Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/81

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THE LIFE OF BUDDHA. 77 that he brought spiritual deliverance to the people. He preached that salvation was equally open to all men, and that it must be earned, not by propitiating imaginary deities, but by our own conduct. He thus did away with sacrifices, and with the priestly claims of the Brahmans as mediators between God and man. He taught that the state of a man in this life, in all previous and in all future lives, is the result of his own acts {Karma). What a man sows, that he must reap. As no evil remains without punishment, and no good deed without reward, it follows that neither priest nor God can prevent each act from bringing about its own consequences. Misery or happiness in this life is the unavoidable result of our conduct in a past life ; and our actions here will determine our happi- ness or misery in the life to come. When any creature dies, he is born again in some higher or lower state of existence, according to his merit or demerit. His merit or demerit consists of the sum total of his actions in all previous lives. A system like this, in which our whole well-being — past, present, and to come — depends on ourselves, leaves little room for a personal God. The Liberation of the Soul. — Life, according to Buddha, must always be more or less painful ; and the object of every good man is to get rid of the evils of existence by merging his individual soul into the universal soul. This is Nirvana, literally ' cessation.' Some scholars explain it to mean that the soul is blown out like the flame of a lamp. Others hold that it is the extinction of the sins, sorrows, and selfishness of a man's individual life — the final rest of the soul. The pious Buddhist strives to reach a state of holy meditation in this world, and he looks forward to an eternal calm in a world to come. Buddha taught that this end could only be reached by leading a good life. Instead of the Brahman sacrifices, he laid down three great duties, namely, control over self, kindness to other men, and reverence for the life of all living creatures. Missionary Aspects of Buddhism. — He urged on his disciples that they must not only follow the true path them- selves, but that they should preach it to all mankind. Bud- dhism has from the first been a missionary religion. One of the