On the Will in Nature/Sinology

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348425On the Will in Nature — SinologyMadame Karl HillebrandArthur Schopenhauer

Nothing perhaps points more directly to a high degree of civilization in China than the almost in credible density of its population, now rated, according to Gützlaff, at 367 millions of inhabitants. 1 For whether we compare countries or ages, we find on the whole that civilization keeps pace with population.

The pertinacious zeal with which the Jesuit missionaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries strove to inculcate their own relatively new doctrines into the minds of this very ancient nation, and their futile endeavours to discover early traces of their own faith in that country, left them no time for a profound study of the belief which prevails there. Therefore Europe has only lately obtained some slight knowledge of the religious state of the Chinese. We now know, that is to say, that in China there exists first of all a worship of Nature, which is universally professed, and dates from the earliest times, even, it is alleged, from before the discovery of fire, wherefore

1 According to a Chinese official Report on the census, printed in Pekin, and found by the English in the Chinese Governor's palace on entering Canton, China had 396 millions of inhabitants in 1852, and allowing for a constant increase, may now have 400 millions. (Moniteur de la Flotte, end of May, 1857.)

The Reports of the Russian Clerical Mission in Pekin give the returns of 1842 as 414,687,000.

According to the tables published by the Russian Embassy at Pekin, the population, in 1849, amounted to 415 millions. (Post-Zeitung, 1858.) [Add. to 3rd ed.]


animals were sacrificed raw. The sacrifices offered up publicly at certain seasons or after great events by the Chinese Emperor and the chief dignitaries of the Empire, belong to this worship. These sacrifices are dedicated first and foremost to the blue sky and to the earth, the former to the blue sky in the winter solstice, the latter to the earth in the summer solstice and, after these, to every possible power of Nature: the sea, mountains, rivers, winds, thunder, rain, fire, &c, &c. A genius presides over each of these, and each genius has several temples. On the other hand, each genius presiding over every single province, town, village, or street, nay over family funerals and even sometimes over a merchant's warehouse, has also temples; only, in the two last cases they are destined exclusively for private worship. But public worship is besides offered up to former illustrious Emperors, founders of dynasties and to heroes, i.e. to all such as have benefited (Chinese) mankind by word or deed. Even these have their temples: Confucius alone having no less than 1,650 dedicated to him. This therefore accounts for the great number of small temples found throughout the Empire. With this hero-worship too, is associated the private worship offered up by every respectable family on the tombs of their ancestors. Now besides this worship of Nature and of heroes, which is universal, there are three other prevailing religious doctrines in China, more with a dogmatical intent. First among these is the doctrine of [[w:Tao|Tao-she], founded by Laotse, an older contemporary of Confucius. This is the doctrine of Reason [Vernunft], as the inner order of the Universe or inherent principle of all things, of the great One, the sublime Gable-Beam or roof–tree (Taiki) which supports all the Rafters, yet is above them (properly the all-pervading Soul of the World) and of Tao, i.e. the Way, namely to salvation: that is, to redemption from the world and its misery. We have an exposition of this doctrine taken from the fountain-head in


__PAGESEPARATOR__Stanislas Julien's translation (1842) of Laotse's Taoteking, in which we find that the Tao-doctrine completely harmonizes with Buddhism both in meaning and in spirit. This sect however seems to have fallen very much into the background, and its teachers to be now looked down upon. Secondly, we find the wisdom of Confucius, which has special attractions for Chinese savants and statesmen. Judging from translations, it is a rambling, commonplace, predominantly political, moral philosophy, without any metaphysical support, which has something peculiarly insipid and tiresome about it. Finally, there exists for the bulk of the nation Buddha's sublime doctrine full of love. The name, or rather title, of Buddha in China is Fo or Fhu, whilst in Tartary the "Victoriously-Perfect" is more frequently called by his family-name, Shakia-Muni, and also Burkhan-Bakshi; in Burma and Ceylon, he is generally called Gotama or Tathāgata, but his original name was Prince Siddharta. 1 This religion which, on account of its intrinsic

1 For the benefit of those who wish to acquire a fuller knowledge of Buddhism, I here note down those works belonging to its literature, and written in European languages, which I can really recommend, for I possess them and know them well; the omission of a few others, for instance of Hodgson's and A. Rémusat's books, is intentional.

