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HINDU PERIOD]
397
INDIA

dreaded and the despised, both within the kingdom “and in foreign countries, teaching better things.” Conversion is to be effected by persuasion, not by the sword. This character of a proselytizing faith which wins its victories by peaceful means has remained a prominent feature of Buddhism to the present day. Asoka, however, not only took measures to spread the religion; he also endeavoured to secure its orthodoxy. He collected the body of doctrine into an authoritative version, in the Magadhi language or dialect of his central kingdom in Behar—a version which for two thousand years has formed the canon (pitakas) of the southern Buddhists.

The fourth and last of the great councils was held in Kashmir under the Kushan king Kanishka (see below). This council, which consisted of five hundred members, compiled three commentaries on the Buddhist faith. These commentaries supplied in part materials for the Tibetan or northern canon, drawn up at a subsequent period. The northern canon, or, as the Chinese proudly call it, the “greater vehicle of the law,” includes many later corruptions or developments of the Indian faith as originally embodied by Asoka in the “lesser vehicle,” or canon of the southern Buddhists.

The Kanishka commentaries were written in the Sanskrit language, perhaps because the Kashmir and northern priests who formed his council belonged to isolated Aryan colonies, which had been little influenced by the growth of the Indian vernacular dialects. In this way Kanishka and his Kashmir council became in some degree to the northern or Tibetan Buddhists what Asoka and his council had been to the Buddhists of Ceylon and the south.[1]

Buddhism never ousted Brahmanism from any large part of India. The two systems co-existed as popular religions during more than a thousand years (250 B.C. to about A.D. 800), and modern Hinduism is the joint product of Buddhism and Brahmanism. both. Certain kings and certain eras were intensely Buddhistic; but the continuous existence of Brahmanism is abundantly proved from the time of Alexander (327 B.C.) downwards. The historians who chronicled his march, and the Greek ambassador Megasthenes, who succeeded them (300 B.C.) in their literary labours, bear witness to the predominance of the old faith in the period immediately preceding Asoka. Inscriptions, local legends, Sanskrit literature, and the drama disclose the survival of Brahman influence during the next six centuries (250 B.C.-A.D. 400). From A.D. 400 we have the evidence of the Chinese pilgrims, who toiled through Central Asia into India as the birthplace of their faith. Fa-Hien entered India from Afghanistan, and journeyed down the whole Gangetic valley to the Bay of Bengal in A.D. 399-413. He found Brahman priests equally honoured with Buddhist monks, and temples to the Indian gods side by side with the religious houses of his own faith. Hsüan Tsang also travelled to India from China by the Central Asia route, and has left a fuller record of the state of the two religions in the 7th century. His journey extended from A.D. 629 to 645, and everywhere throughout India he found the two faiths eagerly competing for the suffrages of the people. By that time, indeed, Brahmanism was beginning to assert itself at the expense of the other religion. The monuments of the great Buddhist monarchs, Asoka and Kanishka, confronted him from the time he neared the Punjab frontier; but so also did the temples of Siva and his “dread” queen Bhima. Throughout north-western India he found Buddhist convents and monks surrounded by “swarms of heretics.” The political power was also divided, although Buddhist sovereigns predominated. A Buddhist monarch ruled over ten kingdoms in Afghanistan. At Peshawar the great monastery built by Kanishka was deserted, but the populace remained faithful. In Kashmir king and people were devout Buddhists, under the teaching of five hundred monasteries and five thousand monks. In the country identified with Jaipur, on the other hand, the inhabitants were devoted to heresy and war.

During the next few centuries Brahmanism gradually became the ruling religion. There are legends of persecutions instigated by Brahman reformers, such as Kumarila Bhatta and Sankar-Acharjya. But the downfall of Buddhism Decline of Buddhism. seems to have resulted from natural decay, and from new movements of religious thought, rather than from any general suppression by the sword. Its extinction is contemporaneous with the rise of Hinduism, and belongs to a subsequent part of this sketch. In the 11th century, only outlying states, such as Kashmir and Orissa, remained faithful; and before the Mahommedans fairly came upon the scene Buddhism as a popular faith had disappeared from India. During the last ten centuries Buddhism has been a banished religion from its native home. But it has won greater triumphs in its exile than it could ever have achieved in the land of its birth. It has created a literature and a religion for more than a third of the human race, and has profoundly affected the beliefs of the rest. Five hundred millions of men, or 35% of the inhabitants of the world, still follow the teaching of Buddha. Afghanistan, Nepal, Eastern Turkestan, Tibet, Mongolia, Manchuria, China, Japan, the Eastern Archipelago, Siam, Burma, Ceylon and India at one time marked the magnificent circumference of its conquests. Its shrines and monasteries stretched in a continuous line from the Caspian to the Pacific, and still extend from the confines of the Russian empire to the equatorial archipelago. During twenty-four centuries Buddhism has encountered and outlived a series of powerful rivals. At this day it forms one of the three great religions of the world, and is more numerously followed than either Christianity or Islam. In India its influence has survived its separate existence: it supplied a basis upon which Brahmanism finally developed from the creed of a caste into the religion of the people. The noblest survivals of Buddhism in India are to be found, not among any peculiar body, but in the religion of the people; in that principle of the brotherhood of man, with the reassertion of which each new revival of Hinduism starts; in the asylum which the great Hindu sects afford to women who have fallen victims to caste rules, to the widow and the out-caste; in the gentleness and charity to all men, which takes the place of a poor-law in India, and gives a high significance to the half satirical epithet of the “mild” Hindu.

Hindu Period.

The external history of India may be considered to begin with the Greek invasion in 327 B.C. Some indirect trade between India and the Levant seems to have existed from very ancient times. Homer was acquainted with tin and other articles of Indian merchandise by their Sanskrit names; and a long list has been made of Indian products mentioned in the Bible. In the time of Darius (see Persia) the valley of the Indus was a Persian satrapy. But the first Greek historian who speaks clearly of India was Hecataeus of Miletus (549-486 B.C.); the knowledge of Herodotus (450 B.C.) ended at the Indus; and Ctesias, the physician (401 B.C.), brought back from his residence in Persia only a few facts about the products of India, its dyes and fabrics, its monkeys and parrots. India to the east of the Indus was first made known in Europe by the historians and men of science who accompanied Alexander the Great in 327 B.C. Their narratives, although now lost, are condensed in Strabo, Pliny and Arrian. Soon afterwards Megasthenes, as Greek ambassador resident at a court in Bengal (306-298 B.C.), had opportunities for the closest observation. The knowledge of the Greeks and Romans concerning India practically dates from his researches, 300 B.C.

Alexander the Great entered India early in 327 B.C. Crossing the lofty Khawak and Kaoshan passes of the Hindu Kush, he advanced by Alexandria, a city previously founded in the Koh-i-Daman, and Nicaea, another city to Alexander’s march. the west of Jalalabad, on the road from Kabul to India. Thence he turned eastwards through the Kunar valley and Bajour, and crossed the Gouraios (Panjkora) river. Here he laid siege to Mount Aornos, which is identified

  1. In 1909 the excavation of a ruined stupa near Peshawar disclosed a casket, with an inscription of Kanishka, and containing fragments of bones believed to be those of Buddha himself.