- Chapter 11– Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity Compared (Comparative Results of Buddhism and Christianity)
This chapter is a concise comparative study of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity through the study of their founders, certain doctrines, and rituals. The perspective remains that of a critique of Christianity and a defense of Eastern religions, also tending to demonstrate the eastern and esoteric origins of various key facets of Christianity, such as the doctrine of transubstantiation.
- Christianity and Comparative Religion 529 / Buddhism 533 / Avatars 535 / Krishna, Buddha and Christ Compared 537 / Buddhism and Christianity 540
Lives of Krishna, Buddha and Christ Compared No orthodox Brahmans and Buddhists would deny the Christian incarnation; only, they understand it in their own philosophical way, and how could they deny it? The very corner-stone of their religious system is periodical incarnations of the Deity. Whenever humanity is about merging into materialism and moral degradation, a Supreme Spirit incarnates himself in his creature selected for the purpose. The “Messenger of the Highest” links itself with the duality of matter and soul, and the triad being thus completed by the union of its Crown, a saviour is born, who helps restore humanity to the path of truth and virtue. The early Christian Church, all imbued with Asiatic philosophy, evidently shared the same belief — otherwise it would have neither erected into an article of faith the second advent, nor cunningly invented the fable of Anti-Christ as a precaution against possible future incarnations. Neither could they have imagined that Melchisedek was an avatar of Christ. They had only to turn to the Bagavedgitta to find Christna or Bhagaved saying to Arjuna: “He who follows me is saved by wisdom and even by works. . . . As often as virtue declines in the world, I make myself manifest to save it.” 535
Kapila, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, Basilides, Marcian, Ammonius and Plotinus, founded schools and sowed the germs of many a noble thought, and disappearing left behind them the refulgence of demi-gods. But the three personalities of Christna, Gautama, and Jesus appeared like true gods, each in his epoch, and bequeathed to humanity three religions built on the imperishable rock of ages. That all three, especially the Christian faith, have in time become adulterated, and the latter almost unrecognizable, is no fault of either of the noble Reformers. It is the priestly self-styled husbandmen of the “vine of the Lord” who must be held to account by future generations. Purify the three systems of the dross of human dogmas, the pure essence remaining will be found identical. Even Paul, the great, the honest apostle, in the glow of his enthusiasm either unwittingly perverted the doctrines of Jesus, or else his writings are disfigured beyond recognition. The Talmud, the record of a people who, notwithstanding his apostasy from Judaism, yet feel compelled to acknowledge Paul’s greatness as a philosopher and religionist, says of Aher (Paul),* in the Yerushalmi, that “he corrupted the work of that man” — meaning Jesus.* 536
Epoch: Uncertain. European science fears to commit itself. But the Brahmanical calculations fix it at about 6,877 years ago.
Christna descends of a royal family, but is brought up by shepherds; is called the Shepherd God. His birth and divine descent are kept secret from Kansa.
An incarnation of Vishnu, the second person of the Trimurti (Trinity). Christna was worshipped at Mathura, on the river Jumna (See Strabo and Arrian and Bampton Lectures, pp. 98-100).
Christna is persecuted by Kansa, Tyrant of Madura, but miraculously escapes. In the hope of destroying the child, the king has thousands of male innocents slaughtered.
Christna’s mother was Devaki, or Devanagui, an immaculate virgin (but had given birth to eight sons before Christna).
Chistna is endowed with beauty, omniscience, and omnipotence from birth. Produces miracles, cures the lame and blind, and casts out demons. Washes the feet of the Brahmans, and descending to the lowest regions (hell), liberates the dead, and returns to Vaicontha –– the paradise of Vishnu. Christna was the God Vishnu himself in human form.
Christna creates boys out of calves, and vice versa (Maurice’s Indian Antiquities, vol. ii., p. 332). He crushes the Serpent’s head. (Ibid.)