(1.) Dsanglun, or the Sage and the Fool [Dsanglun oder der Weise und der Thor; Aus dem Tibetanischen übersetzt und mit dem Originaltexte herausgegeben. Th. 1: Der Tibetanische Text nebst der Vorrede; Th. 2: Die Übersetzung, St. Petersburg, Leipzig 1843], in Tibetan and German, by I. J. Schmidt, Petersburg, 1843, 2 vols. in 4to, contains in the preface to vol. i. (i.e. the Tibetan volume), from pp. xxxi to xxxviii, a very brief, but excellent, sketch of the whole doctrine, admirably calculated for a first introduction to the knowledge of it: the whole book even, as a part of the Kandshur [Kagyur or bka' 'gyur] (Tibetan canonical books), may be recommended.

(2.) In the Memoranda of the Academy of St. Petersburg are to be found several lectures by the same excellent author (I. J. Schmidt), which were delivered in German in that Academy in 1829-1832. As they are of very great value for the knowledge of this religion, it is to be hoped that they will be collected and published all together in Germany.

(3.) By the same writer: Forschungen über die Tibeter und Mongolen. St. Petersburg 1824. (Investigations concerning the Tibetans and Mongols).

(4.) By the same writer: Über die Verwandtschaft der gnostisch-theosophischen Lehren mit den Religions-Systemen des Orients, vorzüglich des Buddhaismus, Leipzig 1828 (On the relation between the Gnostic-Theosophic Doctrines of Oriental systems of Religion, especially Buddhism.)

(5.) By the same: Geschichte der Ost-Mongolen, St. Petersburg, 1829, in 4to. (History of the Eastern Mongols.) [This is very instructive, especially the explanations and appendix, which give long extracts from writings on Religion, in which many passages clearly show the deep meaning and breathe the genuine spirit of Buddhism. Add. to 3rd ed.]

(6.) Two treatises by Schiefner in German, in the Mélanges Asiatiques tirés du Bulletin Historico-Philologique de l'Académie de St. Pétersburg [Asian Miscellanies drawn from the Historico-Philological Bulletin of the Imperial Academy at St. Petersburg], Tome 1, 1851.

(7.) [Captain] Samuel Turner's Journey to the Court of the Teshoo-Lama [1], (at the end), 1801.

(8.) [Johann Jakob] Bochinger, La Vie ascétique chez les Indous et les Bouddhistes [The ascetic, contemplative, and monastic life of the Hindus and of the Buddhist People], [2] Strasbourg, 1831.

(9.) In the 7th vol. of the Journal Asiatique, 1825, an extremely beautiful biography of Buddha by [Michel-Ange André-Le Roux] Deshauterayes. [3]

(10.) Burnouf, Introduction to the History of Buddhism [4], vol. i. in 4to, 1844.

(11.) Rgya Tsher Rolpa, traduit du Tibétain, par Foucaux, 1848, in 4to. This is the Lalita Vistara, i.e. life of Buddha, the gospel of the Buddhists.

(12.) Foe Koue Ki, relation des royaumes Bouddhiques [Account of the Buddhist Kingdoms], traduit du Chinois par Abel Rémusat, 1836, in 4to. [Foé Koué Ki; ou, Relations des royaumes bouddhiques: voyage dans la Tartarie, dans l'Afghanistan et dans l'Inde, exécuté, à la fin du IVe siècle, par Chy Fa Hian. Traduit du Chinois et Commenté par M. Abel Rémusat. Ouvrage Posthume. Revu, Complété, et Augmenté d'Éclaircissements Nouveaux Par MM. Klaproth et Landresse. Paris, l'Imprimerie Royale, 1836.]

(13.) Déscription du Tibet, traduit du Chinois en Russe par [P. Hyacinthe] Bitchourin, et du Russe en Francais par Klaproth, 1831.

(14.) Klaproth, Fragments Bouddhiques, printed separately from the Nouveau Journal Asiatiques, Mars, 1831.

(15.) Spiegel, De officiis sacerdotum Buddhicorum [Kammavakya; Kammavācā; Kammavâkyam: Buddhist Ritual or Rules for the Ordination of Monks], Palice et Latine, [Bonn], 1841.

