The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:43 am

Part 2 of 4

Ziegenbalg's Founts of Wisdom

Since La Croze's idea of the religion of the Indies was so much based on Ziegenbalg's published and unpublished writings and on letters written by Indians, some basic questions about them need to be posed. Who were these "numerous Indians" who in a short timespan wrote so many letters to Ziegenbalg and insisted so stridently on the monotheism of Indian religion that god-fearing Europeans including Voltaire were astonished? And who were these Gnanigol, the authors of the Indian texts whose translations so much inspired Ziegenbalg, La Croze, and their readers?

When Ziegenbalg arrived in the small Danish colony of Tranquebar on the coast south of Madras (Chennai) in 1706, he first had to learn some Portuguese; but before long he decided that only a thorough knowledge of the local Tamil language would let him communicate freely with the natives. His first teacher of Tamil did not understand Portuguese, and progress was very slow because of the lack of a dictionary and grammar. But he soon met an eminent native who seemed to be the answer to his prayers:

We got to know a Malabar who used to be the head [of the Tamil community] here [in Tranquebar] but had been evicted from the town and county [by Danish authorities] because of a certain reason. Since he spoke good Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, and German, we employed him as translator and managed to get permission for him and his family to return to town. (Letter of Sept. 22, 1707; Jeyaraj 2003:281)

It was this gifted man, Alakappan or Aleppa, who introduced Ziegenbalg to the intricacies of the Tamil language and to the vocabulary needed for his mission. Three months after his arrival Ziegenbalg wrote,

My old schoolmaster often discusses with me all day long, and this has already allowed me to become relatively familiar with their forms of religious worship [Gotterdienste]. I intend to make a Christian of him, and he has the hope to eventually turn me into a Malabar. Therefore he seeks to demonstrate everything so distinctly that I could not wish for anything better. (Lehmann 1956:40)

Daniel Jeyaraj thinks that, on the basis of the man's name, Aleppa was a Shaivite and argues that this could explain why Ziegenbalg dealt more with this branch devoted to the worship of the god Shiva than with rival forms of Hinduism (Jeyaraj 2003:282). The importance of Aleppa exceeds that of the Japanese Anjiro to Francis Xavier (who, as explained in Chapter I, caused such a fiasco in the early Japan mission). Aleppa was born around 1660 into a family (probably of higher Tamil Shudra caste) that had long worked for Europeans. Around 1700 he was "Ober-Tolk" (head translator) of the Danish trading company and the top representative of the Tamil inhabitants of the city (Grundler and Ziegenbalg 1998:18). It is not clear for what grave reasons this influential man was banished from Tranquebar; but his value to the mission is reflected both in the decision to let him return to the city and in his extraordinarily high yearly salary of 100 thalers, which surpassed even that of European employees (p. 20). After two years of work with the missionaries, Aleppa was again expelled in 1709. However, the missionaries managed to keep him on their payroll as collaborator from afar. And collaborate he did: in 1710-11 he was even imprisoned by the king of neighboring Tancavur for having "revealed all the secrets of their law and worship [Gesetzes und Gottesdienstes]" to the missionaries (p. 21).

Aleppa clearly played a central role in Ziegenbalg's introduction to me Malabar language and religion, but his influence did not end there. When Ziegenbalg and his associate Grundler needed more European support and were preparing for Ziegenbalg's journey to Germany, Denmark, and England, they paid Aleppa to write letters from exile in answer to the missionaries' questions. These answers were almost immediately translated or edited, annotated, and sent to Europe where they were published; but since Aleppa was in exile and could for various reasons not be named as a source, the missionaries decided to omit all names of correspondents. They tried to create the impression that these letters came from many different informants, and their habit of sometimes splitting a single letter into several pieces (p. 27) that supposedly came from different correspondents enhanced the readers' impression that a substantial number of Indians were involved. The first batch of fifty-five letters was printed in 1714 with a preface emphasizing that "all of these letters without exception are from heathens of the most understanding kind" who write so excellently about God that "one could hardly find better ones with the ancient Greeks and Romans, and many so-called Christians will rightly feel ashamed" (pp. 42-43). Though me Indian heathens had no way of knowing Christ "through the light of nature" and had to be saved "from their misery and blindness," the "Christian readers could not but be pleased, and the atheists ashamed, that even these heathens recognize a single supreme being and are convinced that all men can know with absolute certainty that there is a lord who created this world and everything in it" (p. 44).

Here the letter collection's preface refers to letter number 6, which is "written by someone who read and copied many books of the Christian religion in his language" (p. 115). Though unnamed, this man was, of course, Aleppa; and as in many other letters, he wonders why the missionaries, whom he had orally informed in such detail, wanted him to write about things that they already perfectly knew. The missionaries had obviously asked him to send, against payment of course, a whole series of letters with answers to their questions. The task set for this particular letter was to explain the difference between Christianity and his own religion (p. 116). Aleppa began his explanation as follows:

You know me very well and are already well aware of the limits of my knowledge and my utter incapacity of demonstrating such a difference of religion [Gesetz] -- all the more since I was about 15 years old when I entered your [colonial] services and could not yet read nor write well, not to speak of knowing something about the doctrines of our religious texts [Gesetzbucher] .... Since I know many things of your religion [Gesetz] and was educated in my best years not so much according to our but rather according to your ways, it is very difficult and even impossible for me to write about a true difference between these religions [Gesetze] based on your and our religious texts [Gesetzbucher]. But to show you my good will, I will briefly write down my opinion .... All men can know with the utmost certainty that there is a lord who created the world and everything in it. (pp. 116-17)

Time and again, Aleppa wrote to the missionaries that they already knew what they wanted him to explain, and I think that this was not just a polite formula: "You know everything much better than what I can write" (p. 49); "I also know that you already know more about our doctrines [Lehrsatze] than I can write" (p. 89); "You are those who know everything and understand what can be learned by men .... Concerning theology, wisdom, and virtue, I know nothing that you do not already know and understand; you have read and understood much more about this, and I do not presume to instruct people such as you" (p. 114).

Of course, Aleppa was well informed about the missionaries' knowledge; after all, he had been instrumental in teaching them his language and religion, and as their highest-paid, best connected, and most knowledgeable employee, he was also deeply involved in their effort to collect and study the Tamil texts listed in the Bibliotheca Malabarica of 1708. Ignorant about the planned use of his letters for raising mission funds in Europe, he could not figure out why the missionaries wanted letters about things he had so much discussed with them over the years. He expressed his puzzlement once more at the beginning of the twelfth letter:

In the year Nandanawaruschum [1712], October 15. I, N., inform the two reverends in Tranquebar that thanks to your prayers I am to date well and without the slightest ill. You desire to know something from me, namely, if we Malabars worship one God or many gods. But can it be that you are in this matter ignorant, you who have for such a long time heard all our doctrines and read in our books and have also preached against [our doctrines] to us? But since you so desire, I will write what I know about it and what everybody knows. (p. 141)

After this interesting introduction, Aleppa repeats what he apparently learned so well since his youth and discussed so many times with the missionaries:

The fact that God is a unique God [einiger Gott] is known and professed by all. ... We also say that among all [gods] there is only one who is the highest being, called at times Barabarawastu [Skt. paraparavastu, divine substance] and at times Tschiwen [Shiva], Tschatatschiwum [Skt. sadasiva, eternally graceful one], or Barabiruma [Skt. para-brahma, supreme Brahman]. This God has created all others, given each of them his duties and tasks, and ordered that they must be worshipped and prayed to. All of this is written in our law [Gesetz] and is commanded in old history books. Therefore it is among us everywhere customary to pray to the said persons. At the same time it is written in our books of law that God promised various modes of recompensation to those who worship such persons and accept them in faith and love. (p. 142)

The ordinary people of South India were thus depicted as fundamentally monotheistic, even though they had a tendency to worship the true God under different names and forms. But Aleppa also mentioned radical monotheists:

Other than that, there are also people among us who worship God the supreme being alone and always honor only this lord while they renounce everything in the world in order to keep contemplating God in their heart at all times. It is said of these [Gnanigol] that God unites with them and transforms them into himself [in sich verwandele], and also that they become invisible in the world. (p. 142)

The first fifty-five Malabar letters were published in 1714 (reprints in 1718 and 1735) and the remaining forty-four in 1717 (reprints in 1718 and 1735). A number of them soon were excerpted in English translation (Philipps 1717; Ziegenbalg and Grundler 1719), and in 1724, La Croze quoted numerous passages from Ziegenbalg's correspondence and manuscripts.6 Only in 1729, five years after the publication of La Croze's book, did readers of the Halle mission reports first learn that these letters "were mostly written by the translator of the erstwhile missionaries, Arhagappen [Aleppa], who remains a heathen, when he lived nearby and earned his living from this [letter writing] while in exile" (Grundler and Ziegenbalg 1998:17). Though some scholars still believe that many different letter authors were involved, the tone and content of the vast majority of the letters point to a single author who on occasion interviewed knowledgeable persons in his vicinity. The sequence of the first fifty-five letters supports this; the first is from October 2, 1712, and the fifty-fifth from December 10 of the same year. This comes to a bit less than one letter a day, and I may not be too wrong in hypothesizing that Aleppa was contracted to write about one letter per day. In October 1712, twenty-three letters were written, and a letter-free day is often followed by a day with two letters. Though Aleppa certainly integrated information gained from others and sometimes apologizes for drawing only on his own knowledge, these letters for the most part reflect Aleppa's views, which were, of course, developed during his long acquaintance with Europeans, his Western-style education, his years as an official interpreter, and especially his prolonged daily contact with the missionaries in his function as teacher, informant, and translator. He clearly tried to present his own religion in the best light and had adopted the Europeans' fundamental conviction that monotheism was good, while polytheism and idol-worship were evil and the devil's work. In this way European readers, including La Croze, thus read, in a manner of saying, Aleppa's correspondence course on Tamil religion that reflects his earlier lessons to the German missionaries and their discussions. The European readership learned about Indian monotheism from the very man who had introduced Ziegenbalg to Indian religions and had helped him find texts that supported this idea of Indian monotheism.

Ignorance and Wisdom

Ziegenbalg's Tamil treatises are a sort of correspondence course in the opposite direction. To explain how heathendom arose, for example, the missionary informed his Tamil readers that Ananam (Skt. ajnana, ignorance) came into this world through the cunning of Picacu (Skt. pisaca, ghost, goblin) and man's offense. Ziegenbalg pointed out that ajnana (which for him signified idolatrous heathendom) is present when, instead of the true God, only his creatures are worshipped. Only the manusa-avataram (Skt. manusavatara, human manifestation) of Christ could bring true motcam (Skt. moksa, liberation) and conclusively exterminate ajnana (Jieyaraj 2003:311-12).

Aleppa was not the only source of this kind of terminology. Though Ziegenbalg had expected to be sent to Africa and came to India quite unprepared for his task, he was a fast learner-and a lucky one to boot. During a phase of persecution in a neighboring region, a Jesuit missionary's library was stored in Tranquebar, and Ziegenbalg found himself suddenly in possession of much interesting materials that included a Tamil translation of the New Testament. This stroke of luck made him an heir to Jesuit research on terminology that had flourished since the days of Roberto de Nobili. In the Bibliotheca Malabarica of 1708, Ziegenbalg already listed sixteen Roman Catholic works and wrote that he had corrected five of them to such an extent that they could be used by his Protestant flock "without any problem" (p. 291- 92). At this early stage he thus began to employ de Nobili's loaded terminology; for example, he often used the word Caruvecuran (Skt. sarvesvara, lord of all) for God. According to Jeyaraj (2003:292), the twenty-six Tamil sermons of de Nobili contain many words picked up by Ziegenbalg -- for example, the Tamil words for God, angels, devil, world, man, soul, death, salvation, remission, and eternal life. Ziegenbalg's Tamil community was likely to learn, just like de Nobili's flock a century earlier, how important it is for manusan (Skt manusa, man) to avoid pavam (Skt. papa, evil), to embrace punniyam (Skt. punya, virtue), and to worship Caruvecuran (Skt. sarvesvara, lord of all) in the form of Barabarawastu (Skt. paraparavastu, divine substance) because there is no other path to the other shore (karai-erutal) of motcam (Skt. moksa, liberation) (p. 292).

Apart from terms for God such as Caruvecuran and Barabarawastu, the juxtaposition of jnana (knowledge, wisdom) and ajnana (ignorance) was particularly important for Ziegenbalg's view of Indian religions and his mission enterprise. The title of the first pamphlet from the brand-new Tamil mission press in Tranquebar reads: "The Veta-pramanam (Skt. vedapramana, Vedic norm) demonstrating that akkiyanam [ajnana] must be detested and how those in akkiyanam can be saved" (pp. 309-10). In the very first sentence Ziegenbalg comes straight to the point: "We have come to you in order to save you from akkiyanam" (Grafe 2004:83-84). Grafe summarizes the pamphlet's contents as follows:

(1) What is a-jnana? -- It is idol worship and moral perversion according to Rom. 1:21-32. (2) How a-jnana spread in this world. -- It did so because of the devil's deceit and men's guilt and not because of God. (3) There is much a-jnana in the whole of Tamilnadu. (4) How detestable a-jnana is. -- Because by a-jnana soul and body will be perverted and punished. (5) How God is helping those in a-jnana to be saved. -- Jesus Christ took upon himself the burden of a-jnana and delivers from ajnana saving soul and body. (6) What the things are which those who wish to be saved from a-jnana have to do .... (7) The trials and tribulations which those who give up a-jnana and enter the Church experience in the world for the sake of righteousness. (8) The benefits promised to those who give up a-jnana, accept true religion and stand in the Christian faith unshaken. (p. 84)

It is clear that Ziegenbalg used the word ajnana (ignorance) for sin, heathendom, and idolatry. On the other hand, ajnana (knowledge or wisdom) stood for monotheism and the acceptance of Jesus as savior. For Ziegenbalg, ajnana involves the veneration of false devas and the worship of vikrakams (Skt. vigraha, forms or shapes) made of earth, wood, stone, and metal. By contrast, jnana signifies the exclusive worship of Baribarawastu (Skt. paraparavastu, divine substance). The point Aleppa kept making in his apologetic letters was exactly that his native religion was fundamentally a monotheistic jnana, rather than a heathen ajnana, and it seems that he was highly motivated to help the missionaries find Tamil texts that proved exactly this point. The text that Ziegenbalg most often quotes to illustrate Indian monotheism was already used by de Nobili for the very same purpose: the Civavakkiyam, a fourteenth-century collection of poems by Civavakkiyar who belongs to the Tamil Siddha tradition.

Although the Tamil tradition speaks of eighteen Siddhas and posits a line of wandering saints and sannyasis from Tirumular (sixth century) to Tayumanavar (1706-44), most of the noted Siddhas flourished between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries (Kailasapathy 1987:387). From the beginning, the antibrahmanical and antihierarchical tendency of Siddha writings was prominent, as in Tirumular's oft-quoted lines, "Caste is one and God is one" (p. 386). But the God referred to here is not exactly the one whom de Nobili and Ziegenbalg worshipped, and this saying does not signify "mankind is one and God is one." Rather, as Kailasapathy explains, Tirumular meant that "insofar as religious worship was concerned, all castes are equal and the only god is Shiva" (p. 386). Yet this movement fought against "the extreme antagonism between the Vedic religions (Shaivism, Vaishnavism) and the non-Vedic or heterodox religions (Buddhism, Jainism and the Ajivika faith)" and tried to overcome virulent sectarianism of various sorts. Its poetry, written in colloquial style, was attractive and quite popular. For example, verse 1533 of Tirumular reads:

Those who follow the six religions know him not
Nor is he confined to those six faiths.
Seek and having sought cogitate in your mind
And then with our doubt you will gain salvation. (p. 387)

Of the more than fifty names associated with the way of the Siddhas (Siddha marga), that of the author of the Civavakkiyam (Aphorisms on Shiva) is best known. The author of these aphorisms, Civavakkiyar or Sivavakkiyar, is "without doubt the most powerful poetic voice in the entire galaxy of the Siddhas" and is best known for his skill in criticizing and ridiculing Hindu orthodoxy (p. 387-89). Though not forming a well-defined school of thought, the Siddhas "challenged the very foundations of medieval Hinduism: the authority of the Shastras, the validity of rituals and the basis of the caste system" (p. 389). According to Zvelebil, "almost all of them manifest a protest, often in very strong terms, against the formalities of life and religion; denial of religious practices and beliefs of the ruling classes" (1973:8). Tamil Siddhas were basically "all theists and believed in a transcendental God and his grace towards man," but they were not "idol-worshippers or believers in a supreme Person"; rather, they "believed in a supreme Abstraction" that they referred to as civam (Kailasapathy 1987:393).

The recurrent use by the Siddhas of the word civam (an abstract noun meaning "goodness," "auspiciousness" and the highest state of God, in which he exists as pure intelligence) in preference to the common term civan (meaning Shiva) makes this point very clear. In other words, they believed in an abstract idea of Godhead rather than a personal God. (p. 393)

Among the three Hindu religious paths to salvation (jnana, the way of knowledge; karma, the way of work; and bhakti, the way of devotion), the Siddhas emphasized the path of knowledge (p. 393). In the light of such explanations, it is easy to see why de Nobili and Ziegenbalg felt attracted to such poetry and in particular to Civavakkiyar who dared to refute deeply entrenched dogmas such as transmigration:

Milk does not return to the udder,
Likewise butter can never become butter-milk;
The sound of the conch does not exist once it is broken;
The blown flower, the fallen fruit do not go back to the tree;
The dead are never born again, never! (p. 401)

Siddha Civavakkiyar's work promotes civam mysticism and is critical not only of the worship of images and brahmans but also of the Vedas and Vedic practices. Zvelebil translates a typical verse as follows:

In the Four Eternal Vedas,
In the study and reading of scripts,
In sacred ashes and in Holy Writs
And muttering of prayers
You will not find the Lord!
Melt with the Heart Inside
and proclaim the Truth.
Then you will join the Light --
Life without servitude. (Zvelebil 1973:83)

Such Tamil Siddhas belonged to the class of men that Ziegenbalg referred to as "Gnanigol or the Wise" (Ziegenbalg 2003:40). "Gnanigol" is Ziegenbalg's transcription of the Tamil nanikal, which is the plural of nani (Skt. jnanin, a wise or knowing one). They are saints in the fourth path (pada) of Shaivite Siddhanta agama. Ziegenbalg called these four paths "Tscharigei" (carya, proper conduct), "Kirigei" (kriya, rites), "Jogum" (yoga, discipline), and "Gnanum" (jnana, knowledge). The Gnanigol are most frequently mentioned by Ziegenbalg, and quotations from their texts make up the bulk of his evidence for Indian monotheism. In the first chapter of his Genealogy, where he discusses the pure Indian conception of monotheism, Ziegenbalg explains:

One still finds here and there a few who destroy all idolatry [Gotzen-Wesen] and venerate this sole divine Being without images. Among them are those called Gnanigol or the Wise who have written only such books that lead exclusively to a virtuous life wherein only the sole God is to be worshipped. The most excellent among such books are: I) The Tschiwawaikkium [Civa-vakkiyam], in which polytheism along with many heathen errors is totally rejected in thoughtful verses and the worship of a single God is advocated. 2) The Diruwakkuwer,7 which treats of morality. 3) Nidisharum8 which presents some rules of life in in the form of parables. 4) Gnanawenpa9 which contains wisdom teachings and testimonies of the one God. (Ziegenbalg 2003:40)

The book that leads this list, the Civavakkiyam, is also the one that Ziegenbalg most frequently adduced in his discussions of Indian monotheism. La Croze's argument for Indian monotheism, too, is almost entirely illustrated by quotations from Ziegenbalg's rendering of verses by Civavakkyar.10 But there were also many other textual sources consulted by Ziegenbalg since he had become proficient in the Tamil language. In 1708, two years after his arrival in India, he wrote in the preface to his first translation of a Tamil morality text:

As soon as I became a bit familiar with their language and could converse with these heathen [in Tamil] about various topics, I was gradually freed from this prejudice [that they are a barbaric people] and could thus think better of them. When I finally arrived at the point where I could read their own books I became aware that the same philosophical disciplines as those of the learned in Europe are quite well taught among them and that they have a proper written law from which all theological matters must be derived and demonstrated. I was very much surprised by this and developed an enormous desire to become thoroughly instructed through their own scriptures regarding their heathendom. Acquiring one book after another, I spared neither time nor money; and now I have come to the point that, through diligent reading of their books and constant disputing with their Brahmans or priests, I am able to gain certain knowledge about them and discuss it rationally. (Ziegenbalg 1930:11)

As previously mentioned, having arrived in India in 1706 with a smattering of knowledge about Indian religions gathered mainly from Baldaeus and Alexander Ross's Pansebeia (1701) -- both of which also contained information from Abraham Roger (16S1)-Ziegenbalg thus soon found himself in a position not only personally to observe rituals and customs in and around Tranquebar but also to question knowledgeable Indians and to study Tamil scriptures intensively. In this way he could form an image of South Indian religion that was better informed than that of all predecessors. He was conscious of this when he asserted in the preface of Malabar Heathendom that his work was "not a pastiche cobbled together from other authors" but rather an account based on oral and written information from reliable Tamil sources (Ziegenbalg 1926:15).As he was quite aware that "his work could not be free of mistakes," he reserved the right to correct the given information "if in the future I should observe that I have erred," adding,

These heathens are very shifting [variabel] in their discourses. One tells me one thing and another something different. This is why I do not put much trust in their tales unless I heard something unanimously from many mouths. What I have read myself in their books is most worthy of trust. Since few heathens are very familiar [versiret] with their books, one must not rashly conclude that information in books is wrong when it is unfamiliar to these heathens. As soon as one discusses these matters with persons who are well read, one will see and hear that they confirm everything that I here allege on the basis of their books. (p. 15)

This kind of attitude motivated modern scholars to call Ziegenbalg's work "close to science" (wissenschaftsnah) and to praise his portrayal of Hindu practices and forms of faith as having been produced "from the inside, and relying on oral informants as well as (partly classical but partly also quite rare) indigenous textual sources" (Dharampal-Frick 2004:131). Such praise is often tempered by the observation that the late publication of Ziegenbalg's Malabar Heathendom (1926) and his other books prevented them from having a major influence on eighteenth-century Europe's view of Indian religions. However, Ziegenbalg's views found other channels to seep into the European mindset and ended up having a major impact both in Europe and in India.

[b]Hinduism Avant la Lettre[/.b]

Today Ziegenbalg's surprisingly modern approach and his innovative portrayal of Indian religion get increasing attention from researchers studying the European reception of Indian religion and particularly the Western "discovery" or "creation" of Hinduism. But neither the word "Hinduism" nor any of its cognates ever appear in Ziegenbalg's writings. Is the semantic field of what he calls "Malabar heathendom" more or less congruent with the modern concept of Hinduism? In the preface of Malabar Heathendom, Ziegenbalg uses, possibly as the first European author (Sweetman 2003:109), the term "Welt Religionen" (sic; world religions).

All inhabitants of the whole Earth are classified in four main religions [4 haupt Religionen], which are Jews, Christians, Mahometans, and heathens. The Jews are the least numerous people and are dispersed everywhere in the world. The Christians are a bit more numerous and have not only filled the whole of Europe but are also scattered in the other three parts of the world. The Mahometans are a very large people, have subjugated almost a one-third of the world, and spread everywhere. The heathens form the largest people and reside in the majority of regions on the globe. Among all of these four great world religions, the Devil has shown himself very busy trying to confuse the souls of men and seduce them to eternal damnation. (Ziegenbalg 1926:10)

Ziegenbalg's Malabar Heathendom shows him as an heir to earlier classification schemes. His classification of the world's religions is similar in structure to that of Bernhard Varenius (1649); his view of natural religion agrees with Edward Herbert's "five common notions" (1663); his conception of the heathen's symbolic worship and critique of Brahman priestcraft also conforms with Herbert's arguments; and his view of the fundamental theism of heathendom and the positive role of its knowledge in the fight against atheism has its counterpart in Alexander Ross (1653). Furthermore, his portrayal of the devil as the prime culprit in the degeneration process from a fundamentally good and monotheistic heathendom to polytheistic cults with abhorrent practices mirrors a tract by David Nerreter in the enlarged 1701 edition of Ross. But while Ziegenbalg's classification shows little originality in its overall structure and theoretical foundation, it features a very innovative view of Indian religions whose description in Ross was woefully inadequate and included hardly any knowledge gained since the sixteenth century.

Figure 3. Schematic view of Ziegenbalg's classification of religions (Urs App).

Like Brerewood (1614) and many others, Ziegenbalg divided the world's religions in four basic categories (see Figure 3). The first three (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are based on divine revelation and rely on the whole or on parts of the Bible. But in spite of the dispersion of Christianity and the size of Islam, which has "subjugated almost one-third of the world," "heathendom" -- the fourth of Ziegenbalg's "great world religions" -- is by far the biggest and "occupies the largest part of the world" (Ziegenbalg 1926:9). While the devil played his part also in the Abrahamic religions by fracturing and perverting them and putting particularly the followers of Islam under his domination, the heathens were even more deceived by him (p. 10). Because they were deprived of God's revelation, it was even easier to pervert their natural monotheism and turn their sane reason toward various abominations. Ziegenbalg mentioned some major forms of heathendom (African, American, old European) but did not offer any scenarios of origin other than pointing to the devil. Instead he zoomed in on his area of expertise, the heathendom of the East Indies and the religious complex he called "Malabar heathendom."

This "Malabar heathendom" is distinguished in various ways from other religions. One way is geographical. According to Ziegenbalg, Malabar heathendom is prevalent in an area that more or less corresponds to the Indian subcontinent: "Malabar heathendom is spread far and wide in India so that many kingdoms, islands, peoples, and languages fall into its sphere. This heathendom reaches over the whole Coromandel coast far into Bengal; one reads in their books very many stories that are said to have happened there" (p. 23). But it spread beyond Bengal since "one also reads that many of their saints stayed in the large forests that are said to be beyond Bengal and underwent severe penances there" (p. 23). On the west coast of the Indian subcontinent, Malabar heathendom reigns from Ceylon all the way up north: "Thus all heathens in the Mogul empire are included in this heathendom; even though they otherwise are in many ways different and have separate sects among them, they worship the same gods" (p. 23).

In view of the obviously inconsistent usage of words such as "religion," "law" (Gesetz), and "sect," in the writings of Ziegenbalg, his associates, and Aleppa, it appears wise not to retroproject modern meanings on such terms and to dissect them. Rather, the multiple dimensions of Ziegenbalg's delimitation and characterization of Malabar heathendom deserve attention. So far we have seen that Ziegenbalg defined Malabar heathendom in terms of geography and worshipped divinities. Next he distinguishes two main traditions:

This whole widespread heathendom is divided into two important main sects. The first sect is called Tschiwasameian [Civacamayam; system of Shiva] and the second Wischtnusameiam [Visnucamayam; system of Vishnu]. All those who belong to the first sect regard Shiva or Ishvara as supreme God and pray to all gods that he befriended or stem from his lineage. In all their sacrifices, prayers, external ceremonies, fasts, and tenets [Lehrsatzen] they follow those books which are written about Shiva. All who belong to this sect smear ashes from burnt cow-dung on their forehead and on various parts of their body. (p. 23)

The second main sect of Ziegenbalg's Malabar heathendom regards Vishnu as the supreme God and follows the practices and doctrines prescribed in Vishnu-related texts. In general its adherents do not smear the ash of cow-dung on their bodies but rather draw symbols for their God on their forehead and other body pans using a particular kind of clay from the Mogul domain that is specially prepared for use as color. These colored symbols as well as signs burned into the skin characterize the outer appearance of the worshippers of Vishnu (p. 24).

Instead of pursuing Ziegenbalg's intricate descriptions of these two main traditions and their various subsects, doctrines, sanctuaries, secondary divinities, practices, and intersectarian conflicts, we now turn to some elements that link them and define them as parts of a single religious unit called "Malabar heathendom." Though Ziegenbalg wrote that the two main divisions of Malabar heathendom are "again divided into four kinds that are found both among the followers of Shiva (Tschiwapaddikaren) and those of Vishnu (Wischrnupaddikaren)" (p. 26) his explanations show that these "kinds" are nor subsects but rather "differens etats de la vie" (different stages of life), as La Croze put it (1724:450). As we have seen, these four stages on the religious path are "Tscharigei" (carya, proper conduct), "Kirigei" (kriya, rites), "Jogum" (yoga, discipline), and "Gnanum" (jnana, knowledge); and according to Ziegenbalg, these stages are identical for the followers of Shiva and Vishnu. The observances at each stage are different. The first stage is for householders who cannot strictly follow the prescribed observances; the second for those who strictly follow outer observances, for example, clergy like "the Brahmanes, Pantaren, and Antigol"; the third for those who do nor care about the many divinities and ceremonies but rather devote themselves single-mindedly to meditation, remain or become again celibate, and perform manifold austerities; and the fourth for those who have abandoned everything and reached "Gnanum or wisdom" (Ziegenbalg 1926:27). This fourth and highest stage is mar of the Gnanigol who have left behind all ignorance (ajnana) and who for Ziegenbalg represent the purest wisdom (jnana) of monotheism:

Those who have thus become Gnanigol nor only consider the ways of the world as foolish but also every other thing in which people seek bliss. They reject the many gods that others revere so much; as one of them writes in a book called Tschiwawaikkium [Civavakkyiam]: You are nothing but lies, prayer-formulas are lies, the disciplines of erudition are lies. Bruma and Wischtnum [Brahma and Vishnu] are fabricated lies, and Dewandiren [Devendra] too. Whoever abandons the lusts of the flesh that seem sweet as honey, dies to that which seems beautiful to the eyes, and hates the habits of man while worshipping only the True supreme being: to him all of these things appear as false and full of lies. (pp. 27-28)

Such saintly Gnanigol, Ziegenbalg emphasized, are found among both the worshippers of Shiva and those of Vishnu; "they lead a virtuous life after their fashion, worship only the supreme being of all beings, and lead their disciples and pupils toward a worship of God that is completely interior (p. 28). Clearly Ziegenbalg, the German Protestant and Pietist, found himself much attracted by such pure and austere piety, which stood in stark contrast to the somewhat Catholic ceremonies and the seemingly Jesuit haughtiness of the Brahmans.

Interestingly, Ziegenbalg linked these four stages of the religious path to the four Vedas, about whose content he knew practically nothing:

These heathens have among them four small books of law: 1. the Urukkuwedum [Rg veda]; 2. Iderwedum [Yajur veda]. 3. Samawedum [Sama veda]; 4. Adirwannawedum [Athatva veda]. From these four books of law originated the four kinds [Sorten] ... among the worshippers of Shiva and of Vishnu, that is, 1. Tscharigei; 2. Kirigei; 3. logum; 4. Gnanum. The first law (Veda), according to some, contains what the Tscharigeikarer or people of worldly professions ought to do in order to reach bliss through their worldly tasks. (p. 35)

The first Veda, according to Ziegenbalg's information, thus contained mainly "Mandirum [mantras] or prayer formulas" and the second Veda what was needed for those who wanted to be saved by works [Werckheilige] (p. 34). The third Veda, "according to some," has the instructions for Yogic practices, and "the fourth book of law is said to contain everything which the Gnanigol who have reached wisdom and sainthood ought to perform and do" (p. 35). Though Ziegenbalg repeatedly used formulae indicating that he had not himself seen any Veda and depended on unconfirmed information, the four Vedas were thus seen as the basic sacred scriptures for both main branches of Malabar heathendom. Together with "the six Sastirum which are called theological systems" and the "Eighteen Puranen" containing "the manifestations and miracles of their gods," they form a body of scriptures "of which they say and write that they stem from the gods inspiring their disciples who wrote them down" (p. 35). While the four Vedas and six Shastras are written in an ancient language (Sanskrit) and are "in very few people's hands" (p. 36), the eighteen Puranas are readily accessible even for the common people. Ziegenbalg writes that the Indians "regard these books as canonical," "revealed by the gods," and written down many hundreds of thousands of years ago in former world ages (p. 35). By contrast, the twenty-four Agamangol [agama] and the sixty-four Kaleikkianum or Books of Art are only read by scholars and are not regarded as revealed (pp. 35-36). Though Ziegenbalg does not use these terms and though attributions of texts vary, these two different kinds of texts are known as sruti (what is heard directly), that is, revealed scriptures, and smrti (memorized tradition), that is, texts by human authors.

