OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
BUDDHA GAYA AND SARNATH
THE year 1893 now opens up before us, and its events will be found to be very important.
As previously shown, the rumblings of the coming tempest about Mr. Judge were beginning to be heard. Towards the end of last year the arrival of Mr. Walter G. Old of the London staff, with the budget of notes and memoranda which he had taken, enabled me by comparing documents to see the depth and fullness of the treachery which Mr. Judge had long been planning. I find from my Diary of 1893 that the greater part of the first day was spent by Messrs. Keightley, Old, and myself in summarising the evidence in the case; and needless to say, all our hearts were filled with sorrow, for this was almost if not the very first case of downright perfidy in our Society’s history.
Until now the splendid collection of Japanese Buddhist Scriptures, which I had brought back from Japan in 1889, had been lying on our shelves uncatalogued for lack of expert help; but now Mr. Kawakami, a young priest student of Kyoto, who had.
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come to India to pursue his studies in Sanskrit, stopped with us for some time and very kindly set to work to prepare a list of the books.
Our equally valuable collection of Sinhalese Pâli manuscripts, presented to the library by the late Mrs. Ilangakoon, of Matara, for the mere copying of which she paid over Rs. 3,000, is still unexplored though not uncatalogued, but I hope that, some day, I may be able to get a close and scholarly comparison made of the two collections, and to publish the result as a contribution to Buddhistic literature from the Adyar Library.
Day by day our consultations on the Judge case continued until the 8th of the month, when Mr. S. V. Edge, Mr. Kawakami, and I sailed for Calcutta.
For the first time in my life I travelled with what Australians would call a “mob” of Bishops; the sees of Colombo, Travancore, and Sydney, and the Canonry of Windsor, together with some smaller fry, being my fellow-passengers. No harm was done however, not even to the ship, for the usual effect of parsons on the weather, so popularly accepted—yet, so unaccountably overlooked by the Astronomer Royal and the compilers of the Nautical Almanac—was not observable on this voyage.
Though I cultivated no relations with the clergy, I did with some of the other passengers, among them Professor and Dr. (Mrs.) Edmund Buckley, who were returning from long residence in Japan and whom I found charming; there was also Dr. Kennedy, the
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well-known London physician, whose diploma was cancelled by the Faculty for his adoption of the Mattei system for the treatment of cancer.
I had the pleasure of again seeing Professor and Dr. Buckley during my tour of last year, 1901, at Chicago where Mr. Buckley holds an important chair at the University of that city.
We reached Calcutta at noon on 12th January, and were warmly received on landing by our kind friends Norendro Nath Sen, Dr. Salzer, S. J. Padshah, Dharmapala, and others. Dr. Salzer took Edge and myself to his house, and we gladly accepted his hospitable invitation to become his guests. If my memory serves me, it was during that visit that Dr. Salzer made that almost incredible cure of the church-yard cough of my Hindu servant boy Muniswami. I don’t know when I have been more convinced of the potentialities of Homoeopathy than in this case. I have often cited the facts in my lecture on “The Divine Art of Healing”. The facts were these: the boy had contracted a very violent cough which had reached the stage of danger, he kept us all awake at night by his violent spasms. Dr. Salzer undertaking, at my request, the case, gave the patient a vial of what looked like plain water, with instructions to take a dose every hour. At the end of twelve hours the cough had entirely disappeared, and from that time to the present there has been no relapse.
When the Doctor and I were discussing the case, he said that the percentage of matter in the preparation
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might be represented by one as a numerator and some nine ciphers preceded by the figure 1 as the denominator.
“It is needless to say,” added the Doctor, “that nothing could be more absurd than to suppose that the result which you have witnessed is attributable to the physical action of this infinitesimally small portion of matter. In my opinion, the secret of homoeopathic action lies in the action of the remedy upon the astral body: the phenomenon of cure has just been worked under your very eyes, and, as your ignorant servant knows absolutely nothing of Hahnemann’s system one could not say that it was imagination which was the controlling factor. If, then, the remedy worked a cure, how can you explain it, save on the theory of action on the astral plane which I have just postulated?”
