Sivut kuvina

nothing. "The scandal,' he declared, 'will do them good.' But exile in any form, and all wandering from the ways and world in which we were brought up and in which our fathers trod before us, are always bitter, at least to the unreasonable soul that makes so large a part of us all; and spiritual exile, even when it can be hidden, not the least bitter. Hardest of all it was, when the time came, to leave the administrative work of the mission, which had flourished exceedingly in his hands; and his schools especially had become a matter of great pride to him, and a source of much good, he knew, to the people at large. But he had not the type or habit of mind that could approve even of the good that was done on what he considered, with whatever justice, to be false pretenses.

On another night of another February, in the same quarter of the moon, but two years after the adventure already related, he turned his back upon the little whitewashed hostel and homestead on the hill and set his face toward the tiara tower that glittered upon the rocky island in the river.

He had not gone far upon the frith of sand before a cry of river birds from the direction of the island heralded the appearance of another wanderer; and in the very centre of the channel he hailed and met the Swami himself. There was a look of steadfast purpose in the eyes of the Swami also. Portall asked him whither he was going.

'My errand was to you, brother,' he replied. 'I was about to come to you on a matter of great moment to me.'

'What was it, brother?'

'I was going to ask you to give me the Christian baptism. I have come to the conclusion that your religion is better than mine.'

For some moments the vast silence of the river bed prevailed. Then the missionary broke it.

'Thus,' he cried, 'does God with one hand grant us our prayer and with the other take away the heart that prompted it. Three years ago, and with what a transport would I have heard you speak those words!'

'Yet grant my request, and do not you seek to change the heart that makes it,' said makes it,' said the other with a tranquil smile.

'Why do you desire this thing?'

'Have I not said? The truth is single, but I think your religion is better than ours. I have watched its working, and you also I have watched. Your idols are better than ours. Ours give only consolation to the wise and barren trance, but this Christ that you have imagined, this worker of compassionate miracles, this divine victim slain for the sins of the people, still walks across the world, a teacher and a healer. He has come among us, and I would enroll myself among His followers, and share the merit that is acquired in His name.'

'Would you forsake the truth?'

'What is truth,' said the Brahmin, 'when men are unable to understand it? The truth I can keep, but it must be shown to the world in intelligible shape, such as will command right affection, and bring forth good fruit, like this of yours, the work of your beautiful, invisible idols.'

The missionary considered long. He looked back at the shore; he looked at the temple on the sand-steeped island; he looked at the moonlight glittering like a rod of silver far out upon the living water of the actual river. Then his resolution was taken.

'Our idols are indeed beautiful,' he said, 'but they were made according to old rules long ago; they no longer have the aspect, nor speak the language, of reality. Already in Europe their altars are forsaken; nor can this good work of theirs continue long here unless they

be somehow themselves refashioned. No, brother, the world to-day wants new gods, or at least a thorough regeneration of the old. Let us go together into the forest, you and I, and there converse and meditate, and consider what forms and aspects of the truth, as we have known it, may now most clearly and profitably be shown to the world. You shall speak of man that is the Avatar of God, and I of the Son of Man that was the Christ; you of God's dancing, and I of His dying; you of the Transmigration of Souls, and I of the Resurrection of the Body; and we will decide whether to speak the language of this or that old faith refashioned, or of a new one that shall embrace and harmonize the truth, and reject the error of all.'

And the Brahmin said, 'Let it be so.' So there and then they set out together across the sand, leaving their worldly affairs without a thought, as Jesus required of His disciples of old.

They left the village and the mission buildings far behind; they left unvisited the temple on the rock; and as far again beyond they came to the margin of the actual water of the sacred river. Here were spread nets and a bivouac of the fishermen, upon whose wide-eyed astonishment they at length prevailed to give them a passage that very night into the hills that bound the northern horizon, the hills of the great forest country where the Rishis used to dwell.

The world still awaits their return. Providence apparently finds no man indispensable, and it is given to few to carry out, on the scale and plan framed by their own conceit, the task they have set before themselves. Of these two curious and devoted wanderers it may at least be said that if the fame of their departure, which was much noised abroad, be the last news that the world will have of them, it formed in itself a message not unworthy of the hope that led them.