In addition to the geographical definition, the fundamental faith in a supreme God, the common divinities, and the shared four stages of the religious career, Ziegenbalg's Malabar heathendom is thus also characterized by a common basis of divinely inspired sacred scriptures called Vedas that prescribe practices valid for all branches. Further characteristics of Malabar heathendom in Ziegenbalg's description are the caste system, the Brahman clergy, and the veneration of cows. Regardless of Ziegenbalg's use of terms like "religion" or "sect" -- and regardless of whether one finds the term Hinduism appropriate -- I thus conclude that the geographic as well as the semantic field of Ziegenbalg's "Malabar heathendom" matches that of "Hinduism" rather closely. But this is an appraisal that we can make only today on the basis of privileged access to Ziegenbalg's major works. Materials by Ziegenbalg that were published in the eighteenth century could not yet lead to such a conclusion. "Hinduism" was not yet born as a European category. Its creation in the European mind -- though not quite ex nihilo -- had to await an Irish gentleman by the name of Holwell (see Chapter 6).
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 3 of 4

La Croze's Scenario

In his readings of Tamil texts, Ziegenbalg also came across some Indian religions that did not form part of Malabar heathendom and thus delimited it in one more way:

Apart from the above-mentioned sects [Shaiva and Vaishnava], there are several others among the East Indian heathens which the Malabarians entirely exclude from their religion, taking them for heathens while regarding themselves as a people with an extremely ancient religion and worship [Gottesdienst]. Apart from themselves, they enumerate six other religion-sects [Religions-Secten], several of which are said still to exist in faraway countries, while others among them were completely extinguished and absorbed into their religion. The first sect is called Putter [Buddhism] from which they say they have their poetry. The second sect is called Schammaner from which they got the an of arithmetic along with other arcs and learning. The third sect is called Minmankuscher [Mimamsakas], the fourth Miletscher [mlecchas] or the sect of barbarians, the fifth Wuddaler, and the sixth Oddier. (p. 29)

It is interesting that Ziegenbalg's informants labeled religions that differed from their "Malabar heathendom" as ajnana or heathen. This is not just a case of the missionaries' "heathen" chicken coming home to roost but a symptom of boundaries perceived by the Indians themselves. Of particular interest in our context are the first two religions regarded as ajnana by the Indian informants and in texts consulted by Ziegenbalg. The Putter, also called "Buddergol"11 by Ziegenbalg, are said to have been expelled from India long ago. In recounting the ten transformations (Verwandlungen) of Vishnu, the missionary says about the sixth avatar: "Wegudduwa Awatarum, when he was born as a priest in the world, chased away the religion of Buddergol and Schammanergol, and had his twelve disciples, called Banirentualwahr, establish his religion everywhere" (p. 47). Ziegenbalg here uses the singular ''religion" for both groups. Did he think they professed the same religion? Today we identify the Buddergol as Buddhists; but who were these Schammanergol? 12 In Ziegenbalg's Malabar Heathendom there is little information about this "religion of the Schammaner" except that it was founded by a "Kanander by the name of Tschankuden" (p. 193), brought some arts to India (p. 193), and was already long dead in Ziegenbalg's time (p. 146). However, in the Genealogy of Mala bar Divinities, Ziegenbalg goes into greater derail about the sixth transformation of Vishnu and summarizes what he found in a Tamil text:

There once were two nations called Buddergol and Schammanergol. They had a noxious religion and created evil sects. They blasphemed Vishnudom and Shiva's religion and forced the rest of the Malabars totake on their religion. Those who did not adopt it were much harassed. They neither put on Dirunuru [holy ash] nor Dirunamum [the Vaishnavite mark on the forehead]. They did not observe purity of the body. Though they worship images, they seemed to be of no religion. They did not differentiate between castes [Geschlechten] but regarded all as equally good. Thus all respect and esteem between high and low and between wise and unwise was effaced. They blasphemed the books of theology and wanted all men to like their ways. (Ziegenbalg 2003:97)

It is noteworthy that Ziegenbalg again attributes a single religion to the Buddergol and Schammanergol "nations." This religion lacked some of the basic characteristics of Malabar heathendom and was opposed to (1) the worship of Vishnu and Shiva; (2) the display of their outward signs; (3) ritual bathing; (4) the division of castes; (5) the authority of Vedic scriptures; (6) the worship of cows; and (7) the idea that one belongs to the religion of one's fathers. The last point may not seem so obvious, but the attempt to convert people to another religion was also something that distinguished the Buddergol/Schammanergol religion from Ziegenbalg's Malabar heathendom; Indians were born into that religion rather than converting to it. According to Ziegenbalg, his Indian texts and informants thus regarded the Buddergol/Schammanergol religion not only as different from their Malabar heathendom but as opposed to it:

Their religion had no similarity with our Malabar religion nor with the moorish [Islam] and Christian religion; rather, it was the ruin [Verderb] of all religions. Therefore Vishnu wanted to exterminate it, adopted the shape of a human, joined them as if he were one of their priests, was with them for a long time, and ate and drank with them. Once he had well seen their doctrine and behavior [Wandel], he summoned his twelve disciples, called Banirentualwahr, and completely exterminated such religion. (p. 97)

Ziegenbalg knew very little about the Buddergols, and it seems that what he associated directly with them is that they "brought poetry," disappeared from India at some point, and may belong to those Indian religions that ''still exist in faraway countries" (Ziegenbalg 1926:29). With respect to the Schammanergols, he read the tales about their forced conversion, extermination, or expulsion from India. When the missionaries posed the question "what Heathenism is, which nations are to be called heathens, and if the Malabarians are not also to be known as heathens," the reply included the following statement:

The Schammaner [camanar] were a nation that had a religion apart from the above-mentioned two main religions [Shaiva and Vaishnava]. One reads very much about them in books. The Malabarians have poetry, the art of arithmetic, and most philosophical disciplines stem from these Schammaner. But they were partly extinguished and partly converted to Shiva's religion by a young man called Schammandaperumal [Nanacampantar] who had 16,000 disciples. Such a story is described in detail in a book called Arubaddunalu diruwileiadel [Arupattunalu Tiruvilaiyatar]. (Ziegenbalg 2003:441)

The description of the Schammaner and "the reference to Nanacampatar and the Arupattunalu Tiruvilaiyatar, a sixteenth-century collection of hymns of Saiva poet-saints attributed to Parancoti Munivar," show that Ziegenbalg's Schammaner designate Jain renouncers (Sweetman 2003:121). Already in 1708 Ziegenbalg had a copy of this hymn collection and commented, "I have studied it well and copied several thousand words and beautiful phrases from it. The Malabaris consider it a very precious book and wonder how I could get hold of it" (p. 121). The twenty-second chapter of this book describes the destruction of Buddhism and Jainism, and the sixty-second and sixty-third chapters tell the story (which Ziegenbalg partly translated) of the defeat of the Jains by Nanacampantar (p. 121). In these chapters the missionary found the passage about the "six religion-sects" (Religions-Secten) where the Putter or Buddhists are clearly distinguished from the Schammaner or Jains (Ziegenbalg 1926:29).

But apart from such tales in Shaivite sources, Ziegenbalg could not learn much about the religion and history of the Schammaner. He did not know that the Sanskrit word sramana ("one who strives") denotes a wandering monk or ascetic in the religious traditions of ancient India and that Mahavira (599-527 B.C.E.), the founder of Jainism, and also Gautama Buddha had been leaders of srama1}a movements. Some such movements shared several of the characteristics mentioned by Ziegenbalg: they denied a creator God and some traditional divinities, rejected the Vedas as revealed texts, were by varying degrees critical of the caste system, and opposed some traditional beliefs, sacrifices, rituals, and customs as well as Brahmanic authority. Today we also know that, in the context of Jainism and Buddhism, the word sramana had come to signify "Jaina ascetic" or "Buddhist monk."

Among the burning questions of La Croze, the avid reader of Ziegenbalg, was the age and origin of "Malabar heathendom." We recall his statement near the beginning of the sixth chapter of his History of the Christianity of the Indies in which he stated he did not want to discuss which son of Noah had brought pure antediluvial monotheism to India. Still, he insisted that one must regard the Indians as "one of the most ancient peoples of the world" (La Croze 1724:426). Calling it a "very probable fact" that the ancient Indians had "a quite distinct knowledge of the true God and offered him an inner cult [culte interieur) which at the time was not mixed with any profanation," La Croze added that "some of their sages who until today preserve this doctrine make this conjecture so probable that no counterargument seems possible" (p. 426).

In his discussion of these sages, several pages of translations from Tamil Siddha (Gnanigol) texts are adduced as proof that ancient India was indeed a repository of the world's original monotheism. La Croze had read in Ziegenbalg's Genealogy of Malabar Divinities that Indian monotheism was likely to be "a very ancient affair" since the Indians have books "that are said to be more than 2,000 years old" and regard their religion as "the oldest of them all" (Ziegenbalg 2003:37-38). Ziegenbalg also regarded Indian monotheism as old enough to have begun "not very long after the deluge" (p. 38), and it is no surprise that the Gnanigol described by Ziegenbalg appeared to La Croze as heirs of the world's oldest religion, the religion of Adam and Noah, who had safeguarded its pure "inner cult."

But if the religion of the Gnanigol is the heir of the oldest religion of India, what is its relation to the Brahmans and the other Indian religions mentioned by Ziegenbalg? Given that the Gnanigol attacked central facets of Ziegenbalg's Malabar heathendom and fiercely criticized Vedic authority, the caste system, the Brahmans, etc., it was puzzling that they represent the fourth and highest stage of Malabar heathendom, are entrusted with the fourth Veda, and are revered by both of its great branches as saints. Such questions must have bugged La Croze as he read Ziegenbalg's manuscripts; but the missionary did not offer much help to the historian. While he delivered a trustworthy and detailed picture of the living religion in South India and made educated conjectures about the north on the basis of Indian texts and informants, Ziegenbalg had almost nothing to say about the relationship of his Malabar heathendom with the religions of greater Asia whose descriptions by missionaries and travelers La Croze had studied. Having his hands full with mission work and the intensive study of Indian texts, Ziegenbalg had neither the time nor the interest and access to materials to engage in such research. The opposite was true for La Croze. He made full use of his connections as royal librarian in Berlin, his proverbially stunning powers of memory, and a voracious appetite for information. If the title of his sixth chapter, "About the idolatry of the Indies," already points to the larger scope of his inquiry, his introductory paragraphs leave no doubt that he intended to put Ziegenbalg's findings into a broader geographical, historical, and religious context. His remarks about the Egyptian origin of many facets of Indian religion (see the beginning of this chapter) already demonstrated his keen interest in the origins of specific phenomena.

Although La Croze was one of the foremost linguists of his century, he indulged in surprisingly few etymological fantasies except for trying to link Shiva/Ishvara to Osiris of Egypt (p. 430) and Vishnu to Vihishtoush of Persia (p. 439). He also hypothesized on the basis of the Indian writing system that "the Indians received their sciences, their religion, and their literature from the Egyptians" (p. 442) but shied away from the kind of historical speculation that marred the work of Kircher (1667) and Kaempfer (1729).

Another question in La Croze's mind concerned the sequence of events. Piecing information together mainly from Ziegenbalg's manuscripts and letters, he came up with a comprehensive scenario that attempted to integrate all data and place Ziegenbalg's Malabar heathendom in a pan-Asian context. This much is already made clear in La Croze's definition of Malabar heathendom, which went far beyond the boundaries set by Ziegenbalg:

The Malabar Heathendom [Paganisme du Malabar] has a great extension in the Indies. It is the ancient religion of the entire subcontinent West of the Ganges and of almost the entire Mogul empire or Indostan, where it certainly originated; of the kingdom of Bengala; of the island of Ceylon and several other places; to which one can add a part of Asian Tartary, the kingdoms of Aracan, Siam, Pegu, Laos, Cambodia, Tonkin, Cochin China, and even China and Japan. The religion of these last-mentioned places differs in various things from that of Malabar which is purer and, if I dare using that term, more orthodox. However, it has its origin in the same [Indian] locations. (La Croze 1724:445-46)

This passage should explain why La Croze used the singular for "idolatry" and the plural for "Indies" in his chapter title "Of the Idolatry of the Indies." His description of Malabar heathendom portrays it as the religion of very large parts of Asia that include India and Ceylon in South Asia; Burma, Siam, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia; parts of Central and North Asia; and China and Japan in East Asia. This religion is characterized as an "idolatry" that centers on "the recognition and worship of three false gods under an infinity of different names" and is split into two main branches of which one worships Shiva and the other Vishnu (p. 446):

These two sects agree on honoring the Brahmans and accepting the dogmas contained in the Vedam, which among these idolaters has the same authority as the Sacred Writ has with us; though the Brahmans, who are its guardians [depositaires], reserve [the right of] reading [the Vedam] for themselves alone. (pp. 446-47)

La Croze goes on to describe this pan-Asian idolatry of Indian origin based on Ziegenbalg's information about Malabar heathendom and devotes no less than ten pages (pp. 451-61) to the "Gnanigueuls [Gnanigol], i.e. the sages and saints ... who reject with scorn the cult of idols and all the other superstitious practices of their nation" (p. 451). La Croze uses numerous passages from Ziegenbalg's renderings of the Civavakkiyam and other Tamil Siddha texts to impress as strongly as possible on his readers that some pagans of the Indies not only had "much more sublime and correct ideas about the Divinity than most of the ancient Greeks and Romans" (p. 461) but even perfectly knew "the greatness and majesty of God" (p. 460) and possessed "the Vedam, which is the ancient Book of their Law" containing "these sublime ideas of God" (p. 454).

Why, then, one might ask, does La Croze call the Malabar heathendom an "idolatry" with "false gods" and a "cult of idols"? Because he saw it as a degenerated form of religion, a form that at some point had replaced the ancient monotheism that probably came straight from Noah's ark to India. The vestiges of this ancient monotheism were found, according to La Croze, in the Vedam and the books of the Gnanigol. But how did this degeneration take place -- and why were the Gnanigol so critical of the Brahmans, the very guardians of the Veda? We have seen that Ziegenbalg, who also believed in an original monotheism and a subsequent degeneration, put the blame on the devil and the Brahmans. But La Croze, more ingenious and more interested in history, cooked up an elaborate scheme to explain it all. His scenario begins, like Ziegenbalg's, with an age of pure monotheism whose heirs are the Gnanigol. Instead of the devil, La Croze saw the reason for the decline of this pure original religion in two migrations that invaded India. The first was by the "Nation of Sammaneens" and the second by "the Brahmans who recognize that their cult in Malabar followed that of a certain people that they regard as heathen and that they call the Nation of the Sammaneens" (491).

It seems from the Malabar books that the Sammaneens were skilled because they [the Malabaris] acknowledge that all their sciences and arcs came from that [Sammaneen] people. The migration of the Brachmanes must thus be posterior to that of the Sammaneens; or they [the Brachmanes] felt the need of a reformation because the first principles of their religion had been corrupted by them [the Sammaneens] and the people had fallen into ignorance of the Sovereign God. This latter feeling seems most probable provided that what the Malabaris say is true, namely, that they regard their religion as infinitely more ancient than that of the Sammaneens whom they call in their language Schammanes. (p. 493)

This statement is a bit difficult to decode. La Croze's two alternative scenarios both see a pure monotheism that is corrupted by immigrant Sammaneens who brought culture to India. The two possibilities mentioned by La Croze concern only the Brahmans. In the first scenario these Brahmans migrated to India after the Sammaneens and were thus not yet present in India when the Sammaneens first flourished. In the second scenario the Brahmans had migrated to India before the arrival of the Sammaneens. Witnessing the degradation of the original religion through Sammaneen influence, they then pushed for a reform and eventually managed to expel the Sammaneens. Since the Malabaris claim that their religion, that is, Malabar heathendom, is much more ancient than that of the Sammaneens, La Croze regards the second scenario with the Brahmans being the earlier immigrants as more likely. But he is not quite sure because this would mean that the Brahmans were quite uncultured when they migrated to India.

Both of La Croze's scenarios offered a historical explanation in the golden age/degeneration/regeneration mould that was very popular in Europe since the Middle Ages and will be further discussed below. This mould also shaped the vision of many missionaries, for example, de Nobili and the Madurai Jesuits, Athanasius Kircher, and the Jesuit figurists in China. They saw themselves as restorers of a pure "golden-age" monotheism that had degenerated through the influence of Brahmans or an impostor such as Shaka (Buddha). In this respect they resemble Chumontou of the Ezour-vedam and Voltaire (see chapter I) as well as Isaac Newton (see Chapter 5), who all were critical of established religion and dreamed of restoring pure original monotheism. But the explanation of the relationship between the Gnanigol and the Brahmans as well as the label of "idolatry" on the end result also called for another time-honored explanatory scheme: the distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrines and practices. La Croze made copious use of all these elements to forge his scenario designed not only to explain the origin and history of the reigning religion of India but also the "idolatry" that had infected much of the Asian continent.

Egyptian Repercussions

We have seen that La Croze, like Kircher, saw Egypt as the ultimate source of many central elements of Malabar heathendom and that he also suggested Persian influence. Though La Croze does not discuss this, a "migration" of Brachmanes to India, regardless of its chronology, would thus probably have originated in Egypt and reached India via Persia. Their restoration project in India was, as one would expect in view of their Egyptian background, a duplicitous one. Though convinced of the "unity of God" and in possession of the Vedas containing this teaching, they treated it as an esoteric secret, safeguarded and used for their own advantage. Instead of teaching the original monotheist creed to the people, the Brahmans claimed, exactly like the Egyptian priests of Plutarch, that common people were incapable of grasping the truth and were in need of a "fabulous idolatry" (p. 460). Accordingly, they created for the people a cult of idols as grotesque as any that the world had ever seen.

It is also because of this pretended incapacity [of the common people] that the exterior cult was formed which the Brahmins entertain for their particular interests. The immateriality of God and materiality of the world, of which they could not comprehend the connection, made them take recourse to fables which gradually augmented to form a mythology that is much more loaded with monstrous circumstances than that of the ancient Greeks whose false gods, however dissolute they are represented are in no respect inferior to those of the Indies regarding obscenity, profanation, absurdities, and contradictions. (p. 462)

The Brahmans, while pretending to restore original religion, hid their pearl of truth under a heap of mythology drawn from various places and even put some biblical elements into the mix:

To come back to the Brachmans, one must admit that their absurd religion in both its cult and its mythology is far from excluding the idea of the infinitely perfect Being; it presupposes it everywhere and puts the label of paganism on all religions that do not agree with this. Besides, this religion has the marks of great antiquity. One finds in it distinct traces of the Law of Moses and histories that have a visible connection with those reported by our Sacred Writ. (p. 496)

Thus, the people were fed a mixture of truth and lie that was so powerful that all of India got intoxicated. While "having nothing very certain in their histories and no fixed epochs for events" (p. 469), the Brahmans propagated ideas about multiple worlds and their great age that are the apex of absurdity (p. 467). The Gnanigol, outraged by all this, produced books "that are read even by the common people who, though they feel and recognize that there is only one God, remain stupidly in their idolatry" (pp. 46r-62). This explains the Gnanigol's opposition to Brahman authority and the wide dispersion of their texts. They were determined to expose the secret that the Brahmans, who belong to only the second stage of the religious path, ate exclusive keepers of the Vedas and use religion for their own advantage. By contrast, the Gnanigol teachings and writings divulge the secret of the Veda, which contains "in explicit terms these sublime ideas about God" (p. 454).

La Croze's Sammaneens

But what was the role of the Sammaneens in all this? Who were they for La Craze? Based on Ziegenbalg's translation of the story of Vishnu's sixth transformation (which features the account of their extermination and displacement from India), La Croze adopted the view that the "two sects" of the Buddergol and Sammanergol share the same religion:

We will limit ourselves to report the sixth [transformation of Vishnu], which will throw some light on what we are seeking. It was in this apparition that Vishnu was born as a man called Veggouddova Avatarum and exterminated two sects that professed a pernicious religion, the Buddergueuls and the Schammanergueuls, that is to say, the worshippers of Budda and the Sammaneens whose religion was the same .... He [Vishnu alias Veggouddova] instructed twelve disciples and through them completely exterminated this religion. (pp. 497-98)

How did La Croze come to identify the Buddergols as "worshippers of Budda"? Ziegenbalg never mentioned the founder's name in this form and appears to have been ignorant of the presence of his religion even in Ceylon. But La Croze was not only very versed in missionary literature but also in Europe's Greek and Latin literature. Based on Ziegenbalg, he wrote in accord with one of the alternatives discussed above (namely, that the Brahmans established their cult in India after the Sammaneens): "The Brahmans recognize that in Malabar their cult followed after that of a certain people that they treat as pagans and call the nation of Sammaneens" (p. 491). He continues:

It is thus with this idea in mind that we must approach the Sammaneens, the ancient inhabitants of India, whose religion is possibly not yet entirely destroyed, even though at present it is unknown in all lands on this side of the Ganges where only the religion of the Brahmins or Brachmanes is in use. This idea of the Sammaneens does not entirely conform with what Porphyry reports about them in his treatise on abstinence of animal flesh. It is true that he identifies the Brachmanes, but he gives them [the Brahmans and the Sammaneens] more or less the same law and the same religion. (p. 492)

But La Croze, having studied Bayle's 1702 article on the Brachmans and a dissertation by Fabricius13 of 1703 that presented much information in Greek and Roman texts about the Brahmans (pp. 443-44), of course knew that Clement of Alexandria had distinguished "Sarmanes" and "Brachmanes" and had linked the former to Bouna. La Croze translated the Greek text as follows:

There are two kinds of Indian gymnosophists or barbarian philosophers. The first are called Sarmanes and the others Brachmanes. Those of the Sarmanes, who are called hermits [Solitaires], do not live in towns and have no houses. They cover themselves with the bark of trees and nourish themselves from fruit. They drink only water from the palm of their hands. They do not marry, and live like Encratites.14 They are the ones among the Indians who obey the commandments of Boutta whom they honor like a god because of the sanctity of his life. (p. 492)

La Croze comments that this "Boutta" of the "Sarmanes" must be the man who was called "Boudda" in Sr. Jerome's Adversus jovinianum and several other books by ancient authors (pp. 492-93). From European antiquity La Croze cites information about India from Herodotus, Pausanias, Diodoms of Sicily, Porphyry, Strabo, Megasthenes, Terrullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Sr. Jerome. Megasthenes, the author of a book called Indica, who around 300 B.CE. visited the Indian city of Pataliputra as an envoy, is today considered the most important ancient European informant about India, even though only fragments of Indica are preserved in the form of quotations and summaries by other Greek and Latin authors (de Jong 1987:13).His description of sramanas fits ascetic renouncers in general rather than Buddhist monks. The passage quoted by La Croze from Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-C. 215 CE.) about Indians who follow the precepts of Boutta stems from the Stromateis (c. 200 CE.; 1.15.71).

It is possible that Clement got such information from his teacher Pantainos who, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, had traveled to India (p. 13). Other authors such as the Neoplatonist Porphyry (c. 234-c. 305) also tend to mention these "Sarmanes" but furnish little detail. Only Sr. Jerome (c. 342- 420) alluded to legends about the Buddha's birth from the flank of a virgin (La Croze 1724:501). But even such sparse information, when combined with biographical elements of Xaca or Xekia (Shakyamuni) -- for instance, from Chinese sources excerpted in the Tratados of Navarrete (1676) -- convinced La Croze "that there is a manifest connection [between Xaca or Xekia] and Sr. Jerome's Boudda that at the same time proves the antiquity of the fables of the Indies" (p. 501).

This identification was a crucial corner piece in La Croze's puzzle. He noted that "it is difficult to assign a fixed epoch to this legislator" and that "the consulted authors are all at variance about this," but he detected some consensus that Boudda or Butta "precedes by several centuries the epoch that begins with the birth of our Lord" (pp. 501-2). With regard to the geographical origin of this "legislator," La Croze concluded on the basis of information furnished by missionaries from Siam, Laos, China, Japan, and Vietnam that he likely hailed from a kingdom in the central Indies (milieu des Indes). La Croze thus concluded that the Boudda of the Greeks and Romans, the Sommona-Codom of Southeast-Asian missionaries, the Xe-kia of the Chinese, and the Xaca of the Japanese (p. 502) all referred to the person worshipped by Ziegenbalg's Putters or Buddergols.

He had read vast amounts of sources to come up with this educated guess. For Mideastern and Persian religions, he mainly relied on Barthelemy d'Herbelot (1697), Thomas Hyde (1700), and Fran<;ois Bernier (1671). His main sources about Indian and Ceylonese religions were Abraham Roger (1651), Bernier (1671), Philip Baldaeus (1672), Vincenzo Maria (1678), Joao Ribeyro (1701), Francois Catrou (1705), Jean Venant Bouchet (1702-311781), and Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg. But of particular importance for his conjectures about Buddhism were data about Southeast Asian religions from the likes of Christopher Borri (1631), Alexandre de Rhodes (1651), Giovanni Filippo Marini (1663), and Simon de la Loubere (1691), combined with information about the religions of Tibet, China, and Japan stemming mainly from Antonio de Andrade (1626), Charles Maigrot, Domingo Navarrete (1676), Philippe Couplet (1687), Louis Lecomte (1696), and Dionysius Kao (1705).

As a reader of Navarrete's Tratados of 1676 -- which were firmly based on Joao Rodrigues's research -- and much material on the conflict about the Chinese Rites, La Croze was well informed about the claim that the "legislator Boudda" or Fo, as the Chinese called him, taught two doctrines: an exoteric one for the common people and an esoteric one for the initiated. In the Latin translation of Alexander de Rhodes's Catechismus of 1651 (which was originally written in Vietnamese), he found the fascinating account of the son of an Indian king who married, retired into solitude after the birth of his only child, studied magic, and learned from demons "a doctrine to which he gave the name of Thicca,15 which is nothing but a veritable atheism":

When he began to insinuate to people this doctrine, which is entirely opposed to natural understanding [Lumieres naturelles], everybody took distance from him. Realizing this, he began on the advice of the demons of his teachers to envelop his doctrine in diverse fabulous narrations and to mix in the transmigration of souls and the cult of idols, suggesting to his disciples that they make him the principal object of worship, and tried to pass for the creator and preserver of heaven and earth .... His magic and fables served him with the [common] people to whom he only taught the cult of idols and metempsychosis; whereas the doctrine of atheism was only revealed to his most cherished disciples. It is to them that he uttered that nothingness [le neant] is the cause of all beings as well as the end which awaits all. (La Craze 1724:503-4)

This theme of a twofold teaching -- an exoteric idolatry with metempsychosis for the common people and a nihilistic atheism for the initiate -- will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter. It clearly played a central role in La Croze's perception of "the idolatry of the Indies," since, in his scenario, the Sammaneens were identical with the Buddergol whose founder Boudda taught such a twofold doctrine and had his followers missionize large swaths of Asia. La Craze's translated de Rhodes's conclusion of 1651 as follows:

Thus, the doctrine of this idolatrous sect is double. The exterior [doctrine] consists in the cult of idols and in a great number of ridiculous fables; but the interior one, which is most detestable, is a veritable atheism that gives reins to all sorts of crimes. It is this religion that the philosopher Confucius calls in his books the doctrine of the barbarians. (p. 504)

Of course, we have in the meantime learned that Confucius (551-479 B.C.E) did not know anything about the teachings of "Boudda" since this religion was only imported to China about four centuries after his death. But, as La Croze lamented, no chronology was available in his time that allowed putting Asian events into a decent order. Basing his view on his reading of Ziegenbalg, La Croze thought that the Buddergol and Schammanergol professed the same religion. They were the ones who had brought culture to India and were the major cause of the degradation of original monotheism. In La Craze's eyes, their religion was similar to that of the Brachmanes except for one crucial point: whereas the Brachmanes had maintained monotheism as an esoteric teaching hidden from the people, the Buddergol/Schammanergol had in the course of time become atheists.

The testimony of the ancient authors that I cited as well as that of the Indian Brahmins makes it certain that these Sammaneens practiced the same abstinence [of meat] as today's Indians and that they believed, like them, in the transmigration of souls. They also had their idols, and it does not seem at all mat their religion differed from that of the Brachmanes except for an important subject: the knowledge of an infinitely perfect Being. (pp. 493-94)

Combining the information from Ziegenbalg and from many missionaries and travelers, La Croze thus concluded that the atheism of the Buddergol/Schammanergol was their distinguishing characteristic:

In effect, the kingdoms of Arekan, Pegu, Siam, Laos, and Cambodia, not to speak of Tonkin, Cochin China, China, and Japan, have a religion that is different from that of the Malabaris even though they agree on the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, the cult of idols, and some other superstitious opinions. But what I find singular is their absolute ignorance of the existence of God. With respect to the Siamese, whose religion is that of all the nations just mentioned, this is confirmed by the testimony of Mr. de la Loubere, one of the most judicious and learned travelers of our times. (pp. 499-500)

Simon de la Loubere (1691) had indeed written that "the Siamese have not the slightest idea resembling [Aristotle's prime mover] and are far from recognizing a creator God" and felt able to "state with assurance that the Siamese have no idea whatsoever of a God" (p. 500). According to La Croze, the atheism of the Buddergol/Schammanergol was "the principal reason why the Brahmins regarded the Sammaneens as pagans" (p. 500); and it also explains why they were, according to Ziegenbalg's sources, persecuted and finally driven out of India.

To sum up, La Croze's historical scenario featured an original pure monotheism with the Gnanigol as heirs; an invasion of the Buddergol/Schammanergol that introduced or strengthened idolatry and superstition and eventually degenerated into atheism; and a Brahmin reform movement that claimed to restore the ancient pure religion but in fact appropriated monotheism as a privileged secret teaching of the clergy while continuing to encourage idolatry, polytheism, and superstition among the people. With regard to "Hinduism," whose boundaries Ziegenbalg had sketched, La Croze's summary-built as it was on wrong assumptions of original monotheism and of an extremely old Gnanigol tradition, a mistaken view of the Vedic tradition and of the content of the Vedas, wrong conjectures about Egyptian influence, and a tenuous chronology -- did not advance beyond Ziegenbalg but rather represented a significant step backward.

Less prone to speculation and less interested in history, Ziegenbalg remained closer to his observations and to direct textual evidence. He limited his discussion to the Indian subcontinent and thus defined the geographical area in which "Malabar heathendom" was prevalent. But the pan- Asian perspective adopted by La Craze also had advantages since the studies it entailed led to a hypothesis about the religion of "the disciples of Boutta" that was influential throughout the eighteenth century. That his "conjectures" on this subject, as La Croze called them (p. 497), are partially based on Ziegenbalg's work on Hinduism (or, as he called it, Malabar heathendom) is clear. Ziegenbalg's and La Croze's discoveries of Hinduism and of Buddhism are intimately connected, and since La Croze summarized many findings of Ziegenbalg long before they were published, Europe's reading public first got informed about both in the same book, namely, La Craze's History of Christianity of the Indies.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 4 of 4

Buddhism Avant la Lettre

Questions about the origin of a religion and its founder are naturally of central importance for any historical and doctrinal definition. La Croze's initial view was of course influenced by some predecessors in speculation about a pan-Asian religion. Probably most influential before Couplet was Athanasius KIRCHER (1601-80). If Joao Rodrigues had connected China's three religions (the religion of Shaka/Fo, Daoism, and Confucianism) to a common root in Chaldea, Kircher attempted to unearth the Egyptian roots of all Asian religions. Transmitted to India, this Egyptian affliction eventually infected the whole of Asia. This is why Kircher's section on Indian religion in his China illustrata (1667) bears the title: "Brahmin institutions and how an Egyptian superstition passed by means of the Brahmins to Persia, India, China, and Japan, the farthest kingdom of the East" (Kircher 1987:141).

