Without attempting to discuss so many-sided a subject as Nirvana, or rightly to evaluate Buddha’s prescription of the abandonment of all craving, it is clear that his ethical teachings, like his spotless life, have stood and will stand the test of centuries. The Deerpark sermon urges the excellence of the golden mean between the life of self-castigation and the life of ease and luxury, and propounds the Noble Eightfold Path, which is, after all, in brief, the life of righteousness in thought and word and deed. Many notable similarities between the teachings of Buddha and those of Jesus have been pointed out.〖So by Albert J. Edmunds in his “Buddhist and Christian Gospels,” 4th ed., 2 vols., Philadelphia, 1908-9.〗 These need not surprise us. Nor is there any à priori reason for assuming a borrowing in either direction. If I make an entirely original demonstration of the fact that the inner angles of a triangle amount to two right angles, my demonstration will agree in essence with that of Pythagoras because mathematical truth does not differ from land to land nor from age to age. Nor yet does goodness. And accordingly many of the teachings of the great teachers of righteousness must coincide.

On the other hand it is interesting to note that Buddha’s teachings lay great emphasis, and lay it often, upon things about which in the Gospels comparatively little or nothing is expressly said. Don’t hurry, don’t worry, the simple life; don’t accept a belief upon the authority of me or of anyone else; don’t let your outgo exceed your income; the relation of master and servant; the duty not only of kindness but even of courtesy to animals: these are some of the themes upon which Buddha discourses, now with a touch of humor, now with pathos, and always with gentleness and wisdom and cogency.

To the readers of Warren’s faithful translations a word is due as to the extreme repetitiousness of much of the Buddhist writings. The charming stories are free from it. Not so the doctrinal discourses. Scientific opinion upon this strange and tedious fault is rapidly clearing.〖See R. Otto Franke, Dīgha-Nikāya, Göttingen, 1913, p. x.〗 These texts that claim to be the actual “Buddhaword” are in reality the product of conscious scholastic literary activity, and of a time considerably subsequent to that of Buddha. This is quite certain. But no less so is it that they do in fact contain the real sayings of Buddha. “Be ye heirs of things spiritual, not heirs of things carnal.”〖The antithesis of this saying of Buddha, we may note in passing, is familiar to readers of the New Testament.〗 This, we may confidently assert, is in its simplicity and pregnant brevity, an absolutely authentic utterance of Gotama Buddha. At the same time it is the substance, and indeed we may say the entire substance, of a discourse of about four hundred Pali words attributed to Buddha.〖Majjhima-Nikāya, vol. I, p. 12-13.〗 Of the lengths to which perverse scholasticism may go, the case is a luculent illustration.〖The method of the expansion one may easily guess after reading Warren’s “Questions,” H. C., xlv, 647–652. Its motive is probably pedagogical.〗

All Directories