(16.) The same author's Anecdota Palica [Anecdotes in the Pāli Language], [Leipzig], 1845.

(17.) Dhammapadam, palice edidet et latine vertit [edited in Pāli and transcribed into Latin], Fausböll, Hovniae [Copenhagen], 1855. [Add. to 3rd ed.]

(18.) Asiatic Researches, vol. vi. Buchanan, On the Religion of the Burmas, and vol. xx. (Calcutta, 1839), Part 2, contains three important articles by Csoma Körösi, including Analyses of the Books of the Kandshur.

(19.) [Father Vincent] Sangermano, Description of the The Burmese Empire, [5], Rome, 1833.

(20.) [George] Turnour (translator), The Mahawansa, Ceylon, 1836. [The Mahawanso in Roman Characters with the Translation Subjoined, and an Introductory Essay on Pali Buddhistical Literature. Vol. I containing the first thirty eight Chapters. Cotto 1837.]

(21.) [Edward] Upham, The Mahavansi,Raja Ratnacari et Rajavali, 3 vols. 1833. [The Mahavansi, the Raja-ratnacari, and the Raja-vali: forming the sacred and historical books of Ceylon; also, a collection of tracts illustrative of the doctrines and literature of Buddhism: translated from the Singhalese. London: Parbury, Allen, and Co. 1833 (3 vol.).]

(22.) Ejusdem [of the same], Doctrine of Buddhism, 1839 [History and Doctrine of Buddhism Popularly Illustrated, with Notices of Demon Worship and of the Planetary Incantations of Ceylon, with forty-three lithographic prints from original Singalese designs, London: R. Ackerman, 1829].

(23.) [Robert] Spence Hardy, Eastern Monachism, 1850 [6].

(24.) Ejusdem [of the same], Manual of Buddhism, 1853. [7] The two last books, written after a twenty years stay in Ceylon and from oral information supplied by the priests there, have given me a deeper insight into the essence of the Buddhist dogma than any other work. They deserve to be translated into German, but without abridgement, for otherwise the best part might be left out.

(25.)The Life of Buddha, from the Chinese of [O.] Palladji, in the Archiv für wissenschaftliche Kunde von Rußland, edited by Erman, vol. xv. Heft 1, 1856. [Add. to 3rd ed.]

(26.) C. F. Koppen [Karl Friedrich Köppen], Die Religion des Buddha [and its Origin], 1857, a complete compendium of Buddhism, compiled not only with great erudition and serious industry but also with intelligence and insight from all the other works I have mentioned above and from many more besides, which contains all that is essential on the subject. [8]


excellence and truth, as well as of the great number of its followers, may be considered as ranking highest among all religions on earth, prevails throughout the greater part of Asia, and according to the latest investigator, [Robert] Spence Hardy


numbers 369 millions of believers: that is, far more than any other. These three religions, the most widely diffused of which, Buddhism, subsists without any protection whatever from the State, by its own power alone a circumstance which speaks greatly in its favour, are far from being hostile to one another, and exist quietly side by side, nay, harmonize even to a certain extent, perhaps by reciprocal influence, so that the sentence: "The three doctrines are only one," has become proverbial. The Emperor, as such, professes all three; still many of the Emperors, even up to the most recent times, have been especially devoted to Buddhism. This is shown by their profound respect for the Dalai-Lama, nay, even for the Teschu-Lama, to whom they unhesitatingly yield precedence. These three religions are neither monotheistic nor polytheistic, nor are they even pantheistic, Buddhism, at any rate, is not; since Buddha did not look upon a world sunk in sin and suffering, whose tenants, all subject to death, only subsist for a short time by devouring each other, as a manifestation of God. Moreover the word Pantheism, properly speaking, contains a contradiction; for it denotes a self-destroying conception, and has therefore never been understood otherwise than as a polite term of expression by those who know what seriousness means. It accordingly never entered into the heads of the clever, acute philosophers of the eighteenth century, not to take Spinoza for an Atheist, on account of his having called the world Deus; on the contrary, this discovery was reserved for the sham philosophers of our own times, who know nothing


but words: they even pique themselves on the achievement and accordingly talk about Acosmism, the wags! But I would humbly suggest leaving their meanings to words in short, calling the world, the world; and gods, gods.

