BLTC Press Titles

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Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

The Story of Buddhism

by Kenneth James Saunders


We are accustomed to think of our own age, with its A worldwidespread social upheavals and the great awakening of the religious nations of the East, as a crisis in the world's history. movement.

A similar crisis makes the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. for ever remarkable. For at this time a great quickening and widening of human thought took place. It was the age of Aeschylus and Pythagoras in Greece, of Jeremiah and Ezekiel in Israel, of Zoroaster, the founder of the Parsi religion, in Persia, and of Laotze and Confucius in China. All over the civilized world mighty thinkers were thinking great thoughts upon the deep problems of life—' Whence am I? What is my destiny? Above all, how shall I be happy and lead the ideal life?'

Between Greece and Israel on one side and China on the other lies a land in some respects more wonderful than India. they, a land which even the unimaginative may come to love and to reverence.

It is a land of vast snow-capped mountains, of fertile The land plains, of great rivers; yet over a great part of it the forces pe0piee of Nature seem to be ranged against man's efforts: the fierce heat beats down unpityingly, terrible droughts drive the people to despair, and in many parts life is one long struggle for existence. Still the patient toiling millions think more of the unseen and spiritual than of the physical.

India is above all a land of spiritual thirst. For the Indian believes in the Divine with a passionate certainty of conviction that nothing can shake: he may for a time turn away, but he always returns to that quest for the Unseen and the Eternal. Yet he has but little joy in his religion; amidst those vast ramparts of snow Melancholy sits enthroned, and she broods over these endless sun-scorched plains. And beside her sits her sister Fear. Is not life a fearful thing—a thing of disease and endless toil, of sorrow and old age and decay? Are not all things the prey of Death? Their India is pessimist now; and she was pessimist twenty

religion. fjve centuries ag0 'An inward uneasiness, a dimly felt lack of harmony with the Heart of the Universe, unknown and inscrutable, weighed her down.' And that Heart she sought with pathetic earnestness to know; her Brahman priests besought the countless gods, with costly sacrifices and complicated ritual of which they alone know the secret, till gradually they themselves were acknowledged as divine; her philosophers (sixty-two separate schools are mentioned in an early Buddhist book) dreamed and disputed of the nature of the Soul and God; and her ascetics hid themselves in cave and jungle, seeking that strange mystic experience which sometimes comes to the man of pure life and rigid self-control, and which is interpreted as the very Presence of God: others more fanatical sought like the priests of Baal to compel the heavens to answer.

These were the 'religious', specialists in the spiritual life: for even in a land where all are religious, the vast bulk of the people has to be busy with the ordinary affairs of life—ploughing and sowing, courtship and marriage, begetting children and rearing them. Yet they, too, were much occupied with the Unseen; and fear was perhaps the shape which religion took for most of them. Is the world not full of demon-armies which hide in crannies in the rocks or cast the 'evil eye' upon one's cattle from some haunted banyan-grove, or lurking at the threshold bring sickness and suffering upon the mother and her new-born child? These unseen, ubiquitous, and capricious foes must be propitiated, and the 'gods' themselves, as immoral and no less capricious, must be squared! Truly India in the sixth century before Christ needed a Gospel of hope and comfort. At such a time and to such a heritage was born India's greatest son, one of the greatest men of all time.

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