Previous Page [Digital South Asia Library] Next Page

Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 1, p. 407.


Graphics file for this page
VIII] RELIGIONS 40 7
dominant class, which forms the history of the time, seems to
show that the Brahmans, at least in the original seat of their
power, had repressed the Kshattriya, or warrior, class. The
Vaisyas were regarded as little better than contributories to the
finds by which the sacrificial system was maintained; the S&-
dras were quite beyond the pale of salvation. Thus for the
majority of the people the future was hopeless. They were told
that the misery of this present life was the result of sins com-
mitted in some previous birth; though unavoidable now, it
might be alleviated in some future state by bribing the priest-
hood to perform a sacrifice. The Aryan Holy Land was
parcelled out among a number of petty chieftains, who waged
internecine war, one against the other. The prevailing tone of
feeling was as pessimistic as the systems of the philosophers.
The leader of one of these movements of reform was Gautama, Gautama,
the son of a petty prince, or headman, of a group of villages the
Buddha,
occupied by the Sakyas, one of the many Kshattriya clans in c. 596-508
the tarai, or swampy lowlands at the foot of the Lower Hima- B.c.
layas. The story of his life, which can only with difficulty be
disentangled from the legends which have grown round the real
facts, has been often told. He is said to have enjoyed in his
early years all that a life of sensuous ease could provide.
Suddenly his conscience was stirred by a profound sense of the
vanity of human life. Self-mortification was at this time taking
the place of sacrifice, and he embraced the only course open to
men of his class, which might lead to a higher spirituality-in
other words, he became a Yogi, or wandering ascetic. Thereby,
at the very outset of his career, he accepted the current philo-
sophy, that a man's object should be to avoid reincarnation, and
that it is Karma, ' action,' the control of passion, in short, the
building up of character, which conditions any future birth.
So far his hope was, as is the aim of the Hindu ascetic, merely
to win salvation for himself, not to save his fellow men. Sud-
denly, after a course of mortification he is 'enlightened,' a view
quite foreign to the thought of his day, which regarded the
mechanical use of cultus and formula, uninterrupted from birth
to death, as the road to salvation. Then he announced the
Fourfold Truth-that life is the vanity of vanities; that birth
and re-birth, the cycle of reincarnation, are the result of passion
and desire; that to escape these evils desire must be destroyed
by what he called the Eightfold Path-right belief, right resolve,
right word, right act, right life, right effort, right thinking, right
meditation. This was the Gospel which the Master, now become
Buddha, 'the Enlightened One,' preached during some five-and-



Previous Page To Table of Contents Next Page

Back to Imperial Gazetteer of India | Back to the DSAL Page

This page was last generated on Monday 18 February 2013 at 16:20 by dsal@uchicago.edu
The URL of this page is: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/gazetteer/text.html