Kircher imagined that a "crowd of priests and hieromants" from Egypt had in ancient times fled to India and "discovered that Hermes, Bacchus, and Osiris had preceded them there." Kircher's Egyptian connection explained why the Indians to this day venerate "Apis, or the cow" and believe in the Egyptian doctrine of "metempsychosis, or the transmigration of the soul" (p. 141). This "preposterous superstition" had infected the whole Orient by means of "an imposter known allover the East," namely, the Buddha. According to Kircher, this founder is known under different names in different countries: Rama in India, Xe Kian in China, Xaca in Japan, and Chiaga in Turkey (p. 141). All of Asia's cults thus had their roots in Egypt:

There is no cult of the ancient Egyptians and their descendants which isn't followed today by our modern barbarians, who have changed the worship of sun and moon, or Isis and Osiris, into that of Foto and Chamis.16 You can find Bacchus, Venus, Hercules, Aesculapius, Serapides, Anubides, and other similar Egyptian gods, whom they worship under various other names. (p. 121)

For Kircher, the religions of China and Japan also had Egyptian origins and replicated the Egyptian "two truths" dichotomy of exoteric idolatry (superstition for the common people) versus esoteric doctrines for the clerical elite. Laozi's Daoism "corresponds to the Egyptian common people and magi" (p. 123), while "Xekiao" (Buddhism) employs, as we have seen, both esoteric and exoteric teachings and teaches "Egyptian" metempsychosis or transmigration of souls. We note that in Kircher's scenario an impostor with the Buddha's biography was "the very sinful brahmin imbued with Pythagoreanism" and "the first creator and architect of the superstition" (p. 141).

According to Kircher the missionaries who transmitted the Buddha's creed from India to other pans of Asia were Brahmins. This meant that India was the sole Asian distribution center for the "preposterous superstition" that, in Kircher's view, is "not only found in the regions of India far and wide, but was also propagated to Cambodia, Tonchin, Laos, Concin China, as well as all of China and Japan" (p. 141). The biographical details of the "impostor" who from his Indian base "infected the whole Orient with his pestilent dogmas" (p. 142) leave no doubt about his identity: it is the very Xaca who was born in central India after his mother had a dream of a white elephant, etc., and whose disciples "can Stop all activity to the point mat no life remains" (p. 142).

They add that when a man has made such intellectual progress, he falls into ecstasy and an unmoving stupor. Then finally he can be said to have arrived at the greatest possible happiness and he is said to be among the gods in the pagodas. (p. 142-43)

Kircher's erudite fantasies were very influential in promoting the idea of a single Asian idolatry radiating from India, of a founder figure preaching an exoteric and esoteric doctrine, and of a missionary dispersion by means of Indian priests ("Brahmins"). Though still very hazy in its dimensions, the religion of the man whom we now know as Buddha thus gained an Indian base and a pan-Asian projection. While there were bits and pieces of information accumulating from countries that we today associate with Buddhism (for example, reports from Tibet, beginning with Andrade [1626], or from Thailand), information from China drew the most attention in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Couplet's Buddha

The essence of Jesuit knowledge about the religion of Foe (Ch. Fo, Buddha) in the second half of the seventeenth century is contained in the 106-page introduction of the famous Confucius Sinarum philosophus of 1687. Dedicated to King Louis XIV of France, this book-and in particular its introduction signed (though not wholly written) by the Jesuit Philippe Couplet (1623- 93) -- played a central role in the diffusion of knowledge about Far Eastern religions among Europe's educated class and created quite a stir. A review in the Journal des Sravans of 1688 shows that it was especially Couplet's vision of the history of Chinese religions that attracted interest. The anonymous reviewer (who according to David Mungello [1989:289J was Pierre-Sylvain Regis) calculated on the basis of the chronological tables in Couplet's book that the Chinese empire had begun shortly after the deluge -- provided that one use not the habitual Vulgata chronology but the longer one of the Septuaginta (Regis 1688:105). The reviewer summarized Couplet's argument about the history of Chinese religions as follows:

Following this principle, Father Couplet holds that the first Chinese received the knowledge of the true God from Noah and named him Xanti [Ch. Shangdi, supreme ruler]. One must note that the first emperors of China lived as long as the [biblical] Patriarchs and that they therefore could easily transmit this knowledge to their descendants who preserved it for 2,761 years until the reign of Mim-ti [emperor Ming] ... who through a bizarre adventure strangely altered it. (pp. 105-6)

This "bizarre adventure" was the introduction of Buddhism in China as related by Matteo Ricci, who had, with almost Voltairian guile, transformed the Forty-Two Sections Sutra's story of Emperor Ming's embassy to India in search of Buddhism into a botched quest for Christianity.17 In its course, the Chinese ambassadors supposedly stopped "on an island close to the Red Sea where the religion of Foe (this great and famous idolater of the East Indies) reigned" and ended up bringing Foe's idolatry instead of Christianity to China (p. 106). The religion of Foe or Fo was thus seen as the major cause for the loss of true monotheism in China. The role of the Jesuit missionaries, by implication, is analogous to that of Chumontou in the Ezour-vedam: it was their task to show how the true original religion of the natives had become disfigured and to prepare the ground for its restoration and perfection under the sign of the cross.

Couplet's pages about the Foe Kiao (Ch. fojiao, Buddhism) presented a summary of Jesuit knowledge to a large European public. This information was mainly gained from Japanese and Chinese sources, and the amount of detail (for example, about the life of the founder) leaves no doubt that some serious study had been going on. Apart from data about the founder of this religion of Foe (Buddha), the introduction furnishes information about its history, texts, geographical presence, and teaching. Since the doctrinal part will be discussed in the "Exoterica and Esoterica" section of Chapter 3, I will here summarize the rest (Couplet 1687:xxvii-xxxiv). According to Couplet, the religion of Foe originated in Central India around 1000 B.CE. Its founder, Xe Kia (whom the Japanese call Xaca) , was the son of an Indian king whose wife Maya saw a white elephant in a dream, gave birth to the boy through her right side, and died soon afterward. This happened in 1026 B.C.E.

Immediately after his birth, the boy took seven steps in every direction, pointed with one hand toward heaven and the other toward the earth, and said: "In heaven and on earth, I am the only one to be venerated" (p. xxviii). At age 17 he married three women and had a son named Lo heu lo (Rahula). At age 19 he left his palace in order to do penance for causing his mother's death and practiced austerities with four Jogues (yogis); and at age 30 understood the essence of the first principle while in contemplation. At that moment "the disciple turned into Master and the man into God" (p. xxviii), and Foe began his teaching career, which was to last until his death at age 79. His teachings and miracles became widely known through many books and elegant works of art. He had as many as 80,000 disciples who missionized large pans of Asia. In China, where the religion arrived in the year 65 CE., his followers are called "Sem" and "Ho xam" (Ch. seng, monk; heshang, reverend); in Tartary "Lama sem" (Ch. lama seng); in Siam "Talepoii"; and in Japan "Bonzii" (p. xxix). The religion of Foe thus spread all the way from Central India to Tibet and Tartary in the north, and Southeast Asia, China, and Japan in the east. According to Couplet, as many as 15,000 texts contain the doctrines of this religion, and the founder personally instructed his favorite disciple Mo o Kia ye (Mahakasyapa) to preface all books containing his doctrine by the words "Ju xi ngo ven: Sic ego accepi" (Ch. rushi wo wen, thus I have heard) (p. xxx).

Foe also venerated a teacher called O-mi-to, who in Japanese is called "Amida." According to Couplet, O-mi-to is anterior to Foe and lived in the Bengal region of East India where the Chinese priests locate the Elysian Fields called cim tu (Ch. jingdu, Pure Land). To gain the favor of these two "monsters" and be pardoned for their sins, the Chinese constantly recite "O mi to, foe" (Ch. Omituofo, Amida Buddha). Apart from Foe and O-mi-to, the Chinese followers of Foe are said to also venerate Quon in pu sa (Ch. Guanyin pusa, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) and "inferior gods" such as the Lo han (Ch. luohan, athats).

Couplet's portrayal of Foe's doctrine begins with Foe's deathbed confession and the distinction between his long-held "exterior" teachings and the ultimate "interior" teachings (see next chapter). Foe's interior teaching, which is according to Couplet also propagated by the Indian gymnosophists, formed around 290 C.E. a Chinese sect called Vu guei Kiao (Ch. Wuwei jiao, the teaching of nonactivity).18 A further link between India and China is the "contemplantium secta" (sect of meditators) founded by Ta mo (Ch. Damo, Bodhidharma), the twenty-eighth patriarch after Xaca, who meditated only on "that chimerical principle of his, emptiness and nothingness [vacuum & nihil]" and ended in the gutter of atheism (p. xxxiii).

The Pan-Asian Sect of Fo or Buddhum

Partly wrapped in Chinese terminology and mostly based on Chinese and Japanese sources, Couplet's introduction to Confucius Sinarum philosophus thus presented major features of Asia's dominant religion, its founder's biography, and its teachings while furnishing the names of priests in different countries and mentioning its large sacred literature, various sects, numerous elegant statues, and relics. The accuracy of a good part of this information shows how much information had already been accumulated, mainly from Japanese and Chinese texts and informants, in the 130 years since the Jesuits' arrival in Japan in 1549.

Besides Couplet's book of 1687, two works published at the very end of the seventeenth century were of particular importance because they were whirled into the Chinese Rites controversy and because their information was extensively used in the 1702 edition of Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique and later compilations. The first of these works is Louis Daniel Lecomte's Nouveaux memoires sur l'etat present de la Chine (1696); the second is Charles Le Gobien's Histoire de l'edit de l'empereur de la Chine (1698). Le Gobien's book was published both as a separate work and (in some editions) as volume 3 of Lecomte's Nouveaux memoires (1698); but since it will play a major role in or Chapters 3 and 4 below, I will here only briefly discuss Lecomte's portrayal of the "religion of Fo."

Louis Daniel LECOMTE(1655-1728) was one of the French Jesuits who was sent by the French king to China, studied Chinese, and advocated the view that China's ancient religion had once been "the veritable religion" and that, even after its fall into the darkness of idolatry, China had for millennia safeguarded "the knowledge of the true God" while Europe and almost the entire rest of the world were mired "in error and corruption" (Lecomte 1696:2.118-19). This was one of the arguments that boosted the book's sales, led to its public condemnation, deepened the crisis of the Jesuit order, and effectively destroyed the brilliant prospects of its author. The fall into idolatry, according to Lecomte, was primarily due to two kinds of "superstition" that were introduced to China. The first was the teaching of "Li-Laokun ... who lived before Confucius," a "monster" with a "pernicious doctrine" who nevertheless "wrote several useful books about virtue, the discarding of honors, the contempt for wealth, and that admirable solitude of the soul that removes us from the world in order to make us exclusively enter into ourselves" (p. 120).

After some more discussion of Laozi and Daoism, Lecomte turns to the second superstition. It "dominates China and is even more dangerous and universal than the first" and "worships as the only divinity of the world an idol called Fo or Foe" (p. 123). This religion was brought to China from India in 65 C.E. and eventually became "a monstrous assemblage of all sorts of errors" including "superstition, metempsychosis, idolatry, atheism" and so forth (pp. 123-24). Lecomte furnishes rather detailed information about its founder from "the kingdom of India" who is said to have lived "more than a thousand years before Jesus Christ," and he mentions that this man was first called Chekia but took the name Fo a( age 30 after having been "suddenly seized, as if penetrated by the divinity who gave him omniscience" (p. 125). After that "moment in which he became God," he gained many disciples who infected the entire Indies with his pernicious doctrine. Lecomte locates this religion of Fo in China, Japan, Tartary, and Siam and provides the appellations of its clergy: "The Siamese called them Talapoins, the Tartars Lamas or Lama-sem, the Japanese Bonzes, and the Chinese Hocham" (p. 125). Just before his death, this "chimerical God," having preached idolatry throughout his life, "attempted to inspire atheism":

Then he declared to his disciples that in all his discourses he had only spoken in enigmas; and (ha( one would mislead oneself if one searched the first principle of things outside of nothingness [neant]. It is from this nothingness, he said, that everything has come; and it is into nothingness that everything will fall back. That is the abyss where all our hopes end. (pp. 125-26)

This ultimate teaching of Fo became the basis for "a particular sect of atheists among the bonzes;" but (here were also (hose who maintained idolatry, and a third group "attempted to combine (hem by making up a body of doctrine where they taught a double law which they call the exterior law and the interior law" (p. 126). Lecomte thus clearly envisioned the religion of Fo as a major religion of Asia with an Indian founder, a history of nearly 3,000 years, several sects, and much clergy in countries from India to Japan. However, instead of the name "Buddha," which is today more familiar to us, Lecomte uses the Chinese words Fo (Buddha) or Xekia (Shakya). Unlike Couplet, he makes no mention of this sect's literature, even though it was well known since the sixteenth century that the Buddhists have a voluminous sacred literature. For example, Alessandro Valignano's Biography of Francis Xavier of the early 1580s had already associated numerous texts with Xaka's religion and had specifically mentioned the Lotus Sutra as the expression of Xaca's ultimate teachings (Valignano 1900:114).

In the second half of the seventeenth century, enough data about this religion and its founder had thus accumulated in the hands of some Jesuit missionaries to allow drawing conclusions based on the combination and comparison of information from India, Japan, China, Vietnam, Ceylon, Cambodia, Burma, Tibet, Tartary, and Siam. A good example is the work of Fernao de QUEYROZ (1617-88) who spent a total of fifty-three years in India. Corresponding with fellow Jesuits in China and other pans of Asia, Queyroz gathered copious information about the founder of "the religious sect of Buddum" for the purpose of comparison (Queyroz 1930:122-41). His research, and in particular me comparison of Ceylonese data with a detailed summary (sent from Beijing by the Jesuit Tome PEREYRA [1645-1708]) of a large Chinese collection of Buddha legends, convinced him that "the Buddhum of Ceylon, the Fo of China, me Xaca of Japan is the same as the Xekia of India, for the word Buddum is only an adapted name, and in Ceylon it means Saint by antonomasia" (p. 141).

With regard to the origin and identity of the religion of this "Buddhum," he noted that "this Sect has disappeared from many parts of India, where it began" (p. 141) and came to the correct conclusion that "the Ganezes of Ceylon, the Talpoys of Arracan, Peguy, Siam and other neighbouring Realms, as well as the Lamazes of Tartary agree with the Bonzes of China and Japan in the essentials of their sect and profession" (p. 140). Queyroz sharply distinguished these monks of Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Tartary, China, and Japan from the Indian "Bramanes" who are "the Priests of Idols in this Hindustan" and reside only "in the countries between the Indus and the Ganges as far as Mount Caucasus,19 for beyond that they never crossed." Within this subcontinent the Bramanes are "the authors of all the idolatries that are practised" (p. 164). The Bramanes "never crossed me Ganges, nor have they anything to do where there are Ganezes, Talapoys, Bonzes or Lamas" (p. 171).

In the second half of the seventeenth century, Queyroz thus already distinguished the religion of the "Bramanes," which reigned only on the Indian subcontinent, from the religion of Buddhum/Fo/Xekia/Xaca prevalent in many other regions of South, Central, North, and East Asia. But on the question of the origin of the religion of the Bramanes, Queyroz was nor better advised man many others; he explained that "Abraham and Sara are the same as Brama (who according to them is the first person of their false Trinity) and Sara Suati [Sarasvati]" (p. 143).

La Craze's Conjectures

The interesting studies and conclusions of Queyroz were only published in 1930, and their significance for the history of the Western discovery of Buddhism was noticed by Henri Bernard-Maitre as late as 1941. By contrast, La Croze's "conjectures" at the end of his sixth chapter were printed in 1724 and reached an international public. They concerned the religion of the Sammaneens in various pans of Asia. La Croze was fully aware that he could offer no more than "conjectures about this subject;" but he added that he found them "quite plausible [vrai-semblables]" and that one had to be content with this "until more exact knowledge of the books of these heathens will further clarify this subject" (p. 497). The only books that La Croze attributed to the Sammaneens, apart from scriptures purportedly written by Xaca's disciples on palm leaves (p. 506), were a few texts that Ziegenbalg had identified as being of Buddergol or Sammanergol authorship: a manual of Indian poetry, a poetic lexicon, and a book with moral principles (pp. 494-95). Today we know that these texts have little or nothing to do with Buddhism. However, based on Ziegenbalg who had conflated the Sammanergol and Buddergol creeds into a single religion, La Croze used Shaivite critiques of the Jains to characterize the teachings of the "disciples of Budda":

These Sammaneens, disciples of Budda, blaspheme openly the religion of Vishnu and Ishvara [Shiva] and forced the Malabars to profess their [religion]. They neither apply red earth nor cow dung ash and do not at all observe the outer purification of the body through ablutions. Apart from having idols which they worship, they do not seem like a religion. This cannot mean anything other than that they neither knew nor worshiped the Lord of all beings. They regarded all men as equal and did not make any distinction between the different castes or tribes. They detested the theological books of the Brahmins and wanted that the world submit, willingly or by force, to their laws. They say that this religion neither resembled Mohammedanism nor Christianity. In a word, in their eyes this was an infamous and miserable sect. (p. 498)

Shaivite literature critical of the Jains along with Tamil Siddha texts, translated by Ziegenbalg into German and applied to the "disciples of Budda" by La Croze, thus gave rise in Europe to the persistent idea that this religion was fiercely opposed to the caste system and that this opposition had played a role in its extinction in India as well as its dispersion to other Asian countries. But most important for La Croze was the allegation, reported by Ziegenbalg, that for the monotheisric Indians the creed of the Sammaneens did "not seem like a religion." La Croze concluded that they were atheists and established the link between these Indian "atheists" and that of Buddhists as described by de Rhodes (1651; Vietnam), Navarrete (1676; China), and de la Loubere (1691; Thailand). He most trusted the latter two authors, and it was Navarrete (whose information in part relied on Joao Rodrigues's research) who furnished crucial data for La Croze's conjectures about the religion that we today call "Buddhism."

The father Dominique Fernandez Navarrete, one of the most sincere and illustrious missionaries of the past century, speaks also in great length about this legislator of the Indies whose doctrine has spread for a very great number of years in the empires of China and Japan. I shall briefly report what he says about this in the second of his historical treatises about the Chinese empire. First he observes that the name of this impostor in China is Xe-Kia and in Japan Xaca ... ; that his sect gained entry into the [Chinese] empire about sixty years after the birth of our Lord; that apart from China and Japan it has infected the kingdoms of Siam, Cambodia, Laos, Cochin China, Tonkin, and several other countries in North and South Asia [Indes] and that this false religion is thus far more widespread than that of the Mahommedans. (La Croze 1724:504-5)

With regard to the founder of this very large religion, La Croze was convinced that "Boudda, Sommona-Codom, and Xaca refer to one and the same person" (p. 502). Far from accepting a single account from China, La Croze examined reports and legends from different Asian countries with the understanding that information about Budda, Boutta, Budu, Boutta-varam, Xaca, Chaca, Xe-kia, Tchaou ca, Thicca, Sommona-Codom, Pouti Sat, Foe, and so on all relate to the same founder figure (pp. 499-513). He conjectured that this founder must have lived "several centuries before the birth of our Lord" and noted that many authors think he was "a native of a kingdom situated in the middle of the Indies" (p. 502). Apart from ancient India, the countries that La Croze associates with this religion are Ceylon, Burma (Arakan, Pegu), Siam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam (Tonkin, Cochin China), Tibet, Bhutan, Tartary (Mongolia, Siberia), China, and Japan (pp. 492-519). He thus felt justified in writing of a single "idolatry of the nations of the East Indies" (p. 513) and adduced the testimony of "Denys Kao, a Chinese Christian instructed by the Jesuits" for the conclusion that "the religion of the Bonzes of China is spread in all the kingdoms of Pegu, Laos, Siam, Cochin China, Japan and Great Tartary," which includes Tibet whose Lamas "differ in few respects from the Bonzes of the Chinese" (p. 518).20

With regard to this religion of the "Sammaneens, the disciples of Budda," La Croze specified, partly based on Ziegenbalg, that it fought against the religion of Vishnu and Shiva and its customs, does not know God in spite of its veneration of idols, is opposed to castes, regards all men as equal, hates the theological books of the Brahmins, resembles neither Islam nor Christianity, and tries to convert people of other creeds (p. 498). Though this pan-Asian religion agrees with that of the Malabaris about "the doctrine of transmigration of souls, the cult of idols, and some other superstitious opinions," its "absolute ignorance of God's existence" was for La Croze the most decisive feature (p. 499). He found this atheism clearly expressed not only in the reports by de la Loubere, Borri, and de Rhodes (pp. 499-504) but also in the last words that the founder had reportedly uttered shortly before his death:

During the more than forty years that I preached, I have never communicated my true feelings because I only revealed the outer and apparent meaning [sens exterieur & apparent] of my doctrine wrapped in diverse symbols. I saw all of this as falsities. Concerning the inner meaning that I always regarded as true, I presently declare that the first principle and the last end of beings is the primary matter [matiere premiere], which is chaos or emptiness [le Cahos ou le Vuide] beyond which nothing is to be sought nor hoped. (pp. 505-6)

Apart from the founder, La Croze also mentions the Chinese idol Tamo [Bodhidharma], who had entered China from India "after the year 552" of the common era.21 He argued that this was by no means the apostle Thomas, as some missionaries assumed, but rather a representative of the founder's inner doctrine who "made himself the chief of a branch of the sect of Foe that is called the Sect of the Meditators [Secte des Contemplatifs]" (p. 507). Tamo's chief accomplishment consisted in "sitting for nine years with his face toward the wall and contemplating nature or emptiness [la Nature ou le Vuide]" and thus to "annihilate himself in order to be put among the idols of his sect" (p. 507). While the exterior precepts of this religion are the same for "all the idolaters of the Indies, the Brahmins as well as the others," the initiates of the inner doctrine teach "that all creatures come from nothingness" and that they "return to nothingness" provided that they "practice contemplation and the most austere virtues, accompanied by a perfect detachment from the world" (p. 508).

For La Croze, this ideal of the inner teaching as described by missionaries to China and Japan shows "an exact conformity with the doctrine of the Siamese whose Nireupan [nirvana] is identical to the annihilation that is the goal of the doctrine of Xaca" (p. 507). But La Croze was very aware of the lack of data:

This is very difficult to understand because we do not sufficiently know what they mean by this word [nothingness]. They consider their nothingness [neant] as a kind of Being without understanding [entendement], without will, without strength, and without might, even though it is pure, subtle, uncreatable [ingenerable], infinite, incorruptible, and very perfect. It is this nothingness, they say, that one can attain in this life and thus procure for oneself through contemplation a very happy eternity. (p. 508)

Such descriptions of the founder's esoteric teaching suggested to La Croze that "due to the lack of understanding of the mysteries of this false religion, what is only a mystical annihilation similar to the apathy of the Stoic philosophers has been mistaken for a real annihilation" (p. 509). This hint of La Croze -- which may have been inspired by Bayle (I702:2770) -- was taken up and amplified, as we will see in Chapter 4, by Nicolas Freret and Joseph de Guignes who interpreted the inner doctrine of the followers of Buddha as a kind of mystical monotheism.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 1 of 3

Chapter 3: Diderot's Buddhist Brahmins

In the first volumes of the central monument of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopedie, there are several articles about Asian religions that are either signed by or attributed to Denis DIDEROT (1713-84). The most important ones in the first volumes are entitled "ASIATIQUES. Philosophie des Asiatiques en general" (1751:1.752-55), "BRACHMANES" (1752:2.391), and "BRAMINES" (1752:2.393-94). Today, these articles have such a bad reputation that they are often criticized and held up for ridicule. For example, Wilhelm Halbfass wrote,

In the article "Brachmanes," Diderot discusses what he calls "extravagances tout-a-fait incroyables," stating that the persons who had referred to the Brahmins as "sages" must have been even crazier than the Brahmins themselves. The article entitled "Bramines" is essentially a summary and in part literal paraphrase of the article "Brachmanes" contained in Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique; it also reproduces a mixup of Buddhism and Brahminism occurring in the original: citing the Jesuit Ch. LeGobien, Bayle described a Brahminic sect thought to be living in China as worshippers of the "God Fo." (Halbfass 1990:59)

Diderot's "inaccuracy and lack of originality" (p. 60), Halbfass argues, is evident in his use of "Bayle's and Le Gobien's portrayal of the Chinese 'Brahmins' and Buddhists" to conjure up a vision of "quietism" and love of "nothingness" among the Indians and thus to highlight "their desire to stupefy and mortify themselves" (p. 59). Halbfass cites the following passage from Diderot's article on the "Bramines" as an illustration:

They assert that the world is nothing but an illusion, a dream, a magic spell, and that the bodies, in order to be truly existent, have to cease existing in themselves, and to merge into nothingness, which due to its simplicity amounts to the perfection of all beings. They claim that saintliness consists in willing nothing, thinking nothing, feeling nothing .... This state is so much like a dream that it seems that a few grains of opium would sanctify a brahmin more surely than all his efforts. (pp. 59-60)

Diderot's only contribution in this passage, Halbfass contends, was to add to his paraphrase of Bayle the reference to opium; but even this was not original since this is "a motif which we find also in the Essais de theodicee, which Leibniz published in 1710" (p. 60). As is well known, this "opium" motif reappeared in the nineteenth century "among Hegel and other critics of Indian thought" (p. 60) and, broadened by Marx to apply to religion in general, found its way into the minds of hundreds of millions of twentieth-century communists: religion as opiate for the people. Halbfass could also have cited the very first sentence of Diderot's article, which precedes the given quotation and presents his "mixup of Buddhism and Brahminism" in a nutshell:

BRAMINES, or BRAMENES, or BRAMINS, or BRAMENS, ... Sect of Indian philosophers anciently called Brachmanes. See BRACHMANES. These are priests who principally revere three things: the god Fo, his law, and the books that contain their constitutions. (Diderot 1752:2.393)

Diderot here clearly defines the subjects of his article, the Brahmins, as priests of the "god Fo" who, as we have seen, was already in the seventeenth century often identified as Buddha. Diderot's Brahmins believe in this Fo, preach his doctrine (the dharma or law), and value the books that contain his teachings. Today we are able to identify these three items as the "three jewels" or "three treasures" that are ceaselessly evoked and pledged allegiance to by Buddhists of all nations. While the first two (Fo = Buddha and law = dharma) clearly evoke the first two treasures, the third treasure is now known to be the sangha, that is, the Buddhist community, rather than its sacred scriptures. Historians of the European discovery of Buddhism, who tend to be rather unforgiving schoolmasters, of course also denounce Diderot's terrible "mixup." In 1952, Cardinal de Lubac used even stronger terms than Halbfass:

Diderot makes himself the echo of such phantasmagoric science. The diverse articles of the Encyclopedie that touch on Buddhism (several of which are by Diderot himself) rest on some superficial readings without the slightest attempt at critique.1 They range from 1751 to 1765 and are a bunch of hypotheses, gossip, and errors that are mutually contradictory. The Buddha, who is habitually named Xekia, or Xaca, or Siaka, supposedly is an African from Ethiopia (Diderot read the critical note of Abbe Banier about the text by Kaempfer and attempts to harmonize the two authors); or maybe he was a Jew -- at any rate, he had knowledge of the books of Israel. ... He supposedly founded, in Southern India, "the sect of Hylobians, the most savage of the gymnosophists" and is said to have written all of his exoteric doctrine on tree leaves. (de Lubac 2000:121-22)

Citing the beginning of Diderot's "Brahmin" article, de Lubac makes fun of Diderot's "sketchy comparatism" and of his claim that the Jewish kabbalists modeled their ensoph doctrine on the "emanatism of Xekia" (p. 122).

Here, instead of comparing and ridiculing information about Asian religions from many different Encyclopedie articles by Diderot and other authors, just three entries from the first two volumes will be analyzed: "ASIATIQUES. Philosophie des Asiatiques en general" (1751:1.752-55), "BRACHMANES" (1752:2.391), and "BRAMINES" (1752:2.393-94). They are likely to be from the pen of Diderot. At any rate, they present a mid-eighteenth-century view of Asian religions by an intelligent Frenchman who, while primarily relying on the work of Pierre Bayle (1702) and Johann Jacob Brucker (1742-44), made direct and indirect use of much of the information available in Europe at that time. Instead of the "monkey show" approach where historical views are held up for ridicule like chimpanzees dressed in human clothes who must show to the laughing public how far we have come along, this chapter will present the main points of Diderot's view of Asian religions in historical context. His "lack of originality," "sketchy comparatism," and especially his "mixup" of different religions are thus seen as worthy objects of study rather than ridiculous defects. Just as the island of Hokkaido ("Yeso") at the northern end of Japan was for a long time thought to be so gigantic as to stretch all the way to North America, the dimensions and confines of Asian religions were in Diderot's time still rather hazy. In this respect discoveries and explorations  of religions are not so different from those of barely known lands. Even a century after Diderot's articles, the historical and doctrinal dimensions of Asian religions were still far from clear, and many boundaries that have since been drawn (for example, those dividing "shamanism" from "Buddhism" in Tibet or "folk religion" from "Daoism" in China) are so problematic that some professors of religious studies would love to wipe them off the map. With regard to the discovery of Asian religions, parading "false" ideas (for example, about the founder of Buddhism) is far easier than understanding why those ideas arose and realizing the fragility of present-day certitudes. As a matter of fact, two centuries of "scientific" study have utterly failed to produce a consensus even about the centuries in which Buddhism's founder lived, and skeptics who argue that he is just one more legend that took on flesh and bones are not easily refuted. Was not the life story of a popular Christian saint of the Middle Ages, St. Josaphat, derived from legends about the Buddha and unmasked as a pious fiction, even though some of "his" bones are to this day revered in Antwerp's St. Andries Church? In 1997 the church's friendly sacristan got me a ladder so I could see how the Buddha legend calcified (see Figure 4).

As we will see in the present and subsequent chapters, variants of Diderot's idea of a pan-Asian religion or philosophy were very popular in his time and should hardly be fodder for reproaches and "monkey show" treatment. Indeed, anybody who believed in the Old Testament account of the deluge and the dispersion of peoples after Babel was bound to favor monogenetic hypotheses and to presuppose common roots of possibly unrelated phenomena. The idea of a pan-Asian religion or doctrine -- conceived either positively as an ancient theology or negatively as an ancient idolatry -- was not only common throughout Diderot's century but dominant. It is a subject well worth exploring; after all, almost every chapter of this book shows that this was a far more influential factor in the birth of Orientalism than the much-evoked and blamed colonialism. This chapter will describe key features of Diderot's "philosophie asiatique" and dig into the past to expose some of its main roots. If the previous chapter showed how deeply intertwined the European discoveries of "Brahmanism" and Buddhism in the first quarter of the eighteenth century were, the present chapter will expand the field of view both backward toward the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and forward to the mid-eighteenth century when Diderot compiled his first articles on Asian religions.

Figure 4. The bones of a legend: relics of Saint Josaphat (St. Andrieskerk, Antwerp; photo by Urs App).

Exoterica and Esoterica

We have seen in the previous chapters that the Jesuits of the Japan mission already began studying the Japanese varieties of Buddhism in the 1550s. This was not exactly a nineteenth-century philological workshop. In his letters from Yamaguchi of 1551, Cosme de TORRES (1510-70) distinguished several groups of Japanese heathens including worshipers of Shaka, Amida, and a sect called "Jenxus" (Jap. Zen-ska, Zen sect). According to Frater Cosme, who was the first European to mention this sect by name, Zen adepts teach in two ways [dos maneras]. The first is described as follows:

One way says that there is no soul, and that when a man dies, everything dies, since they say that what has been created out of nothing [crio de nada] returns to nothing [se convierte en nada]. These are men of great meditation [grandes meditaciones], and it is difficult to make them understand the law of God. It is quite a job [mucho trabajo] to refute them. (Schurhammer 1929:95)

According to Fr. Cosme's subsequent letter of October 20, 1551, these men held that "hell and punishment for the evil ones are not in another life but in this one" and "denied that there is a hell after a man dies" (p. 101). Numerous adepts of the Zen sect, both priests and laymen, informed the Jesuit missionaries that "there are no saints and that it is not necessary to search for a way [buscar su caminho] since what had come into existence from nothing could not but return to nothing [que de nada foi echo, nao puede deixar de se comvertir em nadie]" (p. 99). When the missionaries tried to convince these representatives of Zen that "there is a principle that constitutes the origin of all other things," the Japanese are said to have replied:

This [nothing] is a principle from which all things arise: men, animals, plants: every created thing has in itself this principle, and when men or animals die they return to the four elements, into that which they had been, and this principle returns to that which it is. This principle, they say, is neither good nor bad, knows neither glory nor punishment, neither dies nor lives, in a manner that it is a "no" [de manera que es hum no]. (p. 99)

Such views uncannily resemble the "internal teaching" described in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and they confirm that its principal features emerged in Japan when the first missionaries engaged in conversations with representatives of the Zen denomination who might have told told them about Bodhidharma's legendary responses to Emperor Wu ("Empty, nothing holy"; "no merit") and kept uttering the word "mu" (nothingness). In contrast to the inner teaching, the second manner of teaching described by Frater Cosme seems to accept an eternal soul and transmigration:

There are others who say that souls [las animas] have existed and will exist forever and that with the death of the body each of the four elements returns to its own place, as does the soul that returns into what it was before it animated that body. Others say that, after the death of the body, the souls return to enter different bodies and thus ceaselessly are born and die again. (p. 95)

This teaching encapsulates essential elements of what later came to be known as the "exterior" teaching of Buddhism: an eternal soul and transmigration. Tutored by former Buddhist monks and knowledgeable laymen, the missionaries in the following decades gradually became more familiar with the sects, clergies, rituals, and doctrines of Japan's rich Buddhist tradition and learned of the distinction between an "outer" or provisional teaching for the common people (Jap. gonkyo) and an "inner" or true teaching (Jap. jikkyo). In the catechism of 1586, Alessandro VALIGNANO's entire presentation of doctrines and sects is based on the distinction between provisional (gon) and real (jitsu) teachings (Valignano 1586:4v).

