[Review of The Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold]

A timely work in poetical form, and one whose subject—perfect though the outward clothing be—is sure to provoke discussion and bitter criticisms, has just made its appearance. It is inscribed to “The Sovereign, Grand Master and Companions of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India,” and the author, Mr. Edwin Arnold, C.S.I., late Principal of the Deccan College at Poona, having passed some years in India, has evidently studied his theme con amore. In his Preface he expresses the hope that the present work and his “Indian Song of Songs will preserve the memory of one who loved India and the Indian peoples.” The hope is well grounded, for if any Western poet has earned the right to grateful remembrance by Asiatic nations and is destined to live in their memory, it is the author of the Light of Asia.

The novelty, and, from a Christian standpoint, the distastefulness of the mode of treatment of the subject seems to have already taken one reviewer’s breath away. Describing the volume as “gorgeous in yellow and gold” he thinks the book “chiefly valuable as . . . coming from one who during a long residence in India imbued his mind with Buddhistic philosophy.” This, he adds, “is no criticism of a religion supposed to be false, but the sympathetic presentment of a religion so much of which is true as from the mouth of a votary (sic).” By many, Mr. Arnold’s “imaginary Buddhist votary” of the Preface, is identified with the author himself; who now—to quote again his critic—“comes out in his true colours.” We are glad of it; it is a rare compliment to pay to any writer of this generation, whose peremptory instincts lead but too many to sail under any colours but their own. For our part, we regard the poem as a really remarkable specimen of literary talent, replete with philosophical thought and religious feeling—just the book, in short, we needed in our period of Science of Religion—and the general toppling of ancient gods.

The Miltonic verse of the poem is rich, simple, yet powerful, without any of those metaphysical innuendoes at the expense of clear meaning which the subject might seem to beg, and which is so much favored by some of our modern English poets. There is a singular beauty and a force in the whole narrative, that hardly characterizes other recent poems—Mr. Browning’s idyl, the Pheidippides, for one, which in its uncouth hero—the Arcadian goat-god, offers such a sad contrast to the gentle Hindu Saviour. Jar as it may on Christian ears, the theme chosen by Mr. Arnold is one of the grandest possible. It is as worthy of his pen, as the poet has showed himself worthy of the subject. There is a unity of Oriental colouring in the descriptive portion of the work, a truthfulness of motive evinced in the masterly handling of Buddha’s character, which are as precious as unique; inasmuch as they present this character for the first time in the history of Western literature, in the totality of its unadulterated beauty. The moral grandeur of the hero, that Prince of royal blood, who might have been the “Lord of Lords,” yet

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .let the rich world slip
Out if his grasp, to hold a beggar’s bowl,”

and the development of his philosophy, the fruit of years of solitary meditation and struggle with the mortal “Self,” are exquisitely portrayed. Toward the end the poem culminates in a triumphant cry of all nature; a universal hymn at the sight of the World-liberating soul

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . of the Saviour of the World,
Lord Buddha—Prince Siddhârtha styled on earth,
In Earth and Heavens and Hells Incomparable,
All-honoured, Wisest, Best, most Pitiful;
The Teacher of Nirvâna and the Law.”

Whatever the subsequent fate of all the world’s religions and their founders, the name of Gautama Buddha, or Sâkya Muni,† can never be forgotten; it must always live in the hearts of millions of votaries. His touching history—that of a daily and hourly self-abnegation during a period of nearly eighty years, has found favor with everyone who has studied his history. When one searches the world’s records for the purest, the highest ideal of a religious reformer, he seeks no further after reading this Buddha’s life. In wisdom, zeal, humility, purity of life and thought; in ardor for the good of mankind; in provocation to good deeds, to toleration, charity and gentleness, Buddha excels other men as the Himâlayas excel other peaks in height. Alone among the founders of religions, he had no word of malediction nor even reproach for those who differed with his views. His doctrines are the embodiment of universal love. Not only our philologists—cold anatomists of time-honoured creeds who scientifically dissect the victims of their critical analysis—but even those who are prepossessed against his faith, have ever found but words of praise for Gautama. Nothing can be higher or purer than his social and moral code. “That moral code,” says Max Müller, (“Buddhism”) 3 “taken by itself is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known.” In his work “Le Bouddha et sa Religion” (p. 5) Barthelemy St. Hilaire reaches the climax of reverential praise. He does not “hesitate to say” that “among the founders of religions there is no figure more pure or more touching than that of Buddha. His life has not a stain upon it. His constant heroism equals his convictions . . . He is the perfect model of all the virtues he preaches; his abnegation and charity, his inalterable gentleness, never forsake him for an instant . . .” And, when his end approaches, it is in the arms of his disciples that he dies, “with the serenity of a sage who practiced good during his whole life, and who is sure to have found—the truth.” So true is it, that even the early Roman Catholic saint-makers, with a flippant unconcern for detection by posterity characteristic of the early periods of Christianity, claimed him as one of their converts, and, under the pseudonym of St. Josaphat, registered him in their “Golden Legend” and “Martyrology” as an orthodox, beatified Catholic saint. At this very day, there stands at Palermo, a church dedicated to Buddha under the name of Divo Josaphat. 4 It is to the discovery of the Buddhist canon, and the Sacred Historical Books of Ceylon—partially translated from the ancient Pâli by the Hon. J. Turnour; and especially to the able translation of “Lalita-Vistara” by the learned Babu Rajendrâlal Mitra—that we owe nearly all we know of the true life of this wonderful being, so aptly named by our present author, “The Light of Asia.” And now, poetry wreathes his grave with asphodels.

