Images de page
PDF
ePub

monies, and the ordination of priests, they, led by the king's sister-in-law, demanded to be made priestesses of the Buddhist faith. Professing his inability to accede to their request, Mihindo nevertheless told them that he had a sister named Sangamitta, resident at the capital of his native country, who was a celebrated priestess, and whom they might induce to come by sending an embassy for that purpose. Azitto, the minister of Tissa, again therefore embarked for Dambadiva, and communicated his object to the royal priestess. The king, already regretting the absence of Mihindo, on learning the message of the envoy, endeavoured to dissuade her from her enterprise. Honoured priestess and daughter,' said he, bereft of thee, and separated from my children and grandchildren, what consolation will be left me wherewith to alleviate my profound affliction? The devotion of Sangamitta to her aged father was greatly outdone by that to her religion, and she urgently pressed upon him the necessity of complying with the entreaties of her brother, pointing out the good that might thereby ensue, and the injury that might result to their religion by her remaining at home. Thus urged, the king reluctantly consented to the departure of his daughter, and she, taking with her a branch of the sacred Bo-tree, dedicated to Gantama, set sail for Ceylon. This branch which accompanied her was a gift of transcendent importance, and was therefore placed alone in a highly-wrought vessel, while innumerable prodigies bore witness. to the divine protection. The vessel in which it was carried glided briskly on the surface of the water through this protecting agency; for nearly twenty miles on every side the sea was unruffled, while flowers of every kind were scattered on its path, and seraphic strains of melody impelled the sacred vessel on its course, Thus, according to the Buddhists, was the removal of a branch of the tree sacred to their deity effected. Its arrival in Ceylon was attended with no less honour, and an agency no less superhuman. From the sea-shore to Anuradhapoora it was conveyed by a dense multitude, and planted on the spot where the sacred trees of former Buddhas had stood, with all the pomp and circumstance Tissa could display.

*

"The ceremonies and offerings being terminated, Sangamitta engaged herself in ordaining and converting with great zeal and success. The queen, along with other fervent women, became candidates for the priesthood. Religious houses were established, Dagobahs and Wihares multiplied; rock temples and cells of priests were scattered over the whole island; the right jawbone of

*The classical reader will find a strong similarity in this description with that given by Moschus of the passage through the sea of Europa, when borne away by Jupiter. See Ευρώπη,

v. 113-120.

Buddha was obtained from Sackrayaa himself, and a cap-full of other relics from Dharmasoka; and every effort was made to consolidate in the strongest manner the Buddhist religion in Ceylon. Planted in this manner by the united exertions of Mihindo and his sister, Buddhism flourished luxuriantly; and Sangamitta, satisfied with her labours, retired to the exercise of her religious duties in seclusion."-vol. i. pp. 32, 33.

Compared with Sangamitta, the northern Freya, the priestess and teacher of a strange people, does not at all appear a very amiable or a very dignified character, even though she be deified in the two accounts given of her in the Prose Edda.

"Njord," sayoth the Prose Edda, "had afterwards at his residence at Noatun, two children, a son named Frey, and a daughter called Freyja, both of them beauteous and mighty. Frey is one of the most celebrated of the gods. He presides over rain and sunshine, and all the fruits of the earth, and should be invoked to obtain good harvests, and also for peace. He, moreover, dispenses wealth among men. Freyja is most propitious of the goddesses; her abode in heaven is called Fólkváng. To whatever field of battle she rides, she asserts her right to one-half of the slain; the other half belonging to Odin. As it is said:

"Fólkvang 'tis called

Where Freyja hath right
To dispose of the hall seats.
Every day of the slain
She chooseth the half,
And half leaves to Odin.'

"Her mansion, called Sessrúmnir, is large and magnificent; thence she sallies forth in a car drawn by two cats. She lends a very favourable ear to those who sue to her for assistance. It is from her name that women of birth and fortune are called in our language Freyjor. She is very fond of love ditties, and lovers would do well to invoke her."—§ 24.

"Freyja is ranked next to Frigga; she is wedded to a person called Odur, and their daughter, named Hnossa, is so very handsome, that whatever is beautiful or precious is called by her name (hnosir.) But Odur left his wife in order to travel into remote countries. Since that time Freyja continually weeps, and her tears are drops of pure gold. She has a great variety of names; for having gone over many countries in search of her husband, each people gave her a different name. She is thus called Mar

döll, Horn, Gefn, and Syr, and also Vanadis. She possesses the necklace Brising."-§ 35,*

To whatever portion of the earth our glance may be directed-whether it be to the island of perpetual gloom like Iceland, or the island of everlasting verdure, richness, and beauty, like Ceylon-wherever we can discover the people to have veritable ancient traditions, we shall always find in the midst of their similitudes, and even of their contrasts, that they had at one time diffused amongst their inhabitants a knowledge of the truth, and that the more ancient their traditions, the closer impress do they bear of such truth; whilst as the traditions become darkened by human fears, and stained by human passions, the further have they departed from the primeval teaching of the Divinity, until at last the knowledge of the Godhead, and even of the Trinity, that can be traced in the Prose Edda, is lost in Pantheism; as the knowledge of the Incarnation of God—a Saviour of mankind, which is plainly declared in Buddhism, is overcast at last in idolatry, and superseded by devil-worshippings, as in Ceylon.