Today we know that various forms of this "gon-jitsu" distinction played a major role in the history of Buddhism. During the first centuries of the common era, when the Indian religion took root in China, various classification schemes (Ch. panjiao) were created by the Chinese to bring order into a bewildering array of Buddhist doctrines and texts. Some made use of the Indian Buddhist "two-truths" scheme, which asserts that, apart from the absolute truth of the awakened, there is also a provisional truth designed to accommodate deluded beings and help them reach enlightenment. Others came to attach particular doctrines and texts to phases of the Buddha's life, and naturally those of one's preferred sect tended to be associated with particularly poignant events of the founder's life, such as the first sermon after his enlightenment or the ultimate teachings before passing away. Such schemes often employed, in one form or another, the distinction between a "provisional" (Jap. gonkyo) and "genuine" or "real" teaching (Jap. jikkyo), which is exactly what the Buddhist informers must have explained to Valignano and his fellow Jesuits. A related distinction is that between exoteric and esoteric teachings (Jap. kengyo and mikkyo) that was promoted, among others, by the famous founder of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, Kakai (734-835; Abe 1999:9). But in the sixteenth century most of this was unknown. However, through the inclusion of Valignano's catechism in Antonio Possevino's Bibliotheca selecta of 1593, the distinction between provisional and real (or exoteric and esoteric) teachings and sects in Japan gained a foothold in Europe among Jesuits, their students, and some sections of Europe's educated class.

As early as the mid-sixteenth century, Jesuit missionaries also linked this distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrines with phases of the Buddha's life. In 1551 Japanese Buddhists informed the Jesuit brother Juan Fernandez, who spoke some Japanese, that the founder of their religion, Shaka, "also wrote books so that they would pray to him and be saved." But at the age of 49 years, so Fernandez reported,2 Shaka had suddenly changed his approach and confessed that "in the past he had been ignorant, which is why he wrote so much." Based on his own experience Shaka thereafter discouraged people from reading his old writings and advocated "meditation in order to learn about oneself and of one's end" (Schurhammer 1929:82). In the first comprehensive report about Buddhist sects and doctrines that reached the West (the Sumario de los errores of 1556), certain Buddhist texts were thus associated with specific sects, and Shaka was said to have dismissed his earlier writings: "They said that many people followed him and that he had 80,000 disciples. And ultimately, after having spent 44 years writing these scriptures, he said that nothing of that was true and that all was fombem (Jap. hoben, expedient means]" (Ruiz-de-Medina 1990:664).

However, Matteo Ricci's 1615 description of the sect of "sciequia or omitofo" (Shakya/Amitabha) and the corresponding Japanese teaching of "sotoqui" (Jap. hotoke, that is, buddhas) shows no trace of such a fundamental distinction between expedient and true teaching and exhibits little familiarity with Buddhism's "multitude of books" that, according to Ricci, "were either brought from the West or (which is more likely) composed in the Kingdom of China itself" (Ricci 1615:122). Bur the date of 65 C.E. from the preface of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, along with its tale of the transfer of this religion from India to China and of the translation of its texts, became fixtures in virtually all subsequent Western accounts. This sutra was thus, long before de Guignes's 1756 translation (see Chapter 4), instrumental in attaching a founder's name (Fo/Buddha), a place of origin (India), a date of the first transmission to China (65 CE.), a body of sacred scriptures including the sutra itself, and an eastward trajectory (from India to Siam, China, and Japan) for a large religion dominant in major pans of Asia. Ricci's account, as edited by Nicolas Trigault, was read allover Europe in schools and refectories and published in several languages. It was a work that opened up a whole new world for a surprisingly large public.

But after Ricci's death in 1610 and the publication of his view of Chinese religions by Trigault (1615), Ricci's critic Joao RODRIGUES (1561-1633) applied the distinction between exoteric and esoteric teachings more broadly to all three major religions of China and linked it to the ancient use of symbols in the Middle East and Egypt (see also Chapter I). Rodrigues's view of a common root of Asia's major religions and his conviction that all of them used symbols to hide the real content of their teaching from the general public were influential in several respects. Chinese "idolatry" was not an amorphous mass but consisted of several well-defined creeds, each with its sacred scriptures, doctrines, and particular history. But if one dug deep enough, their common root could be exposed. For Rodrigues this common root was lodged in Mesopotamia and associated with Zoroaster and the evil habit of the elites to mislead the common people by hiding the true doctrine under a coat of symbols. Mainly because of his opposition to Ricci-style missionary strategy, Rodrigues's writings were suppressed. Some of them got buried in archives and may still lie there; others were plagiarized by ideological opponents (for instance, Rodrigues's writings on Asian history and geography by Martino Martini) and then possibly destroyed; and much of the rest, especially Rodrigues's letters and reports, were noted in their time bur forgotten by posterity. But overall, Rodrigues's writings are a splendid example of the influence of underground sources. His reports about Chinese religions were widely read by Jesuits and other orders and formed, as the basis of Niccolo Longobardi's treatise, a core argument of the opponents of the Jesuits in the Chinese Rites controversy. In this form they came to playa crucial but hitherto overlooked role in the downfall and prohibition of the Jesuit order in the eighteenth century.

The Buddha's Deathbed Confession

Rodrigues's ideas and scholarship burrowed their way into the minds of other missionaries. One of them was the Milanese Cristoforo BORRl (1583-1632) who lived in Saigon from 1610 to 1623. His report about Cochinchina, published in 1631, gave the distinction between the exoteric and esoteric teachings of Buddhism a fateful twist. He reported that Xaca had immediately after his enlightenment written books about the esoteric teaching:

Therefore returning home, he wrote several books and large volumes on this subject, entitling them, "Of Nothing;" wherein he taught that the things of this world, by reason of me duration and measure of time, are nothing; for though they had existence, said he, yet they would be nothing, nothing at present, and nothing in time to come, for the present being but a moment, was the same as nothing. (Pinkerton 1818:9.821)

He argued likewise about moral things, reducing everything to nothing. Then he gathered scholars, and the doctrine of nothing was spread allover the Ease. However, the Chinese were opposed to this doctrine and rejected it, whereupon Xaca "changed his mind, and retiring wrote several other great books, teaching mat there was a real origin of all things, a lord of heaven, hell, immortality, and transmigration of souls from one body to another, better or worse, according to the merits or demerits of the person; though they do not forget to assign a son of heaven and hell for the souls of departed, expressing the whole metaphorically under the names of things corporeal, and of the joys and sufferings of this world" (pp. 821-82). While the Chinese gladly received me "external," modified teaching of Xaca, the teaching of nothing also survived, for instance, in Japan in the dominant "gensiu" (Jap. Zen-sha, Zen sect) (p. 822). According to Borri, it was exactly this acceptance in Japan that had the Buddha explain on his deathbed that the doctrine of nothingness was his true teaching:

The Japanese and others making so great account of this opinion of nothing, was the cause that when Xaca the author of it approached his death, calling together his disciples, he protested to them on the word of a dying man, that during the many years he had lived and studied, he had found nothing so true, nor any opinion so well grounded as was the sect of nothing; and though his second doctrine seemed to differ from it, yet they must look upon it as no contradiction or recantation, but rather a proof and confirmation of the first, though not in plain terms, yet by way of metaphors and parables, which might all be applied to the opinion of nothing, as would plainly appear by his books. (p. 822)

Of course, Borri's tale lacks all historical perspective and has the Buddha make decisions based on events (the introduction of Buddhism to China and Japan) that happened many centuries later. But for people who have no idea of the history of this religion, its attribution of motives to the founder must have sounded believable, and Borri's book was one of the early works on East Asia that was widely read and translated. This story, in my opinion, forms the kernel of the Buddha's "deathbed confession" tale. Borri appears to have spun it on the basis of information from Japan, from Rodrigues, and possibly also Vietnamese informants, in order to make sense of the different teachings of this religion whose founder is Xaca = Buddha. In the Cathechismus (sic) of Alexander de Rhodes, which was printed in Rome in 1651, the geographical references were removed, and the Story appeared in a more biographical form where not the Chinese but Buddha's immediate disciples rejected the original doctrine:

When he wanted to teach others this impious doctrine [of nothingness], so contrary to natural reason, they all abandoned him. Seeing this, he began, with the demons as his teachers, to teach another way filled with false stories in order to retain his disciples. He taught them the false doctrine of reincarnation, and at the same time taught the people the worship of idols, among whom he placed himself as their head, as if he were the creator and lord of heaven and earth .... Those who were more advanced in his impious doctrine were forbidden to divulge it to the public. ... As to his closest disciples, he led them to the abyss of atheism, holding that nothingness is the origin of all things, and that at death all things return to nothingness as to their ultimate end. (Phan 1998:250)

This tale soon mutated in an ominous way that again had its roots in early reports from Japan. Instead of first teaching about emptiness and subsequently "accommodating" Chinese or Indian sensibilities in a manner that resembles the Jesuit mission strategy, the founder of Buddhism was exposed as a liar and fraud who never told anyone about his nihilism and for forty-nine years preached an "exterior" doctrine he did not believe in. This resounded throughout Europe, thanks to the megaphone of Couplet's 1687 introduction to Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, and found its way into works such as Louis Daniel Lecomte's Nouveaux memoires sur l'etat present de la Chine (1696), Jean-Baptiste du Halde's Description de la Chine (1736), and scores of dictionaries, encyclopedias, travel accounts, and other books. Thus canonized, the Story presented the Buddha as a fraud, liar, and coward who needed to be prodded by the cold breath of death to reveal his nihilism and even then dared to do so only to his closest and dearest disciples. It combined elements from Jesuit letters and reports from Japan (particularly those regarding the Zen sect), Valignano's catechism, Rodrigues's reports, and Borri's and de Rhodes's tales and molded them into an easily understood deathbed confession story that not only exposed the founder's profound character flaw but also furnished a simple classification scheme for variants of his religion. The founder's disciples, so the story went, after his death formed two factions, an esoteric and an exoteric one. Soon a third faction that combined both teachings got added (App 2008a:29) and took care of whatever would not fit into the first two categories.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, it was especially the Treatise on Some Points of the Religion of the Chinese (written by Niccolo Longobardi in 1624-26) that created waves because it stood at the center of the Chinese Rites controversy. This internal Jesuit document, whose core consisted of Rodrigues's reports of the 1610s and 1620s, had been leaked and published in 1676 by the Dominican friar Domingo NAVARRETE(1618-89) and was read, among many other European intellectuals, by the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (Leibniz 2002). Longobardi's treatise stated that the use of symbols "gave birth in all nations to two kinds of science: a true and secret one, and a false and public one" (Leibniz 2002:122). The first was only possessed by the learned and kept secret, while the second constituted "a false appearance of popular doctrine," a mirage that the people, attached as they are to the bark of words, "took for the true teaching" instead of recognizing it as a "gross shadow that disguises truth" (p. 122). Longobardi explained, following Rodrigues:

The three sects of the Chinese entirely follow this kind of philosophizing. They have two kinds of doctrine: a secret one that they regard as true and that only the learned understand and teach encoded in figures; and the vulgar one which is a figure of the first and is regarded by the learned as false in the natural meaning of the words. (p. 122)

Longobardi also followed Rodrigues's lead in putting the three great Chinese religions in the evil transmission line by declaring them to be forms of atheism going back to "Zoroaster, the magus and prince of the Chaldeans" (pp. 128, 141).

Even opponents of Rodrigues such as Martino MARTINI(1614-61), who In 1651 traveled to Europe to defend Ricci's approach, drew information about Chinese religions from Rodrigues. In the introduction to his Novus Atlas Sinensis of 1655, Martini described the sect of Shakyamuni as follows:

The second sect is the idolatric one, called Xekiao. This pest infected China shortly after Christ's birth. It admits metempsychosis. It is of two kinds; one is internal and the other external. The latter [external or exoteric kind] teaches the worship of idols, portrays the transmigration of souls after death as a punishment for sins, and continually abstains from [eating] anything that lives. It is a ridiculous law that is disapproved of even by the clergy of these sectarians who consider it necessary to keep the ignorant people away from vice and to incite them to be virtuous. The internal [teaching of] metempsychosis is excellent and one of the best parts of moral philosophy since it regards the passions, those depraved inclinations of the soul, as emptiness [vacuitatem] and aims at victory over them. As long as this [victory] is not obtained, so they believe, the souls of those dominated by such feelings continue to migrate in the bodies of brute animals. [The inner teaching] does not believe in any reward or punishment after death, just a void [vacuum]. It asserts that there is no truth in this life unless it can be touched and that good and evil are just different viewpoints. (Martini 1665:8)

Athanasius KIRCHER'S China Illustrata (1667) was even more instrumental in promoting the esoteric/exoteric divide. The chapter titled "Parallels Between Chinese, Japanese, and Tartar Idolatry" presented these two "manners" as the two main kinds of Japanese religion and confirms the divide's sixteenth-century Japanese mission roots and the close association of Zen with the esoteric doctrine. Kircher wrote:

Lest I seem to be asserting something only on my own authority, I will quote here some words of Fr. Ludwig Gusmann in his Spanish language account: There are many sects in Japan which have been, and still are, different from each other, but these can be reduced to two main ones. The first denies that there is any other life than that which we perceive with our senses and that there is any reward for good works or punishment for crimes which we do in the world except those we get while we live on the earth. Persons who profess this view are called Xenxus [Jap. Zen-shu, Zen sect] .... As regards those who believe in an afterlife, there are two principal sects, and from these have come an infinite number of others. (Kircher 1987:131)

Like Rodrigues and Borri, Kircher used this division as a tool to bring order into East Asia's idolatries:

Since the Japanese have borrowed their idolatrous religion from the Chinese, they have as great a variety of sects as the Chinese. These can be summarized under two headings. The first of these is those who deny an afterlife and who believe that there is no future punishment or reward for good works or evil. They lead an Epicurean life. This sect is called Xenxus Gap. Zen-sha, Zen sect] .... The others, who believe in immortality of the soul and an afterlife, are similar to the Pythagoreans in their rites and ceremonies. Most of the Chinese sages follow this theory. They worship an idol by the name of Omyto, commonly called Amida. (p. 131)

This portrayal pitches, like the early Jesuit reports of 1551 mentioned above, the (esoteric) Zen adherents against the (exoteric) Pure Land worshipers of Amida and is thus an example of a practice that even today is rampant in academia, namely, the projection of Japanese distinctions on China.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 2 of 3

Couplet's Atheist Contemplators

Two decades after Kircher, Philippe COUPLET (1623-1693) presented in the introduction to Confucius Sinarum Philosophus rather detailed information about Fo (whom he also calls Xe kia and Xaca) and Fo's religion. It is found in the introductory exposition that contains a very influential discussion of the content of Fo's doctrine (Couplet 1687:xxvii-xxix) that formed the focus of very detailed reviews in the most widely read European review journals. Couplet's views thus reached a surprisingly broad international readership. Major elements of it were cited, for example, in Bayle's famous "Spinoza" article of the Dictionnaire historique et critique (1702, vol. 3) -- a main source of Diderot's article "Asiatiques" in the first volume of the Encyclopedie (1751). Couplet's portrayal3 is a summary of Jesuit learning on the subject and forms a hinge between sixteenth- and seventeenth-century information (mainly from Japan, China, and Vietnam) and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among the items of information that stunned Europeans was the sheer size of the religion of Fo and of its sacred literature. According to Couplet, Fo was born in central India in 1026 B.C.E., preached for forty-nine years, and gained as many as 80,000 disciples. Couplet's list of clergy appellations from various countries suggests a gigantic area that includes Japan, China, Tartary, and Siam and a sacred literature amounting to 15,000 volumes (pp. xxix-xxx).

In the second half of the seventeenth century, stories of "expedient means" and of a "true" teaching hidden from the masses had already coagulated into the above-mentioned attractive narrative about the last teachings of Shakyamuni that was ceaselessly repeated. The version contained in Couplet's Confucius Sinarum Philosophus of 1687 was seminal. Pierre Bayle cited it, based on an extensive book review, in his article on Spinoza. This entry is one of the most widely read and discussed articles ever to appear in a dictionary. Bayle's readers learned, among other interesting things, that Foe Kiao (Ch. Fojiao, Buddhism) was established in China in the year 65 C.E. by royal authority and that its founder, Xe kia (Shakya), the son of an Indian king, had revealed his true teaching only shortly before his death:

Having retired to the desert at the age of 19 and having put himself under the guidance of four gymnosophists to learn philosophy from them, he stayed under their tutelage until age 30 when, one day before dawn he contemplated the planet Venus, and this simple view suddenly gave him perfect knowledge of the first principle. Full of divine inspiration, or rather of pride and folly, he began to instruct people, had himself regarded as a God, and attracted as many as 80,000 disciples .... At the age of 79 years, when he felt close to death, he declared to his disciples that, during the forty years of his preaching, he had not told them the truth; that he had kept it hidden under the veil of metaphors and figures, but that it was now time to tell it to them. It is, said he, that there is nothing to seek and nothing to pin one's hopes on, just emptiness [le vuide] and nothingness [le neant], which is the first principle of all things. (Bayle 1702:2769, article "Spinoza")

The account of the Buddha's deathbed confession to his closest disciples (in which he called his earlier teachings untrue and only metaphorical) was used by Couplet as an introduction to his discussion of the "famous distinction of his doctrine into an exterior and interior one" (Couplet 1687:xxix). The exterior doctrine is compared to the wooden scaffolding used for building an arch: though useful for the purpose of construction, it becomes useless and is removed as soon as the edifice is completed (p. xxx). According to Couplet, this doctrine has the following content:

The main tenets [summa] of the exterior or provisional doctrine [supposititiae doctrinae] are that there is a real difference between good and evil, justice and injustice; that there is a future state with recompense and punishment and places for this; that happiness can be obtained by 32 figures and 80 qualities; that Fo or Xaca is a deity [numen] and the savior of mortals; that he was born for their sake out of compassion for their aberration from the way of salvation [via salutis]; that he has atoned for their sins; and that through his expiation they will attain salvation and rebirth in a happier world (pp. xxx-xxxi)

Couplet also mentions the five Buddhist precepts (no killing of living things, no theft, etc.) and six good works (donations to monks, etc.), as well as transmigration via six realms into innumerable forms, and so forth. Such features of the exterior doctrine tended to be augmented and elaborated by subsequent authors; for example, Diderot (1751:1.753-54) listed a total of fourteen points that were in part also drawn from more recent sources such as Engelbert Kaempfer's description of Japanese Buddhism (1729; see here below). The full acceptance by 1750 of the two-fold doctrine view is confirmed by this statement of Diderot:

The Indians and the Chinese unanimously attest that this impostor had two sorts of doctrines: one designed for the people and the other a secret one that he only revealed to a few of his disciples. Le Comte, la Loubere, Bernier, and especially Kaempfer have notably informed us of the first which is called exoteric. (p. 753)

Diderot's account of the interior doctrine (1751:754), by contrast, differs so little from the one furnished by Couplet six decades earlier that it is a good summary of Couplet's view. Diderot described its essential points as follows:

I. Emptiness [le vuide] is the principle and end of all things.

2. It is where all humans have their origin and what they return to after death.

3. Everything that exists comes from this principle and returns to it after death; it is this principle that constitutes our soul and all elements. Therefore, all living, thinking, and feeling beings, regardless of their differences of capacities or shape, are neither different in essence nor distinct from their principle.

4. This principle is universal, admirable, pure, limpid, subtle, infinite; it can neither be born nor die nor dissolve.

5. This principle has neither virtue nor understanding [entendement] nor power nor any other similar attribute.

6. Its essence is to do nothing, think nothing, desire nothing.

7. He who wants to lead an innocent and happy life must make all efforts to become similar to his principle; that is, he must master or rather extinguish all his passions so that he will not be troubled or unsettled by anything.

8. He who attains this point of perfection will be absorbed in sublime contemplations without any use of his faculty of understanding, and he will enjoy the kind of divine repose that forms the apex of happiness.

9. When one reaches knowledge of this sublime doctrine, one must let others keep the exoteric4 doctrine, or at least adopt it just for show. (Diderot 1751:754)5

We have seen that most of these points are firmly rooted in sixteenth-century missionary accounts of Japanese Buddhist doctrine where they were usually linked to the teachings of the Zen sect. This genealogy shows not only how important and long-lived the first impressions from Japan were but also how old information from the missions was instrumental in shaping more recent, secular sources (such as Kaempfer) that later found its way into eighteenth-century encyclopedias such as Diderot's and d'Alembert's Encyclopedie, which prided themselves for their critical review of source materials, their secular perspective, and their accuracy.

The Specter of Spinozism

Couplet's digest of the esoteric doctrine of Fo evoked an echo in Europe whose amplitude cannot be understood without taking into account the theological and philosophical climate of the late seventeenth century that Paul Hazard (1961) labeled "the crisis of European conscience." Here we glance only at a single aspect of this "crisis," namely, the early reception of Spinoza's thought and its role in publicizing what was portrayed as the Buddha's "inner" doctrine. Since Spinoza's writings were still insufficiently known, the term "Spinozism" will be used to designate Spinoza's philosophy as it was perceived at the time. To my knowledge, the Swiss theologian and publicist Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736) was the first European to see a link between Spinozism and Fo's esoteric doctrine. In his extensive review of Confucius sinarum philosophus in the widely read Bibliotheque universekke et historique (1688) he boiled this doctrine down to three points:

The inner doctrine -- which one never divulges to ordinary people because of the need, as these philosophers say, to oblige them to stick to their duty through the fear of hell and similar stories -- is indeed, according to them, the solid and genuine one. It consists in establishing as the principle and end of all things a certain emptiness [vuide] and a real nothingness [neant reel]. They say that [1] our first parents have come from this emptiness and return to it after death, and that the same applies to all humans: all dissolve into this principle at death; [2] that we along with all elements and creatures form part of this emptiness; [3] that therefore only a single and same substance exists which differs in individual beings only by virtue of the qualities or the interior configuration, like water that always remains water regardless of its form as snow, hail, rain, or ice. (Le Clerc 1788:348-9)

Immediately after this interesting summary, Le Clerc advises "those who would like to find out more about the philosophy of the Indians and the Chinese, which is not very different from the system of the Spinozists, if one can say that they have one" to inform themselves in the travel account of Bernier (p. 349). Le Clerc thus first triangulated the Buddha's "inner" doctrine with the information supplied by Prince Dara's pandit (as found in Bernier) and Spinozism. Since Spinozism was at the time equivalent to atheism and sympathizers risked their jobs or even their lives, this was an explosive charge. The origin and significance of this link would lead too deep into issues connected with the history of philosophy and will be discussed elsewhere, but in our immediate context it is of interest to note that replacing this "emptiness" by Spinoza's "substance" and "qualities or configuration" by "modification" suffices to arrive at Le Clerc's conclusion that the Buddha's inner doctrine is "not very different" from Spinozism. This line of argument was taken up and amplified by Bayle in the famous "Spinoza" and "Japan" articles of his Dictionnaire (1702). Thus the "inner" teaching of Buddhism with its Japanese Zen roots, the Sufi-Vedanta-Neoplatonic amalgam of Prince Dara as reported by Bernier, and the Spinozism that frightened Europe's churchgoers and theologians entered into a fateful alliance with tremendous repercussions. All of a sudden, much of Asia from Persia and India to China and Japan appeared as a gigantic motherland of atheism, and the philosophies of India and China became relevant to the burning questions and controversies of Europe. Bayle denounced the Buddha's teaching of a single substance with manifold configurations (Bayle 1702:3.2769; Couplet 1687:xxxi) and called it more absurd than Spinoza's philosophy:

If it is monstrous to assert that plants, beasts, and men are really the same thing, and to ground such an opinion on the pretension that all particular beings are not distinct from their principle, it is even more monstrous to utter that this principle has no thought, no power, and no virtue at all. Yet this is what these philosophers say when they place the supreme perfection of that principle in its inaction and absolute repose. . . . Spinoza was not so absurd: the unitary substance admitted by him is always acting, always thinking; and not even his most general abstractions could enable him to divest it of action and thought. (Bayle 1702:3.2769)

Couplet shocked his European readers by asserting that this extremely widespread and ancient esoteric doctrine firmly rejects central Christian doctrines such as divine providence, a future state with reward and punishment, and an immortal soul and thus has also no place for a savior (1687:xxxii). Instead it advocates reaching happiness by "chimerical contemplations," and according to Couplet, it even formed a sect for this purpose. He calls this sect Vu guei Kiao, the sect of nonaction [nihil agentium secta]."6 Founded about the year 290 C.E., this sect is said to be similar to the Indian gymnosophists (p. xxxii). In China it became so successful that even some of the most eminent men of the empire "adopted this insanity" and habitually "spent several hours without any movement of body and mind," declaring that such insensibility made them happier (pp. xxxii-xxxiii). As an illustration Couplet mentions the case of the twenty-eighth successor of Xaca, a man called Ta mo (Ch. Damo, Bodhidharma) who spent "a total of nine years facing a wall" and during the entire time "did nothing other than contemplate this chimerical principle of his, emptiness and nothingness [vacuum & nihil]" (p. xxxiii). For Couplet this "sect of the contemplators [contemplantium Secta]" was "engulfed in the most profound atheism" (p. xxxiii); bur Bayle, who quoted some of Couplet's explanations and called it "the sect of idlers or do-nothings [la secte des oiseux ou des faineans]," wondered whether its doctrine of nothingness was correctly described. If these illustrious men of China really believed that "the nearer a man comes to the nature of tree trunk or a stone, the greater his progress and the more he is like the first principle into which he is to return," how did they conceive this principle of nothingness?

I tend to believe that either one does not correctly express what these people understand by Cum hiu [Ch. kongxu, emptiness] or that their ideas are contradictory. Some would have these Chinese words signify emptiness and nothingness [vuide & neant, vacuum & inane] and have fought against this sect pretending that nothingness [le neant] is the principle of all beings. I cannot persuade myself that this captures the exact sense of the word nothingness, and I imagine that it means something like when people say that there is nothing in an empty suitcase . . . . I believe that by that word they meant more or less what the moderns call space [espace]. (Bayle 1702:3.2770)

Couplet's link of this originally Indian "interior" doctrine to a popular "sect of contemplators" in China and to Indian gymnosophists was much noted and cited, starting with Le Clerc (1688) and Bernier (1688). Was Ta mo [Bodhidharma], the twenty-eighth successor of the Indian founder of the esoteric doctrine, the transmitter of this Indian doctrine to China? And what texts were associated with this transmission? For Diderot, writing fifty years after Bayle, this esoteric teaching of the "Budda or Xekia" was not transmitted via texts but rather, as in the Buddha's deathbed confession scene, by word of mouth to a select few. If in China this Indian system had formed the basis of a famous sect of contemplators, so Diderot thought, it was "very likely" that in Japan it also "gave birth to a famous sect" (Diderot 1751:754). He was thinking of the Japanese Zen sect described by Engelbert Kaempfer:

It teaches that there is only one principle of all things; that this principle is bright and luminous, incapable of accretion or diminution, without form, sovereign and perfect, wise, bur without reason or intelligence resting in perfect inaction and supremely tranquil like a man whose attention is fixed on one thing without thinking of anything else. They also say that this principle is in all particular beings and communicates its essence in such a manner that they form the same thing with it and dissolve in it when they are destroyed. (p. 754)

By the mid-eighteenth century a vision of a twofold pan-Asian religious movement was thus well established. Much of the information about its doctrine -- which purportedly represented the teachings of Fo alias Xaca alias Xekia alias Budda -- was based on data and legends reported from Japan and China by Jesuit missionaries. Its inner doctrine was associated with sects of "contemplators" in both countries and linked to the deathbed instruction of an Indian founder figure (Fo, Shaka, Buddha) and to transmitter figures who in the first centuries of the common era brought this teaching from India to China (the Chinese ambassadors with the Forty-Two Sections Sutra; Bodhidharma). But the connection with Spinozism was not the only booster hurling Asia's "inner" doctrine into European consciousness. A second booster was its association with quietism, which was one more hot-button theme of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theology, and a third the link with the Kabbala.

Bernier's Asian Mysticism

Kircher's China Illustrata (1667) chapter on "The Ridiculous Brahmin Religion and the Teachings About the Origin of Man" begins with the statement that "the brahmins take their origin according to the Indian writers from Cechian or Xaca" and ends with a passage that soon acquired fame throughout Europe as the essence of the Indian theory of creation:

They say that a spider is the first cause, and he created the world by spinning a web with the threads coming from his stomach. Then he formed the heavenly spheres and he rules everything until the end of the world, which he will cause by pulling back into himself all of the threads in his web. (Kircher 1987:145)

Figure 5. Kircher's Indo-Japanese divinities: Dainichi/Brahma (left) and Amida (right).

Kircher collected information about Asian religions from diverse sources, but the input of his fellow Jesuit Heinrich ROTH (1620-68), a native of Augsburg and longtime resident of India, was crucial. Roth was one of the European missionaries who studied Sanskrit long before the British colonialists, and Kircher claimed that Roth "rook these doctrines mainly from their arcane books" (p. 147). Some of these doctrines sounded rather familiar to those who had read about Fo's esoteric doctrine:

They say the universal is the nature of that supreme being itself. The particular is nature divided by particles into the variety of things. From this they conclude that there can be no generic or specific distinction of created things, but that everything is one and the same being. The natural universe is distinguished by particles, some of which may take the figure of a man, others a rock, and yet others a tree, and so on. They say that the matter worn by these particles is only a deception. (p. 148)

But Kircher's explanations were imbedded in such a plethora of disjointed facts and arguments that many readers may have remembered little more than the central narrative of an impostor called Xaca whose Brahmin missionaries spread from their base in India and eventually infected the whole of Asia with their pestilent idolatry.