Christna is Unitarian. He persecutes the clergy, charges them with ambition and hypocrisy to their faces, divulges the great secrets of the Sanctuary — the Unity of God and immortality of our spirit. Tradition says he fell a victim to their vengeance. His favorite disciple, Arjuna, never deserts him to the last. There are credible traditions that he died on the cross (a tree), nailed to it by an arrow. The best scholars agree that the Irish Cross at Tuam, erected long before the Christian era, is Asiatic. (See Round Towers, p. 296, et seq., by O’Brien; also Reli– gions de l’Antiquie;
Creuzer’s Symbolik, vol. i., p. 208; and engraving in Dr. Lundy’s Monumental Christianity, p. 160.
Christna ascends to Swarga and becomes Nirguna.
: According to European science and the Ceylonese calculations, 2,540 years ago.
Gautama is the son of a king. His first disciples are shepherds and mendicants.
According to some, an incarnation of Vishnu; according to others, an incarnation of one of the Buddhas, and even of Ad’Buddha, the Highest Wisdom.
Buddhist legends are free from this plagiarism, but the Catholic legend that makes of him St. Josaphat, shows his father, king of Kapilavastu, slaying innocent young Christians (!!). (See Golden Legend.)
Buddha’s mother was Maya, or Mayadeva; married to her husband (yet an immaculate virgin).
Buddha is endowed with the same powers and qualities, and performs similar wonders. Passes his life with mendicants. It is claimed for Gautama that he was distinct from all other Avatars, having the entire spirit of Buddha in him, while all others had but a part (ansa) of the divinity in them.
Gautama crushes the Serpent’s head, i.e., abolishes the Naga worship as fetishism; but, like Jesus, makes the Serpent the emblem of divine wisdom.
Buddha abolishes idolatry; divulges the Mysteries of the Unity of God and the Nirvana, the true meaning of which was previously known only to the priests. Persecuted and driven out of the country, he escapes death by gathering about him some hundreds of thousands of believers in his Buddhaship. Finally, dies, surrounded by a host of disciples, with Ananda, his beloved disciple and cousin, chief among them all. O’Brien believes that the Irish Cross at Tuam is meant for Buddha’s, but Gautama was never crucified. He is represented in many temples, as sit- ting under a cruciform tree, which is the “Tree of Life.” In another image he is sitting on Naga the Raja of Serpents with a cross on his breast.*
Buddha ascends to Nirvana.
|JESUS OF NAZARETH.
: Supposed to be 1877 years ago. His birth and royal descent are concealed from Herod the tyrant.
Descends of the Royal family of David. Is worshipped by shepherds at his birth, and is called the “Good Shepherd” (See Gospel according to John).
An incarnation of the Holy Ghost, then the second person of the Trinity, now the third. But the Trinity was not invented until 325 years after his birth. Went to Mathura or Matarea, Egypt, and produced his first miracles there (See Gospel of Infancy).
Jesus is persecuted by Herod, King of Judaea, but escapes into Egypt under conduct of an angel. To assure his slaughter, Herod orders a massacre of innocents, and 40,000 were slain.
Jesus’ mother was Mariam, or Miriam; married to her husband, yet an immaculate virgin, but had several children besides Jesus. (See Matthew xiii. 55, 56.)
JESUS OF NAZARETH.
Jesus is similarly endowed. (See Gospels and the Apocryphal Testament.) Passes his life with sinners and publicans. Casts out demons likewise. The only notable difference between the three is that Jesus is charged with casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, which the others were not. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, dies, descends to hell, and ascends to heaven, after liberating the dead.
Jesus is said to have crushed the Serpent’s head, agreeably to original revelation in Genesis. He also transforms boys into kids, and kids into boys. (Gospel of Infancy.)
Jesus rebels against the old Jewish law; denounces the Scribes, and Pharisees, and the synagogue for hypocrisy and dogmatic intolerance. Breaks the Sabbath, and defies the Law. Is accused by the Jews of divulging the secrets of the Sanctuary. Is put to death on a cross (a tree). Of the little handful of disciples whom he had converted, one betrays him, one denies him, and the others desert him at the last, except John — the disciple he loved. Jesus, Christna, and Buddha, all three Saviours, die either on or under trees, and are connected with crosses which are symbolical of the three-fold powers of creation.
