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stitution of the order recognized as members, not only the monks and nuns who took the vows, but it also admitted as lay brothers and sisters all who supported the religious institutions of the Jain community. When the Buddhist religious houses declined in influence, the looseness of the ties which attached their lay adherents to them caused the latter to revert easily to their traditional spiritual leaders. The whole organization thus gradually broke to pieces. The Jains, on the other hand, being a much more homogeneous body, survived the period of the Brahmin supremacy and the persecution of Muhammadan rule. They have maintained their institutions intact for over two thousand years, while Buddhism, as a distinct sect, gradually disappeared from India and became merged in the various Vaishnavite sects which grew into prominence about the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
THE RISE OF MODERN HINDUISM
As Benares never played an important part in the strife between the ancient kingdoms of northern India, it is extremely difficult to ascertain any precise details of its history from the time of the preaching of Buddha down to the rise of modern Hinduism. We only know that the Kosâla kingdom, which had absorbed the Kâsi clan, the first Aryan settlers at Benares, was, about B.C. 300, itself absorbed by the great empire of Magadha, which had its capital at Pâtaliputra, the modern Patna. Asoka, the third emperor of the Magadha dynasty, became a member of the Buddhist order, or Sangha, made Buddhism the state religion, and sent missionaries to Kashmir, the Himalayan regions, Afghanistan, Burma, southern India, and Ceylon. He built magnificent stupas and monasteries at Sarnath and many other places. It is probable that Benares itself greatly diminished in importance during the Buddhist supremacy, as the followers of Buddha naturally esteemed most sacred the Deer-park and the places in the neighbourhood of Sarnath, hallowed by the associations of their great teacher.
The legends of Divodâs, as recorded in the Kasikhanda, the mythical history of Benares by an un-. known Brahmin writer, probably refer to the occupa
tion of the city by Buddhist rulers. It is said that Divod is, having been made Raja of Benares by Brahmâ, expelled Shiva and all the other Hindu gods from the city. He was a man of spotless purity; and, being an adept in the science of sacrifice, the efforts of the gods to evict him were for a long time unavailing. Brahmâ, disguised as a Brahmin ascetic, managed to obtain permission to reside there; but it was not until Ganesha, the god of wisdom, got the better of Divodâs by a clever trick, that Shiva and the other gods were at last reinstated.
Asoka himself was no bigot or persecutor. In one of his famous Rock Edicts, or proclamations of the Faith, he enjoins that no one should seek to disparage other sects in order to exalt his own. “Let a man seek rather after the growth in his own sect of the essence of the matter”'__noble sentiments which might well be considered by the followers of all creeds. It is probable, therefore, that such of the Brahmins and other Hindus who refused to accept the teaching of Buddha were left in undisturbed possession of their holy places at Benares.
Buddha's philosophy and simple rule of life were not exempt from the modifications which all religious doctrines undergo at the hands of their successive interpreters. Popular superstition "soon invested Buddha's person with miraculous powers, to which he himself laid no claim, and after his death the thaumaturgic powers of the Brahmin priesthood, which he contemptuously disputed, were associated with his own relics. Kings went to war over the possession of his water-pot, his sweeping-brush, his tooth, hairs, or
Rock Edict, No. 12. See Rhys David's Buddhist India, p. 296.. .
60 BENARES, THE SACRED CITY pieces of his nails. The sanctity attached to his own person and acts were extended by extravagant tales of his former existences, when, as a Bodhisatva, or potential Buddha, he was preparing himself for the final enlightenment, in the form of a bird, a deer, or six-tusked elephant.
Hiuen Thsang in the seventh century describes a stupa containing an eyeball of Buddha “as large as an âmra fruit, and so bright that its rays dart forth from the base 'to some distance outside",' and repeats as worthy of credit stories of wild elephants bringing offerings to his relic shrines. Similar legends may be seen sculptured on the Buddhist monuments at Bharhut and Sanchi, which were erected within three centuries after the death of Buddha. The practice of divination and sorcery, which formed no part of Buddha's creed, became as popular with his disciples as they had been with the Brahmin priests. - In short, the very errors which Buddha had tried to eradicate became a part of his followers' beliefs and the startingpoint of new religious reformers.
Owing to the great diversity of racial types in India, thrown together, yet differing in an extraordinary degree in intellectual and social development, there have always been two main currents, of religious evolution and devolution—more clearly distinguishable than in other countries--moving in opposite directions, yet insensibly affecting each other. The high ideals of Buddha's Eight-fold Path were gradually lost in the current of popular superstitions, but nevertheless they purified the muddy waters of priestcraft and cleared away many obstructions to the progress of true re
"Life of Hiuen Thsang. S. Beal, p. 59.
ligion. Buddha became absorbed in the Hindu pantheon as one of the incarnations of Vishnu, the Preserver, but when about the eighth century Brahminism succeeded in reasserting its authority, the whole of its spiritual teaching was permeated with the doctrines of a purer and nobler faith.
Benares again became the centre of religious activity in northern India with the appearance of the great Hindu reformer, Sankaracharya. It would be travelling beyond my province to enter into a discussion of the details of his life and doctrines. It will be suffi. cient to briefly indicate the changes which had come over Brahminical religious practices and ideas in the thirteen centuries which had elapsed since the death of Buddha. The slaughter of animals as a part of sacrificial rites had almost ceased, or was practised only by some of the lowest castes. Sacrifice had lost a great deal of its pretended magical virtue, and acquired more of symbolical significance as applied to spiritual advancement by the suppression of carnal appetite and worldly desires. In the hymn now chanted by the Smarta Brahmins, the modern disciples of Sankaracharya, before breaking fast, occur the following lines on “the sacrifice of self":
“And of the sacrifice performed by the master who has understood these truths, the soul is the performer; the heart, the seat of the sacrificial fire; sensual desires, the ghee; anger, the sacrificial lamb; contemplation, fire; the period of sacrifice, as long as life shall last; whatsoever is drunk, the soma drink; and death, the sacred bath which finishes the ceremony”. The vague speculations of the early Aryans regard
Sri Sankaracharya, his life and Times. By Krishnaswami Aiyar.