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The Imitation of Buddha

IT has been remarked by Professor Jowett, in a well-known essay, that human nature "lives on in the hope of becoming better," and that "Ideals even though unrealized have effect on our daily life." Hence it is that in trying to attain higher levels of principle and of conduct, people cling to religious teachers and to philosophers, who, just as poets have an especially keen insight into nature and the emotions of mankind, can see, and make others see, with singular clearness into moral relations and the harmony of life. We are conscious of growing into the likeness of what we imitate, and of being insensibly carried forward by that which we admire. A distinct ethical ideal will therefore develop into a distinct ethical aim. In forming that ideal, we are helped by the example, the thoughts, the experience, and the injunctions of ancient and modern sages, and at no former time has there been greater willingness than now to recognize the claims to this kind of leadership of those who, at different times and in different countries, have thrown light upon any portion of the way of right. Learned men have latterly discovered to us the treasures which language had preserved but concealed, and not only has the field of knowledge been widened, but moral ideals have become intensified and confirmed. In the small book called The Imitation of Budda, the compiler has collected from a number of authoritative sources 365 brief sentences out of Buddhist writings. " We need not here inquire," he says, " too closely how much of so-called Buddhism is probably due to the gentle and high-souled Buddha himself; enough that their lofty ideals of righteous conduct, these earnest presentments of the noble and the good, have all gathered around the name and the system of Buddha." Mr. Bowden has selected his texts from out of a long list of translations; and "the supposed dates of the originals vary from at least the third century B.C. to mediaeval, or even later times." Sir Edwin Arnold testifies to the faithful representation here given of the "ever-pervading tenderness of the great Asiatic teacher which extended itself to all alike that live." Indeed, it seems that the compiler's chief object was to bring into prominence this distinguishing side of Buddha's teaching, but other points, such as justice, temperance, and self-control, are not left out. Doubtless the moving cause of Buddha's renunciation of the position to which he was born did lie in the overpowering impression made upon his sympathetic nature by the sadness connected with death and suffering. His rules for life were framed with a view to enable men gradually to emancipate themselves from the ills of existence and their attendant sorrow. -The Indian Magazine and Review, Issue 265 [1893]
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