Jesus ascends to Paradise.
We see the best and most learned of our writers uselessly striving to show that the extraordinary similarities — amounting to identity — between Christna and Christ are due to the spurious Gospels of the Infancy and of St. Thomas having “probably circulated on the coast of Malabar, and giving color to the story of Christna.”*** Why not accept truth in all sincerity, and reversing matters, admit that St. Thomas, faithful to that policy of proselytism which marked the earliest Christians, when he found in Malabar the original of the mythical Christ in Christna, tried to blend the two; and, adopting in his gospel (from which all others were copied) the most important details of the story of the Hindu Avatar, engrafted the Christian heresy on the primitive religion of Christna. 539
2- Doctrines Compared
Christian Doctrine of Atonement 543 / Doctrine of Predestination 546 / Christian copies from Buddhism 549 / The Supreme in Religions 553 / Krishna, Buddha and Christ as Avatars 555 / Buddha and Jesus 559
The clergy say: no matter how enormous our crimes against the laws of God and of man, we have but to believe in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of mankind, and His blood will wash out every stain. God’s mercy is boundless and unfathomable. It is impossible to conceive of a human sin so damnable that the price paid in advance for the redemption of the sinner would not wipe it out if a thousandfold worse. And, furthermore, it is never too late to repent. Though the offender wait until the last minute of the last hour of the last day of his mortal life, before his blanched lips utter the confession of faith, he may go to Paradise; the dying thief did it, and so may all others as vile. These are the assumptions of the Church.
But if we step outside the little circle of creed and consider the universe as a whole balanced by the exquisite adjustment of parts, how all sound logic, how the faintest glimmering sense of Justice revolts against this Vicarious Atonement! If the criminal sinned only against himself, and wronged no one but himself; if by sincere repentance he could cause the obliteration of past events, not only from the memory of man, but also from that imperishable record, which no deity — not even the Supremest of the Supreme — can cause to disappear, then this dogma might not be incomprehensible. But to maintain that one may wrong his fellow-man, kill, disturb the equilibrium of society, and the natural order of things, and then — through cowardice, hope, or compulsion, matters not — be forgiven by believing that the spilling of one blood washes out the other blood spirt — this is preposterous! Can the results of a crime be obliterated even though the crime itself should be pardoned? The effects of a cause are never limited to the boundaries of the cause, nor can the results of crime be confined to the offender and his victim. Every good as well as evil action has its effects, as palpably as the stone flung into a calm water. The simile is trite, but it is the best ever conceived, so let us use it. The eddying circles are greater and swifter, as the disturbing object is greater or smaller, but the smallest pebble, nay, the tiniest speck, makes its ripples. And this disturbance is not alone visible and on the surface. Below, unseen, in every direction — outward and downward — drop pushes drop until the sides and bottom are touched by the force. More, the air, above the water is agitated, and this disturbance passes, as the physicists tell us, from stratum to stratum out into space forever and ever; an impulse has been given to matter, and that is never lost, can never be recalled! . . .
