not stop here but in a number of her 8. The Fathers of Jesus by Keeingale Cook p. 112. 9. Buddhism by Sir Monier Williams (1889) p. 18. 10. Indian Buddhism by Theodore Kern (1898) p. 50. 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS articles she refuted numerous views and beliefs which were ascribed to the Buddha. With a very intelligent and workmanlike analysis of these views and beliefs she has proved that in the conditions and circumstances of the 6th century E.G., and-with temperament and natural tendencies he had, the Buddha could not possibly have preached these views and beliefs. Although I do not fully agree with all the conclusions of Mrs. Rhys Davids, her diligence and extensive study of the subject are beyond doubt. She devoted most of her life to the critical study of the Tri-pitaka and other Buddhist literature, and her researches have clearly proved that it would be a great mistake and in the countenance of established facts to equate the present day Buddhism with the real teachings of the Buddha. Although she accepted the possibility of the Tri-pitaka having been committed to writing 350 years after the Buddha’s death, (which is not right), she did not accept the present day Tri-pitaka as the exact and true picture of his original teachings. I quote from some of her studies here. Talking of the interpolations and alterations in the Tri-pitaka, she says: “We have in the Buddhist (Pali) scriptures a threefold thesaurus of accretions, of gradually collected ‘sayings’, which were first uttered in a bookless world and, for a period of perhaps four centuries were repeated in a bookless world. The repeaters were not so much live books as live pamphlets or tracts only, nor were their respective monastic centres, with perhaps one exception, living libraries of more than one group of such tracts. No centre, let alone individual repeater, could have a knowledge of the Three Pitakas such as we can have here and now . . . “As to relative perfection of Indian memorising, here also we should not accept, for Buddhist amateurs, that which, was among Brahmans a professional, in a way, hereditary art. There is much evidence that all that mobile lip-repeating needed rectification from time to time. And the rectifying meant this: that the rectifying editors, capable and influential teachers in collating the various spoken versions, adapted these to fit and express the view they themselves had come to hold of a given doctrine. And in so adapting, they would tend to re-word as seemed better: to emphasise here, to reduce or even drop out there. In this way it was inevitable that the original Sayings, in wording, in emphasis, nay in matter, edged little by little even further from what they had once been”.11 After having made clear the gradual compilation of and the consequent unavoidable interpolations and alterations in the Tri-pitaka she goes on to say: “The Pali Canon holds a great manifold of the true and the untrue, the worthy and the worse”.12 11. Wayfarer’s Words Vol. I by Mrs. Rhys Davids pp. 309-319 12. Ibid p. 324. THE BUDDHA AND HIS ORIGINAL TEACHINGS 43 Later on she points out that keeping in mind the intelligence and wisdom and the way of thinking of this great reformer of Asia we can decide for ourselves what teachings of the Tri-pitaka could have come from him and what he could never have said under any conditions. She says: “We are able to catch the reminiscences of the life and ministry of the Founder before they had, under the hand of time and changing values, become relatively much altered. That which in Christianity is reminiscence handed down unwritten during a few generations, has in Buddhism become almost purely legendary cult. Time and changing values have been much longer at work. The man, loyal friend and helper of man, has become a superman, object of awe and worship. The monastic cult grown great has superposed its own outlook, on life as ‘ill’, on the original message which sought to expand and safeguard the teaching of immanence current in its d a y . . . . It was in this environment that the Pali Canon was built up, was finally closed, was finally written down. It is hardly strange that in it we find much, very much more of which we can plead: this and that he will not have taught, than we can find in the Christian Gospels”.13 . From the above mentioned excerpts it becomes apparent that according to the researches of the scholars who have spent their life-times in the study of ancient Buddhist literature the present collection of the Tri-pitaka does not exactly and entirely correspond to the original teachings of the Buddha. As a matter of fact it had taken it 1000 long years to assume its present shape. And hi these 1000 years it not only passed through various stages of translation and re-translation but was constantly revised, added to, and altered according to the changing values and new requirements of the time. Along with these changes and additions mushroom growth of new sects started taking place. Sects which not only differed from one another but which were sometimes mutually contradictory, too. Then, the research scholars are also agreed on the point that it may be difficult but is not impossible to ascertain the real and true teachings of the Buddha in the light of what we know of his life, the peculiar religious and social values of the time, the Buddha’s traditional intelligence and wisdom itself and numerous other pointers and historical facts. The Need for Fresh Critical Study Under these circumstances it becomes incumbent on us to study the Tri-pitaka and other ancient Buddhist literature from a new angle of vision. So that we may come to know of the real teachings of the Buddha and the thick smoke screen of the centuries of fiction and imagination thrown round the reality and quality of the great spiritual revolution heralded by him may be 13. Wayfarer’s Words Vol. II by Mrs. Rhys Davids pp. 512-513. 