Mr. Arnold, as he tells us himself in the Preface, has taken his citations from Spence Hardy’s work, and has also modified more than one passage in the received narrative. He has sought, he says, “to depict the life and character and indicate the philosophy of that noble hero and reformer, Prince Gautama of India,” and reminds his readers that a generation ago “little or nothing was known in Europe of this great faith of Asia, which had nevertheless existed during 24 centuries, and at this day surpasses, in the number of its followers and the area of its prevalence, any other form of creed. Four hundred and seventy millions of our race live and die in the tenets of Gautama . . .” whose “sublime teaching is stamped ineffaceably upon modern Brahmanism . . . More than a third of mankind, therefore, owe their moral and religious ideas to this illustrious prince; whose personality . . . cannot but appear the highest, gentlest, holiest, and most beneficent . . . in the history of Thought . . . No single act or word mars the perfect purity and tenderness of this Indian teacher . . .” We will now explain some of the sacred legends as we proceed to quote them.

Gautama, also called Savârtha-Siddha—abbreviated to Siddhârtha according to the Thibetans by his father, whose wish (ârtha) had been at last fulfilled (siddha)—was born at 624 B.C. At Kapilavastu. 5 It was on the very sport on which now stands the town of Nagara, near the river Ghoghra, at the foot of the mountains of Nepaul, and about a hundred miles north of Benares that he passed his early boyhood, and youth. His birth, like that of all founders, is claimed to have been miraculous. Buddah—the highest Wisdom, which waits “thrice ten thousand years,” then lives again, having determined to help the world, descended from on high, and went down—

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . among the Sâkyas
Under the southward snows of Himalay
Where pious people live and a just king.
That night the wife of king Duddhôdana,
Maya the Queen, asleep beside her Lord,
Dreamed a strange dream; dreamed that a start from heaven—
Splendid, six rayed, in colour rosy-pearl,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shot through the void and, shining into her,
Entered her womb upon the right . . . . . . . . . . .”

The Avatar is born among a thousand wonders. Asita the gray-haired saint, comes,—significantly like old Simeon,—to bless the Divine Babe, and exclaims:

“O Babe! I worship! Thou art He!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thou art Buddh.
And thou wilt preach the Law and save all flesh
Who learn the Law, though I shall never hear,
Dying too soon, who lately longed to die;
Howbeit I have seen Thee. . . . . . . . . . . .” 6

The child grows; and his future taste for an ascetic life appears clearly in the contemplative mood which he exhibits from his very boyhood. According to the prophecy of Asita, who tells the “sweet Queen” that henceforth she has “grown too sacred for more woe” . . . the mother dies “on the seventh evening” after the birth of Gautama, a painless death . . .

“Queen Maya smiling slept, and walked no more,
Passing content to Trâyastrinshas—Heaven.
Where countless Devas worship her and wait
Attendant on that radiant MOTHERHOOD. . .”