In their endeavours to acquire knowledge of the state of Religion in China, Europeans began as usual, and as the Greeks and Romans under similar circumstances had done, by first searching for points of contact with their own belief. Now as, in their own way of thinking, the conceptions of Religion and of Theism were almost identified, or at any rate had grown together so closely, that they could only be separated with great difficulty; as moreover, till a more accurate knowledge of Asia had reached Europe, the very erroneous opinion had been disseminated for the purpose of argument e consensu gentium [from the agreement of nations] that all nations on earth worship a single, or at any rate a highest, God, Creator of the Universe: 1 when they found themselves in a country where temples, priests and monasteries abounded, they started from the firm assumption that Theism would also be found there, though in some very unusual form. On seeing these expectations disappointed however, and on finding that the very conceptions of such things, let alone the words to express them, were unknown, it was but natural, considering the spirit in which their inquiries were made, that their first reports of these religions should refer rather to what they did not, than to what they did, contain. Besides, for many reasons, it can be no easy task for European heads to enter fully into the sense of these faiths. In the first place, they are brought up in Optimism, whereas in Asia, existence itself is looked upon as an evil and the world as a scene of

1 This is equivalent to imputing to the Chinese the thought, that all princes on earth are tributary to their Emperor. [Add. to 3rd ed.]


misery, where it were better not to find oneself. Another reason is to be found in the decided Idealism which is essential to Buddhism and to Hindooism: a view only known in Europe as a paradox hardly worth a serious thought, advanced by certain eccentric philosophers; whereas in Asia it is even embodied in popular belief. For in Hindoostan it prevails universally as the doctrine of Maja, and in Thibet, the chief seat of the Buddhist Church, it is taught in an extremely popular way, a religious comedy being performed on occasions of special solemnity, in which the Dalai-Lama is represented arguing with the Arch-fiend. The former defends Idealism, the latter Realism, and among other things the Devil says: "What is perceived through the five sources of all knowledge (the senses), is no deception, and what you teach is not true." After a long argumentation the matter is decided by a throw of the dice: the Realist (the Devil) loses, and is dismissed amid general jeering. 1 Keeping this fundamental difference in the whole way of thinking steadily in view, we shall find it not only excusable, but even natural, that in their investigation of the Asiatic religions Europeans should at first have stopped short at the negative standpoint; though, properly speaking, it has nothing to do with the matter. We therefore find a great deal referring to this negative stand-point which in no way advances our positive knowledge; it all however amounts to this: that Monotheism, an exclusively Jewish doctrine, to be sure is alien to Buddhists and in general to the Chinese. For instance, in the Lettres édifiantes 2 we find: "The Buddhists, whose views on the migration of

1 Description du Tibet, traduite du Chinois en Russe par Bitchourin, et du Russe en Francais par Klaproth, Paris, 1831, p. 65. Also in the Asiatic Journal new series, vol. i. p. 15. [Köppen, Die Lamaische Hierarchie [und Kirche], p. 315. [Add. to 3rd ed.]

2 Lettres édifiantes, édition de 1819, vol. viii. p. 46.


souls are universally adopted, are accused of Atheism." In the Asiatic Researches (vol. vi. p. 255) we find: "The religion of the Burmese (Buddhism) shows them to be a nation far advanced beyond the barbarism of a wild state and greatly influenced by religious opinions, but which nevertheless has no knowledge of a Supreme Being, Creator and Preserver of the world. Yet the system of morality recommended in their fables is perhaps as good as any other taught by the religious doctrines which prevail among mankind." And again, p. 258: "The followers of Gotama (i.e. of Buddha) are, strictly speaking, Atheists." Ibid., p. 258: "Gotama's sect consider the belief in a divine Being, Creator of the world, to be highly irreligious (impious)." Ibid., p. 268, Buchanan relates, that Atuli, the Zarado or High-Priest of the Buddhists at Ava, in an article upon his religion which he presented to a Catholic bishop, "counted the doctrine, that there is a Being who has created the world and all things in it and is alone worthy of adoration, among the six damnable heresies." Sangermano relates precisely the same thing, 1 and closes the list of the six grave heresies with the words: "The last of these impostors taught, that there is a Supreme Being, the Creator of the world and of all things in it, and that he alone is worthy of adoration." Colebrooke too says: 2 " The sects of Jaina and Buddha are really atheistic, for they acknowledge no Creator of the world, nor any Supreme ruling Providence." I. J. Schmidt 3 likewise says: "The system of Buddhism knows no eternal, uncreated, single, divine Being, having existed before all Time, who has created all that is visible and invisible.

