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The Essence of Buddhism

The Essence of Buddhism
Author: Buddhism
Title: The Essence of Buddhism
Release Date: 2006-04-21
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
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Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius




The Essence of









Copyright, 1922.

Haldeman-Julius Company.




I am glad to be permitted thus to say, in a few words of introductionto this well-meditated little volume, how pleasant and how profitablean idea it must be considered to have designed and compiled a Buddhistanthology. Selecting his cut and uncut jewels from very variousBuddhistic sources, Mr. Bowden has here supplied those who buy and usethe book with rubies and sapphires and emeralds of wisdom, compassion,and human brotherhood, any one of which, worn on the heart, would besufficient to make the wearer rich beyond estimation for a day. Theauthor disclaims any attempt to set forth a corpus of Buddhisticmorality and doctrine, nor, indeed, would anything of the kind bepossible within such narrow limits; but I rejoice to observe how welland faithfully his manifold extracts from the Sacred Books of Indiaand the East exhibit that ever-pervading tenderness of the greatAsiatic Teacher, which extended itself to all alike that live. Thiscompassionateness of Gautama, if nothing else had been illustrated bythe collection, would render it precious to possess and fruitful toemploy; but many another lofty tenet of the "Light" of Asia findsillumination in some brief verse or maxim as day after day glides by;and he who should mark the passage of the months with these simple[4]pages must become, I think, a better man at the year's end than atits beginning. I recommend this compilation without hesitation orreserve.





In this compilation no attempt has been made to present a general viewof Buddhism as a religious or philosophical system. The aim has ratherbeen to turn Buddhism to account as a moral force by bringing togethera selection of its beautiful sentiments, and lofty maxims, andparticularly including some of those which inculcate mercy to thelower animals.

On this point a far higher stand is taken by Buddhism than byChristianity—or at any rate than by Christianity as understood andinterpreted by those who ought to know. Not only is the whole questionof our duties to the lower animals commonly ignored in Christian worksas, for instance, in the famous Imitation of Christ, and scores ofothers; but, as if this were not enough, a reasoned attempt hasactually been made, on the strength of Christian teaching, to explodethe notion that animals have any right (e.g., in Moral Philosophy, byFather Joseph Rickaby). Very different in this respect is the tone ofthe average Buddhist treatise, with its earnest exhortations,recurring as a matter of course, to show mercy on every living thing;[6]and this difference alone is an adequate reason for compiling aBuddhist anthology.

In regard to the sources quoted from, considerable latitude seemedallowable. They do not all, by any means, possess canonical authority.But they are all distinctly Buddhist in character. The supposed datesof the originals range from at least the third century B. C. tomedieval and later times.

Hence, it is clear that, should any one think to make use ofquotations from this work for controversial purposes, a certain degreeof caution will be necessary. The context of the passage, and the dateand the authorship of the original work, may all need to be taken intoaccount; while it must also be borne in mind that the religious terms,such as "heaven" and "sin," which have to be employed in English, donot always correspond exactly to the Buddhist conception.

Of the numerous Buddhist works which have now been translated fromsome eight or ten eastern languages, the greater number, when regardedpurely as literature, occupy a very low level. At times they are soremarkably dull and silly that the reader is inclined to ask why theywere ever translated. But the one redeeming feature in the voluminouscompositions of Buddhist writers is the boundless compassion whichthey consistently inculcate.

The insertion of a passage in these pages does not necessarily implythat the compiler accepts in its entirety the teaching it conveys.Concerning that oft-repeated injunction, not to kill any livingcreature whatsoever, we can[7] hardly doubt that there are many cases inwhich to take life, provided it is taken painlessly, not only is noton the whole an unkindness, but is an act of beneficence. If wesometimes give to this injunction the sense of extending our sympathyto the lowest sentient being, and not causing pain to living creatureswhile they live, we shall perhaps not be doing violence to the spiritof mercy by which it was prompted. There are many passages in Buddhistworks which advocate preference for the spirit over the letter, or theexercise of judgment in accepting what we are taught.

A few passages, though not many, have been included more because theyare striking or poetical than for the sake of their moral teaching.

