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numerous systems of philosophy, and made great pretensions to logical accuracy; and that the habit of the nation generally, for thousands of years, has been to reverence the past, and to reflect upon and observe, with punctilious nicety, its religious ceremonies and social usages.
Were the Hindus proverbially reckless in their statements and opinions, and had they never produced any great work exhibiting minuteness of detail, together with clearness, consistency, and truth, there might not be so much cause for wonder. But they have astonished the world by their achievements in a department of learning usually regarded as dry and uninteresting. I refer to the subject of Grammar. Carefully collecting the facts brought to light by critical and painstaking observation, they have elaborated a system of Grammar, of gigantic dimensions, far surpassing anything that has ever been effected, in this branch of study, in any country or age of the world. Their greatest and most brilliant champion in this science is Páņini : yet many other grammarians helped to rear the stupendous fabric which now excites the admiration of mankind. And, while they emulated the genius of the Greeks in generalizing upon the results of their observations, they far outshone them in the correctness and extent of their investigations.
One would have imagined that they who were exact in one subject would be exact in another; and that, having acquired the habit of calmly noting points of agreement and difference, and of rigidly adhering to them, it would be a moral impossibility for them to act in direct opposition to such a habit. Yet this does not hold good in regard to the Hindu race. While excellent
grammarians, they are meagre historians. They possess no single record, among the ten thousand separate manuscript works of which their ancient literature is said to be composed, on the historical correctness of which one can place much reliance. Legendary stories are so intermingled with real events, and the web of the one is so intimately inwoven with the woof of the other, and the two form so homogeneous a whole, that the finest microscopic intellects of Europe, after patient and long-continued examination, have been well-nigh baffled in the attempt to discover which is fiction and which is fact. A few threads of truth have rewarded their pains, and perhaps a few others may occasionally be drawn forth ; but that the gaudy-coloured fabric of Hindu history, manufactured by themselves, will ever be satisfactorily separated into its two component parts, is as hopeless as to expect that the waters of the Jumna will ever cease to mingle with the waters of the Ganges. Were only the epoch or epochs of the Mabábhárata satis. factorily settled, and were it really known what elements of that great work are pre-Buddhist and what postBuddhist, the minds of men would be at least freed from the despair which possesses them in reference to this subject
The result is, that this city of Benares, whose antiquity is very great, is robbed of much of the glory which is justly her due. Thanks to a rival creed, however,—which sprang into existence probably in the sixth century before the Christian era,—whose annals have been kept with some decent amount of trustworthiness,
· Sce Prof. Max Müller's History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 62.
we gain certain specific information respecting this city at that early epoch.
It is a fact, admitting of no dispute, that S'ákya Muni, the last and only really historical Buddha, on attaining the mysterious condition of Buddhahood under the Bodhi tree in the neighbourhood of Gayá, travelled to Benares, and proceeded to the Ísipattana Vihára, or monastery, now known as Sárnáth. This may have been in the sixth century B.C. Here he announced the change which had come upon him, and the transcendental and superhuman, not to say divine, state in which he imagined he found himself. The five Bhikshus, or religious hermits, men of considerable note in the early history of Buddhism, who had formerly been associated with him, but had subsequently abandoned him, and who happened, at that time, to be at the Ísipattana monastery, embraced the new religion, and became disciples of Buddha. At Sárnáth S'ákya Muni first began to “turn the wheel of the Law,” in other words, to preach the famous doctrines of Dharma and Nirváņa, which were destined, in later years, to exert such an extraordinary influence over a large portion of the human family.
The Rev. R. Spence Hardy, in his erudite and valuable work, “A Manual of Budhism,” quoting from Ceylon records, gives the following account of the visit of Buddha to Isipattana :-“When Budha looked to see unto whom he should first say bana, he saw that the ascetics Alára and Uddaka were worthy; but when he looked again to discover in what place they were, he perceived that the former had been dead seven days, and that the latter had died the day before; and that as they were now in an arúpa world, they could not receive its benefit. With affection for the ascetics who were dead, he looked to discover in what place Kondanya was, and the four other recluses with whom he had practised austerities; and when he saw that they were in the Isipatana wihára, near Benares, he resolved that unto them first bana should be said. At the end of sixty days, in the eighth week after he became Budha, Gótama went from the Ajápála tree to Isipatana alone, a distance of 288 miles.” P. 184. The brief inaugural discourse which he there delivered is stated to have been as follows: — “Then Budha opened his mouth, and preached the Dhamsak - pæwatum - sútra (Dhammachakka). "There are two things,' said he, “that must be avoided by him who seeks to become a priest; evil desire, and the bodily austerities that were practised by the (Brahman) ascetics."” P. 187.
It is plain that Benares must have been, at this time, a city of power and importance, the weight of whose opinions on religious topics was very considerable in the country generally; and, therefore, that it was of the utmost consequence to secure its countenance and support on any great subject affecting the religious belief of the entire nation. That this was the real reason why Gautama wished to commence his career from Benares, admits of no controversy. But, if Benares was so celebrated at that era, we must look away from it to preceding ages for the date of its foundation.
The Buddhists themselves give us some glimpses of intelligence respecting the history of this city prior to the year of S'ákya's visit; and these, although
liable to some suspicion, have, nevertheless, in all probability, a basis of truth. The information which they incidentally furnish rests partly upon the statements of no other than Buddha himself, corroborated, in some measure, by their own observations. This wonderful personage, considering that some of the leading dogmas which he expounded were borrowed from Hinduism, and had been advocated and set forth by various teachers previously to his time, cleverly availed himself of the prestige of these earlier instructors, by pronouncing each in succession to have been an incarnation or manifestation of Buddha; thereby coolly attaching to himself and his creed the sanction of their authority and the weight of their names.
In any case, Benares is a city of no mean antiquity. Twenty-five centuries ago, at the least, it was famous. When Babylon was struggling with Nineveh for supremacy, when Tyre was planting her colonies, when Athens was growing in strength, before Rome had become known, or Greece had contended with Persia, or Cyrus had added lustre to the Persian monarchy, or Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of Judæa had been carried into captivity, she had already risen to greatness, if not to glory. Nay, she may have heard of the fame of Solomon, and have sent her ivory, her apes, and her peacocks to adorn his palaces; while partly with her gold he may have overlaid the Temple of the Lord. Not only is Benares remarkable for her venerable age, but also for the vitality and vigour which, so far as we know, she has constantly exhibited. While many cities and nations