1 Description of the Burman Empire, Rome, 1833, p. 81.

2 Colebrooke, Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. i. and Essay on the Philosophy of the Hindoos, published also among his Miscellaneous Essays, p. 236.

3 Investigations concerning the Mongols and Tibetans, p. 180.


This idea is quite foreign to Buddhism and there is not the slightest trace of it anywhere in Buddhistic books." We find the learned sinologist Morrison too 1 not less desirous to discover traces of a God in the Chinese dogmas and ready to put the most favourable construction upon every thing which seems to point in that direction; yet he is finally obliged to own that nothing of the kind can be clearly discovered. Where he explains the words Thung and Tsing, i.e. repose and movement, as that on which Chinese cosmogony is based, he renews this inquiry and concludes it with the words' : " It is perhaps impossible to acquit this system of the accusation of Atheism." And even recently Upham 2 says: "Buddhism presents to us a world without a moral ruler, guide or creator." The German sinologist Neumann too, says in his treatise 3 mentioned further on: "In China, where neither Mahometans nor Christians found a Chinese word to express the theological conception of the Deity. The words God, soul, spirit, as independent of Matter and ruling it arbitrarily, are utterly unknown in the Chinese language. . . . This range of ideas has become so completely one with the language itself, that the first verse of the book of Genesis cannot without considerable circumlocution be translated into genuine Chinese." It was this very thing that led Sir George Staunton to publish a book in 1848 entitled: "An Inquiry into the proper mode of rendering the word God in translating the Sacred Scriptures into the Chinese language." 4

1 Morrison, Chinese Dictionary, Macao, 1815, and following years, vol. i. p. 217.

2 Upham, History and Doctrine of Buddhism, London, 1829, p. 102.

3 Neumann, Die Natur-und Religions-Philosophie der Chinesen, nach den Werken des Tchu-hsi, pp. 10, 11.

4 The following account given by an American sea-captain, who had come to Japan, is very amusing from the naïveté with which he assumes that mankind consists exclusively of Jews. For the Times of the 18th October, 1854, relates that an American ship, under command of Captain Burr, had arrived in Jeddo Bay, and gives his account of the favourable reception he met with there, at the end of which we find: "He likewise asserts the Japanese to be a nation of Atheists, denying the existence of a God and selecting as an object of worship either the spiritual Emperor at Meaco, or any other Japanese. He was told by the interpreters that formerly their religion was similar to that of China, but that the belief in a supreme Being has latterly been entirely discarded (this is a mistake) and he professed to be much shocked at Deejunokee [The Yankee](a somewhat Americanised Japanese), declaring his belief in the Deity. [Add. to 3rd ed.]


My intention in giving the above quotations and explanations, is merely to prepare the way for the extremely remarkable passage, which it is the object of the present chapter to communicate, and to render that passage more intelligible to the reader by first making him realize the standpoint from which these investigations were made, and thus throwing light upon the relation between them and their subject. For Europeans, when investigating this matter in China in the way and in the spirit described, always inquiring for the supreme principle of all things, the power that rules the world, &c. &c., had often been referred to that which is designated by the word Tien (English: T'hëen). Now, the more usual meaning of this word is "Heaven," as Morrison also says in his dictionary; still it is a well-known thing that Tien is used in a figurative sense also, and then has a metaphysical signification. In the Lettres édifiantes l we find the following explanation: "Hing-tien is the material, visible heaven; Chin-tien the spiritual and invisible heaven. Sonnerat too, 2 in his travels in East-India and China, says: "When the Jesuits disputed with the rest of the missionaries as to the meaning of the word Tien, whether it was Heaven or God, the

1 Édition de 1819, vol. ii. p. 461.

