Monday, 3 September 2018

The Cities of Buddhism - 5

Here must have been carried on such researches as were recorded, in the lapse of centuries, by Patanjali, in his Yoga Aphorisms, one of the most extraordinary documents of ancient science known to the world. Here must have been the home of that learning which made the golden age of the Guptas possible, between 300 and 500 A.D. We must think to too of the international relations of these ancient monastic colleges. Fa Hian (400 A.D.) and Hiouen Tsang (650 A.D.) were not the only eastern students, who came two thousand to fifteen hundred years ago, to drink of the springs of Indian learning. They were a couple whose books of travels happen to have become famous. But they were two out of a great procession of pilgrim-scholars. And it was to the abbeys that such came. It was from these abbeys, again that the missions preceded to foreign countries. no nation was ever evangelised by a single teacher. The word Patrick in Irish, it is said, means praying man, and the vaunted saint is thus, beyond a doubt, either a member or a personification of a whole race Christian preachers who carried Baptism and the Cross to early Ireland. Similarly Mahinda, Nagarjuna,and Bodhidharma in the twelfth century, were not the isolated figures that history as we know it points. They merely conspicuous elements in a whole stream of missionary effort, that radiated from the quiet abbeys and monasteries of India in its great ages towards the worlds of east and west. Christianity itself, it has been often suggested, may have been one of the later fruits of such a mission, as preached in Persia and Syria.

Here, in these lovely retreats-for they are all placed n the midst of natural beauty - was elaborated the thought and learning, the power of quiet contemplation, and the marvelous energy of art and literary tradition, that have made India as we know it today. Here were dreamt those dreams, which, reflected in society, became the social ideals of the ages in which we live. And here was demonstrated the great law that will be expressed again and again in history, whenever the glory of India rises to one of its supreme moments, the law of the antithesis between city and university, between Samaj and religious orders, between the life of affairs and the life of thought. Antithetic as they are, however, these are nevertheless complementary. Spirituality brings glory in its train. The monastic life reacts to make civic strength. And the sons of modern India may well take heart, in the face of this law of mutual relations. For it is established in the innermost nature of things Indian that moment of greatness either of Vairagya or of Dharma shall always be a prophecy to the nearing of an hour of approaching triumph for its fellow.


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