At eight years of age, the young Gautama conquers in learned disputations all the Gurus and Achâryas. He knows without ever having learned the Scriptures, every sacred script and all the sciences. When he is eighteen, the kind, his father, frightened at the prophecy that his only son is to become the destroyer of all the old gods, tries to find a remedy for it in a bride. Indifferent to the hosts of beauties invited to the palace the Prince “to the surprise of all, takes fire at first glance” of a radiant Sâkya girl, his own cousin, Yasôdhara, also called “Gopa,” the daughter of the kind of Koli, Dandapâni; because, as it is ultimately discovered by himself, they knew, and loved each other in a previous incarnation.

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . We were not strangers, as to us
And all it seemed; in ages long gone by
A hunter’s son, playing with forest girls
By Yamun’s springs, where Nandadevi stands,
Sate umpire while they raced beneath the fir—
Like hares. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but who ran the last
Came first for him, and unto her the boy
Gave a tame fawn and his heart’s love beside.
And in the wood they lived many glad years,
And in the wood they undivided died.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thus I was he and she Yasôdhara;
And while the wheel of birth and death turns round,
That which hath been must be between us two.”

But Gautama has to win his Sâkya bride, for, we are told that—

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . it was law
With Sâkyas, when any asked a maid
Of noble house, fair and desirable,
He must make good his skill in martial arts
Against all suitors who should challenge it.”

The Prince conquers them all; and the lovely Indian girl drawing

“The veil of black and gold across her brow . . . . .
Proud pacing past the youths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

hangs on his neck the fragrant wreath, and is proclaimed the Prince’s bride. “This veil of black and gold”: has a symbolic significance, which no one knows at the time; and which he learns himself but long after when enlightenment comes to him. And then, when questioned, he unriddles the mystery. The lesson contained in this narrative of a Prince having every reason to be proud of his birth, is as suggestive as the verse is picturesque. It relates the metempsychosis—the evolution of modern science!

“And the world-honoured answered . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I now remember, myriad rains ago,
What time I roamed Himâla’s hanging woods,
A tiger, with my striped and hungry kind;
I, who am Buddh, couched in the kusa grass
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Amid the beasts that were my fellows then,
Met in deep jungle or by reedy jheel,
A tigress, comeliest of the forest, set
The males at war; her hide was lit with gold,
Black-broidered like the veil Yasôdhara
Wore for me; hot the strife waxed in that wood
With tooth and claw, while underneath a neem
The fair beast watched us bleed, thus fiercely wooed.
And I remember, at the end she came
Snarling past this and that torn forest-lord.
Which I had conquered, and with fawning jaws
Licked my quick-heaving flank, and with me went
Into the wild with proud steps, amorously. . . . . . .
The wheel of birth and death turns low and high.”

And further on, we find again the following lines upon the same question, lines to which neither a Kabalist, Pythagorean, a Shakespeare’s Hamlet, nor yet Mr. Darwin could take exception. They describe the mental state of the Prince when, finding nothing stable, nothing real upon earth, and ever pondering upon the dreary problems of life and death, he determines upon sacrificing himself to mankind; none of whom, whether Vishnu, Shiva, Surya or any other god, can ever save from

“The aches of life, the stings of love and loss,
The fiery fever and the ague-shake,
The slow, dull sinking into withered age,
The horrible dark death—and what beyond
Waits—till the whirling wheel comes up again,
And new lives bring new sorrows to be borne,
New generations for the new desires
Which have their end in the old mockeries?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . Our scriptures truly seem to teach,
That—once, and wheresoe’er, and whence begun—
Life runs its rounds of living, climbing up
From mote, and gnat, and worm, reptile, and fish,
Bird and shagged beast, man, demon, deva, God,
To clod and mote again; so are we kin
To all that is . . . . . . . . .”

Dreading the consequences of such a train of thought, Suddhodâna builds three luxurious palaces, one within the other, and confines the princely couple in it; when,

“The King commanded that within those walls
No mention should be made of death or age,
Sorrow, or pain, or sickness . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And every dawn the dying rose was plucked,
The dead leaves hid, all evil sights removed:
For said the King, “If he shall pass his youth
Far from such things as move to wistfulness,
And brooding on the empty eggs of thought,
The shadow of this fate, too vast for man,
May fade, belike, and I shall see him grow
To that great stature of fair sovereignty
When he shall rule all lands—if he will rule—
The King of kings and glory of his time.”