So with crime, and so with its opposite. The action may be instantaneous, the effects are eternal. When, after the stone is once flung into the pond, we can recall it to the hand, roll back the ripples, obliterate the force expended, restore the etheric waves to their previous state of non-being, and wipe out every trace of the act of throwing the missile, so that Time’s record shall not show that it ever happened, then, then we may patiently hear Christians argue for the efficacy of this Atonement. 542-43
O Divine Justice, how blasphemed has been thy name! Unfortunately for all such speculations, belief in the propitiatory efficacy of blood can be traced to the oldest rites. Hardly a nation remained ignorant of it. Every people offered animal and even human sacrifices to the gods, in the hope of averting thereby public calamity, by pacifying the wrath of some avenging deity. There are instances of Greek and Roman generals offering their lives simply for the success of their army. Caesar complains of it, and calls it a superstition of the Gauls. “They devote themselves to death . . . believing that unless life is rendered for life the immortal gods cannot be appeased,” he writes. “If any evil is about to befall either those who now sacrifice, or Egypt, may it be averted on this head,” was pronounced by the Egyptian priests when sacrificing one of their sacred animals. And imprecations were uttered over the head of the expiatory victim, around whose horns a piece of byblus was rolled.* The animal was generally led to some barren region, sacred to Typhon, in those primitive ages when this fatal deity was yet held in a certain consideration by the Egyptians. It is in this custom that lies the origin of the “scape-goat” of the Jews, who, when the rufous ass-god was rejected by the Egyptians, began sacrificing to another deity the “red heifer.” 547
The “Well” played a prominent part in the Mysteries of the Bacchic festivals. In the sacerdotal language of every country, it had the same significance. A well is “the fountain of salvation” mentioned in Isaiah (xii. 3). The water is the male principle in its spiritual sense. In its physical relation in the allegory of creation, the water is chaos, and chaos is the female principle vivified by the Spirit of God — the male principle. In the “Kabala,” Zachar means “male”; and the Jordan was called Zachar (“Universal History,” vol. ii., p. 429). It is curious that the Father of St. John the Baptist, the Prophet of Jordan — Zacchar — should be called Zachar-ias. One of the names of Bacchus is Zagreus.550
Despite the notable similarity of the direct teachings of Gautama and Jesus, we yet find their respective followers starting from two diametrically opposite points. The Buddhist divine, following literally the ethical doctrine of his master, remains thus true to the legacy of Gautama; while the Christian minister, distorting the precepts recorded by the four Gospels beyond recognition, teaches, not that which Jesus taught, but the absurd, too often pernicious, interpretations of fallible men — Popes, Luthers, and Calvins included. The following are two instances selected from both religions, and brought into contrast. Let the reader judge for himself:
“Do not believe in anything because it is rumored and spoken of by many,” says Buddha; “do not think that is a proof of its truth.
“Do not believe merely because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not be sure that the writing has ever been revised by the said sage, or can be relied on. Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because an idea is extraordinary, it must have been implanted by a Deva, or some wonderful being.
“Do not believe in guesses, that is, assuming something at hap-hazard as a starting-point, and then drawing conclusions from it — reckoning your two and your three and your four before you have fixed your number one.
“Do not believe merely on the authority of your teachers and masters, or believe and practice merely because they believe and practice.
“I [Buddha] tell you all, you must of yourselves know that this is evil, this is punishable, this is censured by wise men; belief in this will bring no advantage to any one, but will cause sorrow; and when you know this, then eschew it.”*
It is impossible to avoid contrasting with these benevolent and human sentiments, the fulminations of the OEcumenical Council and the Pope,
* Alabaster: “Wheel of the Law,” pp. 43-47. 559
3- Rituals Compared
Doctrine of Transubstantiation and Theurgy 560 / Various Blood Rituals 568 / State of Christianity 573 / Christ and Siamese Saviour 576 / Buddha and Saint Joshaphat 579 /Practices of Christianity and Eastern practices 581
There is not a dogma in the Church to which these words can be better applied than to the doctrine of transubstantiation.** “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life,” Christ is made to say. “This is a hard saying,” repeated his dismayed listeners. The answer was that of an initiate. “Doth this offend you? It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words (remata, or arcane utterances) that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are Life.”