2 Journey to East India and China, Book iv. ch. i.


Chinese looked upon these foreigners as restless folk and drove them away to Macao." It was at any rate through this word that Europeans could first hope to find the track of that Analogy of Chinese Metaphysic with their own faith, which had been so persistently sought for; and it was doubtless owing to investigations of this kind that the results we find communicated in an Essay entitled Chinese Theory of the Creation were attained. 1 As to Choo-foo-tze, called also Choo-hi, who is mentioned in it, I observe that he lived in the twelfth century according to our chronology, and that he is the most celebrated of all the Chinese men of learning because he has collected together all the wisdom of his predecessors and reduced it to a system. His work is in our days the basis of all Chinese instruction, and his authority of the greatest weight. In the passage I allude to, we find: "The word Teen would seem to denote the highest among the great or above all what is great on earth: but in practice its vagueness of signification is beyond all comparison greater than that of the term Heaven in European languages. . . . Choo-foo-tze tells us that 'to affirm that heaven has a man (i.e. a sapient being) there to judge and determine crimes, should not by any means be said; nor, on the other hand, must it be affirmed, that there is nothing at all to exercise a supreme control over these things.'

The same author being asked about the heart of heaven, whether it was intelligent or not, answered: it must not be said that the mind of nature is unintelligent, but it does not resemble the cogitations of man. . . .

According to one of their authorities, Teen is called ruler or sovereign (Choo), from the idea of the supreme control, and another expresses himself thus: 'Had heaven (Teen) no designing mind, then it must happen, that the

1 To be found in the Asiatic Journal, vol. xxii. anno 1826, pp. 41 and 42.


cow might bring forth a horse, and on the peach-tree be produced the blossom of the pear.' On the other hand it is said, that the mind of Heaven is deducible from what is the Will of mankind! "

The agreement between this last sentence and my doctrine is so striking and so astonishing, that if this passage had not been printed full eight years after my own work had appeared, I should no doubt have been accused of having taken my fundamental thought from it. For there are three well-known modes of repelling the attack of new thoughts: firstly, by ignoring them, secondly by denying them, and lastly by asserting that they are not new, but were known long before. But the fact that my fundamental thought was formed quite independently of this Chinese authority, is firmly established by the reasons I have given; for I may hope to be believed when I affirm, that I am unacquainted with the Chinese language and consequently unable to derive thoughts for my own use from original Chinese sources unknown to others. On further investigation I have elicited the fact, that the passage I have quoted, was most probably, nay almost certainly, taken from Morrison's Chinese Dictionary, where it may be found under the sign Teen: only I have no opportunity of verifying it. In an article by Neumann 2

1 A note of Schopenhauer's referring to this says: " According to letters from [Adam von] Doss" (a friend of S.'s), "dated 26th February and 8th June, 1857, the passages I have here quoted are to be found in Morrison's Chinese Dictionary, Macao, 1815, vol. i. p. 576, under Teen, although in a slightly different order, in nearly the same words. The important passage at the end alone differs and is as follows: 'Heaven makes the mind of mankind its mind: in most ancient discussions respecting Heaven, its mind, or will, was divined (it stands thus, and not derived) from what was the will of mankind.' Neumann translated this passage for Doss, independently of Morrison's rendering, and the end was: 'Through the heart of the people Heaven is usually revealed.' " [Editor s Note.]

2 Neumann, Die Natur-und Religions-Philosophie der Chinesen nach dem Werke des Tschu–hsi, an article in [Christian Friedrich] Illgen's Periodical for Historical Theology, [Zeitschrift für historische Theologie], vol. vii. 1837, from pp. 60 to 63.


there are some passages which have evidently a common source with those here quoted from the Asiatic Journal. But they are written with the vagueness of expression which is so frequent in Germany, and excludes clear comprehension. Besides, this translator of Choo-hi evidently did not himself quite understand the original; though by this no blame need be implied, when we consider the enormous difficulty of the Chinese language for Europeans, and the insufficiency of the means for studying it. Meanwhile it does not give us the enlightenment desired. We must therefore console ourselves with the hope, that as a freer intercourse with China has now been established, some Englishman may one day give us more minute and thorough information concerning the above-mentioned dogma, of which we have hitherto received such deplorably imperfect accounts.