In the year 1667 when Kircher's China Illustrata was published, another acquaintance of Fr. Roth, the French medical doctor and philosopher Francois BERNIER(1620-88) sent a long letter from Persia to Paris about "the superstitions, strange customs, and doctrines of the Indous or Gentiles of Hindoustan." Four years later, when this letter appeared in prim as pan of his Travels in the Mogul Empire,7 Bernier was already a man whose fame reached far beyond the frontiers of his native France. From 1654 he had traveled in Asia, first in Palestine and Syria, then in Egypt, and he subsequently sojourned for no less than eight years in India (1659-67). After his 1659 arrival in Surat during the succession struggles of me sons of the Mogul rulers Shah Jahan, he was for a short time the medical doctor of the crown prince, Mohammed Dara Shikoh (1615-59), the very man who commissioned and supervised in 1657 the Persian Upanishad translation whose Latin rendering Anquetil-Duperron was to publish under me tide of Oupnek'hat in 1801 (see Chapter 7). After Prince Dara's execution (1659), Bernier worked at the court of a rich Indian named Daneshmend-khan and spent several years with one of India's most excellent scholars who had played a central role in Prince Dara's Upanishad translation project. Bernier reported,

My Agah [lord], Danechmend-kan, partly from my solicitation and partly to gratify his own curiosity, rook into his service one of the most celebrated Pendets in all the Indies, who had formerly belonged to the household of Dara, the eldest son of the King Chah-Jehan; and not only was this man my constant companion during a period of three years, but he also introduced me to the society of other learned Pendets, whom he attracted to the house. (Bernier 2005:324)

Prince Dara had been interested in Sufi mysticism since his youth and had authored several books about this subject (App 2007). For him the Upanishads represented the esoteric essence of the Vedas, and he argued that a Koran passage mentioning a "hidden book that none but the purified can grasp" (Quran 56:78) referred to the Upanishads. They represent God's original revelation as transmitted to initiates, which is why Dara gave his translation the tide Sirr-i akbar, that is, the Great Secret.8 Prince Dara's (and Bernier's) pandit, who had been instrumental in explaining this secret to Dara, was versed both in Sufism and Indian philosophy and spoke Persian. Bernier's Persian was so good that he could translate philosophical texts by Rene Descartes and Pierre Gassendi into that language. Though unable to read Sanskrit, he thus found himself in the enviable position of receiving first-hand information about the secret doctrine of the yogis and Sufis from one of the most learned Indians"

The trance, and the means of enjoying it, form the grand Mysticism of the sect of the Jauguis [Yogis], as well as that of the Soufys. I call it Mysticism [Mystere], because they keep these things secret among themselves, and I should not have made so many discoveries had it not been for the aid of the Pendet, or Indou Doctor whom Danechmend-kan kept in his pay, and who dared not conceal anything from his patron; my Agah, moreover, was already acquainted with the doctrines of the Soufys. (Bernier 2005:320)

Europeans suspicious of the reports by missionaries and by uneducated travelers were understandably delighted to get more trustworthy and objective information from Bernier, the learned disciple of the philosopher Gassendi. To judge by the number of Bernier quotations and references in other books, it is clear that the data from Prince Dara's pandit elicited pronounced interest among European readers. In particular, the spider allegory that is mentioned in the Upanishads was frequently cited and is an example of the influence of native informants. Bernier wrote about "the secret of a grand cabal that has lately made great noise in Hindustan because certain pandits or Gentile doctors have used it to infect the minds of Dara and Sultan Sujah, the two elder sons of [Moghul emperor] Shah Jahan" (Bernier 1699:2.163). What kind of infection was this? It was the doctrine of "a world-soul, of which they want our souls and those of animals to be part" (p. 163). Bernier calls this "the almost universal doctrine of the Gentile Pendets of the Indies" and regards it as "the same doctrine which is held by the sect of the Soufys and the greater part of the learned men of Persia at the present day" (Bernier 2005:346).

[They] pretend that God, or that supreme being whom they call Achar (immoveable, unchangeable), has not only produced life from his own substance, but also generally everything material or corporeal in the universe, and that this production is not formed simply after the manner of efficient causes, but as a spider which produces a web from its own navel, and withdraws it at pleasure. The Creation then, say these visionary doctors, is nothing more than an extraction or extension of the individual substance of God, of those filaments which He draws from his own bowels; and, in like manner, destruction is merely the recalling of that divine substance and filaments into Himself. (p. 347)

Individual beings are thus not real, and "the whole world is, as it were, an illusory dream, inasmuch as all that variety which appears to our outward senses is but one only and the same thing, which is God Himself" (p. 347).

But apart from a Persian Sufi book entitled "Goul-tchen-raz, or Garden of Mysteries,"9 Bernier could not name any textual sources containing this doctrine. The "extremely old" Indian Beths (Vedas) in "four sacred books" that according to the Indians were "given to them by God," and the Purane, which Bernier portrays as "an abridgment and interpretation of the Beds" (p. 335), were not available to him. He describes the Vedas as being "of great bulk" and "so scarce that my Agah, notwithstanding all his diligence, has not succeeded in purchasing a copy" (pp. 335-36). In this respect Bernier was dependent on Prince Dara's pandit and on Fr. Roth whose explanations were prominently featured in Kircher's China illustrata. Bernier rarely mentions regions of Asia to the east of India; but in 1688, shortly before his death, he read Couplet's Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687) and published a paper about the "Quietism of the Indies." In it he connects his Indian Yogis and Fakirs with Couplet's Chinese sect of contemplators and furnishes the following explanation of the "mystery of the cabal" that he had written about two decades earlier:

Among the different Fakirs or idolatrous religious men of the Indies, there are some that are commonly called 10gis which is something like saints, illumined ones, perfect ones, or men who are perfectly united with the sovereign Being, the first and general Principle of all things .... Above all they are engulfed in contemplation, and I say engulfed because they push themselves so much into it that they reportedly spend hours in ecstasy. Their outer senses seem without any activity, and they pretend to see the sovereign Being as a very bright and inexplicable light, with an inexpressible joy and satisfaction followed by contempt and complete detachment from the world. (Bernier 1688:47-48).

Bernier's explanations indicate that he regarded the doctrine of Sufis, Indian Yogis, and Fakirs as largely identical with that of Couplet's sect of contemplators:

Their ancient books teach that this first principle of things is very admirable; that it is something very pure, in their own words, and very clear and subtle; that it is infinite; that it cannot be created [engendre] nor corrupted; that it is the perfection of all things, sovereign perfection; and, what needs to be noted, [that it is] in perfect repose and absolute inaction-in a word, in perfect quietism. (p. 48)

As in the familiar descriptions of the esoteric teaching of Shaka/Fo, this first principle is said to be without any action and understanding and so on. Perfection consists in becoming exactly like this principle through "continuous contemplation and victory over oneself" (p. 49). Once all human passions are extinct, there is no more torment, and "in the manner of an ecstatic, one is completely absorbed in profound contemplation" and achieves "divine repose or quietism, the happiest state to be hoped for" (p. 49). It is only logical that the Buddhist "bonzes" and the Wuwei jiao ("secta nihil agentium" or sect of do-nothings) of Couplet's preface are thus presented as the Far Eastern cousins of Bernier's Yogis and Fakirs. Bernier mentions Couplet's Ta-mo (Bodhidharma) -- who brought this teaching from India to China and "looked at a wall for nine whole years" -- as a perfect example of this "mental illness" (p. 50). However, this "illness" is found not only in Asia but also, though with less extravagance, in the West: for Bernier, all quietism is characterized by "this abyss of contemplation, this great inaction, this great union of our soul with God," whether it is professed by the Spanish divine Miguel de MOLINOS (1628-97), by the Sufis of Persia, or by "the Joguis of the Indies, the Bonzes of China, or the Talapois of Siam" (pp. 50-51).

In Bernier's reflections on quietism, we see the outlines of a mysticism that transcends East and West. It is likely that in this respect Bernier was inspired by Prince Dara via his pandit, which once more points to the crucial role of native informers in the genesis of modern Orientalism. But contrary to their exalted idea of universal esotericism, Bernier regarded the "quietisms" of East and West as similarly suspect. Though it "might be more a case of exaggerated devotion and of extravagance," he wrote, the idea of a world soul "approaches atheism" because it envisions "a corporal God, and therefore a divisible and corruptible one" (Bernier 1688:51). But Bernier's critique was instrumental in connecting the "inner teaching" of Fo/Shaka with the practices of Sufism and Indian ascetics and putting a pan-Asian "quietism" with Indian roots on the map. At the end of his life, Bernier used Couplet's presentation of Fo's "inner teaching" to characterize Indian Yogis and Sufi mystics, yet he remained unable to furnish any textual evidence from India other than what was decades ago included in the books of Henry Lord (1630) and Abraham Roger (1651).

Both in Diderot's article on "the philosophy of the Asians in general" and in that on the "Brahmins" Bernier plays a central role. The first cites Bernier's entire passage about emanation with the spider allegory (Diderot 1751:1.752) and identifies it not only with the teaching of "Persian Sufis whom he [Bernier] names cabalistes" but also with "the doctrine of the Pendets, heathen of the Indies" (p. 753) and "the doctrine of Xekia" whose esoteric teaching of "the origin of things through emanations from a first cause" also influenced Jewish kabbalists and their idea of "En-soph or the first infinite being which contains all things" and "distributes itself through emanation" (p. 754).

Burnet's Sapientia Orientalis

Figure 6. The earth formation cycle of Burnet (1684)

In 1792, barely four years after Bernier's seminal paper on quietism, a much-cited book with the intriguing title Archaeologicae philosophicae: sive Doctrina antiqua de rerum originibus appeared in England. Its author, Thomas BURNET (1635-1715), was famous for having written one of the great books about origins, namely, The Sacred Theory of the Earth (Telluris theoria sacra, 1680). In the Sacred Theory he proposed a stunning theory of earth formation that attempted to bridge his interpretation of the Bible's creation Story and scientific knowledge. See Figure 6. Burnet explained in detail how our globe first coagulated from a mass of chaotic particles of matter into the shape of an egg, how it then gained a perfect spherical form, how a crust completely free of irregularities hardened on this structure, and how this crust was gradually baked by the action of the sun. He described the result of this process as follows:

This smooth, perfect surface, over which the air was perennially calm, serene, and free of those disordinate movements that are caused by winds and the existence of mountains, coincides -- all of it -- with the terrestrial paradise. This world was an inhabited world, for antediluvian humanity lived in it in simplicity, purity, and innocence. (trans. Rossi 1987:34-45)

Noah's flood played a central role in Burnet's theory since it completely changed the face of the earth and turned the ubiquitous paradise into the earth as we know it: a globe with seas, mountains, and valleys -- "the image or picture of a great Ruine" and "a World lying in its rubbish" (Burnet 1694:193).10

If the Sacred Theory had tried to reconstruct the earth's golden age before the deluge by investigating the results of the deluge-for example, geological fallout or "rubbish" like mountains-Burnet's Philosophical Archaeology of 1692 attempted an analogous feat, namely, the reconstruction of the wisdom of paradise through the study of its vestiges in the religions and philosophies of the world. As a disciple of Ralph Cudworth, the author of The True Intellectual System of the Universe (J678), who had detected monotheism in just about any religion of the world (including atheism), Burnet was well informed about Egypt and the religions of European antiquity. He was dissatisfied with attempts (such as the one by Pierre-Daniel Huet) to regard all ancient religions as Bible rip offs; yet he also opposed the opinion that the religions of such countries as Egypt and India had arisen without any outside influence. Instead, Burnet opted for a common source of all ancient religions and philosophies and an orderly transmission process:

When we abandon these prejudices we must go back farther to search for the origin of barbaric philosophy. Farther than Moses and farther than Abraham: to the Flood and to Noah, the common father of the Jews and the Gentiles .... Why not believe that from this source, from this original man have descended to posterity, that is to say, to postdiluvian man, those principles of theology and philosophy that can be found among antico-barbarian peoples? (trans. Rossi 1987:39)

Since the "origin and seat of ancient wisdom" had to be traced back to "Noah's bosom, and from there to his sons and their descendants" (Burnet 1694:296), for Burnet "barbaric philosophy" had to form part of ur-wisdom and play a prominent role in his philosophical archaeology. According to him, remnants of such wisdom can be detected not only with the "Indians under whose name several ancient peoples are confusedly comprehended" (p. 297) but also with the Scyths in the North, the Celts and their druids in the West (p. 298), and the Egyptians and Ethiopian gymnosophistae in the South (p. 300). But the religious vestiges of the Indies attracted Burnet's particular interest because "it was there that the postdiluvial men had their first seat and that the origins of mankind's wisdom and writing must be sought" (p. 302). This interest is also apparent in an appendix to Burnet's philosophical archaeology entitled De Brachmanis hodiernis apud Indos, eorumque dogmatibus ("On today's Brachmans in the Indies and their doctrines"), pp. 471-74.

One year after its first publication (1692), this appendix already appeared in an English translation by Charles Blount that publicized Burnet's argument that the modern Brachmins "descended from the ancient Race" as well as Burnet's view of the transmission of Noah's religion to various parts of Asia:

Under the name of Indies, we here comprehend, besides the Chineze Empire, and Kingdom of Indostan, or Dominion of the Great Mogul, the Kingdoms of Siam, of the Malabars, of Cochinchina, of Coromandel, and whatever others are known to us in the East, that have in some measure shaken off their Barbarity. Now in each of these are a certain sort of Philosophers or Divines, and in the Kingdoms of Indostan, Siam and the other adjacent Parts, there are some who seem to be the Progeny of the ancient Brachmins, being different and distinguished from the rest of the People by their Manner and Way of Living, as well as by a Doctrin and Language wholly peculiar to themselves. (trans. Blount 1693:78)

These descendants of the ancient Brachmins are said to have "a certain Cabala, or Body of Learning," that is, a secret doctrine transmitted "from one to the other" that treats "of God, of the World, of the Beginning and Ending of Things, of the Periods of the World, of the Primitive State of Nature, together with its repeated Renovations" (trans. Blount 1693:78).

Focusing on "the Mogul's Kingdom call'd Indostan" that is "extremely large," Burnet honed in on its "Tribe or Order of Men, who bear the Title, and perform the Offices of Sages, Priests or Philosophers" (p. 79):

They have a Language peculiar to themselves, which they call Hanscrit, or the pure Tongue; in this Language they have some very ancient Books, which they call Sacred, and say were given by God to the Great Prophet Brahma; as formerly the Law of the Israelites was to Moses. Athan. Kircher gives you an Alphabet of this Brachmins Language, written by the Hand of Father Henry Roth, who for several Years in the Indies apply'd himself to the learning of Brachmins. And in this they not only write and conceal their Divinity, but also their Opinions in Philosophy of all Kinds: besides the metempsychosis, and the epoche empsychon, which are Opinions of a very ancient Date. (Burnet 1694:471-72; trans. Blount 1693:79-80)

The descendants of the ancient Brachmins in India and the surrounding Asian countries have a striking resemblance to Egyptian priests: like their Egyptian counterparts who encoded and concealed their monotheist doctrine in hieroglyphs, the Brachmins "conceal their Divinity" in a tightly guarded secret language (Sanscrit, or in Burnet's spelling Hanscrit). Furthermore, both clergies have particular doctrines regarding the soul and its transmigration- which form the core teachings associated by Burnet with the "oriental doctrine." But as an attentive reader of Kircher and Bernier, Burnet was also familiar with a second ancient, secret teaching of the Brachmins about the origin and the end of the world: "They likewise Philosophize after the manner of the Ancients, upon the Creation of the Universe, together with its end and Destruction; for they explain these Things by the Efflux or Emanation of all things from God, and by their Reflux or Restoration into him again: But this they propound in a Cabalistical Mythological way" (trans. Blount 1693:80). Burnet here refers to the allegory of the spider and its cosmic web as reported in Kircher and Bernier:

For they feign a certain immense Spider to be the first Cause of all Things, and that she, with the Matter she exhausted out of her own Bowels, spun the Web of this whole Universe, and then disposed of it with a most wonderful Art: whilst she herself in the mean time sitting on the Top of her Work, feels, rules and governs the Motion of each part. At last, when she has sufficiently pleas'd and diverted her self in adorning and contemplating her own Web, she retracts the Threads she had unfolded, and swallows them up again into her self; whereby the whole Nature of Things created vanishes into nothing. (p. 80)

Noting that -- provided that "taking off the fabulous Shell, we go to the Kernel" -- this idea of emanation from and return to One does not differ much from the opinions of other ancients, Burnet encourages his readers to find out more about this "in Henry Lord, F Bernier, and other Travellers, who have more diligently enquired into their Literature" (pp. 80-81). He also adduces the ideas of "Siamese Brachmins" about the end of the world through fire from Guy Tachard's Relation of the voyage to Siam (1687h688) and notes their agreement with his theory:

Tis really a most wonderful thing that a Nation half barbarous should have retained these Opinions from the very times of Noah: for they could not have arrived to a Knowledge of these things any other way, than by Tradition; nor could this Tradition Bow from any other Spring, than Noah, and the Antediluvian Sages. (Burnet 1694:473; trans. Blount 1693:82)

Burnet identified several additional features of ancient oriental wisdom in the book of Abraham Roger (1651) and claimed that they confirm his theory:

Now they affirm that there are several Worlds which do at one and the same time exist in divers Regions of the Universe: and that there are several successive ones; for that the same World is destroyed and renewed again according to certain Periods of Time. They say also that our Terrestrial World began by a certain Golden Age, and will perish by Fire. Lastly, they retain the Doctrin of the Ovum Mundanum comparing the World to an Egg; as did the ancients both Greeks and Barbarians. (Burnet 1694:473; trans. Blount 1693:83)

In China Burnet found a similar comparison of the world to an egg, but he doubted that the Chinese "derived their Philosophy of History from the Brachmins" even though they reportedly value Indian letters highly, regard the Indian's "secret Alphabet" as sacred and extremely ancient, and use it "to inscribe them on their idols" (trans. Blount 1693:84). However, Burnet lamented that much of the old glory of Asia was only found in secret teachings and ancient texts. Though "by Tradition from their Ancestours" there remain "some Footsteps of the most ancient Tenents" among Asia's "Modern Pagans," Burnet could not but "pitty the Eastern World" and lament that "the place which was the first habitation of wise men, and one day a most flourishing Emporium for Learning should for some ages past have been changed into a wretched Barbarity," leading him to pray to God that Europe "may not undergo the same Vicissitude" (pp. 85-86).

Essential facets of Burnet's notion of Oriental wisdom (sapientia orientalis) are the distinction of exoteric and esoteric knowledge and the use of a sacred language (in India: Sanskrit) for the latter; the progression from a golden age to degeneration and regeneration; emanation from oneness to multiplicity and the return of multiplicity to oneness; ancient revelation and its transmission; the notion of a world egg and cycles of creation and destruction of multiple worlds; and the idea of a world soul and of metempsychosis. In his view, the vestiges of this sapientia orientalis could serve as signposts for the reconstruction of antediluvial or early postdiluvial religion, an idea that reverberated in the writings of various eighteenth-century authors from John Toland and Andrew Ramsay to William Jones and Thomas Maurice.

Among the authors who amply quoted Burnet's Philosophical Archaeology were also Pierre Bayle and Johann Jakob Brucker, the two authors Diderot most heavily relied on when writing his articles on Asian religion in the first volumes of the Encyclopedie. Major features of Burnet's sapientia orientalis -- the ideas of emanation, of a world soul, of transmigration, and of mystical annihilation and return to oneness -- are all present in Diderot, who criticized some of them along the lines of intellectual heavyweights like Bayle and Johann Lorenz von Mosheim. Some critics tended, as we have observed, to emphasize the exclusive role of the Hebrews and to line up Asian religions on an axis of idolatry reaching from Egypt -- which often was seen as the origin -- via India to China and Japan. Others, by contrast, believed like Burnet that the Orient harbors genuine vestiges of primeval god-given wisdom and assumed a transmission of it not only to the Hebrews but also to other ancient people. This more inclusivist group included, as we have seen, many missionaries including Ricci, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg, and the authors of the Ezour-vedam (see Chapter 7). Of course, they were, on another level, usually also exclusivists since they tended to believe in Christianity as the sole path to salvation. We will see in subsequent chapters that the idea of a "doctrina oriental is" or an "oriental system" played an important role in the genesis of modern Orientalism. These possible vestiges of humankind's oldest religion were deemed most important subjects of study, and such study necessitated the systematic study of ancient oriental languages and texts.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 3 of 3

Diderot's Oriental Blend

As explained at the beginning of this chapter, Diderot's encyclopedia article on the "Bramines" (1751:2.393-94) portrays them as "priests of the god Fo" who "principally revere three things, the god Fo, his law, and the books containing their constitutions." His description of these priests combines characteristics of Fo's esoteric teaching (as reported by Japan and China missionaries) with facets of Indian religions, for example, the doctrines of emanation, cosmic illusion (maya), and ascetic quietism as described by Bernier. According to Diderot, the Brahmin priests of Fo "assert that the world is nothing but an illusion, a dream, a magic spell, and that the bodies, in order to be truly existent, have to cease existing in themselves, and to merge into nothingness, which due to its simplicity amounts to the perfection of all beings" (trans. Halbfass 1990:59-60). Thrown into the blender were also some lumps from missionary reports about Zen as well as the Forty-Two Sections Sutra (see next chapter), for example, the notion that "saintliness consists in willing nothing, thinking nothing, feeling nothing, and removing one's mind so far from any idea, even that of virtue, that the perfect quietude of the soul stays unaltered" (Diderot 1751:2.393).11 Diderot's Brahmins pretend, as in Kircher, to have sprung from the head of the god Brahma, to possess "ancient books that they call sacred," and to have preserved the ancient language of these texts (p. 393). Diderot also associates these "Brahmin priests of Fo" with some of the doctrines that form the staple of descriptions of Indian religion since Henry Lord (1630) and Abraham Roger (1651).Under Diderot's label of philosophie asiatique, the readers of the Encyclopedie thus found a blend of "Asian" teachings and practices that were all associated with Brahmins who propagated the religion of Fo.

Such is the background of Diderot's famous "mixup." But what was the immediate source for his notion that the Brahmins are priests of Fo? It was Bayle's article on the Brachmanes that -- apart from much information from Europe's classical sources (Bayle 1702:1.689-91) -- furnishes the following information:

The Brachmanes still subsist in the Orient. The third sect which is current among the Chinese can be called the Religion of the Brachmanes or Bramenes, and they give themselves this name. These are the priests who revere principally three things: the God Fo, his law, and the books containing his particular regulations. They have bizarre sentiments about nothingness and morals that show much conformity with the visions of our quietists. (p. 691)

Much of Diderot's "Oriental blend" philosophy was thus already present in Bayle's 1702 description of the Brachmanes who remained in India:

The report of Father Tachard shows that the Brachmanes or Bramines of Bengal lead a very austere life, walk barefoot and with uncovered head on the burning sand, and live from herbs alone. The Brachmanes of Hindostan have very ancient books that they call sacred and pretend that God gave to the great prophet Brahma. They preserve the language in which these books are written and make exclusive use of them in their theological and philosophical explanations. By such means they prevent the common people from knowing them. They believe in metempsychosis and eat no meat. They say that the production of the world consisted in that all things came out of God and that the universe will perish through the return of these things to their first origin. A spider serves as emblem to explain this opinion. (p. 692)

In turn, Bayle's description is reminiscent of one of his main sources, namely, Bernier's report of "the almost universal doctrine of the Gentile Pendets of the Indies" which is also "held by the sect of the Soufys and the greater part of the learned men of Persia at the present day" (Bernier 2005:346). However, based on information by Guy Tachard and Thomas Burnet, Bayle also located such Brachmanes or Brahmins in Thailand:

The Brachmanes of Siam believe that the first humans were taller than those of today and lived several centuries without any illness; that our earth will one day perish through fire; and that from its ashes another world will be born where there will be no sea and no vicissitudes of seasons but an eternal spring. (Bayle 1702:1.692)

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the notion of an extremely large pan-Asiatic religion with exoteric and esoteric branches and with many local variations was apparently already well ensconced. But a religion with many millions of believers and with a huge clergy in India, China, and their surrounding countries obviously also had to have something like a bible. Bayle's Brahmins possess sacred scriptures in the ancient sacred language of India, Sanskrit, so it is a safe bet that by these scriptures Bayle meant the Vedas. These Vedas would therefore be the books containing the laws and particular regulations of Fo followed by the Brahmins of India, China, and other regions of Asia. For a European familiar with the transmission and translation history of the Bible, it would only be natural to assume that the Chinese Brahmin priests of Fo had translated the sacred scriptures of their religion into Chinese and would thus have Chinese translations of the Vedas. We will see in the next chapter that this is exactly what Joseph de Guignes proposed in the 177os, and Chapter 7 will show an altogether surprising outgrowth of this same thought. But at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when Bayle wrote his article about the Brachmanes, so little was known about the Vedas and about China's Brahmin priests of Fo that such speculation was not yet possible.

Unlike Diderot, Bayle clearly identified his direct source of what modern scholars have called "the mixup": the Histoire de L'edit de L'empereur de la Chine (1698) by Charles LE GOB1EN(1671-1708).12 Its unpaginated preface presents a brief description of the four "sects" of China: (1) ancient monotheism; (2) Neo-Confucianism; (3) "the religion of the Brachmanes or Bramenes"; and (4) "the religion of the Bonzes" (Daoism). What interests us here is China's third religion. Le Gobien's description of it begins in a way that should by now sound familiar:

The third religion current among the Chinese is the religion of the Brachmanes or Bramenes, and they give it themselves this name. Because Polomen, [the word] they use, is the Bramen of the Indians that they could not pronounce and that they apparently travestied in their language. Nevertheless, they ordinarily call these false priests Hochan [Ch. heshang, Reverend], which signifies people united from various countries. These priests revere principally three things: the God Fo, his law, and the books containing their particular regulations. (Le Gobien 1698; unpaginated preface)

Le Gobien thus unequivocally identifies the Brahmans -- or Polomen, as the Chinese call them -- as priests of Fo and uses the very terms later adopted by his readers Bayle and Diderot.13 Le Gobien reports that the enemies of these Polomen, the Neoconfucian philosophers of China, are particularly indignant that "these Bramenes maintain that the world is only an illusion, a dream, a semblance." In order truly to exist, they assert, one must cease to be oneself and "confound oneself with nothingness which by virtue of its simplicity represents the perfection of all Beings." Their morality is described as "even more outrageous than that of our Stoics":

They push this apathy or indifference, to which they attribute all their sanctitude, so far that one must turn to stone or become a statue to acquire perfection. Nor only do they teach that the sage must not have any passion, bur he may not even have any desire. Thus he must continually apply himself to will nothing, think of nothing, feel nothing, and to banish any idea of virtue and holiness so thoroughly from his mind that nothing in him is contrary to perfect quietude of the soul. (unpaginated preface)

Once this state is reached, so these Brahmin priests of Fo teach, one is no more subject to change and metempsychosis: "For him there is no more transmigration, no more vicissitude, no more fear of the future, because he is in the proper sense nothing; or, if one wants that he still is something, he is sage, perfect, happy -- in a word, he is God and perfectly similar to the God Fo: which definitely is a bit crazy" (unpaginated preface).

In his article on "Asiatic philosophy," Diderot connected the teachings of the "Persian Sufis whom he [Bernier] names cabalistes," with those of "the Pendets, heathen of the Indies" and "the doctrine of Xekia." The latter's esoteric teaching of "the origin of things through emanations from a first cause," in turn, is said to have influenced Jewish kabbalists and their idea of "En-soph or the first infinite being which contains all things" and "distributes itself through emanation" (Diderot 1751:1.752-54).

Whether it was conceived as a vestige of ancient monotheism or a poisonous seed of paganism, around the beginning of the eighteenth century the idea of a pan-Asian doctrine linked to the founder figure Fo or Xaca had taken root in Europe. Sieur de la Crequiniere's argument about Fo's profound influence even in the West is an early symptom of a reversal of traditional eurocentric scenarios: he explained in his Agreement of the Customs of the East-Indians with those of the Jews (1704),

'Tis pretended, that the Cabala has taken a great part of its Follies from the Philosophy of Phoe, which we mention'd in the Article of Metempsychosis: And in this confus'd Heap of Rabbinism and Magick, something is discover'd, that comes near to the Doctrine of the Learned Chinese, concerning Heaven and the Etherial Matter, into which Phoe said that the Souls were resolv'd, after their separation from the Body: For if this Philosopher believ'd, that our Souls are dispers'd in the Air, of which according to him they are Part, the Cabalists had no less strange Idea's about the Marter of which the Heaven is fram'd; they believe this Matter to be animated, and pretend that the Queen of Heaven, Regina Coeli, mention'd in Jerem. C. 44. is the Soul of this Material Heaven which appears to our Eyes. 'Tis thought also, that the Cabala deriv'd many things from Plato's Philosophy, which is deduc'd from that of Phoe. (Crequiniere 1999:102-3)

Here Pythagoras is no more the teacher who introduces his Indian students to the idea of transmigration. Rather, the reader is bound to imagine Pythagoras sitting at the feet of the Brahmin priests of Fo in India before returning to Greece and imparting such wisdom to his fellow Greek philosophers. Crequiniere, a traveler who had sojourned in India, in effect suggests that Fo's religion not only conquered most of Asia but also infected some movements in Judaism and Greek philosophy, thus turning even the divine Plato, whose philosophy was blossoming anew among the Cambridge Platonists, into a follower of Fo. This was just one of the early signs of a trend to locate the origins of human culture and religion in India. It is exactly this trend -- boosted by the likes of Voltaire, Abbe Vincent Mignot, John Zephaniah Holwell, and Louis-Mathieu Langles -- that formed the soil for the "indomania" of the second half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

Toland's Twofold Philosophy

Frank Manuel's chapter on the English deists' "two-fold philosophy" in his thought-provoking study The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods (1959:65- 69) shows little awareness of the influence of missionary literature from Asia but correctly describes the popularity of this idea:

In one form or another the double-truth doctrine was entertained by episcopal worthies like Warburton, avowed pantheists like Toland, cautious philosophical sceptics like Hume, grand Deist lords like Bolingbroke, abbes like Le Batteux, scholarly authors who specialized in the mystery cults like Sainte-Croix, that most outrageous materialist Dr. La Memie, the most popular orthodox scientific writer, Abbe Pluche, the revolutionary atheist Charles Dupuis. Wherever a sounding is made one comes upon the idea that there were always two pagan religions: gross polytheism, with human sacrifices, brute-worship, even cabbage-worship, for the masses; secret monotheism, a religion of virtue, love, adoration of the First Cause, for an elite. (pp. 65-66)

Yet the material presented so far in this book indicates that the European discovery of Asian religions, and in particular the deeply intertwined discoveries of Hinduism and Buddhism, played a major role in the exploding popularity of such views. The earliest nonclassical source for this double-truth doctrine adduced by Frank Manuel is the Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth who "in 1678 already described the simultaneous existence among the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Indians of a 'Vulgar and Fabulous Theory and an Arcane and Recondite Theology'" -- a doctrine Out of which "Toland made a program of action" (p. 67). But we have seen that Valignano's Catechism us christianae fidei of 1586 had already presented both the theory and a program of action; and one might argue that Renaissance writers like Marsilio Ficino and Giordano Bruno (who touted hermetic texts of "Egyptian" pedigree) had analogous agendas. Yet this does not diminish the validity of Manuel's point that what he calls "the twofold philosophy" or "the double-truth doctrine" played a central role in the deist movement and the eighteenth-century European perception of religion in general. In particular, Manuel highlighted the importance of John TOLAND (1670-1722), "a magnificent stylist whose pungent writings in Latin and translations from the English dominated the continental debate for more than a century" and who influenced such eighteenth-century luminaries as Voltaire and David Hume (p. 66). It is probably no mere coincidence that Toland's first extensive discussion of this theme occurs in his Letters to Serena (1704), a book that appeared while he was working on the English translation of La Crequiniere's 1704 work. Toland did not subscribe to Crequiniere's idea of Fo's role and the Indian origin of the notion of an immortal soul that led to the conception of transmigration. Rather, he advocated an Egypt-based scenario:

Thus have I shown you, Madam, how this Opinion of the Souls Immortality, and the Consequences of the same, was introduc'd from the Egyptians among the Grecians, spread by the latter in their Colonys in Asia and Europe, and deliver'd to the Romans, who from the Greeks had their Religion and Laws. I mark'd the Progress of it among the Scythians, Germans, Gauls, and Britains. I have likewise prov'd how from Egypt, the Place of its Birth, it travel'd to the Chaldaeans and Indians, and from them over all the Eastern Parts of the World. (Toland 1704:52-53)

Toland's description of heathen legislators-who "did not believe it themselves" while teaching to common people that the wicked would be punished in the other life and the good rewarded-has a close match in ideas about Fo from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Indeed, Toland's description of Pythagoras's double teachings is eerily reminiscent of the Buddha's deathbed "confession":

Pythagoras himself did not believe the Transmigration which has made him so famous to Posterity; for in the internal or secret Doctrin he meant no more than the eternal Revolution of Forms in Matter, those ceasless Vicissitudes and Alterations, which turn every thing into all things, and all things into any thing, as Vegetables and Animals become part of us, we become part of them, and both become parts of a thousand other things in the Universe, earth turning into Water, Water into Air, Air into Aether, and so back again in Mixtures without End or Number. But in the external or popular Doctrin he impos'd on the Mob by an equivocal Expression, that they shou'd become various kinds of Beasts after Death, thereby to deter 'em the more effectually from Wickedness. (p. 57)

However, for Toland the origin of such doctrines still lay in Egypt rather than India. He proclaimed that he could "with very small pains ... manifestly prove that in Egypt Men had first, long before others, arriv'd at the various beginnings of Religions" (p. 70) and outlined a genealogy of religion that proceeded from the roots of Egyptian superstition in the worship of the dead (p. 72) to the institution of priestcraft (p. 101), the invention of hell (p. 105), the cult of saints (p. 123), and various other customs that show "how almost in every corner of the world Religion and Truth cou'd be chang'd into Superstition and Priestcraft" (p. 129). The gist of Toland's deist genealogy of religion is, as he put it, "elegantly comprehended in those four Lines which are in everybody's mouth" (pp. 129-30):

Natural Religion was easy first and plain,
Tales made it Mystery, Offrings made it Gain;
Sacrifices and Shows were at length prepar'd,
The Priests ate Roast-meat, and the People star'd.

