THERE seems to be no need of books on Buddhism, yet, though the literature on this subject is indeed immense, a serious gap remains to be filled. In vain one looks about for a book which represents Bud dhism as a present-day religion, comprising all the countries under its sway. The writers on Buddhism either deal chiefly with the Buddha himself and with the old Indian Buddhism (as Oldenberg and Rhys Davids), or they put before us the Buddhism of one single country-Ceylon, or Burma, or Tibet, or China (as Spence Hardy, Bigandet, Waddell, Edkins, and others). Even Monier-Williams' well-known book, though more complete than many others, is far from being an exhaustive record. Northern Buddhism he only slightly touches upon. But there should be a work showing Buddhism as a whole, beginning with Gautama Buddha himself, tracing the line of historical development which his religion took over all the lands of its influence, and painting a vivid picture of its present-day conditions and organizations everywhere.
Buddhism is one of the great religions of the world. Not only by the number of its votaries, but also by its lofty philosophy of human ism, its intellectual background, its contribution to art and litera ture, Buddhism is really great. Buddhism aims at the eradication of sufferings, in the form of disease, old age and death, of all human beings. As a believer in the theory of reincurnation, the Buddha wanted to lead human beings beyond the suffering of the cycle of births and deaths. He taught the Four Noble Truths, viz. Sufferings, Cause of sufferings, Redemption from sufferings and the Way leading to the redemption from sufferings, i.e. the Eightfold Path (āṣṭāngika märga). It has to be admitted that the teachings of the Buddha have given solace, peace and hope to millions, down many centuries, over a vast area of the inhabited world.
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