Wherefore, around that pleasant prison-house—
Where love was gaoler and delights its bars,
But far removed from sight—the King bade build
A massive wall, and in the wall a gate
With brazen folding-doors, which but to roll
Back on their hinges asked a hundred arms;
Also the noise of that prodigious gate
Opening, was heard full half a yôjana.
And inside this another gate he made,
And yet within another—through the three
Must one pass if he quit that Pleasure-house.
Three mighty gates there were, bolted and barred,
And over each was set a faithful watch;
And the King’s order said, “Suffer no man
To pass the gates, though he should be the Prince:
This on your lives—even though it be my son.”

But alas, for human precaution! Gautama’s destiny was in the power of the Devas. When the King’s vigilance was relaxed, and the Prince permitted to go outside the palaces for a drive,

“Yea!” spake the careful King, “’tis time he see!
But let the criers go about and bid
My city deck itself, so there be met
No noisome sight; and let none blind or maimed,
None that is sick or stricken deep in years,
No leper, and no feeble folk come forth.”

And yet, the first thing that met the eye of Gautama, was:—

“An old, old man, whose shrivelled skin, sun-tanned,
Clung like a beast’s hide to his fleshless bones.
Bent was his back with load of many days,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wagging with palsy . . . . . . . . . . .One skinny hand
Clutched a worn staff to prop his quavering limbs,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
‘Alms!’ moaned he, ‘give, good people! for I die
To-morrow or the next day!’ . . . . . .”

It was a Deva, who had assumed that form of suffering humanity. Horrified at the sight, the Prince rode back, and gave himself entirely to his sad reflexions. And that night,

Lulled on the dark breasts of Yasôdhara,
Her fond hands fanning slow his sleeping lids,
He would start up and cry, My world! Oh, world!
I hear! I know! I come ! And she would ask,
“What ails my Lord?” with large eyes terror-struck
For at such times the pity in his look
Was awful, and his visage like a god’s. . . . . . . . .”

“The voices of the spirits,” the “wandering winds,” and the Devas ever sung to him, murmuring softly in his ears of the sorrows of mortal life, which is—

A moan , a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife.
Yea! “who shall shut out Fate.”

Gautama is again moved to see the world beyond the gates of his palaces, and meets with a poor wretch stricken by a deadly plague; and finally, with a bamboo bier, on which lay stretched—

“. . . . . . . stark and stiff, feet foremost, lean,
Chapfallen, sightless, hollow-flanked, agrin,
Sprinkled with red and yellow dust—the Dead, . . . . .”

whom the mourners carries, to where a pile was built near a stream and immediately set—

“The red flame to the corners four, which crept,
And licked, and flickered, finding out his flesh
And feeding on it with swift hissing tongues,
And crackle of parched skin, and snap of joint,
Till the fat smoke thinned and the ashes sank
Scarlet and grey, with here and there a bone
White midst the grey—THE TOTAL OF THE MAN. . .
Then spake the Prince: ‘Is this the end which comes
To all who live?’
‘This is the end that comes
To all,’ quoth Channa; . . . . the Prince’s charioteer.
“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Oh! suffering world,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I would not let one cry
Whom I could save! How can it be that Brahm
Would make a world and keep it miserable,
Since, if all-powerful, he leaves it so,
He is not good, and if not powerful,
He is not God? . . . Channa! lead home again!
It is enough! mine eyes have seen enough!” . . . . . . . . .

During that night, the Princess Yasôdhara, has a fearful dream—

“In slumber I beheld three sights of dread,
With thought whereof my hear is throbbing yet,” . . . . . . .

She tells her lord she heard a

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . voice of fear
Crying, ‘The time is nigh! the time is nigh!’
Thereat the third dream came; for when I sought
Thy side, sweet Lord! ah, on our bed there lay
An unpressed pillow and an empty robe—
Nothing of thee but those; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

The time was come indeed. That very night, the Prince is represented as giving up for manking more than his throne and glory—more than his mortal life, for he sacrifices his very heart’s blood, the mother of his unborn babe. The scene of the departure is one of the most masterly of the whole poem. Siddhârtha has quieted his young wife and watches over her, but