Kaempfer's Oriental Paganism

In the light of such Egypt-based or Egypt-related genealogies of religion, it is hardly surprising that the founder of Asian idolatry and propagator of transmigration and the twofold doctrine should eventually get a genuinely Egyptian pedigree. Athanasius Kircher's idea of an axis of idolatry linking Egyptian origins to a pan-Asiatic religion propagated by the India-based Xaka or Shaka (Shakyamuni Buddha) was particularly potent. Fifty years after Kircher and in spite of much more accurate conjectures about the religion of the followers of Buddha, Mathurin Veyssiere de La Croze also had ideas about the Egyptian origin of this religion that resemble Kircher's. The same is true for another reader of Kircher who became one of Diderot's main sources, the German Engelbert KAEMPFER (1651-1716) who died eight years before La Croze's book was published. After his departure from Sweden in 1681 at age 30, the well-educated Kaempfer had honed his skills as an observer of Asian countries and cultures during srays of more than four years in Persia, six months in southwest India (1688), a year in Indonesia (1689-90), and one month in Siam (1690). In Siam, Kaempfer had the unique chance of observing Thai Buddhism immediately before embarking for Japan. Though his sojourn in Japan lasted only two years (September 1690 to October 1692) and was mostly spent confined to a trading post on the Dejima island off Nagasaki, Kaempfer was very successful in collecting information about the secluded country. Much of his extraordinarily detailed (and more often than not surprisingly accurate) information about Japan's religion and history stemmed from a very knowledgeable Japanese servant and interpreter, Imamura Gen'emon Eisei (Katagiri 1995, Van der Velde 1995). The role of Asian informants in Europe's budding Orientalism was absolutely crucial, and Imamura is only one figure in a long line of knowledgeable natives that include Ziegenbalg's Aleppa, Etienne Fourmont's Huang, and Prince Dara's/Bernier's Indian pandir. Imamura and some other Japanese collaborators supplied Kaempfer nor only with oral information but also with a number of Japanese books; and since he knew little Japanese, he had them translate relevant portions into Dutch. Kaempfer's extant notebooks in the British Library show that translations and transliterations from Japanese sources were made with the utmost care and formed a solid basis for his redactions between his return to Europe in 1693 at age 42 and his death in 1716 at age 65.

In 1694 Kaempfer submitted a dissertation at Leiden University and was awarded a doctorate, and in 1712 he published a long-awaited, richly illustrated 900-page work called Amoenitates Exoticae. In its preface he also mentions a finished manuscript about Japan, but after his death in 1716, that manuscript lay unpublished among his belongings. After its sale to the learned collector Hans Sloane in London, it was translated into English by a young Swiss doctor of philosophy, Johann Caspar Scheuchzer. Scheuchzer's qualifications, apart from his mastery of English, consisted in a famous naturalist father and a dissertation about, of all things, the biblical deluge. But he was a quick study, and his beautifully illustrated English translation of Kaempfer's Japan manuscript was published in 1727.14 For half a century, all subsequent translations into other languages (including French and German) were based on this English version rather than Kaempfer's German manuscripts.15 On the European continent the French version of 1729 was particularly influential; it not only deeply marked Diderot and his fellow encyclopedists but also Voltaire, Kant, Herder, and many other luminaries of the age of Enlightenment.

A thorough evaluation of Kaempfer's knowledge about Asian religions and his influence on European perceptions would necessitate a detailed comparison of the extant manuscript of his Japan work (British Library, Sloane 3060) 16 with various translations and editions and especially also with his notes and his Japanese textual sources (Imai 1982). This would be a worthy subject for a monograph. Here the focus will be on Kaempfer's impact on Diderot, an attentive reader of the French version of 1729. Kaempfer's opening chapter was of particular importance. Right at the beginning of his book, the doctor takes his description of Siamese religion as an occasion to present his views about the origin and character of "Oriental paganism" ("Orientalisches Heydenthumb"). In Scheuchzer's translation, however, Kaempfer's introductory chapter is preceded by an account from Kaempfer's diary of the journey from Batavia to Siam. Kaempfer's first translator thus took the liberty of creating a first chapter from extraneous materials and relegating Kaempfer's opening chapter, edited and with some added material,17 to secondary status. Scheuchzer's habit of "improving" Kaempfer has made him the target of severe critique. The new English translation of Kaempfer's Japan book by the best informed of these critics, Beatrice Bodart-Bailey (1999), is generally more reliable than Scheuchzer's. But it introduced a new kind of tampering with Kaempfer's text that may be even more detrimental to the understanding of his view of Asian religions. Claiming that Kaempfer did not plan to include the opening chapter with his description of Siam in the Japan book and that this was Scheuchzer's idea (p. 34), Bodan-Bailey translated only a few lines. But there is no way around the fact that Kaempfer's extant manuscript at the British Library opens with the chapter on Siam (fols. 27r-45v) in which the author not only describes Thai Buddhism but also presents an overall vision of Asian religions that furnishes the context for his portrayal of Japanese religions. Kaempfer's interest in origins and in the history of religions is also apparent in the first book's fifth chapter ("On the origin of the inhabitants") that includes the doctor's reflections on the origin of Japan's religions. Interestingly, that chapter was also considered unfit for translation by Bodart-Bailey who only rendered Kaempfer's tantalizing summary:

Summarizing, we may say that in the first age of plurality after the Babylonian discord of minds and languages, at a time when the Greeks, Goths, Slaves, and Celts left for Europe, when others scattered and spread in Asia, while still others even entered America, the Japanese set out on their journey. Perhaps wandering for many years and suffering great deprivation, they finally reached this furthest corner of the earth. Therefore, according to their roots and earliest beginnings, the Japanese must be regarded as an independent nation, owing nothing to the Chinese with respect to their origins. Even though they adopted their code of conduct, liberal arts, and learning -- as the Latin people did from the Greek -- they never accepted a conqueror or hegemon from China or any other nation in the world. (Bodarr-Bailey 1999:50)

Kaempfer's interesting argument that the Japanese do not stem from the Chinese and came directly from Babylon rests on two main pillars: language and religion. According to Kaempfer, language is "without dispute the most certain indicator of the origin of peoples" (British Library, Sloane 3060:74r-v); but religion comes as a close second. Due to Bodart-Bailey's misguided censorship, readers of English are even today forced to refer to Scheuchzer's translation of this chapter, which contains the following explanation about Japanese Shinto and Buddhism ("Bupo"):

The old, and probably, original Religion of the Japanese, which is by them call'd Sintos,18 and the Gods and Idols, worship'd by its adherents, Sin, and Came,19 is peculiar only to this Empire, nor hath it ever been admitted of, nor their Gods acknowledged and worship'd, nor the religious way of life of the Japanese followed by the Chinese, or indeed any other heathen Nation. It was the only one establish'd in Japan during a succession of many ages. For the foreign pagan doctrine of Siaka, which the Japanese now call Bupo, or Budsdo,20 and the Gods which it commands to worship, Buds and Fotoge,21 tho' ever since its early beginnings it met with uncommon success, and speedily spread over the best part of Asia, yet it was not introduc'd into Japan till sixty years after our Saviour's nativity under the reign of the Emperor Synnin, when it was brought over from Corea. (Kaempfer 1906:I.137)22

Leaving aside Kaempfer's confusion of Buddhism's legendary introduction to China around 60 C.E. (as described in the preface of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra) with its arrival in Japan, we note that Kaempfer contrasts Shinto, the "old, and probably, original Religion of the Japanese," with the "foreign pagan doctrine of Siaka," that is, Buddhism. Based on biblical authority, Kaempfer surmised that Shinto must be rooted in ancient Babylonian religion:

If then our Japanese Colony did reach that part of the World, which Divine providence assign'd for their future abode, as soon as the Chinese, Tunquinese, and other neighbouring Nations did theirs, it must be suppos'd that they fortunately fell in with such a road, as could with safety and speed bring them to the Eastern extremities of Asia, from whence there is but a short passage over to Japan. In order therefore to trace out what road it is probable they took, we must consider the first Babylonians in the condition, they were in, after that dreadful confusion of Languages. (p. 139)

Kaempfer's opening chapter thus traces not only his own path to Japan but also that of the entire Japanese people and its religions. While warning that these were "conjectures, for as such only I deliver them" (p. 146), Kaempfer opted for an itinerary of the ancient Japanese from Mesopotamia through eastern Tartary and the Country of Jeso (which supposedly linked northern Japan's isles to the continent and possibly even to America).

At any rate, Kaempfer traced the Japanese people and their language straight to the biblical Babylon:

The difficulty now remaining to be clear'd up, is, how, and from what parts of the world, to trace out their true original descent. In order to do this we must go up higher, and perhaps it is not inconsistent with reason, and the nature of things, to assert, that they are descended of the first Inhabitants of Babylon, and that the Japanese language is one of those, which Sacred Writs mention, that the all-wise Providence hath thought fit, by way of punishment and confusion, to infuse into the minds of the vain builders of the Babylonian Tower. This at least seems to me the most probable conjecture, whatever way they went to Japan, or whatever time they spent upon this their first peregrination. (p. 138)

Japan's ancient Shinto religion was also given a Babylonian pedigree. Like the ancient Persians and other neighboring nations, the Chaldean denizens of the region around Babylon worshiped "the Luminaries of the Heavens, particularly the Sun, and the Fire, as being its Image" (p. 66).

For as it cannot be suppos'd, that these sensible Nations liv'd without any Religion at all, like the brutal Hottentots, it is highly probable, that they rever'd the divine Omnipotence by worshiping, according to the Custom of the Chaldeans, the Sun, and other Luminaries of the Firmament, as such parts of the Creation, which most strike the outward senses, and fill the understanding with the admiration of their unconceivable proprieties. (p. 66)

Kaempfer also deemed it "probable" that the ancient Indians "had the same kind of worship with the neighbouring Chaldeans and Persians" (p. 66). If much of ancient Asia between Mesopotamia, India, and Japan "rever'd the divine Omnipotence" through sidereal worship and a symbolic fire cult, one must assume that Kaempfer thought it once was (at least to some degree) the home of a monotheist religion. However, about six centuries before Christ's birth another religion with roots in ancient Egypt began to sweep the continent. First India and then large parts of Asia including Tartary, Tibet, Burma, Siam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Korea, and Japan were invaded by this religion that Kaempfer calls "general paganism" (p. 63) or "Eastern Paganism" (p. 66). It "is to be distinguished" from the sun and fire worship of Chaldaea which has a semblance of monotheism" (p. 63) and has "two articles ... which were most religiously maintained": "the Transmigration of Souls, and a Veneration for Cows, particularly for the holy Cow at Memphis, call'd Apis, or Serapis, which had divine honours paid her, and was serv'd by Priests" (p. 67):

Both these Articles are still observed by the Asiatick Heathens, particularly those that inhabit the West-side of the Ganges; for no body there dares to kill the least and most noxious Insects, as being animated by some transmigrated human Soul; and the Cows, whose Souls they think are by frequent transmigrations, as it were, deified, are serv'd and attended with great veneration, their Dung being burnt to ashes is turn'd into holy Salve, their Urine serves for holy Water, the Image of a Cow possesses a peculiar Chapel before their Temples, is every day honour'd with fresh flowers, and hath sweet-scented oyl poured upon her. (p. 67)

Since Kaempfer had spent half a year in southwest India, he was familiar with such customs and had also observed the veneration of human monsters (such as Ganesha with his elephant head). But how had such "Egyptian" forms of worship reached far-away India? As a careful reader of Athanasius Kircher, Kaempfer was thoroughly familiar with the notion of a pagan axis stretching from Egypt to Japan and also knew that Kircher's main culprit was a man called Xaca. Furthermore, he had read in Kircher's China illustrata (1667) that some Egyptian gods are worshipped all over Asia and that such cults were brought to India after the invasion of Egypt by Cambyses:

The statues of the gods were pounded into dust. The great obelisks were overthrown. Apis, the greatest Egyptian god, a sacred bull who was cared for in a certain enclosure, was killed by Cambyses himself. The whole crowd of priests and hieromants was cut to pieces or destroyed in the same fire that ruined their hieroglyphic monuments, or they were driven into exile. Since the land routes were filled with bands of the enemy who would not allow them safe passage, they finally made their way along the Arabian Gulf, which borders on Egypt, and so reached India, today called Hindustan. (Kircher 1987:141)

This is how "the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls from animal to animal, was first spread to the world by the Egyptians" (p. 141). According to Kircher, the Egyptian priests and hieromants found in their Indian exile "a very sinful Brahmin" who "was not content just to spread the doctrine but even added to it so much that there is scarcely any one who is able to describe the doctrine or to write about it." Kircher had identified this person as the "imposter known allover the East" and explained that "the Indians called him Rama, the Chinese Xe Kian, the Japanese Xaca, and the Turks Chiaga" (p. 141). He reportedly had as many as 80,000 disciples who spread his noxious teachings all over Asia.

Thus prepared, Kaempfer saw during his sojourn in Siam many statues of the founder of this huge religion. Noting his usual sitting posture with crossed legs and particular positions of his hands, he had no doubt that this man-whom the Siamese call Prah (saint), Prahpuditsau (saint of high descent), Sammana Khutama (the Man without Passions), Budha, Putha, etc. -- is identical with the divinity venerated in other parts of Asia under various names: Budhum in Ceylon; Sacka, or Siaka, Fotoge, or Si Tsun in Japan and China; and so on (p. 64). However, discrepancies regarding the period in which this founder lived led Kaempfer to conjecture that there must have been two such founder figures. The older figure, whom the Indians regard as an incarnation of the god Vishnu, was called Budhum or Budha. Probably a mythological figure, as the dates of 100,000 or 20,000 years B.C.E. indicate, he is represented as a man with four arms sitting on a Tarate flower and "praising the supreme God ever since 21,639 years (reckoning from the present 1690 year of Christ)" (p. 65). The younger figure, on the other hand, is the "God Prah, or Siaka," described in "whole Books full of the birth, life, and miracles" (p. 65).

Kaempfer explains how he came up with his innovative two-Buddha theory:

I am at a loss how to reconcile these various and opposite accounts, which I have gather'd in the abovesaid Countries, unless by supposing, what I really think to be the true opinion, viz. that the Siamites and other Nations lying more Easterly have confounded a younger Teacher with Budha and mistaken the former with the latter, which confusion of the Gods and their names is very frequent in the Histories of the Greeks and Egyptians; so that Prah or Siaka, is not the same with Budha, much less with Ram, or Rama, as he is call'd by Father Kircher in his Sina Illustrata, the latter having appear'd many hundred thousand years before, but that he was some new Impostor who set up about five hundred years before Christ's nativity. (pp. 65-66)

Subsequent "two-Buddha" theories such as the one proposed by Agostino Giorgi in 1762 (App 2008a:I8-20) also had the aim of reconciling discrepancies of dating and descriptions of the founder figure. Building on the erudite fantasies of Kircher and noting that the Thai date of the Buddha's birth matches exactly that of Cambyses's invasion of Egypt, Kaempfer transformed Kircher's sinful Brahmin Xaca into a curly-haired Memphis priest of the sixth century B.C.E. Fascinated by the dark color, curly hair, and "Egyptian" lotus base of the founder's statues, Kaempfer favored -- against all Asian evidence pointing to Ceylon, India, or Siam -- an African origin of the "younger" Buddha. If Giorgi's two Buddhas went on to confuse such eminent men as the Orientalist William Jones, the geographer Carl Ritter, and the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, Kaempfer's pioneer version also had a brilliant career as it found its way into many publications23 including the Encyclopedie.

Seduced by Kaempfer's "Egyptian" theory, Diderot summarized in his article on the philosophy of the Asiatics the four main points of Kaempfer's argument as follows:

1. The religion which the inhabitants of the Indies received from this legislator is very much connected with that of the ancient Egyptians because all these peoples represented their gods in the form of animals and monstrous humans.

2. The two principal dogmas of Egyptian religion were the transmigration of souls and the cult of Serapis whom they represented in the form of a bull or a cow. Now it is certain that these two dogmas also form the basis of the religion of the Asian nations .... What is remarkable is that the closer these barbarian nations are located to Egypt, the more they are attached to these two dogmas.

3. One finds with all these peoples of East Asia the majority of Egyptian divinities, though under different names.

4. What confirms Kaempfer's conjecture above all is that 536 years B.C. Cambyses the king of Persia invaded Egypt, killed Apis ... and chased all the priests from the land. Now if one examines the chronology of the Siamese which begins with the death of Xekia, one sees that it coincides precisely with the time of Cambyses's expedition, which makes it very probable that Xekia got refuge with the Indians and taught them his Egyptian doctrine. (Diderot 1751:1.755)

Diderot was so utterly convinced by Kaempfer's arguments that he concluded that "there is no room whatsoever to doubt that Xekia was African and that he taught the Indians the dogmas he himself had drawn from Egypt" (p. 755). For Diderot as for Kircher and Kaempfer, the figure of Xaca/Xekia/Buddha thus became the very incarnation of Egyptian origins, complete with "frizzy hair like a negro" (Kaempfer 1729:33). In their view, the journey of this Memphis priest to India in the sixth century B.C.E. had a fatal effect on the religious landscape of Asia. Apart from introducing the ancient Indians (who originally worshiped God in the symbolic form of sun and stars) to the veneration of animals and the belief in transmigration, his fame led to the fatal mixup of the younger "Egyptian" Shaka with the older "Indian" Budha. It was this mixup that fueled the explosive growth of the religion that Kaempfer called "Oriental paganism" -- the religion of Buddha. This religion took many different forms as it spread from its Indian base to other countries. Its clergy achieved dominance in large swaths of Asia: the Brahmans in India, the talapoins in Burma and Thailand, the lamas in Tartary, the bonzes in China and Japan, and so forth (Figure 7). Against this background, the first sentence of Kaempfer's description of Siamese religion and Asia's "general paganism" appears in a new light -- as do Diderot's Brahmin priests of Fo:

The Religion of these [Siamese] People is the Pagan Doctrine of the Brahmans, which ever since many Centuries hath been profess'd amongst all Nations from the River Indus to the extremity of the East, except that at the Court of the Grand Mogul, and in his great Cities, as also in Sumatra, Java, Celebes, and other neighboring Islands the Mahometism has gain'd so much ground, that it seems to prevail above it. This general Paganism (which is to be distinguished from the Religion of the old Persians worshipping the Sun, now almost extinct) tho' branch'd our into several Sects and Opinions, according to the various Customs, Languages and Interpretations, yet is of one and the same Origine. The Siamites represent the first Teacher of their Paganism in their Temples, in the figure of a Negro sitting, of a prodigious size, his hair curl'd, the skin black, bur as it were out of respect gilt over, accompanied on each side by one of his chief Companions, as also before and round about him by the rest of his Apostles and Disciples, all of the same colour and most in the same posture. They believe according to the Brahmans, that the Deity dwelt in him, which he prov'd by his Doctrine, Way of Life, and Revelation. (Kaempfer 1906.1:62-63).

Figure 7. Engelbert Kaempfer's view of Asian religions (Urs App).

This conception of "Oriental paganism" -- or, as we would call it today, "Buddhism" -- laid out by Kaempfer in his opening chapter is thus crucial for an understanding of his view of Asian religions including those of Japan. Through his introductory reflections about the pan-Asiatic religion of Budha/Siaka, he laid the groundwork for the understanding of Japan's "Budsdo, or Foreign Pagan Worship" in his Chapter 6:

The origine of this religion, which quickly spread thro' most Asiatick Countries to the very extremities of the East, (not unlike the Indian Figtree, which propagates itself, and spreads far round, by sending down new roots from the extremities of its branches,) must be look'd for among the Brahmines. I have strong reasons to believe, both from the affinity of the name, and the very nature of this religion, that its author and founder is the very same person, whom the Brahmines call Budha, and believe to be an essential part of Wisthnu, or their Deity, who made its ninth appearance in the world under this name, and in the shape of this Man. The Chinese and Japanese call him Buds and Siaka. These two names indeed became in success of time a common Epithet of all Gods and Idols in general, the worship of whom was brought over from other Countries: sometimes also they were given to the Saints and great men, who preach'd them new doctrines. The common people in Siam, call him Prah Pudi Dsai, that is, the Holy Lord, and the learned among them, in their Pali or holy language, Sammona Khodum. The Peguans call him Sammana Khutama. (Kaempfer 1906:2.56-57)

Diderot's Pan-Asiatic Philosophy

Diderot made especially heavy use of Kaempfer's sixth chapter "On Budsdo or the foreign paganism and its founder in general." In its French translation, Diderot read that Budsdo "in its literal sense signifies the way of the foreign idols, i.e., the manner to render a cult to the foreign idols" (Kaempfer 1729:1.208). We have seen above that Diderot's presentation of the esoteric doctrine of the pan-Asiatic religion of "Budda or Xekia" was mainly based on sources stemming from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Jesuit literature as presented by Bayle and Brucker. For the exoteric doctrine of the Brahmin priests of Fo, by contrast, he almost exclusively relied on Kaempfer's description of the Japanese "Budsdo" (Diderot 1751:1.753).

Some of Kaempfer's detailed information about this religion was based on Japanese books and chronicles such as the Dai nihon odaiki.24 But Kaempfer also relied on reports of Japanese informers, personal observation, and the study of European sources after his return to Europe. An example is his biography of Buddhism's founder in which "Safen" (Jap. zazen, seated meditation) and "Satori" (Jap. satori, enlightenment) are mentioned. Kaempfer's description of the founder's teaching does not even mention the widely publicized legend of the founder's deathbed confession and the distinction between exoteric and esoteric teachings. Instead he related the Buddha's life as the Japanese knew it and drew a colorful portrait of the beliefs of popular Japanese Buddhism. His report about the Buddha's exoteric teachings was boiled down to fourteen points by Brucker, and as in the case of the esoteric teachings, Dideror translated Brucker's Latin synthesis of Kaempfer's explanations into French.25

Since no mention was made by Kaempfer of the famous "nothingness" from which everything comes and to which everything returns, Diderot assumed like Brucker that the Budsdo described by Kaempfer corresponds to the "exoteric" teaching of Budda or Xekia, the man who in the Indies "is regarded as the greatest philosopher ever" (Diderot 1751:1.753). Such teachings for the common people (pp. 753-74) begin with the notion that (I) there is a real difference between good and evil and that (2) the souls of men and animals are immortal. Once these souls are separated from their bodies after death, they (3) are rewarded or punished according to their actions. The place of rewards (4) is called "gokurakf" (Jap. gokuraku, paradise), and the rewards are proportional to the accumulated merits during one's lifetime (5). The governor of this place of delights is Amida, "the sole mediator who can obtain for men remission of sins and eternal life" (6).26 Amida gives happiness to those who followed the law of Xekia (7). This law has five precepts that are "very famous in all of South and East Asia" (pp. 753-74): no raking of life, no theft, no incest, no lies, and no intoxication (8). The place of torment, on the other hand, is called "dsigokf" (Jap. jigoku, hell) where punishment is meted out according to the amount and kind of the evil deeds one committed (9). The governor and judge of these horrible prisons (10) is "Jemma O" )Jap. Emma o, King Yama). Those who are tormented in hell can be helped by the prayers of the living and by sacrifices of the clergy addressed to Amida (II) who can to some degree diminish punishments and speed up the transmigration of souls into other bodies (12). Depending on the former deeds, souls can also transmigrate into animal bodies (13), and in the process of purification, they may eventually animate another human body and either grasp the chance of gaining eternal joy in paradise or undergo another cycle of punishment and transmigration (14).

In this light, Diderot's "mixup" of Brahmanism and Buddhism must be reevaluated. His portrait of the "Brahmin priests of Fo" represents an important phase in the European discovery of Buddhism in which some major features of this pan-Asiatic religion gradually emerged. They include information about its founder, his different datings in Southeast Asian and Sino- Japanese Buddhist traditions, clergy in various countries and their practices, some popular beliefs, and bits and pieces of Buddhist texts and philosophy (for example, the "emptiness" of Mahayana thought and the "no-thought" of Zen). Though the name of this religion was by no means fixed, Kaempfer's "Budsdo" (or "Budso" in the French translation of 1729) soon became a convenient label. In Pierre-Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix's History and General Description of Japan (1736), the term "Budsoistes" is already frequently used to refer to the adherents of this religion, for example, in the description of the "great pilgrimage of the Budsoistes" (p. 119) or in the statement that the language of the prayers of this religion "seems older than the introduction of Budso in the empire but was adopted by the Budsoist ministers" (pp. 123-24). The enormous difference between the portrait of this religion in Charlevoix's History of Christianity in the Empire of Japan (1715) -- written before the publication of the works of La Croze (1724) and Kaempfer (1727) -- and his History of 1736 shows the great and immediate impact of these two works and the importance of La Croze and Kaempfer for the construction of its identity in the European mind.

Based on Ziegenbalg's data, La Croze had correctly concluded that the religion of the "disciples of Budda" that reigned in vast stretches of Asia was different from that of the "Brachmanes" and had vanished long ago from India. In this respect La Croze was far ahead of his time. The vast majority of other authors -- for instance, Rodrigues, Kircher, Kaempfer, Charlevoix, and Diderot -- were under the impression that the Buddha's religion was still dominant in India and that its clergy, the Brahmins, had from their Indian base missionized large parts of Asia. From their perspective, India's Brahmins were -- regardless of their ultimate origin -- simply the oldest representatives of a pan-Asiatic religion that in each region had taken on vastly different local coloring. Europeans had no trouble understanding what a difference even a few hundred leagues and a different language can make, and to them it was only natural that an extremely old religion would undergo fundamental changes over such vast time spans and geographical as well as cultural and linguistic chasms.

The described Western discovery of what we call "Buddhism" forms part of a long and complicated process that stretches into our time, and the assertion of some modern writers that European Orientalists "created" or "invented" Buddhism in the first half of the nineteenth century27 is a problem of faulty optics rather than history. The case of Diderot shows once more that the retroprojection of modern knowledge (such as the strict separation of Buddhism from Hinduism) not only is unhelpful for the reconstruction of discovery processes but almost inevitably leads to the kind of "monkey show" treatment mentioned at the outset of this chapter. Diderot was only one of many eighteenth-century luminaries who regarded "Brahmanism" as a form of "oriental paganism" that has many elements congruent with what we today call "Buddhism." Diderot's view presents a snapshot of an important stage in the discovery process.

Of course, some of its aspects, for example, the speculation about Egyptian origins, seem misguided or even ridiculous from today's viewpoint. But in the historical context, this link made a lot of sense; and for us today the Buddha's multifaceted career in the West is, among other things, a looking glass into Europe's evolving worldview and the changing vision of its origins and identity at the intersection where biblical judaeomania and Enlightenment egyptomania met growing indomania. It also shows how many different observations, motivations, and ideas underlie a simple sentence such as Diderot's opening phrase of the "Brahmins" article. The same applies to the twofold doctrine that by the mid-eighteenth century had become the most prominent characteristic of a perceived pan-Asian religion. This rich religious and ideological background is also bound to remain invisible when looking through the coarse lens of preconceived ideas such as Edward Said's Orientalist "colonialism" or Western "exploitation."

In 1787, almost forty years after Diderot's early Encyclopedie articles, the German grandfather of Indomania, Johann Gottfried HERDER (1744-1803), surmised that the "Religion des Schaka" (Shakyamuni Buddha) is the largest religion on earth. Dominant in Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria, Herder saw it also extend far to the South and East:

Also toward the South this religion is widespread; the names Sommona- Kodom, Schakscha-Tuba, Sangol-Muni, Schigemuni, Buddo, Fo, Schekia are all one with Schaka; thus this sacred monastic tradition ... is found in Hindustan, Ceylon, Siam, Pegu, Tonkin and up to China, Korea, and Japan. (Herder 2002, 3/1:407)

Like Diderot, Herder thought that Brahmanism was a subform of the pan-Asiatic religion we now know as "Buddhism"; theirs was therefore less a "mixup" of two entities than an overestimation of the boundaries of one religion. That religion, regardless of its name ("Oriental paganism," "Budsoisme," "Bupo," etc.) is usually traced back to a single founder (Buddha, Shakya, etc.), and its characteristics and geographical distribution leave no doubt that we are mainly dealing with the tradition that is today called "Buddhism." Herder's chapter on India -- which exerted great influence on German Romanticism and romantic Orientalism -- presents this view in an initial statement that used to puzzle researchers: "Even though the teaching of the Brahmans is nothing but a branch of the widespread religion that, from Tibet to Japan, has formed sects or governments ... " (p. 411). Thinking that Herder's "Buddhism" and "Hinduism" correspond to the Buddhism and Hinduism we know today, the author of the only monograph on Herder's reception of Asian religions demonstrated how easy it is to get such things completely wrong: "When Herder expresses himself about the mythology and religion of the Indians, we do not get to hear anything about Buddhism. Rather, the subject is then Hinduism" (Faust 1977:152).

If anything, the reverse is true; like Diderot, Herder thought that the Buddha's religion adapted itself in every country to local circumstances and cultures and developed a vast variety of different forms and branches. The indophile Herder liked its "brahmanic" branch best:

In contrast with all the sects of Fo that dominate the Eastern world of Asia, this [Brahmanic] one is the blossom; [it is] more learned, more humane, more useful, more noble than all the bonzes, lamas, and talapoins. (Herder 2002, 3/1:415)

Diderot's view of Asian religions was thus neither an exception nor a careless mistake. Rather it reflects the growing consensus of many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers and researchers. Herder, for example, did not base his view on Diderot but on another influential Frenchman whom he had as a young man visited in Paris and whose numerous papers he wanted to see published in German translation: the famous orientalist Joseph de Guignes who is the protagonist of our next chapter.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

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Part 1 of 4

Chapter 4: De Guignes's Chinese Vedas

The "invention," "discovery," or identification of major Asian religions (in particular, Hinduism and Buddhism) is often situated in the "longer" nineteenth century during which, as a recent book claims, "the Invention of World Religions" took place. Its author states that toward the end of the nineteenth century Buddhism "had only recently been recognized as 'the same' tradition existing in diverse regions of South, South-east, East, and Central Asia," and that until that time European observers had not ''thought of these divergent rites and widely scattered institutions as constituting a single religion" (Masuzawa 2005:122). The discovery of Buddhism is characterized as being "from the beginning, in a somewhat literal and nontrivial sense, a textual construction," so much so that "one might say that Buddhism as such came to life, perhaps for the first time, in a European philological workshop" (p. 126). Such arguments are based on several assumptions that merit questioning. We have already seen that the emergence in the European mind of a pan-Asiatic religion (that we now readily identify as Buddhism) did not happen overnight in some nineteenth-century study. Such scenarios of a nineteenth-century "creation" of Buddhism grew on a soil fertilized by several biases. The "Indian" bias links the European discovery of Buddhism to India as Buddhism's country of origin, the "textual" bias to the study of Buddhist texts in Indian languages, and the "colonialist" bias posits that such discovery and study were primarily linked to colonial interests. This accounts for the exaggerated role of British "pioneers" in recent studies. Charles Allen's "men who discovered India's lost religion," for example, are without exception British colonialist "Sahibs" (Allen 2002). But even scholars with a much broader perspective suffer from similar biases. For example, J. W. de Jong's Brief History of Buddhist Studies in Europe and America (1997) fails to mention Joao Rodrigues (see our Chapter 1), La Croze (see Chapter 2), and the protagonist of the present chapter, Joseph de Guignes. Even the most informative study to date, Henri de Lubac's La rencontre du bouddhisme et de l'Occident (1952/2000), ignores that de Guignes's 1756 French rendering of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra was the first published translation in a Western language of a Buddhist sutra.