44 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS lifted. This is also necessary because the efforts made by the Western scholars in this connection have been inadequate. In spite of admitting that the Tri-pitaka cannot be called an exact and true copy of the original teachings of the Buddha, barring a few, most of the scholars have tried to prove, as far as possible, that its contents are his real teachings. This kind of new angle of studying the Buddhist literature has become quite easy now. It has become so because the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (may peace be on him) using his prophetic vision, has thrown decisive light on the Buddha’s station, his message, and the work done by him. This has opened a new horizon for research scholars. His decisive point of view about the Buddha and his teachings is of special significance. Before proving the truth of his views by the Tri-pitaka it would be better to describe this revolutionary idea in his own words. In this connection the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam has propounded a very basic principle, namely, that all those ancient saints and holy men who are believed in, revered and loved by millions of people, and a very long time has passed on this belief of theirs, must have been positively the loved ones of God and sent by him. Basing himself upon this very principle he accepted the Buddha as a true messenger of God and considered it essential to honour and respect him. Describing this principle he says: “We never speak evil of the prophets of other nations. Rather we hold the belief that all the prophets who have come in the world to the different nations and millions of people have accepted them and in any one part of the world their love and glory has taken roots and a long time has elasped on this love and faith, this one argument is enough for their truth. Because, had they not been from God this acceptance would not have spread into the hearts of millions. God does never give the honour of his favoured ones to others. And if any false one wants to sit on their throne he is soon destroyed and perished.”14 Accepting him as a true messenger of God on the above mentioned principle, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement (may peace be on him) vehemently refuted the allegation that the Buddha was a Nastik. He proved that the Buddha in addition to believing in God also believed in heaven and hell, the day of Judgement, life after death, and the existence of angels. He also proves that the doctrine of transmigration is wrongly ascribed to him. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement explains that the doctrine of repeated births described by the Buddha, in reality means the different phases of this very life through which a man passes. Vehemently refuting the charge of atheism against the Buddha he writes: “I have already stated that the Buddha also believes in the existence of the Devil, so he also believes in hell and heaven, in angels and in the day 14. Paigham-i-Sulh by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad p. 28. THE BUDDHA AND HIS ORIGINAL TEACHINGS 45 of Judgement. And the charge that the Buddha did not believe in God is a pure fabrication. The Buddha did not believe in Vedanta and in corporeal gods of the Hindus. He criticises the Vedas a great deal. He does not believe in the existing Vedas. He regards them as corrupt and interpolated”.15 Similarly explaining the meanings in which the Buddha believed in the doctrine of repeated births, he says: “It may be observed, however, that the Buddha believed in the transmigration of the soul, but this ‘transmigration’ is not opposed to the teachings of the gospels. According to the Buddha, transmigration is of three kinds: (i) that the dying man’s actions and efforts necessitate the coming into being of another body; (ii) the kind of transmigration which the Tibetans believe to be operative among the Lamas, i.e. some part of the spirit of Buddha or Bodhi Satwa transmigrates into the Lama for the time being; which means that his power, temper and spiritual qualities are transferred into such a Lama and that his spirit begins to animate the latter; (iii) that in this very life man goes through different creations — there comes a time when he is, as it were, a bull; when he grows in greed and evil, he becomes a dog, the first existence dying out, giving rise to another corresponding to the quality of his actions; all these changes, however, take place in this very life. This creed is not opposed to the teachings of the gospels.”16 These views of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement (may peace be on him) about Gotama the Buddha and his teachings are at variance not only with the views of the Western scholars but are also radically different from those held by followers of the Buddha himself. For instance the Hinayana sect of the present day Buddhism does not believe in the very existence of God. Its members say that the Buddha himself did not believe in God or soul. Similarly, this sect does not believe in that explanation of the doctrine of repeated births which has been attributed to the Buddha by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. If we make a thorough study of the Tri-pitaka and other ancient Buddhist literature it can no longer remain hidden that these ideas and views although being entirely different from the prevailing Buddhism completely fit in the picture; and it becomes obvious that what the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement has described, exactly corresponds to the real teachings of the Buddha. What is needed is that the Tri-pitaka and the old Buddhist literature should be viewed from a completely new angle of vision. In the articles to follow I shall try to prove that in the Tri-pitaka and other Buddhist literature, in spite of their being interpolated and altered, there are unmistakable pointers which fully support the views of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (may peace be on him). 15. Jesus in India by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad pp. 99-100. 16. Ibid p. 99.