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stances, but he does not intend here to offer a scientific production. Nor is this book an attempt at popularizing the Buddhist religious writings, nor at presenting them in a poetic shape. If this Gospel of Buddha helps people to comprehend Buddhism better, and if in its simple style it impresses the reader with the poetic grandeur of the Buddha's personality, these effects must be counted as incidental; its main purpose lies deeper still. The present book has been written to set the reader thinking on the religious problems of to-day. It sketches the picture of a religious leader of the remote past with the view of making it bear upon the living present and become a factor in the formation of the future.
It is a remarkable fact that the two greatest religions of the world, Christianity and Buddhism, present so many striking coincidences in the philosophical basis as well as in the ethical applications of their faith, while their modes of systematizing them in dogmas are radically different; and it is difficult to understand why these agreements should have caused animosity, instead of creating sentiments of friendship and good-will. Why should not Christians say with Prof. F. Max Müller: "If I do find in certain Buddhist works doctrines identically the same as in Christianity, so far from being frightened, I feel delighted, for surely truth is not the less true because it is believed by the majority of the human race."
The main trouble arises from a wrong conception of Christianity. There are many Christians who assume that Christianity alone is in the possession of truth and that man could not, in the natural way of his moral evolution, have obtained that nobler conception of life which enjoins the practice of a universal good-will towards both friends and enemies. This narrow view of Christianity is refuted by the mere existence of Buddhism.
Must we add that the lamentable exclusiveness that prevails in many Christian churches, is not based upon Scriptural teachings, but upon a wrong metaphysics?
All the essential moral truths of Christianity, especially the principle of a universal love, of the eradication of hatred, are in our opinion deeply rooted in the nature of things, and do not, as is often assumed, stand in contradiction to the cosmic order of the world. Further, some doctrines of the constitution of existence have been formulated by the church in certain symbols, and since these symbols contain contradictions and come in conflict with science, the educated classes are estranged from religion. Now, Buddhism is a religion which knows of no supernatural revelation, and proclaims doctrines that require no other argument than the "come and see." The Buddha bases his religion solely upon man's knowledge of the nature of things, upon provable truth. Thus, we trust that a comparison of Christianity with Buddhism will be a great help to distinguish in both religions the essential from the accidental, the eternal from the transient, the truth from the allegory in which it has found its symbolic ex
pression. We are anxious to press the necessity of discriminating between the symbol and its meaning, between dogma and religion, between metaphysical theories and statements of fact, between man-made formulas and eternal truth. And this is the spirit in which we offer this book to the public, cherishing the hope that it will help to develop in Christianity not less than in Buddhism the cosmic religion of truth.
The strength as well as the weakness of original Buddhism lies in its philosophical character, which enabled a thinker, but not the masses, to understand the dispensation of the moral law that pervades the world. As such, the original Buddhism has been called by Buddhists the little vessel of salvation, or Hinayana; for it is comparable to a small boat on which a man may cross the stream of worldliness, so as to reach the shore of Nirvana. Following the spirit of a missionary propaganda, so natural to religious men who are earnest in their convictions, later Buddhists popularized the Buddha's doctrines and made them accessible to the multitudes. It is true that they admitted many mythical and even fantastic notions, but they succeeded nevertheless in bringing its moral truths home to the people who could but incompletely grasp the philosophical meaning of the Buddha's religion. They constructed, as they called it, a large vessel of salvation, the Mahāyāna, in which the multitudes would find room and could be safely carried over. Although the Mahāyāna unquestionably has its shortcomings, it must not be condemned offhand, for it serves its purpose. Without regarding it as the final stage of the re
ligious development of the nations among which it prevails, we must concede that it resulted from an adaptation to their condition and has accomplished much to educate them. The Mahāyāna is a step forward in so far as it changes a philosophy into a religion, and attempts to preach doctrines that were negatively expressed, in positive propositions.
Far from rejecting the religious zeal which gave rise to the Mahāyāna in Buddhism, we can still less join those who denounce Christianity on account of its dogmatology and mythological ingredients. ingredients. Christianity has certainly
had and still has a great mission in the evolution of mankind. It has succeeded in imbuing with the religion of charity and mercy the most powerful nations of the world, to whose spiritual needs it is especially adapted. It ex tends the blessings of universal good-will with the least possible amount of antagonism to the natural selfishness that is so strongly developed in the Western races. Christianity is the religion of love made easy. This is its advantage, which, however, is not without its drawbacks. Christianity teaches charity without dispelling the ego-illusion; and in this sense it surpasses even the Mahāyāna: it is still more adapted to the needs of multitudes than a large vessel fitted to carry over those who embark on it: it is comparable to a grand bridge, a Mahāsetu, on which a child who has no comprehension as yet of the nature of self can cross the stream of self-hood and worldly vanity.
A comparison of the many striking agreements between Christianity and Buddhism may prove fatal to sectarian
conceptions of either religion, but will in the end help to mature our insight into the true significance of both. It will bring out a nobler faith which aspires to be the cosmic religion of universal truth.
Let us hope that this Gospel of Buddha will serve both Buddhists and Christians as a help to penetrate further into the spirit of their faith, so as to see its full height, length and breadth.
Above any Hinayāna, Mahāyāna, and Mahāsetu is the Religion of Truth.