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . with the whispers of the gloom
Came to his ears again that warning song,
As when the Devas spoke upon the wind:
And surely Gods were round about the place
Watching our Lord, who watched the shining stars.
“I will depart,” he spake; “the hour is come!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My chariot shall not roll with bloody wheels
From victory to victory, till earth
Wears the red record of my name. I choose
To tread its paths with patient, stainless feet,
Making its dust my bed, its loneliest wastes
My dwelling, and its meanest things my mates:
Clad in no prouder garb than outcasts wear,
Fed with no meats save what the charitable
Give of their will, sheltered by no more pomp
Than the dim cave lends or the jungle-bush.
This will I do because the woful cry
Of life and all flesh living cometh up
Into my ears, and all my soul is full
Of pity for the sickness of this world;
Which I will heal, if healing may be found
By uttermost renouncing and strong strife. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Oh, summoning stars! I come! Oh, mournful earth!
For thee and thine I lay aside my youth,
My throne, my joys, my golden days, my nights,
My happy palace—and thine arms, sweet Queen!
Harder to put aside than all the rest!
Yet thee, too, I shall save, saving this earth . . . . . .
My child, the hidden blossom of our loves,
Whom if I wait to bless my mind will fail.
Wife! child! father! and people! ye must share
A little while the anguish of this hour
That light may break and all flesh learn the Law! . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Then to the saddle lightly leaping, he
Touched the arched crest, and Kantaka sprang forth
With armed hoofs sparkling on the stones and ring
Of champing bit; but none did hear that sound,
For that the Suddha Devas, gathering near,
Plucked the red mohra-flowers and strewed them thick
Under his tread, while hands invisible
Muffled the ringing bit and bridle chains. . . .
But when they reached the gate
Of tripled brass—which hardly fivescore men
Served to unbar and open—lo! the doors
Rolled back all silently, though one might hear
In daytime two koss off the thunderous roar
Of those grim hinges and unwieldy plates.

Also the middle and the outer gates
Unfolded each their monstrous portals thus
In silence as Siddârtha and his steed
Drew near; while underneath their shadow lay,
Silent as dead men, all those chosen guards—
The lance and sword let fall, the shields unbraced,
Captains and soldiers—for there came a wind,
Drowsier than blows o’er Malwa’s fields of sleep,
Before the Prince’s path, which, being breathed,
Lulled every sense aswoon: and so he passed
Free from the palace.”

A sacred legend is interwoven in the poem, which does not belong properly to the life of Gautama Buddha but pertains to the legendary myths of monastic poetry of Buddhism—the Jâtakas, or the previous transmigrations of the Prince Siddhârtha. It is so touching, and the Indian drought so masterfully described that we quote a few lines from it. A spot is yet shown as Attock, near Benares, where the Prince moved to an inexpresible pity by the hunger of a tigress and her cubs and, having nothing else to give—gave her his own body to devour! . . .

“Drought withered all the land: the young rice died
Ere it could hide a quail; in forest glades
A fierce sun sucked the pools; grasses and herbs
Sickened, and all the woodland creatures fled
Scattering for sustenance. At such a time,
Between the hot walls of a nullah, stretched
On naked stones, our Lord spied, as he passed,
A starving tigress. Hunger in her orbs
Glared with green flame; her dry tongue lolled span
Beyond the gasping jaws and shrivelled jowl;
Her painted hide hung wrinkled on her ribs,
As when between the rafters sinks a thatch
Rotten with rains; and at the poor lean dugs
Two cubs, whining with famine, tugged and sucked,
Mumbling those milkless teats which rendered nought,
While she, their gaunt dam, licked full motherly
The clamorous twins, yielding her flank to them
With moaning throat, and love stronger than want,
Softening the first of that wild cry wherewith
She laid her famished muzzle to the sand
And roared a savage thunder-peal of woe.
Seeing which bitter strait, and heeding nought
Save the immense compassion of a Buddh,
Our Lord bethought, “There is no other way
To help this murderess of the woods but one.
By sunset these will die, having no meat:
There is no living heart will pity her,
Bloody with ravin, lean for lack of blood.
Lo! if I feed her, who shall lose but I,
And how can love lose doing of its kind
Even to the uttermost?” So saying, Buddh
Silently laid aside sandals and staff,
His sacred thread, turban, and cloth, and came
Forth from behind the milk-bush on the sand,
Saying, “Ho! mother, here is meat for thee!”
Whereat the perishing beast yelped hoarse and shrill,
Sprang from her cubs, and, hurling to the earth
That willing victim, had her feast of him
With all the crooked daggers of her claws
Rending his flesh, and all her yellow fangs
Bathed in his blood: the great cat’s burning breath
Mixed with the last sigh of such fearless love. . . . . .”