"He who sitteth on the lowest throne is a king," says the Prose Edda, "his name is Har (the High or Lofty One); the second is Jafuhar (i. e. equal to the High); but he who sitteth on the highest throne is called Thridi (the third.)"-§ 2.

The incarnation of the last Buddha (Guatama), who is with true Buddhists the sole object of veneration, and even amongst the people, who are thorough Buddhists, the sole object of worship, is thus described:

"Whereupon the Great Man, viewing the fair prospects-that is, the time, the continent, the tribe, the womb, the country in which he should be born, was conceived in the womb of Maha Maya, the wife of King Suddhadena, who reigned in the city of Kimbulwatta, or Kappilawarta, in the continent of Dambadiva. Immediately on his conception, thirty-two wonderful phenomena were exhibited, and the four guardian gods took charge of the palace. After the usual period of gestation the queen was delivered, and immediately two clouds descended from the sky, and washed the sacred child and the mother, and he was received by

*See Mallet's Northern Antiquities, pp. 419, 420, 425, (Blackwell's edition); and Torfæus, Hist. Norveg. lib. ix. c. 3, vol. 1, pp 374, 375; Paul. Diacon. Gest. Longobard. lib. i. c. 8.

Bramahs in golden nets and by gods in celestial linen, and was then placed in the hands of his royal father."—vol. i. p. 295.

[ocr errors]

The names, it is observed, that are given to Buddha are innumerable, amounting, according to one authority, to twelve thousand; but those most frequently used are thirty-seven in number. Amongst these names we find the following: "guide,' ruler," "all wisdom," "the chief of wise men," "the blessed," " great glory," "the helper," sweet substance," "helper of the world,” “ ruler," "one ruler," "seeing all things," gone to a high place," conqueror of the world," "the king of doctrines, god of gods, great god," "great god of gods," " great king of kings.

99 66

[ocr errors]

66

66

"" 66

99 66

sole

Thus in the cold north, as beneath the burning sun of India, we can discover amid the earlier races of mankind, whithersoever they travelled, traces of the truth; and we can, alas, also discover, as the knowledge of that truth became overclouded with years, foul superstitions seeking to conceal it; until, at last, there is scarcely a trace of it to be found, either in the belief or the practices of mankind. The Deity is abandoned, and His works are divinised. In the north, the earth was adored as the spouse of heaven; the winds, hail, and showers were believed to be dwarfs that disturbed the air; and trees, stones, and running streams were worshipped as divinities! In Ceylon, the pure Buddhist is for fifteen hundred years a devout worshipper of the molar of an ape-the dalada, or Buddha's tooth; and it is regarded by him as a species of magic possession, with which is identified the sovereignty of his country.†

The people of Ceylon are neither ignorant nor illiterate, so it is aflirmed by Mr. Pridham, (vol. i. p. 246); and yet what are they as a people, and what is the state of society amongst them? "Their disposition," says Knox, an ancient traveller amongst them, whose opinion is confirmed by Mr. Pridham, "is crafty and treacherous; their protestations are not to be trusted; for so smooth and apparently frank is their address, that a stranger may be easily deceived, and they are so habituated to false

See Ozanam, Les Germains avant le Christianisme, p. 41.
† See Pridham, vol. i. pp. 321-327.

hood, that detection in it is considered to bring neither shame nor disgrace." It would be well, if nothing worse than this could be stated respecting them. There is such an utter want of all notions of modesty, that brothers solicit, and fathers approve, and husbands volunteer the dishonour of their sisters, daughters, and wives; whilst women, under the name of marriage, live in such a state of abomination, that even Socialists and Communists, who are struggling to render the marriage-tie a nullity, would shrink back appalled but to hear of it, (vol. i. pp. 250, 254.) Abortion is an accomplishment (vol. i. p. 254); and child-murder an open and avowed practice.

Two brief extracts will suffice to show the depth of moral degradation to which the people of Ceylon have fallen.

"Midwives," observes Mr. Pridham, "are almost unknown among the Singhalese, the neighbours being always ready to assist at the birth of a child. As soon as it is born, the father or some friend applies to an astrologer, to learn whether its nativity is under the influence of a good or evil planet. If under an evil one, they frequently used to destroy it, either by starvation, or drown it by immersing its head in water, or by burying it alive...... When asked why they treated their offspring in this heartless manner, the real parent would reply in a deprecatory tone, Why should I bring up a devil in my house?' believing that a child thus born in an evil hour would be a plague to his parents by disobedience. A first-born was never thus treated, but, on the contrary, caressed with great affection; and it was only when the family became numerous, and appeared likely to outstrip the means of subsistence, that this pretext for its death was resorted to."-vol. i. pp. 256, 257.

[ocr errors]

"The Singhalese 'as a nation are superstitious to the last degree, viewing the most trifling accident as an omen portentous of good or of evil. Thus if a man, in entering on the business of the day, should chance to meet with any ill omen, or even to sneeze, he will stop under the impression that some misfortune will happen if he proceed. There is a little creature,' says Knox, like a lizard, which they consider rational. If it cries while they are proceeding on any work, they will stop in the belief that they are subject to the malevolence of some bad planet. In first going out in the morning, they anxiously observe the first person they meet; and if it happens to be a white man, or a fat woman, they hold it fortunate; but to see any decrepid or deformed people, the reverse.' As a proof of their prudery in the most trivial things, Knox relates, that if persons of a low caste happened to be conversing when the housewife was about to put the rice into the pot,

« PrécédentContinuer »