The Doctor’s theory flashed light into the whole obscurity of the homoeopathic problem, enabling us—at any rate, as Theosophists—to reconcile the hitherto incomprehensible sequence of effect and cause in this system of medical practice. Assuredly, the heroic doses of allopathy belonged to the physical plane and, equally certain is it, that the sometimes almost miraculous effects of homoeopathic “high potencies” belong to and can only be comprehended in connection with the plane of astral matter.
I spent a good deal of my time during this visit to Calcutta in trying to promote the schemes of Dharmapala in connection with Buddha Gaya and the other Buddhist shrines; calling on the Viceroy’s Private
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Secretary, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, and other officials, who sent me hither and thither so as to shift off their own shoulders the responsibility for action. However, I was too well used to this sort of policy to allow myself to be in the least discouraged or put back. They finally referred me to the Mahant of Buddha Gaya, the holder of the property and the very man whom we wished to oust from the occupancy of the greatest of Buddhist shrines!
While in Calcutta I was so fortunate as to make the acquaintance of Dr. P. K. Ray, a Professor at the Presidency College, and a man who has made his name known since that time throughout the Western world of science. At a garden-party at his house I met the Rev. A. M. Bose, M.A., Minister of the Brahmo Samaj, and other distinguished gentlemen and ladies of that society. It was very interesting to find myself for the first time in my fourteen years’ residence in India, in a social world which, while composed of Indians, had almost nothing Indian in its appearance, barring the dark complexions and such slight touch of Indian character as was given by the addition of the Indian sari to the European dress which the Brahmo ladies wore. In their appearance of self-possession, their sense of personal dignity and their intellectual conversation, they made one feel as if in a European social gathering; while the men of the party compared most favourably, for culture, fluency of language, and the air of personal independence, with any that one would meet in Western lands. These very peculiarities
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and the tone of the whole gathering made one easily comprehend why Brahmoism has taken such slight hold upon the Indian nation. It is distinctly foreign to the Indian national spirit, and much more a reflection of Western than of Indian ideals. As I have said elsewhere, Brahmoism has barely held its ground, while the Arya Samaj, a much later organisation, has spread like wildfire throughout Northern India, formed its hunoreds of branches, founded its great college at Lahore, opened its schools and libraries, built its preaching-halls, evolved its class of lecturers and pushed along the road of success. This is because the late Swami Dayânand was intensely Aryan, an enthusiastic follower of the Vedas, and the lines of his movement were laid in the Indian heart and it had not even a tinge of foreign character about it. Of course, it was just simply a new Indian sect, hence contained in it nothing repugnant to Indian ideals; whereas Brahmoism, in spite of the splendid eloquence and the undoubted learning of its leaders, cannot flourish in the soil of the Indian mind as it might but for its unnational aspect. Theologically speaking it is akin to Western Unitarianism, and in fact the Brahmo Samaj is, at this moment of my writing, engaged in the laudable attempt to raise a fund to perpetuate the memory of the late Rev. S. Fletcher Williams, the respected Unitarian clergyman who has been, for two or three years, preaching in their different churches. For the individual leaders of the Samaj, with whom I have had the good fortune to become acquainted, I have
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perfect respect, which makes me the more sorry that their movement has not had the success which the personal efforts of its leaders entitled them to expect.
The restoration of the great temple at Buddha Gaya by the Government of Bengal, at the cost of the former King of Burma, had been largely superintended by Mr. J. D. M. Beglar, formerly a subordinate of General Cunningham. As the work was finished, Dharmapala and I were anxious to enlist his sympathies with us in our own proposed building works at Buddha Gaya and the other great Buddhist shrines, so I managed an interview with him, at which we came to a good understanding, and it was agreed that he should have the title of “Consulting Engineer and Archaeologist” when our plans were ripe. The project never came to anything, I believe, for the Maha-Bodhi scheme was blocked by a bitter and very costly lawsuit between Dharmapala and the Mahant, and sometime subsequently, having become dissatisfied with the former’s management, I severed my connection with the Maha-Bodhi Society and left him to carry it on alone.