As the references given are mostly to the Oriental origins, it is onlyfair to insert here a list of the English and French translationswhich have been principally used in compiling this book. The followingworks comprise most of those which have proved directly of service forthe purpose—"Sacred Books of the East," namely:

  • Vol. 10. Dhammapada, by F. Max Muller; and Sutta-Nipata, by V.Fausboll.
  • Vol. 11. Buddhist Suttas, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • Vol. 13. Vinaya Texts, part 1, by T. W. Rhys Davids and H.Oldenberg.
  • Vol. 17. Vinaya Texts, part 2, by T. W. Rhys Davids and H.Oldenberg.
  • Vol. 19. Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, by Rev. S. Beal.
  • Vol. 20. Vinaya Texts, part 3, by T. W. Rhys Davids and H.Oldenberg.
  • Vol. 21. Saddharma-pundarika, by H. Kern.
  • Vol. 35. Questions of King Milinda, part 1, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • Vol. 36. Questions of King Milinda, part 2, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • Vol. 49. Buddhist Mahayana Texts, by E. B. Cowell, F. Max Muller,and J. Takakusu.
  • "Sacred Books of the Buddhists," namely:
  • Vol. 1. Jatakamala, by J. S. Speyer.
  • Vol. 2. Dialogues of the Buddha, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • The Jataka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births, translatedunder the editorship of Professor E. B. Cowell.
  • Buddhism of Tibet, by L. A. Waddell.
  • Buddhism in Translations, by H. C. Warren.
  • Travels of Fa-hien, by James Legge.
  • Selected Essays, by F. Max Muller.
  • Buddhist Birth Stories, or Jataka Tales, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • Hibbert Lectures for 1881, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • Buddhism, by T. W. Rhys Davids.
  • Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, by Rev. S. Beal.
  • Abstract of Four Lectures on Buddhist Literature in China, by Rev.S. Beal.
  • Romantic Legend of Sakya Buddha, by Rev. S. Beal.
  • Texts from the Buddhist Canon known as Dhammapada, by Rev. S. Beal.
  • Udanavarga, by W. W. Rockhill.
  • Lalita Vistara, by Rajendralala Mitra.
  • Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal, by Rajendralala Mitra.
  • Mahavamsa, by L. C. Wijesinha.
  • Attanagalu-vansa, by James D'Alwis.
  • Archaeological Survey of Southern India (new series of reports),vol. 1, by James Burgess, with translations by Georg Buhler.
  • Archaeological Survey of Western India, vol. 4, by James Burgess.
  • Sutta-Nipata, by Sir M. Coomara Swamy.
  • Katha Sarit Sagara, by C. H. Tawney.
  • Grammar of the Tibetan Language, by A. Csoma de Koros.
  • Nagananda: a Buddhist Drama, by Palmer Boyd.
  • Buddhaghosa's Parables, by Capt. T. Rogers.
  • Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold.
  • Ancient Proverbs and Maxims from Burmese Sources, by James Gray.
  • Jinalankara, or Embellishments of Buddha, by James Gray.
  • We-than-da-ya: a Buddhist Legend, by L. Allan Goss.
  • The English Governess at the Siamese Court, by Mrs. A. H.Leonowens.
  • The Catechism of the Shamans, by C. F. Neumann.
  • View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos, byRev. W. Ward.
  • Horace Sinicae: Translations from the Popular Literature of theChinese, by Rev. Robert Morrison.
  • Contemporary Review for February, 1876.
  • Cornhill Magazine for August, 1876.
  • The Buddhist, vol. 1.
  • Journal of Pali Text Society for 1886.
  • Journal of Buddhist Text Society of India, vols. 1, 3, 4 and 5.
  • Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, new series, vol. 2; also vol. for1894.
  • Journal of Ceylon Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, No. 2.
  • Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 36.
  • Transactions of Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. 22.
  • Journal of American Oriental Society, vol. 4.
  • Journal Asiatique, septieme serie, vols. 17, 19 and 20.
  • Lalita Vistara, by P. E. Foucaux.
  • La Guirlande Pricieuse des Demandes et des Responses, by P. E.Foucaux.
  • Sept Suttas Palis, tires du Dighanikaya, by P. Grimblot.