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Here in Japan, in fact, it has largely become a religion of salvation through faith; and its chief objects of worship are the compassionate Amida and Kwannon. The historic Sakyamuni and his appeal to reason are alike largely forgotten. Little do his followers here think of the fundamental doctrine of Karma, the inherent law of cause and effect, which was taken over by the Founder from earlier Indian thought, and which the writer of the challenge accepts as the essential philosophy of Buddhism. For them religion is rather a matter of comfort in this life, especially at times of sickness and sorrow, and of a life hereafter in some Paradise of the Blest. Popular religion is, in fact, in this Eastern land, very much what L. Adams Beck truly says it is in the West. It has always been so, even in India. I have just been on a pilgrimage of study to the great Buddhist centres: Sarnath, Taxila, Sanchi, Ajanta, Anuradhapura, Borobudur. Here this great faith flourished for a time, evolved new and strange forms, and has left noble monuments to tell its story. Its great pictures in the Caves of Ajanta and its noble sculptures at such places as Sanchi confirm my impressions of it as a living religion in Japan-one that has always thriven, not primarily because of its Indian philosophy, but because it held up to needy men the beautiful legend of the life of Sakyamuni the Compassionate, and of his former lives as animal or man. The painters and sculptors delighted to depict again and again the charming tale of how, as King of the Monkeys, he formed a bridge for his tribe to pass across when, manlike, the King of Benares was shooting them; and they enforced this doctrine of sacrifice for others by another story of him as King of the Elephants, yielding up his tusks to the queen who in a former life had been his jealous mate. As the

Prince Vessantara, giving away all that he had - even wife and children - to the needy, he is at last the Ideal Man, ready for Buddhahood. They interpret these old stories as embodying the essence of Buddhism; and the orthodox schoolman, Buddhaghosha of Ceylon, has summed up in a famous phrase this work of salvation: 'More than the ocean has he shed of his blood; more than the stars has he given of his eyes.' Soon the original view that he did this seeking his own salvation gave place to the doctrine that he did it 'out of compassion for the world.'

Buddhism is in fact a religion rather than a philosophy, as it is commonly described by Western scholars. And after twenty years of careful study of it at its best in monastery and village, in literature and life, in art and in action, in southern countries like Ceylon and Burma, and in the Far East, I venture to accept the challenge thrown down in the May 1926 issue of the Atlantic.

That this article has much charm and truth in it goes without saying, and with a great deal of it Christians will be found to agree; but clearly they cannot admit its claim that Christ is challenged by Buddha as a guide to truth. Many of us to-day sit lightly to great parts of our Semitic heritage, while we cleave gratefully to the Prophets and Psalmists of Israel and to the belief that God guided that richly dowered people for the spiritual enrichment of us all. Few of us again will be found to argue that Christendom, as it now is, is an eloquent proof of Christianity; and we respond with sympathy to the bitter but just words quoted as from a Chinese writer even if we suspect him to be an Englishman in disguise. Our record in Asia is dark enough. Yet we are not blind to signs of deepening spiritual life in Christendom and of an underlying idealism which is the fruit of the Christian faith a discontent

with things as they are, and an honest attempt to seek to apply the mind of Christ to our social and political life.

I am not sure that since the days of Asoka, in the third century before Christ, the Buddhist world has seriously attempted to apply the mind of its founder to social and political relations as Christians are to-day seeking to apply the mind of Christ; and it is very certain that here in Japan it is the little Christian Church, poor and small as it is, which is everywhere giving the lead in challenging the powers of militarism and imperialism, and is at work in what one of its leaders calls 'human architecture.' Before the Dawn, the novel which describes his experiences in the slums of a great industrial city, has had a record sale; and the example set by such Christian leaders is being followed by Buddhists. Not the least significant expression of the Buddhist revival is a new interest in social service. On Koya Sana centre hitherto remote from the people I found a

monk whom I had met in America and England; he was studying the work of such social centres as Hull House and Toynbee Hall, that he might introduce social service into the sect most noted for its mystical beliefs and magical practices. And thoughtful Asiatics everywhere acknowledge with gratitude that Christians have shown the way, and that the West is full of such service.