“Purify the mind; abstain from vice and practice virtue” is the essence of Buddhism. Gautama preached his first sermon in the Gazell-grove near Benares. Like all other founders, he is tempted and comes out victorious. The suare of Mâra (the diety of sin, love, and death) are unavailing. He comes off a conqueror.

The ten chief Sins came—Mara’s mighty ones,
Angels of evil—Attavâda first,
The Sin of Self, who in the Universe
As in a mirror sees her fond face shown,
And crying “I” would have the world say “I,”
And all things perish so if she endure.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But quoth our Lord, “Thou hast no part with me,
False Visikitcha, subtlest of man’s foes.”
And third came she who gives dark creeds their power,
Sîlabbat-paramâsa, sorceress,
Draped fair in many lands as lowly Faith,
But ever juggling souls with rites and prayers;
The keeper of those keys which lock up Hells
And open Heavens. “Wilt thou dare,” she said,
“Put by our sacred books, dethrone our gods,
Unpeople all the temples, shaking down
That law which feeds the priests and props the realms?”
But Buddha answered, “What thou bidd’st me keep
Is form which passes, but the free Truth stands;
Get thee unto thy darkness.” Next there drew
Gallantly nigh a braver Tempter, he,
Kama, the King of passions.

But even Kâma-Dhâtu (the love principle) has no hold upon the holy ascetic. Rested for seven years, by the river Nairanjana, entirely abstracted in meditation under his Bâdhi-tree, in the forest of Uruwela, he had already half-raised himself to the true condition of a Buddha. He has long ceased paying attention tot he mere form—the Rûpa . . . . . And, though the “Lords of Hell” had descended themselves

“To tempt the Master.
But Buddh heeded not,
Sitting serene, with perfect virtue walled,

for, on this very night,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “In the third watch,
The earth being still, the hellish legions fled,
A soft air breathing from the sinking moon,
Our Lord attained Samma-sambuddh; he saw
By light which shines beyond our mortal ken
The line of all his lives in all the worlds,
Far back and farther back and farthest yet,
Five hundred lives and fifty. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Also, Buddha saw
How new life reaps what the old life did sow . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . And in the middle watch
Our Lord attained Abhidjna—insight vast
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But when the fourth watch came the secret came
Of Sorrow, which with evil mars the law, . . . . . . .”

And then follows the magnificent enumeration of all the evils of life, of birth, growth, decay, and selfishness; of Avidya—or Delusion; Sankhára—perverse tendencies; Narnarûpa or the local form of the being born, and so on, till karma of the sum total of the soul, its deeds, its thoughts . . . . . . . . It was on that night that the Reformed, though alive and yet of this world reached the last Path to Nirvana, which leads to that supreme state of the mind when . . . . . . . . . . . .

“The aching craze to live ends, and life glides—
Lifeless—to nameless quiet, nameless joy,
Blessed NIRVANA—sinless, stirless rest—
That change which never changes!”
. . . . . . . Lo! the Dawn
Sprang with Buddh’s Victory! . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So glad the World was—though it wist not why
That over desolate wastes went swooning songs
Of mirth, the voice of bodiless Prets and Bhuts
Foreseeing Buddh; and Devas in the air
Cried “It is finished, finished!” and the priests
Stood with the wondering people in the streets
Watching those golden splendors flood the sky
And saying “There hath happed some mighty thing.”
Also in Ran and Jungle grew that day
Friendship amongst the creatures; spotted deer
Browsed fearless where the tigress fed her cubs,
And cheetahs lapped the pool beside the bucks;
Under the eagle’s rock the brown hares scoured
While his fierce beak but preened an idle wing;
The snake sunned all his jewels in the beam
With deadly fangs in sheath; the shrike let pass
The nestling-finch; the emerald halcyons
Sate dreaming while the fishes played beneath,
Nor hawked the merops, though the butterflies—
Crimson and blue and amber—flitted thick
Around his perch; the Spirit of our Lord
Lay potent upon man and bird and beast,
Even while he mused under that Bôdhi-tree,
Glorified with the Conquest gained for all
And lightened by a Light greater than Day’s.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Then he arose—radiant, rejoicing, strong—
Beneath the Tree, and lifting high his voice
Spake this, in hearing of all Times and Worlds: . . . . .”
Many a house of life
Hath held me—seeking ever him who wrought
These prisons of the senses, sorrow-fraught;
Sore was my ceaseless strife!
But now,
Thou builder of this Tabernacle—Thou!
I know thee! never shalt thou build again
These walls of pain,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Broken thy house is, and the ridge-pole split!
Delusion fashioned it!
Safe pass I thence—deliverance to obtain.