Related to these "Indian" and "Sanskrit" biases is one that pitches "science" against missionary "protoscience." It assumes that the onset of "modern" Oriental ism in the first decades of the nineteenth century was a clean break from the "missionary" past. The pre-nineteenth-century discovery of Buddhism is thus divorced from its "scientific discovery," and the latter is portrayed as a "new start from almost nothing" (Droit 1997:29). Unlike the installation of a new operating system on a computer, which guarantees at least some continuity of data, Droit regards this new start as a total break with the past and generalizes: "It is a permanent feature of the West's relation with the doctrines of Buddhism that, in the very long run, information does not accumulate" (p. 29). For Droit, the decisive "new start" and thus Buddhism's "discovery in the proper sense" only happened "from the moment when the languages of its canonical scriptures were deciphered and the fundamental texts translated in a systematic manner" (p. 36). When did this happen, and what languages were in play? Droit explains:

Now, even though Sanskrit had been known since the 1780s, the Buddhist treatises in Sanskrit were only discovered during the 1820s in Nepal by Brian Houghton Hodgson; Pali was only deciphered by Eugene Burnouf and Christian Lassen during the same period; and the Chinese Buddhist texts were only at this moment studied by Jean-Pierre Abel-Remusat, who was soon followed by the Hungarian Alexander Csoma de Koros's study of Tibetan. (p. 36)

If such bias is combined with constructivism, the 1820S become the "turning point" that "led Europe from ignorance to knowledge" and the crucial moment when the word "Buddhism" and the "phenomenon itself" were simultaneously "born in the scholarly gaze" (p. 36). In contrast to such a clean-cut birth by Caesarian section in the lecture halls of state-sponsored Orientalist academia, we have seen that the discovery of a large Asian religion with a specific founder, history, geographical presence, body of teachings, and sacred texts was a rather messy and protracted event that began long before the moment in the 1820Swhen European scholars began to read Sanskrit and Pali Buddhist texts. Contrary to Droit's assertion, much information gradually accumulated over several centuries, and the permanent feature of the West's relation with Buddhism was that information, once it was collected or invented, was rarely forgotten but rather tended to be endlessly repeated and widely accepted. The above-mentioned Story of the Buddha's deathbed confession is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon. Moreover, Buddhist texts were studied and even translated long before Sanskrit entered the picture. To mention just a few examples: in 1574 the Jesuit Japan missionaries Organtino Gnecchi-Soldo and Luis Frois devoted two hours per day to the study of the Chinese text of the Lotus Sutra under the guidance of a former Buddhist abbot and persisted for a whole year (Frois 1926:452); the first partial translation of a Buddhist text from Pali was published by Simon de la Loubere in 1691; Ippolito Desideri studied and translated Tibetan Buddhist texts in the early eighteenth century; and the first Buddhist sutra to be published in Europe, the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, was translated by de Guignes from the Chinese in the 1750s. All of this happened long before Europeans became aware of Buddhist Sanskrit texts.

The European obsession with origins and Bible-like canonical texts contributed to the bias for India, Sanskrit, and Pali. However -- just like wars -- discoveries happen as they actually do and not as one might wish they should; and it is a matter of historical fact that Sanskrit entered the stage rather late. Bur a fundamentalist obsession with "genuine" Buddhist "bibles" from India led from the late nineteenth century to the view that the Buddhisms of distant countries such Japan, China, and Tibet are "degenerate" and their texts incomparably inferior to those of mother India. It is as if researchers of Christianity would regard Roman Catholicism or Syriac orthodoxy as degenerate and inferior because they are removed from Christianity's Aramaic and Greek origins. When European missionaries ventured to Asia, Buddhism had long vanished from India and flourished in distant countries such as Mongolia, Japan, China, Tibet, Siam, Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, Vietnam, and Laos. To no one's surprise, these were exactly the countries where the Europeans discovered Buddhism, and de Guignes is an excellent example for the impact of literature from such non-Indian countries. The discovery of long-vanished Indian Buddhism, by contrast, indeed happened to a large extent in the nineteenth-century "European philological workshop" (Masuzawa 2005:126). The present chapter will show, however, that prior to that there were "workshops" not manned by Sanskritists but rather by French missionaries and by academics who studied and translated Arabic and Chinese sources long before the first British colonialists began to dabble in Sanskrit.1

Fourmont's Dirty Little Secret

When Joseph DE GUIGNES (1721-1800) at the young age of fifteen was placed with Etienne FOURMONT (1683-1745), Fourmont enjoyed a great reputation as one of Europe's foremost specialists of classical as well as oriental languages. As an associate of Abbe Bignon (the man so eager to stock the Royal Library with Oriental texts), Fourmont had met a Chinese scholar called Arcadius HOANG (1679-1716) and had for a short while studied Chinese with him (Elisseeff 1985:133ff.;Abel-Remusat 1829:1.260). In 1715 the thirty-two-year- old Fourmont was elected to the chair of Arabic at the College Royal. Hoang's death in 1716 did not diminish Fourmont's desire to learn Chinese, and in 1719 he followed Nicolas FRERET (1688-1749) in introducing Europe to the 214 Chinese radicals. This is one of the systems used by the Chinese to classify Chinese characters and to make finding them, be it in a dictionary or a printer's shop, easier and quicker.

Thanks to royal funding for his projected grammar and dictionaries, Fourmont had produced more than 100,000 Chinese character types. But in Fourmont's eyes the 214 radicals were far more than just a classification method. Naming them "clefs" (keys), he was convinced that they were meaningful building blocks that the ancient Chinese had used in constructing characters. For example, Fourmont thought that the first radical (-) is "the key of unity, or priority, and perfection" and that the second radical (׀) signifies "growth" (Klaproth 1828:234). Starting with the 214 basic "keys," so Fourmont imagined, the ancient Chinese had combined them to form the tens of thousands of characters of the Chinese writing system. However, as Klaproth and others later pointed out, the Chinese writing system was not "formed from its origin after a general system"; rather, it had evolved gradually from "the necessity of inventing a sign to express some thing or some idea." The idea of classifying characters according to certain elements arose only much later and resulted in several systems with widely different numbers of radicals ranging from a few dozen to over 700 (Klaproth 1828:233-36).

Like many students of Chinese or Japanese, Fourmont had probably memorized characters by associating their elements with specific meanings. A German junior world champion in the memory sport, Christiane Stenger, employs a similar technique for remembering mathematical equations. Each element is assigned a concrete meaning; for example, the minus sign signifies "go backward" or "vomit," the letter A stands for "apple," the letter B for "bear," the letter C for "cirrus fruit," and the mathematical root symbol for a root. Thus, "B minus C" is memorized by imagining a bear vomiting a citrus fruit, and "minus B plus the root of A square" may be pictured as a receding bear who stumbles over a root in which a square apple is embedded.

Stenger's technique, of course, has no connection whatsoever to understanding mathematical formulae, but Fourmont's "keys" can indeed be of help in understanding the meaning of some characters. While such infusion of meaning certainly helped Fourmont and his students Michel-Ange-Andre le Roux DESHAUTERAYES (1724-95) and de Guignes in their study of complicated Chinese characters, it also involved a serious misunderstanding. Stenger understood that bears and fruit were her imaginative creation in order to memorize mathematical formulae and would certainly not have graduated from high school if she had thought that her mathematics teacher wanted to tell her stories about apples and bears.

But mutatis mutandis, this was exactly Fourmont's mistake. Instead of simply accepting the 214 radicals as an artificial system for classifying Chinese characters and as a mnemonic aide, he was convinced that the radicals are a collection of primeval ideas that the Chinese used as a toolset to assemble ideograms representing objects and complex ideas. Fourmont thought that the ancient Chinese had embedded a little story in each character. As he and his disciples happily juggled with "keys," spun stories, and memorized their daily dose of Chinese characters, they did not have any inkling that this fundamentally mistaken view of the genesis of Chinese characters would one day form the root for a mistake of such proportions that it would put de Guignes's entire reputation in jeopardy.

Apart from a series of dictionaries that never came to fruition, Fourmont was also working on a Chinese grammar. He announced its completion in 1728, eight years before the arrival of de Guignes. The first part of this Grammatica sinica with Fourmont's presentation of the 214 "keys" and elements of pronunciation appeared in 1737. The second part, prepared for publication while de Guignes sat at his teacher's feet, contained the grammar proper as well as Fourmont's catalog of Chinese works in the Bibliotheque Royale and was published in 1742. When Fourmont presented the result to the king of France, he had de Guignes accompany him, and the king was so impressed by the twenty-one-year-old linguistic prodigy that he endowed him on the spot with a pension (Michaud 1857:18.126).

But de Guignes's teacher Fourmont had a dirty little secret. He had focused on learning and accumulating data about single Chinese characters, but his knowledge of the Chinese classical and vernacular language was simply not adequate for writing a grammar. By consequence, the man who had let the world know that a genius residing in Europe could master Chinese just as well as the China missionaries decided to plagiarize -- what else? -- the work of a missionary. No one found out about this until Jean-Pierre Abel- ]Remusat in 1825 carefully compared the manuscript of the Arte de La lengua mandarina by the Spanish Franciscan Francisco Varo with Fourmont's Latin translation and found to his astonishment that Fourmont's ground-breaking Grammatica sinica was a translation of Varo's work (Abel-Remusat 1829:2.298). In an "act of puerile vanity," Abel-Remusat sadly concluded, Fourmont had appropriated Varo's entire text "almost without any change" while claiming that he had never seen it (1826:2.109).2

While de Guignes helped prepare this grammar for publication, Fourmont continued his research on chronology and the history of ancient peoples. During the seventeenth century, ancient Chinese historical sources had become an increasingly virulent threat to biblical chronology and, by extension, to biblical authority. As Fourmont's rival Freret was busy butchering Isaac Newton's lovingly calculated chronology, de Guignes's teacher turned his full attention to the Chinese annals. These annals were in general regarded either as untrustworthy and thus inconsequential or as trustworthy and a threat to biblical authority. However, in a paper read on May 18, 1734, at the Royal Academy of Inscriptions, Fourmont declared with conviction that he could square the circle: the Chinese annals were trustworthy just because they confirmed the Bible. Dismissing Freret's and Newton's nonbiblical Middle Eastern sources as "scattered scraps," he praised the Chinese annals to the sky as the only ancient record worth studying apart from the Bible (Fourmont 1740:507-8).

But Fourmont's lack of critical acumen is as evident in this paper as in his Critical reflections on the histories of ancient peoples of 1735 and the Meditationes sinicae of 1737. In the "avertissement" to the first volume of the Critical reflections, Fourmont mentions the question of an India traveler, Chevalier Didier, who had conversed with Brahmins and missionaries and came in frustration to Paris to seek Fourmont's opinion about an important question of origins: had Indian idolatry influenced Egyptian idolatry or vice versa? Fourmont delivered his answer after nearly a thousand tedious pages full of chronological juggling:

With regard to customs in general, since India is entirely Egyptian and Osiris led several descendants of Abraham there, we have the first cause of that resemblance of mores in those two nations; but with regard to the religion of the Indians, they only received it subsequently through commerce and through the colonies coming from Egypt. (Fourmont 1735:2-499)

For Fourmont the Old Testament was the sole reliable testimony of antediluvian times, and he argued that the reliability of other accounts decreases with increasing distance from the landing spot of Noah's ark. Only the Chinese, whose "language is the oldest of the universe," remain a riddle, as their antiquity "somehow rivals that of Genesis and has caused the most famous chronologists to change their system" (1735:1.lii). But would not China's "hieroglyphic" writing system also indicate Egyptian origins? Though Fourmont suspected an Egyptian origin of Chinese writing, he could not quite figure out the exact mechanism and transmission. He suspected that "Hermes, who passed for the inventor of letters" had not invented hieroglyphs but rather "on one hand more perfect hieroglyphic letters, which were brought to the Chinese who in turn repeatedly perfected theirs; and on the other hand alphabetic letters" (Fourmont 1735:2.500). These "more perfect hieroglyphs" that "seemingly existed with the Egyptian priests" are "quite similar to the Chinese characters of today" (p. 500).

Fourmont was studying whether there was any support for Kircher's hypothesis that the letters transmitted from Egypt to the Chinese were related to Coptic monosyllables (p. 503); but though he apparently did not find conclusive answers to such questions, the problem itself and Fourmont's basic direction (transmission from Egypt to China, some kind of more perfect hieroglyphs) must have been so firmly planted his student de Guignes's mind that it could grow into the root over which he later stumbled. Fourmont's often repeated view that Egypt's culture was not as old as that of countries closer to the landing spot of Noah's ark made it clear that those who regarded Egypt as the womb of all human culture were dead wrong and that China, in spite of its ancient culture, was a significant step removed from the true origins.

Though the Chinese had received their writing system and probably also the twin ideas that in his view "properly constitute Egyptianism" -- the idea of metempsychosis and the adoration of animals and plants (p. 492) -- Fourmont credited the Chinese with subsequent improvements also in this respect: "My studies have thus taught me that the Chinese were a wise people, the most ancient of all peoples, but the first also, though idolatrous, that rid itself of the mythological spirit" (Fourmont 1735:2.liv). This accounted for their excellent historiography and voluminous literature:

I said that the Chinese Annals can be regarded as a respectable work. First of all, as everybody admits, for more than 3,500 years China has been populated, cultivated, and literate. Secondly, has it lacked authors as its people still read books, though few in number, written before Abraham? Thirdly, since few scholars know the Chinese books, let me here point out that the Chinese Annals are not bits and pieces of histories scattered here and there like the Latin and Greek histories which must be stitched together: they consist of at least 150 volumes that, without hiatus and the slightest interruption, present a sequence of 22 families which all reigned for 3, 4, 8, 10 centuries. (p. liv)

While Fourmont cobbled together hypotheses and conjectures, the Bible always formed the backdrop for his speculations about ancient history. A telling example is his critique of the Chinese historian OUYANG Xiu (1007- 72), who argued that from the remote past, humans had always enjoyed roughly similar life spans. Lambasting this view as that of a "skeptic," Fourmont furnished the following argument as "proof" of the reliability of ancient Chinese histories:

We who possess the sacred writ: must we not on the contrary admire the Chinese annals when they, just in the time period of Arphaxad, Saleh, Heber, Phaleg, Rea, Sarug, Nachor, Abraham, etc., present us with men who lived precisely the same number of years? Now if someone told us that Sem at the age of 550 years married one of his grand-grand-nieces in the fourteenth generation: who of us would express the slightest astonishment? ... It is thus clear that all such objections are frivolous, and furthermore, that attacks against the Chinese annals on account of a circumstance [i.e., excessive longevity] which distinguishes them from all other books will actually tie them even more to Scripture and will be a sure means to increase their authority. (Fourmont 1740:514)

No comment is needed here. Immediare1y after Fourmont's death in 1745, the twenty-four-year-old Joseph de Guignes replaced his master as secretary interpreter of oriental languages at the Royal Library. It was the beginning of an illustrious career: royal censor and attache to the journal des Scavans in 1752, member of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1753, chair of Syriac at the College Royal from 1757 to 1773, garde des antiques at the Louvre in 1769, editor of the Journal des Savants, and other honors (Michaud 1857:18.(27). De Guignes had, like his master Fourmont, a little problem. The pioneer Sinologists in Paris were simply unable w hold a candle w the China missionaries. Since 1727 Fourmont had been corresponding with the figurist China missionary Joseph Henry PREMARE(1666-1736), who, unlike Fourmont, was an accomplished Sinologist (see Chaprer 5). Premare was very liberal with his advice and sent, apart from numerous letters, his Notitia Linguae sinicae to Fourmont in 1728. This was, in the words of Abel- Remusat,

neither a simple grammar, as the author too modestly calls it, nor a rhetoric, as Fourmont intimated; it is an almost complete treatise of literature in which Father Premare not only included everything that he had collected about the usage of particles and grammatical rules of the Chinese but also a great number of observations about the style, particular expressions in ancient and common idiom, proverbs, most frequent patterns -- and everything supported by a mass of examples cited from texts, translated and commented when necessary. (Abel-Remusat 1829:2.269)

Premare thus sent Fourmont his "most remarkable and important work," which was "without any doubt the best of all those that Europeans have hirhert03 composed on these matters" (p. 269).

But instead of publishing this vastly superior work and making the life of European students of Chinese considerably easier, Fourmont compared it unfavorably to his own (partly plagiarized) product and had Premare's masterpiece buried in the Royal Library, where it slept until Abel-Remusat rediscovered it in the nineteenth century (pp. 269-73). However, Fourmont's two disciples Deshauterayes and de Guignes could profit from such works since Fourmont for years kept the entire China -- related collection of the Royal Library at his home where the two disciples had their rooms; thus Premare was naturally one of the Sinologists who influenced de Guignes.4 So was Antoine GAUBIL (1689-1759), whose reputation as a Sinologist was deservedly great.

But there is a third, extremely competent Jesuit Sinologist who remained in the shadows though his knowledge of Chinese far surpassed that of de Guignes and all other Europe-based early Sinologists (and, one might add, even many modern ones). His works suffered a fate resembling that of the man who was in many ways his predecessor, Joao Rodrigues (see Chapter 1) in that they were used but rarely credited. The man in question was Claude de VISDELOU (1656-1737), who spent twenty-four years in China (1685-1709) and twenty-eight years in India (1709-37). One can say without exaggeration that the famous Professor de Guignes owed this little-known missionary a substantial part of his fame -- and this was his dirty little secret.

De Visdelou's Brahmins

The fact that the reader has already encountered one of de Visdelou's seminal ideas without realizing it is symptomatic. De Visdelou was the direct source of Le Gobien's "Brahmin followers of Fo" mixup that reached, as we have seen in the previous chapter, such a large European readership via Bayle's and Diderot's "Brachmanes" articles. After his arrival in China in 1685, the linguistically gifted Frenchman made such fast progress in learning Chinese that even China's crown prince was astonished. In a letter dated January 20, 1728, De Visdelou remembers a scene from the year 1790:

When I was five years in China and had begun to devote myself to reading Chinese books for barely four years, emperor Kangxi ordered me and one of my companions to come from Canton to Beijing. We were directly led to the palace. The emperor was gravely ill, and we could not see him. The crown prince of the empire who conducted affairs in place of his father was told that a European had arrived who within four years had acquired knowledge of the canonical books and the classics. The prince soon appeared at the door asking where that foreigner was. Here he is, I answered, after I had prostrated in the manner of the land. The prince immediately ordered that a volume of the canonical book called Shujing be brought, i.e., the Canonical History. Opening it at random, he asked me to stand up and read it; I did so and explained it in the presence of several persons who accompanied the prince. Since the Chinese have a high opinion of themselves and their products, the prince was in admiration and said the following words: "Ta-ting, i.e., he understands very well." The crown prince did not leave it at this verbal testimony but also wanted to provide an authentic attestation, written in Chinese characters on a piece of satin one aune in length and half an aune in width. It said: "We recognize that this man from Europe is loftier in intelligence [lumiere] and in the knowledge of Chinese characters than the clouds floating above our heads, and that he is more profound in penetration and knowledge than the abyss on which we tread." (de Visdelou 1760:341-42)

Seven years after this incident, de Visdelou dictated a few pages about the religions of China to the visiting Mr. Basset in order to explain the background of a regional persecution of Christians. Basset's notes made their way to Paris and into the hands of Father Le Gobien who edited and used them as introduction to his book about the edict of tolerance issued by the Chinese emperor (1698) ,which was then used by Bayle and Diderot. Already the first few lines show the extent and character of Le Gobien's editorial interference. He was an inclusivist in the line of Matteo Ricci who shared the opinion of the vast majority of Jesuits that the ancient religion of China (and Confucianism as its successor) had venerated the true God. De Visdelou, by contrast, was one of the few dissenters in the line of Joio Rodrigues who thought that ancient Chinese religion and Confucianism were forms of atheism. Already the initial paragraphs of de Visdelou's report as taken down by Basset were heavily edited by Le Gobien and exhibit an immense difference of opinion. De Visdelou only discussed modern Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism and lost no word about an ancient Chinese monotheism. The latter was added by Le Gobien, who claimed that this ancient Confucianism was still extant with the Chinese emperor as head; see Table 5, where major differences are highlighted in gray.



De Visdelou's dictation text (c. 1696) [a]

I cannot dispense myself from providing a general idea of the different sects of China. Without this one would not understand the thinking of the Viceroy who compares them among themselves and with the Christian religion. It is sufficiently known that there are three principal ones of which the first is that of the philosopher scholars (l mean the modern philosophers, not the ancient ones). The second one is that of the brachmanes, and the third that of the bonzes.

The first is the dominant one ... [etc.]

The second sect which I call that of the brachmanes of China (they themselves take this name. Because the name of polomen, which they give to themselves, is the Indian brahmen travestied as Chinese, [and] because [this religion] has really been brought from the Indies to China by the brachmanes.) It has many names in China.

Le Gobien's published text (1698)

Since the history I write concerns only religion, I cannot dispense myself from providing to my reader a general idea of the different sects that are current in China. There are four principal ones.

The first is of those who, less by a feeling of piety than by respect for the ancients, recognize in the world a superior spirit, eternal, almighty, and much like the one known in the first centuries of the monarchy as the Lord of Heaven. It must be admitted that the number of these veritable worshippers is not very great, even though the Emperor is their head and has often declared that it was to God that he offered the sacrifices in the temples and not to those inferior and imaginary spirits with which the people is so ridiculously infatuated.

The second is the dominant one ... [etc.]

The third sect current among the Chinese can be called the religion of the Brachmanes or Bramenes, and they themselves call it by that name. Because Polomen, which is [the word] they use, is the Bramen of the Indians which they could not pronounce and that they apparently travestied in their language.

a. English translation of text in Archives de La Societe des Missions Etrangeres (vol. 418:277-82) as reproduced in Timmermans 1998:578-88.

Leaving aside the missionary's discussion of Neoconfucianism (de Visdelou's first and Le Gobien's second religion), we will here focus on the passages that for the first time provided support from the Chinese side for Kircher's idea that the Brahmins were the missionaries who brought Xaca's religion from India to China. Though Basset, who wrote down the text dictated by de Visdelou, appears to have left out a few words, the overall meaning of de Visdelou's statement is clear: it is de Visdelou who calls this "sect" that "has many names in China" by the name of "brachmanes of China." In the parentheses he adduces two reasons to justify his choice: (1) its representatives call themselves polomen, which is the Chinese pronunciation of brahmin; and (2) this religion was brought from the Indies to China by the brachmanes. Today we know that boluomen seng (Brahmin monk) was mainly used for Buddhist monks who had come from India to China and that on some occasions it served as a generic honorific for monks (as the Italian "monsignore" would flatter Catholic priests of any country). De Visdelou's choice to call Chinese Buddhism "the sect of the brachmanes of China" was not based on Chinese custom but rather on the Western idea, popular since the publication of Kircher's China illustrata (1667), that the religion of Xaca/Fo (that is, Buddhism) had been brought to China by Brahmins. In fact, after the parentheses explaining his reasons for this choice, de Visdelou clearly states that this religion "has many names in China" and that its priests are commonly called hochan (Ch. heshang, reverend) and not poLomen. In Le Gobien's published text, de Visdelou's "I call" becomes "can be called," and de Visdelou's choice turns into an official nomenclature since "they themselves call it by this name." Under Le Gobien's pen, de Visdelou's "sect of the brachmanes of China" loses both the "of China" and its "many names" and turns straight into Brahmanism by becoming "the religion of the Brachmanes or Bramenes" -- and there can be no doubt about this since "they themselves call it by that name." These changes might be regarded as minor, but they are not. As the explanations continue, de Visdelou keeps calling the priests of this religion by the name they use themselves, namely, hocham, whereas Le Gobien changed this into Bramenes.

This was not de Visdelou's (or Basset's?) only confusing sect name; he called his third religion (which we now call Daoism) the sect of the "bonzes," a term usually employed for Buddhist priests. Here, de Visdelou once more emphasizes that this is his choice rather than that of the Daoists, and in the first section of Table 6 he justifies this by pointing once more to the origin of the "sect" (which in this case is China).

De Visdelou's hochans are transformed by Le Gobien into Bramenes, and this choice of words contributed to the "mixup" that filled the critics of Bayle and Diderot with so much indignation. But Le Gobien's confusion is understandable. As the second section of Table 6 shows, de Visdelou seems to have held that the religion brought by brachmanes from India to China has priests called hochan, and that hochan from different countries venerate three identical treasures: Buddha, dharma, and "the rule of the brachmanes."
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Thu Dec 31, 2020 2:05 am

Part 2 of 4


The third sect which I have called that of the bonzes because it has its origin in China is ordinarily called the sect of the Taossee or the doctors of the law.

Their morals are quite in accord with those of the Epicureans. They bring back everything to indolence, which really is a half-hearted apathy; because they are not nearly as severe as the hochans.

The most common [name] one gives to these false priests is hochan, which signifies people reunited from various countries by the preference they give to three precious things which are the Fa, the law of Fo, and the rule of the brachmanes.

The fourth sect is that which is named the religion of the Bonzes; it has its origin in China and its priests call themselves commonly Taosse: which in Chinese means the doctors of the Law.

Their morals seem hardly different from those of our Epicureans; they do not plunge man's spirit into that exaggerated indifference of the Bramenes but are content to banish the vehement desires and despondent passions.

Nevertheless they ordinarily call these false priests Hochan, which signifies people reunited from various countries. These priests worship principally three things, the God Fo, his law, and the books containing their particular rules.

Like Rodriguez and Kircher, de Visdelou thus seems to have thought that the religion of Fo had been brought to China by Indian Brahmins and that the old "rule of the brachmanes" was still operative in China. But he neither mentioned a "God Fo" nor "books" containing "particular rules." Instead of simplifying things as he intended, Le Gobien added another layer of confusion. Hardly anybody had access to de Visdelou's dictation text or knew that de Visdelou was the source of this information. Bayle, Diderot, de Guignes and others could thus only refer to Le Gobien's description with its clear-cut identification of Indian Brahmanism with Fo, his law, and his "books." The identification of the religion of India's ancient Brachmanes with the religion of Fo in China, where it was imported by Brahmins (polomen), was the first seminal idea of de Visdelou that shaped de Guignes's outlook.

Huns from Shinar

Claude de Visdelou got much unattributed exposure in Paris when Le Gobien's book on the Chinese emperor's edict (whose introduction, as we have seen, is a heavy-handed edition of de Visdelou's dictated words about Chinese religions) became the joint subject of a hearing at the Sorbonne on July 1, 1700. One of the five propositions that was condemned on October 18 of the same year was from Le Gobien's Histoire de l'edit de l'empereur de La Chine (1698) and the rest from Lecomte's Nouveaux memoires sur l'etat present de La Chine (whose 1698 edition also contained Le Gobien's book, as previously mentioned) and his Lettre au due du Maine sur les ceremonies de la Chine. The central point of contention of all five condemned propositions is exactly the "first religion" that Le Gobien had added to de Visdelou's report. De Visdelou, like Rodrigues before him, was familiar enough with Chinese literature and religion to realize that Ricci's and his successors' monotheistic idealization of ancient Chinese religion and of classical Confucianism was a pipe dream. He was also staunchly opposed to Bouvet's, Premare's, and Foucquet's attempts to somehow make the Yijing (Book of Changes), the Daodejing (Book of the Way and its Power), or other Chinese classics into a kind of Asian Old Testament where the Dao would appear as creator God and prophecies of lambs, sacrificed saviors, and virgin mothers abounded.

De Visdelou's opposition to such views and his willingness to furnish proofs from Chinese sources to those who fought such figurist and accommodationist fantasies eventually led to his consecration as a bishop, his ouster from China and the Jesuit order, and twenty-eight years of exile in southeast India. The French government did not allow him to return to France, and he was forced to spend the rest of his life (1709-37) in exile at the house of the French Franciscans in Pondicherry. There he used his large library of Chinese books to produce works, reports, and translations of rare quality. Unlike his colleagues in the China mission, he could devote almost all his time to study, and unlike the scholars in Paris scavenging his work, he had twenty-four years of China experience under his belt and was arguably the most competent Western Sinologist of his time. Like Fourmont (his junior by seventeen years) and later de Guignes, de Visdelou was able to use sources not only in the major European languages and Chinese but also in Arabic and Persian. He was thus perfectly positioned to correct and supplement the famous Bibliotheque Orientale of seventeenth-century Europe's foremost Orientalist, Barthelemy D'HERBELOT DE MOLAINVILLE (1625-95), one of de Guignes's eminent predecessors as holder of the chair of Syriac from 1692 to 1695. De Visdelou remarked that d'Herbelot's Turkic, Arabic, and Persian sources contained much information about Central and East Asia that was either incorrect or questionable, and he decided to "redress the Mahometan histories in what they falsely assert about China and Tartary" by furnishing alternative or supplementary information from Chinese sources.

The resulting work by de Visdelou, written at the beginning of the eighteenth century, only saw publication in 1779. De Visdelou gave it a tide that almost says it all:

Abbreviated history of Tartary, containing the origin of the people who appeared with verve in this vast land more than two thousand years ago; their religion, their manners, customs, wars, and the revolutions of their empires together with the chronological and genealogical sequence of their emperors; all of this preceded and followed by critical observations on several entries of the Bibliotheque Orientale. (1779:46)

His manuscript came in four tomes that -- according to the geographer Jean- Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville (1776:33) -- were sent from Pondicherry to the Academician and economic historian Jean-Roland Mallet.

D'Anville, whose New Atlas of China appeared in the year of de Visdelou's death (1737), appreciated de Visdelou's manuscripts for their precious information about many places in Central and North Asia whose Chinese names de Visdelou had managed to identify and whose descriptions from Chinese sources he furnished and expertly translated.5 D'Anville must have been particularly interested in de Visdelou's additions to d'Herbelot, his summary and translations from Chinese dynastic histories about the nations north and west of China, and his Latin translation of the history of the Mongols (Herbelot et al. 1779:4.333). If both the academician Mallet (who died in 1736) and d'Anville (member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Literature) had their hands on these precious manuscripts, it is likely that fellow Academy member Fourmont -- at the time the only man in Paris reputed to be expert in both Arabic and Chinese -- and/or his disciples de Guignes and Deshauterayes were also in the loop. Apart from his work on Tartary and the Mongols, de Visdelou had also sent an annotated translation of the Shujing (Classic of History; unpublished but used by Deshauterayes), an annotated translation of the eighth-century Nestorian stele of Xi' an (partly published by Voltaire's nephew Abbe Vincent Mignot in 1760), and a long letter about the Yijing or Book of Changes (used by Mignot in 1761-62 and published by de Guignes in 1770). De Visdelou's four-volume work on Tartary and the inserted manuscript with his annotated translation of the Nestorian stele somehow ended up in The Hague where Jean Neaulme, the well-known publisher of Voltaire and Rousseau, purchased them for 400 Dutch florins and communicated them to the bibliophile Prosper Marchand (c. 1675-1756) and others (Herbelot et al. 1779:4.iii).

Jean Neaulme resided in Paris between 1740 and 1750 (p. iv) and sought the advice of specialists regarding its publication. In the course of this examination, the inserted small manuscript containing Visdelou's expertly annotated translation of the Nestorian stele of Xian was also discovered. Neaulme asked several professors for advice (the names s'Gravensande and de Joncourt are mentioned, p. iii); and if anybody in Paris would be consulted for this prospective publication involving Chinese as well as Arabic and Persian, it would have been Fourmont or his disciples de Guignes and Deshauterayes. Abel-Remusat6 and others had long suspected that de Guignes had used de Visdelou's Tartar manuscript; but only in the summer of 2008 did I find the conclusive proof of this among the papers of Fourmont at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The Fourmont dossier contains dozens of pages in de Guignes's hand, copied word for word from de Visdelou's Tartar manuscript. The notes contain references indicating that these copies from de Visdelou's manuscript were very voluminous.7

In 1751 de Guignes published a 24-page prospectus for a large work on the origin of the Huns and Turks (Memoire historique sur l'origine des Huns et des Turks, adresse a M. Tavenot) whose central argument and methodology eerily resemble those of de Visdelou's manuscript on the Tartars. In various places in his manuscript, de Visdelou had advanced the idea that the Xiongnu, a horse-mounted nomad people of the steppe that had for many centuries invaded and threatened the Chinese empire, might correspond to the people known to Europe as "the Huns."8 The first section of de Visdelou's Abbreviated History of Tartary in the same manuscript deals exactly with the empire of the Xiongnu and begins as follows:

The Toum-hou, or Oriental Tartars, recognize as first father of their nation Yen-yue, son of the emperor of China named Kao-sin who began his reign 2,432 years before the Christian era .... The Hioum-nou or Occidental Tartars (which may be the Huns whom the Greeks called [x] and the Romans Hunni) drew their origin from Chun-vei, son of a Chinese emperor of the Hia dynasty, which ended in the year 1767 before the Christian era. (Herbelot et al. 1779:48)

De Visdelou then goes on to cite at length Chinese historians about the Xiongnu and concludes that this people (which the Chinese eventually labeled Hioum-nou [Xiongnu]) "may be those who appeared in Europe in the fourth century under the name of Huns" (p. 51).

