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the question as to the worth of human life deserved to be regarded as one of the chief problems of thought. It was reserved for them also to present as a reasoned and even demonstrated answer to it, what had previously only been uttered as a cry of agony or weariness, that life was worth less than nothing,—that non-existence was better than existence. Although all the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome had sought to ascertain the end of life, they all tacitly agreed to identify it with the good. None who came after them until Schopenhauer appeared, ventured directly and explicitly to deny the truth of that assumption. But such a denial was indispensably needed in order to dispel the dogmatic slumber which weighed on the human mind as to this matter. And the denial came. Pessimism, like Macbeth, has murdered sleep. Henceforth no man who cultivates philosophy, and especially no man who cultivates moral philosophy, can remain ignorant that the question, What is the worth of life? demands from him as much serious consideration as the question, Is man a free or a necessitated agent? or as the question, What is the foundation of virtue? Nor can the awakening stop here; but from the philosophical consciousness it must descend to the common consciousness, and must spread until all intelligent and educated men are brought to feel that the theme is one on which they are bound to meditate. In this I see an
ample providential justification of pessimism. It has its mission; and now that it is here, it will not pass awayuntil that mission is accomplished—which will not be, so long as atheistical principles are prevalent. It can only be overcome through the repression and refutation of atheism. If the present life be all; if there be no God and no immortality; if nothing have value except what can be empirically measured and weighed,—it may be possible to prove that such assertions as that consciousness is necessarily and essentially pain; that misery is always in excess of happiness; that the course of things is only from bad to worse, &c.,—arc exaggerations; but not, I think, to disprove that what good there is in life is so mingled with sin, suffering, and delusion, that a wise man may reasonably and deliberately wish that he had never been born. More than this pessimism is not logically bound to maintain; and this it may successfully maintain against all who agree with it in the acceptance of atheistical principles. Of course, this is of itself, in my opinion, a very good reason for not accepting atheistical principles without the most careful consideration.
It is impossible for me, within the limits at my disposal, to describe and examine the various systems of pessimism separately. I shall therefore group them together, and endeavour to give a certain unity and interest to my treatment of them by comparing, on a few fundamental points, the doctrines of Schopenhauer and Hartmann with that of Buddha. The sole purpose in view, it must be kept in mind, is to determine whether the pessimistic conceptions of the world, life, death, and eternity, are such that we ought to abandon for them our theism, or such as should lead us to value it more.
The chief difference between oriental Buddhism and German pessimism is the obvious one, that the former is inseparable from faith in a legendary person, while the latter consists of a series or collection of merely abstract systems. Buddhism cannot be dissociated from Buddha; pessimism has no necessary connection with Schopenhauer, or Hartmann, or any other person. The founder of Buddhism was Siddharta, also designated Gotama, Sakyamuni, and especially Buddha—i.e., the "enlightened." He belonged to the royal race of the Sakyas, who lived in northern India, in the district called Oude. Legend mentions Kapilavastu as his birthplace. The age in which he lived is so far from determined, that while some fix 543 B.C. as the year of his death, others prefer 368 B.C.; and every new inquirer into the subject seems to come to a new result. Buddha renounced his princely rank for the ascetic state; convinced himself of the unsatisfactoriness of Brahminism; taught the fundamental principles of the creed now associated with his name; and by the persuasiveness of his speech, the benevolence and attractiveness of his disposition, and the truth, or apparent truth, of what he inculcated, gained numerous adherents. The legends which have been invented about him form of themselves an enormous literature; but what I have just said is, I believe, nearly all that we certainly know about him. So far as I can judge, the attempts made to separate between fact and fiction in the legend of Buddha are almost as delusive as the attempts which used to be made to account for the attributes and actions assigned to Jupiter by the character and deeds of a ruler of Crete. While Buddha, however, unlike Confucius or Mohammed, is almost entirely a mythical, and not an historical personage, the myth of Buddha is far more important in the system of Buddhism than the life of Confucius in the system of Confucianism, or of Mohammed in Mohammedanism. It is a peculiarity which Buddhism alone shares with Christianity, that it concentrates itself in a person. It presents an ideal. It embodies its teaching in an example. It gives an object for affection. This, there can be no doubt, is one of the main sources which has enabled it, in spite of the withering nature of its dogmas, to spread so extensively, to root itself so deeply, and to retain its hold so tenaciously. For the character of the mythical Buddha, although in many respects wildly extravagant, is invested with an undeniable moral grandeur and spiritual impressiveness. It exhibits in the most striking manner all the gentler virtues. It is simply amazing how far on this side it transcends the Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, and Epicurean ideals of the sage, and how mean and superficial even it causes the boasted wisdom of the classical world to appear. Among its features are a love without limits, self-sacrifice, justice, purity. Buddha is represented as freely enduring the severest afflictions, and freely foregoing for ages final beatitude in order to work out the salvation of others. He announced his law as a law of good news to all. He preached his gospel to the poor no less than to the rich, to the Soudra as unreservedly as to the Brahmin. He took to his heart all living creatures. He enjoined a charity which was not limited by race, caste, religion, or anything else. He counselled all to live a virtuous life, gentle and prudent, lowly and teachable, resolute and diligent, unshaken in misfortune, uninfluenced by partiality, wrath, folly, or fear, faithful in the discharge of the relative duties, and actively benevolent; and to all who thus live, whatever be their station, circumstances, or creed, he promised victory over this world, and, if not Nirvana, rebirth in heavenly mansions. Hence, doubtless, it is that he has gained so many hearts, and drawn from them, as it were, the confession of the young