Open main menu

Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 21.djvu/16

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

one, is Sâkyamuni, the Lord. It consists of a series of dialogues, brightened by the magic effects of a would-be supernatural scenery. The phantasmagorical parts of the whole are as clearly intended to impress us with the idea of the might and glory of the Buddha, as his speeches are to set forth his all-surpassing wisdom. Some affinity of its technical arrangement with that of the regular Indian drama is visible in the prologue or Nidâna, where Mañgusrî at the end prepares the spectators and auditors—both are the same—for the beginning of the grand drama, by telling them that the Lord is about to awake from his mystic slumber and to display his infinite wisdom and power.

In the book itself we find it termed a Sûtra or Sutrânta of the class called Mahâvaipulya. In a highly instructive discussion on the peculiar characteristics and comparative age of the different kinds of Sûtras, Burnouf arrives at the conclusion that the Mahâvaipulya Sûtras are posterior to the simple Sûtras in general[1]. As there are two categories of simple Sutras, 1. those in which the events narrated are placed contemporary with the Buddha, 2. those which refer to persons living a considerable time after his reputed period, e.g. Asoka[2], it follows that the composition of the Mahâvaipulya Sûtras must be held to fall in a later time than the production of even the second category of simple Sûtras. Now in one of the latter, the; Asoka-Avadâna, we read of Asoka using the word dînâra[3], which leads us to the conclusion that the said Avadâna was composed, not only after the introduction of dînâra from the West, in the first century of our era or later, but at a still more modern time, when people had forgotten the foreign origin of the coin in question.

The results arrived at by Burnouf may be right so far as any Mahâvaipulya Sûtra, as a whole, is concerned; they cannot be applied to all the component parts of such a work. Not to go further than the Saddharma-pundarîka

  1. Introduction à l'histoire du Buddhisme indien, pp. 103-128.
  2. Burnouf, Introd. p. 218 seq.
  3. Burnouf, Introd. p. 423; cf. p. 431, where Pushyamitra is made to speak of dînâras; Max Müller, History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p 245.