On the 26th of January I attended the first general meeting of the “Buddhist Text Society of India,” with whose development Babu Sarat Chandra Das, C.I.E., has for the past ten years been so honorably associated. From the copy of the programme which lies before me I find that there were three speakers, viz., Sarat Chandra Das, C.I.E., on his literary experiences in Tibet; Mr. Romesh Chandra Dutt, I.C.S., C.I.E., on the works of Kshemendra, the great Kashmirian
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Poet; and myself on Buddhist Literature. Sarat Babu has tapped the great supply of early Buddhistic literature which exists in Tibet, and which undoubtedly contains the most precious of the books produced in India up to the time of the Muslim invasion, that religious cyclone which swept over Indian Buddhism and left disaster and destruction in its wake—ruined shrines, slaughtered priests, and high mounds of Scriptures given to the flames. The monks, flying for their lives, no doubt took with them to their sanctuary across the border, their most prized literary treasures, some in the original Magadha, some in Sanskrit, and in time they were gathered into the Tibetan religious libraries and shelved alongside of the other precious works on the Buddha Dharma, which had been rendered into Tibetan. As said elsewhere, Sarat Chandra saw many of these primitive volumes in the great Library of the Teshu Lama and was actually permitted to bring some of them back to India with him. In his possession at Darjeeling I have seen them; and this makes me feel confident that when the Great Teachers of the White Lodge see that the auspicious moment has arrived, these long-lost treasures will be rescued from obscurity and brought before the literary world, to enrich us with their contents. Perhaps, also, to upset the fixed belief of the monks of Southern Buddhism, that they are and have all along been in custody of the whole body of the Buddhist Canon. To my mind this idea is an illusion and I have so thought from the beginning of my connection with them. The Buddha
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did not preach for forty-five years as constantly as history tells us he did, without giving forth infinitely more sermons than the Southern Sangha now possess. That stands to reason; does it not? Then, where must we search for the lost Scriptures save in the places where they were hidden by the fugitive Indian monks and laity, viz., in Tibet and China, whither large numbers found their way in course of time. On the evening of the day of the meeting, Mr. Edge and I left for Delhi.
In preparing the evidence against Mr. Judge we had found a very serious feature of the case was a certain common cheap brass seal which I had myself had made at Delhi and given to H.P.B. on my return from the tour of that year, as a mere joke and without the remotest suspicion that the article would ever be used by Mr. Judge as authoritative corroboration of the integrity of his bogus Mahatma messages; in fact, this was as great a piece of effrontery on his part as any that turned up in the preparation of the case against him. It was important to get a certificate from the maker of the seal as to his handiwork. The journey of Mr. Edge and myself from Calcutta to Delhi had this for its object. On searching through Chandni Chauk, the well-known street of jewellers and gem-cutters, we found that our man had died eight months before our visit, but his brother and partner, Allabanda, identified the seal and signed a statement.
At 9 in the following evening, we left for Allahabad where we commenced a short tour; both Edge and I
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giving public lectures, receiving visitors, holding conversaziones, and presiding at meetings of members and sympathisers. We moved on to our next station, Bankipur, on the evening of February 2nd, receiving a most affectionate farewell from the members who crowded at the station to see us off. In point of fact, Bankipur has been from the beginning down to the present time a most agreeable station to visit, our Branch there comprising several men of elevated character and unwavering devotion, chief among them being Babu Upendra Narain Singh and Purnendu Narain Sinha, M.A., B.L., a man who is an honor to his nation as well as to our Society; he has been President of the Branch for many years. Our host at Bankipur was Guruprasad Sen, one of the ablest men of Bengal, a strong character full of moral courage and the instinct of leadership. Dharmapala arrived from Calcutta on the same day and we all went to test the famous echoes in a vast empty brick-built granary—one of Warren Hastings’ famine works of 1776. The echo under the empty dome is something weird and appalling; our words were repeated and sent back to us seemingly from the ground under our feet and if we stamped or shuffled our feet, the noises were returned to us from all sides and over and over again, as though an army of phantoms were marching and counter-marching about us. This is one of the real curiosities of India that I am afraid escapes the notice of most foreign visitors. In the afternoon I lectured to a large crowd on Theosophy;
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the next day, visited Govind Mandir, the temple of Govind Guru, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs; admitted several candidates into membership, and left at 7 p.m. for Gaya which we reached after a run of three hours.