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the Noncoöperation movement. In the West we judge of a spiritual movement by asking what service it renders to humanity; and this practical test is not the least of the gifts which the West has to make to the East. That the West has much also to learn I am convinced.

I fully sympathize with the challenger in her resentment against the patronage of some of our Christian hymns; yet those who believe that they have from Christ a trust must hand it on, and this is at bottom the justification of the missionary movement.

"The Challenge,' while it scarcely mentions either the Buddha or the Christ, is in fact a plea for the Indian philosophy and the Indian ideal as against that which the West has accepted 'from a small Oriental nation in its decadence.' But the West has taken its ideal not only from the Jews, but much more from such Christians as Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, and from their Master; and its rich heritage comes also from Greece and Rome. Each nation has in fact contributed to it, and each age has shaped it until today it is very difficult to analyze our ways of thought. Modern science has profoundly modified the ordinary Christian's view of the world he lives in and of God's relation to it. Not many of us believe in a 'Deity who sits above Law and continually interferes with and breaks it.' The view of most of us is that God is immanent in His world, and that He yet transcends it. It comes from Him and moves on to realize His purposes. We tend, in fact, to hold together the two views which "The Challenge' contrasts.

Those who are not theologians may make this contrast vivid to themselves if they will compare the first part of the striking film play, "The Ten Commandments,' with the second part. In the first half we have the Semitic view of Jehovah revealing His laws in the

thunders of Sinai; in the second half the same laws are shown to be still operative, but in ways more congenial to the modern mind. They are represented as working themselves out in the law of cause and effect. The dishonest contractor builds a shoddy cathedral; it falls in ruins and kills his own mother, and so on. Melodrama, no doubt; but truer to our ways of thought than the splendid drama on Sinai. Yet, as Heine said, 'Jehovah knew his public!' And the public changes from age to age.

Each age has its own modes of thought and its own revelation of God, and ours is in some ways more Indian than Semitic. We think of these laws not as a divine fiat so much as an expression of the divine nature. But we have not got this characteristic modern attitude from India so much as from modern science; and it is perhaps true to say that such Indian thinkers as Sakyamuni anticipated in their religious and ethical thought the great scientific discoveries of our times. They certainly applied the law of cause and effect with splendid and ruthless logic. Are we sure that Jesus had so different a view of His Heavenly Father? When we turn to the Gospels and reëxamine them we shall ask ourselves whether such words as 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father' imply an omniscient mind aloof from the world, or a mind that works in the world. The Fourth Gospel, with its lessons of a Father continually at work, has, as we have seen, approximated to the latter view. And in some of the fragments lately discovered and attributed to Jesus we have such splendid words as 'Lift the stone and I am there. Hew the wood and I am there.' The Kingdom of God was certainly for Jesus a present Reality working in men and things and ultimately to be fulfilled in God's complete

triumph. It is 'within' man; it is also already 'in their midst.'

L. Adams Beck represents Christ as accepting the Indian view - transmigration and all- and finds in Him an Authentic Word which, alas! the doctors and theologians straightway neglected, and fatally misinterpreted. Some of them deserve this censure yet the greatest of them, Saint Paul and his disciple, the Fourth Evangelist, can be seen at work, in those of their writings which have come down to us, at the great task of a cosmic interpretation of Jesus, which in many ways approximates to the Indian view of Reality. He is the indwelling Logos, through whom and in whom and unto whom are all things; the light that lightens all men blazes forth in Him; He is life, and all who are one with Him are sharers in that life. So far, however, as transmigration goes, it is never mentioned except once, in this Fourth Gospel, and here we see Jesus rejecting it as an explanation of the tragedy of the man born blind.

It is true that this Johannine doctrine of the Logos, or Immanent Reason, is at variance with much Semitic thought; yet Saint Paul and Saint John were both Hebrews by birth, and almost every word of the prologue of the Fourth Gospel can be found in the writings of Philo, the Alexandrian Jew. Tempting as it may be to some to vent their dislike of the Hebrews of to-day, personally I think that America owes a very great deal of her best culture to them, yet we must in fairness own that there is even in our Semitic heritage a view of God which is not unlike that of the best Indian thought.

There is the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, for example, to which we owe very much; and there is everywhere the sense that God is just and not arbitrary. To say that 'the

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