All beings desire happiness; therefore to all extend yourbenevolence.—Mahavamsa.

Because he has pity upon every living creature, therefore is a mancalled "holy."—Dhammapada.

Like as a mother at the risk of her life watches over her only child,so also let every one cultivate towards all beings a boundless(friendly) mind.—Metta-sutta.

Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.—Udanavarga.

I cannot have pleasure while another grieves and I have power to helphim.—Jatakamala.

With pure thoughts and fulness of love, I will do towards others whatI do for myself.—Lalita Vistara.

If you desire to do something pleasing to me, then desist from huntingforever! The poor poor beasts of the forest, being ... dull ofintellect, are worthy of pity for this very reason.—Jatakamala.

You will generously follow the impulse of pity, I hope.—Jatakamala.[12]

For that they hated this poor slender boy,
That ever frowned upon their barbarous sports,
And loved the beasts they tortured in their play,
And wept to see the wounded hare, or doe,
Or trout that floundered on the angler's hook.

—Lloyd "Nichiren."

Good men melt with compassion even for one who has wrought themharm.—Kshemendra's Avadana Kalpalata.

Though a man with a sharp sword should cut one's body bit by bit, letnot an angry thought ... arise, let the mouth speak no illword.—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

Them who became thy murderers, thou forgavest.—Lalita Vistara.

Overcome evil by good.—Udanavarga.

Conquer your foe by force, and you increase his enmity; conquer bylove, and you reap no after-sorrow.—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

This great principle of returning good for evil.—Sutra of Forty-twoSections.

The member of Buddha's order ... should not intentionally destroy thelife of any being, down even to a worm or an ant.—Mahavagga.

Whether now any man kill with his own hand, or command any other tokill, or whether he only see with pleasure the act of killing[13]—all isequally forbidden by this law.—Sha-mi-lu-i-yao-lio.

My teaching is this, that the slightest act of charity, even in thelowest class of persons, such as saving the life of an insect out ofpity, that this act ... shall bring to the doer of it consequentbenefit.—T'sa-ho-hom-king.

He came to remove the sorrows of all livingthings.—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

"Now (said he) I will see a noble law, unlike the worldly methodsknown to men, ... and will fight against the chief wrought upon man bysickness, age, and death."—Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king.

To a righteous man death must bring gladness. For no fear of mishapexists for him who is devoted to a holy life.—Jatakamala.

He lives only to be a help to others.—Questions of King Milinda.

Why should we cling to this perishable body? In the eye of the wise,the only thing it is good for is to benefit one'sfellow-creatures.—Katha Sarit Sagara.

Is not all I possess, even to my very body, kept for the benefit ofothers?—Nagananda.

All men should cultivate a fixed and firm determination, and vow thatwhat they once undertake they will never giveup.—Fo-pen-hing-tsih-king.[14]

Rather will I fall headlong into hell ... than do a deed that isunworthy.—Jataka.

May my body be ground to powder small as the mustard-seed if I everdesire to (break my vow)!—Fo-pen-hing-tsih-king.

Happy is he that is virtuous—Dhammapada.

To make an end of selfishness is happiness.—Udanavarga.

There is no happiness except in righteousness.—Attanagalu-vansa.

Full of love for all things in the world, practicing virtue in orderto benefit others—this man only is happy.—Fa-kheu-pi-u.

He that loveth iniquity beckoneth to misfortune.—Jitsu-go-kiyo.

Watch your thoughts.—Dhammapada.

Control your tongue.—Dhammapada.

Have a strict control over your passions.—Story of Sundari and Nanda.

The higher life maketh he known, in all its purity and in all itsperfectness.—Tevijja-sutta.

So imbued were they with lovingkindness that all the birds and animalsloved them and harmed them not.—Sama Jataka (Burmese version).[15]

Compassionate and kind to all creatures that havelife.—Brahma-jala-sutta.

The birds and beasts and creeping things—'tis writ—
Had sense of Buddha's vast embracing love,
And took the promise of his piteous speech.

—Sir Edwin Arnold.

He cherished the feeling of affection for all beings as if they werehis only son.—Lalita Vistara.

Closely as cause and effect are bound together,
So do two loving hearts entwine and live—
Such is the power of
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