The hierophant-initiator presented symbolically before the final revelation wine and bread to the candidate who had to eat and drink of both in token that the spirit was to quicken matter, i.e., the divine wisdom was to enter into his body through what was to be revealed to him. Jesus, in his Oriental phraseology, constantly assimilated himself to the true vine (John xv. 1). Furthermore, the hierophant, the discloser of the Petroma, was called “Father.” When Jesus says, “Drink . . . this is my blood,” what else was meant, it was simply a metaphorical assimilation of himself to the vine, which bears the grape, whose juice is its blood — wine. It was a hint that as he had himself been initiated by the “Father,” so he desired to initiate others. His “Father” was the husbandman, himself the vine, his disciples the branches. His followers being ignorant of the terminology of the Mysteries, wondered; they even took it as an offense, which is not surprising, considering the Mosaic injunction against blood.
There is quite enough in the four gospels to show what was the secret and most fervent hope of Jesus; the hope in which he began to teach, and in which he died. In his immense and unselfish love for humanity, he considers it unjust to deprive the many of the results of the knowledge acquired by the few. This result he accordingly preaches — the unity of a spiritual God, whose temple is within each of us, and in whom we live as He lives in us — in Spirit. This knowledge was in the hands of the Jewish adepts of the school of Hillel and the kabalists. But the “scribes,” or lawyers, having gradually merged into the dogmatism of the dead letter, had long since separated themselves from the Tanaim, the true spiritual teachers; and the practical kabalists were more or less persecuted by the Synagogue. Hence, we find Jesus exclaiming: “Woe unto you lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge [the Gnosis]: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering ye prevented” (Luke xi.52). The meaning here is clear. They did take the key away, and could not even profit by it themselves, for the Masorah (tradition) had become a closed book to themselves as well as to others. 560-61
There were even those among the highest epoptae of the greater Mysteries who knew nothing of their last and dreaded rite — the voluntary transfer of life from hierophant to candidate. In Ghost-Land**** this mystical operation of the adept’s transfer of his spiritual entity, after the death of his body, into the youth he loves with all the ardent love of a spiritual parent, is superbly described. As in the case of the reincarnation of the lamas of Thibet, an adept of the highest order may live indefinitely. His mortal casket wears out notwithstanding certain alchemical secrets for prolonging the youthful vigor far beyond the usual limits, yet the body can rarely be kept alive beyond ten or twelve score of years. The old garment is then worn out, and the spiritual Ego forced to leave it, selects for its habitation a new body, fresh and full of healthy vital principle. In case the reader should feel inclined to ridicule this asser- tion of the possible prolongation of human life, we may as well refer him to the statistics of several countries. The author of an able article in the Westminster Review, for October, 1850, is responsible for the statement that in England, they have the authentic instances of one Thomas Jenkins dying at the age of 169, and “Old Parr” at 152; and that in Russia some of the peasants are “known to have reached 242 years.”* There are also cases of centenarianism reported among the Peruvian Indians. We are aware that many able writers have recently discredited these claims to an extreme longevity, but we nevertheless affirm our belief in their truth. 564
Take Paul, read the little of original that is left of him in the writings attributed to this brave, honest, sincere man, and see whether any one can find a word therein to show that Paul meant by the word Christ anything more than the abstract ideal of the personal divinity indwelling in man. For Paul, Christ is not a person, but an embodied idea. “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation,” he is reborn, as after initiation, for the Lord is spirit — the spirit of man. Paul was the only one of the apostles who had understood the secret ideas underlying the teachings of Jesus, although he had never met him. But Paul had been initiated himself; and, bent upon inaugurating a new and broad reform, one embracing the whole of humanity, he sincerely set his own doctrines far above the wisdom of the ages, above the ancient Mysteries and final revelation to the epoptae. As Professor A. Wilder well proves in a series of able articles, it was not Jesus, but Paul who was the real founder of Christianity. “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,” say the Acts of the Apostles. “Such men as Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Eusebius have transmitted to posterity a reputation for untruth and dishonest practices; and the heart sickens at the story of the crimes of that period,” writes this author, in a recent article.* “It will be remembered,” he adds, “that when the Moslems overran Syria and Asia Minor for the first time, they were welcomed by the Christians of those regions as deliverers from the intolerable oppression of the ruling authorities of the Church.” 574