“It is difficult to be rich and learn the way” . . . used say the master. But “my law is one of grace for all . . . for rich and poor . . . come to me, and I will raise Arhats above the gods” . . . Obedient to his call, millions upon millions have followed the Lord expecting their rewards through no other mediator than a course of undeviating virtue, an unwavering observance of the path of duty. We must bear in mind that Buddhism from its beginning has changed the moral aspect of not only India but of nearly the whole of Asia; and that, breaking up its most cruel customs, it became a blessing to the countless millions of the East—of our brothers. It was at the ripe age of three score and ten, that Buddha felt his end approaching. He was then close to Kusinagara (Kasia) near one of the branches of the Ganges called Atehiravati, when feeling tired he seated himself under a canopy of sâl trees. Turning his eyes in the direction of Râgagriha the capital of Magadha he had murmured prophetically the day before: “This is the last time that I see this city and the throne of diamonds,” and, his prophecy became accomplished at the following dawn. His vital strength failed, and—he was no more. He had indeed reached Nirvana.

“The Buddha died, the great Tathâgato,
Even as a man ‘mongst men, fulfilling all:
And how a thousand thousand crores since then
Have trod the Path which leads whither he went
Unto NIRVANA where the Silence lives.”

No need of remarking that Mr. Arnold’s views are those of most of the Orientalists of to-day, who have, at last, arrived at the conclusion that Nirvâna—whatever it may mean philologically—philosophically and logically is anything but annihilation. The views taken in the poem—says the author—of “Nirvana,” “Dharma,” “Kharma” and the other chief features of Buddhism, are . . . the fruits of considerable study, and also of a firm conviction, that a third of manking would never have been brought to believe in blank abstraction, or in Nothingness as the issue and crown of Being.” The poem, therefor, comes to a close with the following fervent appeal:—

Ah! Blessed Lord! Oh, High Deliverer!
Forgive this feeble script, which doth thee wrong.
Measuring with little wit thy lofty Love.
Ah! Lover! Brother! Guide! Lamp of the Law!
I take my refuge in Thy name and Thee!
I take my refuge in thy Law of Good!
I take my refuge in thy Order! OM!
T
he dew is on the lotus!—Rise great Sun!
And lift my leaf and mix me with the wave.
OM MANI PADME HUM, the sunrise comes!
The Dewdrop slips into the shining sea!”


1. The Light of Asia: or the Great Renunciation (Mahâbhinishkramana). Being the Life and Teachings of Gautamas Prince of India and Founder of Buddhism. As told in verse by an Indian Buddhist. By Edwin Arnold, M.A., K.C.I.E., C.S.I. Formerly Principal of the Deccan College, Poona, and Fellow of the University of Bombay. London: Trübner & Co., 1879.

2. He belonged to the family of the Sâkyas, who were descendants of Ikshvâku and formed one of the numerous branches of the Solar dynasty; the race which entered India about 2,300 years B.C. “according to the epic poems of India. Muni means a saint or ascetic, hence—Sakyamuni.”

3. Chips from a German Workshop, Vol. I, p. 217.

4. See Speculum Historiale, by Vincent de Beauvais, XIIIth century. Max Müller affirms the story of this transformation of the great founder of Buddhism into one of the numberless Popish Saints. (See Roman Martyrology p. 348—Colonel Yule tells us (Contemporary Review, p. 588, July, 1870) that this story of Barlaam and Josaphat was set forth by command of Pope Gregory XIII, revised by the authority of Pope Urban VIII, translated from Latin into English by G. K. of the Society of Jesus.

5. The learned Dr. J. Gerson da Cunha, Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay, tells us in a “Memoir of the History of the Tooth-Relic of Ceylon,” that Kapila, “of a part of which the father of Buddha was king, and tributary to that Kosala, was built by the departed sons of Ikshvaku by the permission of the sage Kapila, whence the name.” He also gives another version “to the effect that Kapilavastû means yellow dwelling, and yellow . . . is the distinctive colour of the principality; and hence it may have been adopted as the badge of the Buddhist, who are sometimes spoken of as of the yellow religion.”

6. Compare Luke II. V. 25-30. “Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace . . . for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” exclaims old Simeon.