At the station we were met by Chandra Joshi Bhikshu who informed us of a violent assault having been made the previous evening by the Mahant’s people on the Buddhist priests whom Dharmapala had placed at Buddha Gaya; one of the poor and inoffensive monks had been brutally beaten. By appointment I went to Buddha Gaya the next day accompanied by Dharmapala, Guruprasad Sen, Bireswar Singh, and others; and after inspecting the premises had an interview with the Mahant on the subject of the transfer of Maha-Bodhi to the Buddhists. Argument and persuasion were wasted upon him; he remained deaf to all my appeals. and refused the most liberal offers. On the following morning I called on Mr. MacPherson, the Collector, and Mr. Shuttleworth, Secretary of the Revenue Board; exchanged official letters with the former about my fruitless visit to the Mahant; reported to the High Priest, Sumangala, the facts of the outrage; received many visitors; lectured at the Bar Library, and in the afternoon attended a Police investigation at which the Inspector tried to get the injured priests to name their assailants. But these men of peace, while frankly admitting their knowledge of the assailants, firmly declined to name them as it was against the rules of their ordination for them to help in any way the bringing to punishment of those
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who had done them personal injury. As the assault was made at night, in the absence of disinterested third parties, the culprits could not be brought to book and went scot free. As the lives of the priests were in danger at the Burmese rest-house at Buddha Gaya, we searched for and hired a house for them in the town. A second lecture was given by me at the same place as before on the subject of “Mind” to a large audience comprising the leading men of Gaya. By the night train, Mr. Edge and I moved on to Benares, leaving Dharmapala behind to see to the settling of the priests in their new quarters.
We reached the Holy City at noon. Not to waste time I drove out that same afternoon to Sarnath—“a ruined tope in a desolation of brick ruins”—which marks the. spot of the ancient “Deer Forest” where the Buddha met his companion ascetics and preached his first great Discourse. My object was to see the spot and enquire about the title, with the hope that if it were vested in Government we might be able to get permission to build a rest-house and Vihara for the use of resident and pilgrim priests and laity travelling to see the great shrines of their religion. To elucidate this point, I called on the Divisional Engineer. The next day I visited the place again accompanied by Messrs. Mokshadadas and Jadub Chander Mitter to photograph this stupa. Three views of it were taken, in one of them our party being photographed at the foot of the ruin. I had the satisfaction of learning that day that the title was in Government, and opened
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negotiations with a view to obtain its transfer to the Maha-Bodhi Society.
One of the most curious of all the sights of India for travellers is that of the morning bathing in the river Ganges, of the population of Benares. No matter how many times one has seen it, its interest is always fresh, for new elements enter each time into the composition of the panoramic picture. Fancy a vast multitude thronging the steps of the bathing ghâts that stretch from Durga Kund to the Railway Bridge, clad in vivid costumes, carrying and using polished brass lotas; thousands bathing while other thousands emerge from the water to change their clothes on the steps; behind them a background of huge castle-like structures erected for the use of bathers by pious princes at different epochs; some undermined by the rushing resistless river and sunk in at the corners; Brahmins sitting in the full sunglare doing their morning worship; ummoved and imperturbable amid the stream of human beings descending to and ascending from the river. Then there is the burning ghat in all the ghastliness of the open-air cremations of corpses that are going on for hours—all this makes upon the mind an unfading picture. Many the artist who has tried to fix the scene on the canvas, but none—so far as I have seen—who have succeeded in giving one an idea of the whole panorama. This we enjoyed on the morning of the 11th as we lay on the roof of a houseboat and floated lazily down the stream past the swarming multitude.
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The next morning I spent at home working at my desk, but in the afternoon lectured in the compound of a cattle hospital (gowshâla) with the sick beasts lying or standing all about me. The lecture was to have been given at the Town Hall, but with a happy incapacity for doing things promptly, sometimes found in India, sometimes, also, in Western countries—notably those occupied by the Latin race who by no possibility do things to-day that can be put off till to-morrow—the preliminary formalities were neglected until the last moment, the public were persuaded that there would be no lecture and went home again, and when the permit actually reached me it found me on an empty packing-box in the cattle-yard going on with my lecture to the small audience who had been got together. This is one of the incidents of the lecturer’s life in India. It brought my Bemires visit to a close and I left at 1 p.m. on the 13th for Muzaffarpur.