De Guignes's Visdelou-inspired view that the Xiongnu are identical with the Huns formed the basis of his 4-volume magnum opus: Histoire generale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols, et des autres tartares occidentaux, & c. avant Jesus-Christ jusqu a present. It was an immediate success and received praise from many eminent men including Edward Gibbon, the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, who called it a "great history" and praised de Guignes for having "laid open new and important scenes in the history of mankind" (Pocock 2005:110). Such interest was understandable since the hitherto isolated islands of Chinese dynastic histories and the history of the late Roman Empire received a connecting link that showed the origins of Europe in a new, far more global light.

But where did the Chinese and the Huns ultimately come from? De Guignes addresses this question at the beginning of his second volume. Like his teacher Fourmont, de Guignes's vision of origins was thoroughly biblical: "Only Moses has in few words reported the sequence of generations before the deluge, and it is a fact worthy of mention that the histories of all nations stop in unison around the times that approach this great catastrophe" (de Guignes 1756:1.2.2). As the fictions of antiquity-obsessed Egyptians and Chaldeans had supposedly all vanished under the gaze of critical scholars like Fourmont, it was now de Guignes's turn to confirm that the histories of the Chinese "do not at all contradict the account of Moses" but rather "indirectly confirm it" (p. 2).

The Huns do not seem less ancient than these famous people. They are mentioned in the history from the first beginnings of Chinese monarchy; they thus are part of those colonies that abandoned the plains of Shinar shortly after the deluge. One might be tempted to believe that these two nations [the Huns and the Chinese] stem from the same people. (p. 2)

Though de Guignes was reluctant to discuss topics without any base in some historical record, he developed a scenario that traced the course of the Chinese people from Shinar in Mesopotamia to Persia and along the Silk Road to China. Another colony turned north from Shinar toward Armenia where it split into a western and eastern branch. The first went on to form the ancient Europeans, whereas the second formed the Tartar nations including those that the Chinese from the Han period onward called Hiong-nou or Huns (pp. 3-13). These Huns had reportedly established an empire as early as 1230 B.C.E. (p. 21), and de Guignes spent much of the rest of his four volumes tracing their fate.

In the nineteenth century, de Guignes's view of the identity of the Huns and their connections with the Mogols and Turks came under heavy fire and was no longer accepted. But de Visdelou's and de Guignes's conjecture of an initial identity has recently found unexpected support through the analysis of a few letters that Sir Aurel Stein dug out of the desert sand 55 miles west of Dunhuang. These "Sogdian Ancient letters" confirm "a long-suspected but never proven link between the Xiongnu of old Chinese sources and the Huns unleashed on Europe from 370," even though they "do not imply that the Huns of Europe or Central Asia after A. D. 350 are themselves descendants of the Xiongnu" (de la Vaissihe 2004:22). On the other hand, the Bible-inspired scenario linking the Chinese and the Huns to the plains of Shinar was abandoned by its author de Guignes barely two years after publication. In 1758, just before the fourth and last volume of his History of the Huns went co press, de Guignes had the printer set the following stunning announcement on the last page of his work:

At the beginning of the second part of the first volume of this work, I made some reflections about the origin of the Chinese. I then believed that these peoples came directly from the plains of Shinar. New researches oblige me to change my view and to beg the reader not to pay any attention to what is said about this subject in the first two or three pages. The Chinese are only a rather modern colony of the Egyptians. I have proved this in a paper read at the Academy. The Chinese characters are nothing more than monograms formed by Egyptian and Phoenician letters, and the first emperors of China are the ancient Kings of Thebes. This I intend to show in a separate work. (de Guignes 1758:4.518)

How could an author who had just finished his 4-volume magnum opus, erected on the reliability of Chinese annals, rip out its foundation on the last page? It was by no means only a problem of "the first two or three pages," as de Guignes suggested. If the Chinese were a "rather modern colony of the Egyptians," then central pillars of de Guignes's argument like "the Huns were not less ancient than the Chinese who knew them even before the Hia Dynasty, which began its reign in 2207 before Jesus Christ" (de Guignes 1756:1.2.16) or "the establishment of the empire of the Huns must be dated to the year 1230 before Jesus Christ" (p. 21), crumbled to dust. What in the world had happened?

De Guignes's Egyptian Enlightenment

Two major events had triggered this spectacular change of opinion. The first is not obvious unless one carefully reads de Guignes's response to a review of his first volumes in the Memoires de Trevoux. De Guignes printed this letter to the editors just before the index at the end of the fourth volume of his History of the Huns, but it was written in 1757, that is, before de Guignes's "Egyptian enlightenment" of 1758. In this letter he criticizes "modern writers" who believe in the "authenticity of Chinese Annals and the Chinese Chronology" in order to attack that of the Bible (1758:4.347). De Guignes's main target is obvious since his name appears twice: Voltaire. Voltaire's Essai sur les moeurs first appeared in the year 1756, the very year that also saw publication of the first volumes of de Guignes's Histoire des Huns. The view of origins in these two works is indeed diametrically opposed. For de Guignes, everything has its roots in the plain where Noah's ark landed, whereas Voltaire began his work by making fun of such "oriental fables" and "vain ideas" that are "an insult to reason" and "suffocate what little we know about antiquity under a mass of forced conjectures" (Voltaire 1756:4-7). Arguing that the Jesuits themselves had confirmed by calculation of solar eclipses that the Chinese Annals were both old and reliable, Voltaire had begun his universal history with a chapter on China that stated that twenty-five centuries before Christ the Chinese already had a well-established empire (p. 11). De Guignes sharply criticized such enthusiasm that makes the Chinese empire "begin well before the deluge and possibly even before the epoch of creation" (de Guignes 1758:4.348). Insisting that "nothing is as uncertain as this kind of chronology" (p. 349), de Guignes went on to dismiss the historical value of the very sources on which his early history of the Huns and of the Chinese was based. He now held that Chinese annals delivered neither detailed nor reliable information and were mostly late works that are "barely more ancient that Herodotus ... who flourished around 480 B.C.E." (p. 351):

The Chou-king, which is the most ancient, contains only some haphazard events without chronology. The Tsou-chou, whose authority is contested by the Chinese themselves and that was composed around 300 B.C.E. is, as it were, no mote than a chronological table. The Chuntchieou of Confucius is only a very dry short chronology; and the Chipen is very short. That's all there is of Chinese sources. (p. 351)

As we have seen in Chapter 1, Voltaire was at this point still unsure whether he should assign the role of cradle of human civilization to China or to India. But his sarcastic dismissal of biblical history and his initial chapters on China and India -- which relegated the Mediterranean cultural region and Israel to the also-rans -- ruffled many feathers. Furthermore, Voltaire's argument that the constant inundations of the Nile must have prevented early settlement in Egypt (Voltaire 1756:30) was a provocation to the majority of the encyclopedists and the egyptophile antiquarians of the time. As the author of an entire volume of chronological tables (vol. 1) and a history that took Chinese chronology and annals very seriously, de Guignes had good reason to fear being instrumentalized by Bible-averse critics like Voltaire. While his letter at the end of the fourth volume was a brave attempt at preventing such misuse, it also risked throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Bur there was another, far more decisive event that led to de Guignes's radical change of mind. After reading the abstract of an April 1758 report by Abbe Jean-Jacques Barthelemy on the Phoenician alphabet, de Guignes decided "to work on the manner in which alphabetical letters could have formed" (de Guignes 1760:36). Having before him a table with Phoenician letters, de Guignes happened to glance at a Chinese dictionary with old forms of characters. The similarity of ancient Chinese character elements and Phoenician letters struck him so forcefully that he was soon convinced that not only the Chinese characters "but also the laws, form of government, the sovereign, the ministers governing under him, and the entire Empire were Egyptian; and that the entire ancient history of China was nothing other than the history of Egypt inserted before that of China proper" (p. 37). Utterly convinced of having made an epoch-making discovery, de Guignes on November 14, 1758, read a report to the public assembly of the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Literature in Paris. In the following year he published an abstract of this report together with some older opinions about Egypto-Chinese connections along with part of Abbe Barthelemy's paper on Phoenician letters in form of a booklet with the title "Report in which one proves that the Chinese are an Egyptian colony" (de Guignes 1760). De Guignes argued, to the astonishment of missionaries and academics alike that the Chinese had constructed their characters using a toolset of Phoenician letters. Unaware that these letters represent sounds, he explained, me Chinese interpreted them as elements of meaning or keys -- that is, character radicals in Fourmont-style -- and in this manner constructed myriads of characters with a hidden story they themselves could not grasp. It is here that, in Indiana Jones style, Professor de Guignes bursts upon the scene and discovers me hidden code.9 If the first Chinese radical (according to Fourmont) "signifies unity among the Chinese," aleph has the same meaning for the people of the Middle East; and "for both groups it also signifies preeminence and the action of steering" (de Guignes 1760:61). Soon enough, de Guignes drew up a kind of Ur-alphabet that was "perhaps very analogous to the primitive alphabet of all nations" (pp. 61-62). This would of course be the kind of writing system used in the plains of Shinar before peoples and languages multiplied. "New combinations gave me new letters, and I saw my alphabet develop imperceptibly to my eyes" (p. 63).

But if the Chinese had adopted alphabetic letters as hieroglyphic elements of meaning, men there had to be a proof of me pudding: it had to be possible to disassemble Chinese characters and get Egyptian or Phoenician words.

I began with the character by which the Chinese designate the word famer [x]; and disregarding the sound which they give to this character, I found it composed of an I and of a D, and I read Jad or Jod. Now in the Coptic language which has preserved numerous Egyptian words, Jod meant father. (p. 64)

While de Guignes cobbled together Phoenician letters infused with some meaning, disassembled Chinese characters into radicals whose meaning was just as contrived, and used his linguistic skills and Fourmont-schooled acumen to connect the dots and lines, he marveled at the enormous consequences of his discovery: "a strange phenomenon for Chinese literature, for the history of ancient peoples a new order of things, and systems new and more conform to truth" (p. 67). Thus, an entirely new vista opened before me eyes of me historian:

A people for a long sequence of centuries in possession of a language that it does not know; this language wrapped in traits mat disfigure it and loaded with sounds that are foreign to it; an alphabetical script converted into hieroglyphic signs; Egypt and Phoenicia linked by the most palpable connections; the letters, the languages, the annals of the most ancient nations linked in a sequence and all concurring in general harmony. (pp. 67-68)

Details such as when this supposed Egyptian colonization of China had taken place were only cursorily addressed, but de Guignes proposed the year 1122 B.C.E. as the date "when the Egyptian colony appears to have come to China" (pp. 76-77). It is clear that the defense of the biblical scenario and its chronology against the likes of Voltaire was a major motive of de Guignes's Orientalist tour de force:

What will become of the Chinese and the immense duration that they attribute to their empire, all those divisions in historical and uncertain mythical times, all those works aiming to establish their chronology, and all those fashioned to destroy it? And of all those proofs that one draws from them against the books of Moses, and all those systems produced to defend the testimony of this legislator? And of that precocious wisdom, that superiority in all things attributed to the Chinese? ... All this disappears, and only a simple fact remains, namely, that the ancient savages of China, exactly like those of Greece, were cultivated by the Egyptians -- but much later than them because China is much further away than Greece. (p. 79)

As De Guignes refined his argument and replaced the Phoenician alphabetical radicals by Egyptian hieroglyphic ones it became increasingly clear that his theories were intimately linked to the defense of Europe's Bible-based view of history. He was convinced mat an antediluvial unitary language of humankind and a writing system to represent that language had once existed. In a paper read on Easter 1766 at the Royal Academy about "the method to arrive at reading and understanding Egyptian hieroglyphs," he explained in some detail his concept of the 214 "primitive ideas" that the Chinese use as radicals and his view of hieroglyphic and alphabetic elements (which had also considerably evolved since 1758):

These 214 keys are either used alone as a character to express a meaning or combined in various ways and then considered parts of a character of group. Each of these parts is the representation of a simple idea which united with two or three others, produces a word or another idea resulting from these simple ideas; that is to say, they form together a kind of phrase which is like the definition of a more complex idea. One could thus regard the 214 keys as the representation of the 214 simple and primitive ideas of which the first humans made use and which they combined in various ways to express other novel ideas as the need arose (de Guignes 1770:13).

The first humans, de Guignes thus proposed, wrapped little Fourmont-style stories in their hieroglyphs: the character for night, [x], for example, "is composed of three such keys that signify 'obscurity,' the 'action of covering,' and 'man' "; literally rendered, "this means the obscurity covering men, a phrase that perfectly expresses the idea of night" (p. 13). This kind of implicit poetry, de Guignes suggested, is the ultimate source of the "oriental style" (which at that time was en vogue as a research topic in Bible studies) and accounts for the striking "poetic" similarities between various Asian languages.

According to de Guignes, this system of "hieroglyphic" writing was "that of the first men and by consequence common to all those who remained in the region where the Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Phoenician, and Egyptian languages were in use" (p. 26). The Egyptians had a special status since they had "cultivated the sciences earlier than other people, transmitted them to other peoples, and instructed Moses in all their sciences" (pp. 26-27). "More than any other people, the Egyptians had safeguarded the simplicity of this ancient language which must have been that of the first humans" (p. 41). They also passed on their "keys," which is why oriental languages, as seen in Figure 8. "have preserved the roots of Egyptian words" (p. 29).

Other oriental languages inherited the characteristics of primeval speech and writing via Egypt. De Guignes concluded:

I believe having sufficiently proved: 1. That the oriental languages, which must be regarded only as dialects, are related to that of the Egyptians, and that they all seem to have been formed from a mother language -- which apparently was that of the first humans -- that the Egyptians had preserved with the most care. 2. That the Chinese characters are the same as the Egyptian ones, and by consequence, that one can succeed in reading and understanding these latter [Egyptian] ones. (pp. 46-47)

Figure 8. De Guignes's hieroglyphs and Chinese characters (1770:50)

De Guignes was aware that the verification and documentation of his discovery would necessitate decades of hard labor. The volumes furnishing the promised proofs never came to completion, but by and by, de Guignes addressed some of the major issues in separate papers. His 1759 bombshell had been severely taken to task, especially by his codisciple under Fourmont, Deshauterayes, most of whose twenty-three objections -- published in the same year under the title of "Doubts about the dissertation of Mr. de Guignes about the Chinese" -- de Guignes was incapable of invalidating. They included the observation that the depiction of objects and hieroglyphic writing must be older than alphabetic systems (Deshauterayes 1759:12-15);10 that in spite of the Egyptian priests who supposedly carried the hieroglyph system to China, there is no trace of early Egyptian religion in China (pp. 16-18); and that the doctrine of metempsychosis was introduced to China from India in the year 65 C.E. and not from Egypt at some much earlier time (pp. 81-85).

The question of the relationship of Chinese religion to its supposed Egyptian origins was a central one. In 1775 de Guignes finally addressed it in a report, while admitting that this issue of religion was "the most difficult, the most important, and the least likely to furnish the kind of proofs I was looking for" (de Guignes 1781d:305). In spite of Jesuit speculation about ancient Chinese monotheism, little was known about ancient Chinese religion, and the exoteric/esoteric division in Chinese religion was not specific enough to allow a clear identification of Egyptian origins. Since the religion of Fo was excluded from discussion because of its non-Egyptian origin (see below), de Guignes had to fall back on the supposedly oldest Chinese book, the Yijing. Here he found himself once more in possession of an excellent analysis by de Visdelou (1770). But the similarities he came up with were less than impressive: Osiris and Yang, Isis and Yin, eight elements and trigrams, the conceptions of world soul and emanation, and an elaborate number system. He compared this with what is known about the doctrines of Pythagoras and quickly concluded that it was "borrowed from Egyptianisme, the source of Pythagorisme" (de Guignes 1781d:314). Similarities between the Yijing and Pythagorean numeric philosophy were seen as due to their common Egyptian source, and this short circuit allowed de Guignes to jump to the conclusion that it was "proven that one of the two nations borrowed its system from the other" (p. 314) and that "the Chinese -- who hitherto were portrayed as an isolated people that drew nothing from other nations and who some even wanted to make into the cradle of sciences and arts -- have borrowed everything from Egypt" (p. 345).
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Thu Dec 31, 2020 2:27 am

Part 3 of 4

De Guignes's "Indian Religion"

It is interesting that in such discussions de Guignes did not mention one word about another focus of his interest, the religion of Fo. We have seen in previous chapters that Athanasius Kircher, Mathurin Veyssiere de La Croze, and Engelbert Kaempfer all regarded its origin as Egyptian and that in the case of Kaempfer, whose writings de Guignes studied with much attention, the founder was even identified as an Egyptian priest from Memphis. It also would have been easy to expand La Croze's list of similarities between Egyptian religion and that of the Samaneens who followed Fo/Buddha. However, though inspired by La Croze's synthesis, de Guignes held a different view of this pan-Asian religion. This view will be explored in the remainder of this chapter based on the following pertinent publications by de Guignes:

1. The Recherche sur les philosophes appeles Samaneens ("Researches about the philosophers called Samaneens"). De Guignes read this paper to the Royal Academy in July 1753and published it six years later (de Guignes 1759:770-804).

2. A section of the second volume of the History of the Huns containing de Guignes's pioneering translation of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra (de Guignes 1756:1B.223-37).

3. Three reports read in the course of 1776 to the Royal Academy under the title of Sur la Religion Indienne, & sur les Livres fondamentaux de cette religion, qui ont ete traduits de l'Indien en Chinois ("On Indian religion and the basic texts of that religion that were translated from the Indian [idiom] into Chinese"). These were first published in 1781 (de Guignes 1781a, b, c).

What distinguishes de Guignes's research on the Samaneens from that of his predecessors is his use of Asian sources. We recall that La Croze's synthesis only mentioned a poetry lexicon, an ancient language book, and (with a question mark) the Civavakkiyam as "books of the Samaneens" (La Croze 1724:494-95). None of these texts is currently associated with Buddhism. By contrast, de Guignes from the outset based his view on two specific texts. He devoted the entire second part of his 1753 paper to their analysis and included partial translations from the Arabic and Chinese (de Guignes 1759:791-804). The first of these texts, the so-called Anbertkend (sometimes also spelled Ambertkend), is today known as the Amrtakunda (Pool of Nectar), a Hatha Yoga text of Indian origin that has nothing to do with Buddhism. Carl W. Ernst called it "one of the most unusual examples of cross-cultural encounter in the annals of the study of religion" on account of its complex synthesis of Indian, Islamic, gnostic, and Neoplatonic influences and the fact that no other literary source on yoga was so widely disseminated among Sufis (Ernst 1996:9-11). The use of this text by de Guignes is a hitherto unexplored facet of this interesting cross-cultural encounter. For him the Anbertkend was an important text of the so-called "Indian religion" that "contains the principles admitted by the Yogis, particularly those related to magic" (p. 791)." The second text discussed by de Guignes is presented as "the work of Fo himself that includes all the moral teachings he bequeathed to his disciples" (p. 791). While this second text is well known under the title Forty-Two Sections Sutra and is extant in Chinese, the Anbertkend or Amrtakunda is not exactly a household word. De Guignes described it as an Indian book that was "translated into the Persian language by the Imam Rokneddin Mohammed of Samarkand who had received it from a Brahmin called Behergit of the sect of the Yogis" and was subsequently translated into Arabic by Mohieddin-ben-al-arabi.12 D'Herbelot's Bibliotheque Orientale features the following information under the heading "Anbertkend" (1697:114):

Book of the Brachmans or Bramens which contains the religion and philosophy of the Indians; this word signifies the cistern where one draws the water of life. It is divided into fifty Beths or Treatises of which each has ten chapters. A Yogi or Indian dervish called Anbahoumatah, who converted to Islam, translated it from the Indian into Arabic under the title Merat al maani, The Mirror of Intelligence; but though it was translated, this book cannot be understood without the help of a Bramen or Indian Doctor.

Four decades after d'Herbelot, Abbe Antoine BANIER (1673-1741) widely disseminated the idea that the four Vedas contain "all the sciences and all religious ceremonies" whereas the Anbertkend "contains the doctrines of the Indians" (Banier 1738:1.128-29). De Guignes also thought that "this book is not at all the Vedam of the Indians" but regarded it as "a work of the contemplative philosophers who, far from accepting the Vedam, reject it as useless based on the great perfection they believe to have attained" (de Guignes 1759:791-92). This description very much resembles the one given by Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg and La Croze of the Gnanigol and their (Tamil Siddha) literature including the Civaviikkiyam. According to de Guignes, the Anbertkend is a "summary of the contemplatives of India" (p. 796) that advocates that "to become happy one must annihilate all one's passions, not let oneself be seduced by the senses, and be in the kind of universal apathy that is so much recommended in the book of Fo" (p. 793). Apart from this, the only apparent connection to Fo or Buddha is a mantra connected with the contemplation of the planet "Boudah or Mercury" (p. 800). The questions that thus need to be first addressed are why de Guignes regarded this Yogic text (of which he translated sample sections) as a scripture belonging to the tradition of the "philosophers called Samaneens;" what he meant by this term; and how he situated these "philosophers" within the religious universe of India and Asia as a whole.

Relying on several authors of European antiquity whose view of Indian religions La Croze had popularized, de Guignes accepted that in ancient India there were two main factions: the "ancient Brakhmanes," and the "Germanes, Sarmanes, or Samaneens" (p. 770). Supplementing the sparse information from Greek and Roman authors, de Guignes proposed to "make use of clarifications from Chinese and Arab authors in order to provide a more exact idea about the sect of the Samaneens by examining who their founder is, in which country it originated, and what doctrine he left to his disciples at his death" (p. 770). The information from ancient European authors led him to a view that fundamentally differs from that of La Croze. We recall that, based on information furnished by Ziegenbalg, La Croze saw Brahmanism and the religion of the Samaneens as rival religions that came into such conflict that the Samaneens or followers of Buddha were eventually driven from India to other countries of Asia. But de Guignes had a very different starting point:

What I have reported based on the Greek and Latin writers compels me to believe that there is little difference between the Samaneens and the Brachmanes, or rather, that they are two sects of the same religion. In effect, one still finds in the Indies a crowd of Brachmanes who appear to have the same doctrine and live in the same manner [as the Samaneens described by Greek and Latin writers]; but those who resemble the ancient Samaneens most perfectly are the Talapoins of Siam: like them, they live retired in rich cloisters, have no personal possessions, and enjoy great reputation at court; but more austere ones exclusively live in woods and forests, and there are also women under the direction of these Talapoins. (p. 773)

De Guignes explains that in India there are still Brahmins who "hold a doctrine that is more or less similar to that of the Samaneens" (p. 775):

If the name of Samaneen seems no more extant in this [southern] part of India [described by La Croze], one still finds the Yogis, the Vanaprastas, the Sanjassis, and the Avadoutas which all go under the common denomination of Brahmins, and like the Samaneens they do not admit any difference between castes or tribes and still follow the precepts of Budda, the founder of the Samaneens. (p. 776)

But what is this religion of which the Brachmanes and the Samaneens supposedly constitute two separate sects? De Guignes simply calls it "the Indian religion" (la religion Indienne; p. 779). It is likely that de Guignes was also inspired by Johann Jacob Brucker's treatise on Asian philosophy (Brucker 1744:4B.804-26)13 and by Nicolas FRERET (1688-1749), who had studied Chinese even before Fourmont and had read a paper in 1744 that advanced exactly this opinion (see the beginning of Chapter 7). Freret asserted that "La religion indienne" is extremely widespread in Asia; reigning in India as "la religion des Brahmes," "Indian religion" has also conquered Tibet, Bhutan, China since the year 64 C.E., Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Siam, Burma, and so on (Freret 1753:36).But while Freret sought the doctrine of this religion in Diogo do Couto's description of the Vedas and combined it with some Buddhist elements, de Guignes decided to take the Buddhist track and identified the founder of his "religion Indienne" as Buddha who is venerated under various names in different countries of Asia.

Several Arab authors who knew this personage name him Boudasp or Boudasf. Beidawi, the celebrated Persian historian, calls him Schekmouniberkan, or simply Schekmouni; the Chinese Tche-kia or Chekia-meouni, which is the same name as the Sehek-mouni of Beidawi; they give him also the name of Foteo or Foto, which is an alteration of phutta or butta. But the name under which he is best known in all Chinese works is that of Fo, the diminutive of Foto. The Siamese name him Prah-poudi-tchaou, that is to say, the Saint of high origin, Sammana-khutama, the man without passion, and phutta. Mr. Hyde derives this name from the Persian word butt, idol; and Mr. Leibniz believed that this legislator was identical with the Wodin of the Northern peoples. In the language of the Indians Butta or Budda signifies Mercury. (De Guignes 1759:776)

De Guignes furnished much detail about the life of this founder from Arabic and especially Chinese sources (pp. 785-87) and thought that a birth of around 1027 B.C.E (p. 778) appears more likely than an earlier date that might be due to a confusion of Buddha with Zoroaster (pp. 780, 785). He also included a short version of the Buddha's deathbed confession story but added a particular twist:

When dying he said to those of his disciples who were most attached to him that until then he had only made use of parables and that he had hidden the truth under figurative and metaphorical expressions; his true opinion being that there is no other principle than emptiness and nothingness [le vuide & le neant], and that everything came out of nothing and would return to it. So, according to all missionaries, atheism seems to be the favorite principle of this philosopher; but a more attentive examination of the conduct of those who follow his doctrine and of the book which he has left to us does not allow our wholesale adoption of this opinion. (pp. 786-77)

De Guignes's subsequent explanations about the two sects produced by the last words of Fo -- "la doctrine exterieure consisting in the cult of idols" and "la doctrine interieure that adopted this emptiness and nothingness of which Fo had spoken at his death" (p. 787) -- are key for understanding his "Indian teligion."'4 This religion, founded by Buddha around 1000 B.C.E. in India (p. 778), has as its fundamental principle the "system of metempsychosis" (p. 779). This explains the fact that even founders of other religions came to be incorporated as apparitions of the Buddha. De Guignes had read in Chinese sources that there were many "Fo"; in Ma Duanlin's Wenxian tongkao, for example, he found a reference to "seven Fo" (p. 779). He mistakenly thought that these were "authors of different religions that had successively been destroyed" but correctly inferred that the name Fo is not necessarily referring to one person but can be used as a generic term. In India this founder was "said to be identical with the god Vishnu who, according to the fabled traditions of India, appeared ten times in the world, and whose tenth apparition was in the shape of the Buddha" (p. 786).

De Guignes located representatives of the two "sects" of this "Indian religion" founded by Buddha throughout Asia. In his view the particular doctrines and practices of "Indian religion" gradually changed as they adapted themselves to local circumstances and customs; and this accounts for the great variety of forms in diverse countries. In the History of the Huns de Guignes explained:

One notices that the further the Samaneens were from their place of origin, the more they veered from the principles of their founder. The customs of the peoples to whom they taught their religion brought about great changes, and these Samaneens attached themselves more particularly to certain dogmas and certain religious practices that they judged to be more suitable to the peoples among which they lived. (de Guignes 1756:IB.235)

The two basic forms of his "Indian religion" are well characterized by the "exoteric" and "esoteric" labels.

The adherents of the exterior doctrine are those whom we know more commonly under the name of Brahmes, of Bonzes, of Lamas, and of Talapoins who, always prostrated at the feet of their gods, think their happiness consists in holding the tail of a cow, worshipping Brahma, Vishnu, Eswara [Shiva] and 330 million inferior divinities, constructing temples in their honor, having a singular reverence for the water of the Ganges, and believing that after death their soul will receive punishment for its crimes in Hell or recompense of its virtues in Paradise. From there the soul continues, as a form of recompense or punishment, to animate the bodies of humans, animals and even plants, until it has reached the highest degree of purification and perfection to which the different transmigrations imperceptibly lead. It is only after having transmigrated through the bodies of several beings that it finally takes shelter in that of a Samaneen. (de Guignes I759:787)

De Guignes's "Indian religion" has metempsychosis as its central tenet, and the Samaneens represent the ultimate stage of the purification process of souls. Like La Croze's Gnanigols, de Guignes's Samaneens are no longer bound to the rituals, superstitious practices, and divinities of ordinary people and their clergy. In the manner of mystics, these adherents of the Buddha's esoteric teaching live in poverty and seclusion while devoting themselves entirely to the task of "contemplating God" and "becoming one" with him:

They regard the rest of men as so many unfortunates who cannot reach the state of Samaneen unless they pass through all the degrees of metempsychosis. Thus, the true Samaneen or adherent of the interior doctrine, on account of having been born into the most perfect state, is no longer obliged to expiate the sins which have been washed away by previous transmigrations. He has no more need to go prostrate himself in a temple nor to direct his prayers to the gods worshipped by the people -- gods who are but ministers to the great God of the Universe. Freed from all passions and exempt from all crime, the Samaneen only dies to rejoin this unique Divinity of which his soul was a detached part. They think that all souls together form the supreme being, that they exist in him in all eternity, that they emanate from him; yet that they can only be reunited with him after having purified themselves to the level they were at when they were first separated. (pp. 787-88)

This view of the Samaneens explains why de Guignes associated the Anbertkend with the Samaneens and why Herder, as mentioned at the end of Chapter 3, began the India section of his Ideas for a Philosophy of the History of Humanity with the phrase "Even though the teaching of the Brahmans is nothing but a branch of the widespread religion that, from Tibet to Japan, has formed sects or governments" (Herder 2002, 3/1:411). The Brahmans -- joined by the Tibetan Lamas, Chinese and Japanese Bonzes, Siamese Talapoins, and possibly even the Siberian shamans -- are seen as part of the exoteric clergy of the "Indian religion" of Buddha whose local variants with their multiform idolatry, polytheism, superstition, and ritualism stand in sharp contrast to the pure mysticism and resolute esoteric monotheism of the Samaneens.

Unlike La Croze who had theorized that the Samaneens of India turned into atheists and were mainly for this reason driven from India to surrounding countries, de Guignes depicted them as most ardent monotheists:

According to their principles, this Supreme Being, the Being of all Beings, is from all eternity; he has no form whatsoever, is invisible, incomprehensible, and the origin of everything; he is the power, the wisdom, the knowledge, holiness, and truth itself; he is infinitely good, just, and merciful; he has created all beings and preserves everything; because he himself is beyond any adoration, he cannot be represented by idols; yet his attributes -- to which he allows a cult to be rendered -- may be depicted. (de Guignes 1759:788)

We have already encountered similar monotheistic hymns in earlier chapters, and the amalgamation of much of Asia under the banner of a single religion made it as easy to find statements of "esoteric" monotheism as of "exoteric" polytheism. Similar to Francois Bernier's Sufis and Ziegenbalg's Gnanigols, the Samaneens of de Guignes are portrayed as fervent monotheists of a mystic tendency who occupy themselves exclusively with meditation on the Supreme Being.

For this reason the Samaneen is always busy contemplating him in his meditations and has no sign of an exterior cult; but he is not at the same time atheist, as the missionaries pretend, because he has the exclusive aim to snuff out in himself all passions in order to be ready to rejoin his God. Thus the emptiness and nothingness, the principles of the Samaneens, do not signify at all the destruction of the soul. Rather, they mean that we must annihilate all our senses, annihilate ourselves, in order to lose ourselves, as it were, in the bosom of the Divinity who has drawn all things out of nothing and who himself is not matter. (p. 788)

De Guignes's Samaneen mystics -- like Ziegenbalg's Gnanigols -- regard gods like Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as vulgar representations of the attributes of the one and only creator God; but unfortunately, "the rest of the Indian religion, which is no more that of the Samaneens, is less susceptible to the grand ideas and profound meditations that form the entire cult of the disciples of Budda" (p. 789).

Though the boundaries of de Guignes's "Indian religion" are larger than those of the "Buddhism" that we know today, there are many fundamental correspondences. They include the name and biography of its founder; the religion's Indian origin; its expansion to various surrounding countries in Southeast, Central, and East Asia from the beginning of the common era; its existence in such places as Tibet, Mongolia, Siam, Cambodia, Burma, Ceylon, Vietnam, China, and Japan; the presence of marked local variations; its distinctive monastic culture; some its rituals; the appellations of its clergy in these countries; the existence of a sacred literature linked to the founder; and so forth. With regard to the doctrines of this religion, the fable of the Buddha's deathbed confession had created a fuzzy mold with enough space to accommodate various phenomena.

On the esoteric side of de Guignes's "Indian religion," the Zen monks of Japan were joined by such colorful company as Abraham Roger's Vanaprasthas, Bernier's Sufis and Yogis, and Ziegenbalg's Gnanigols. On the exoteric side, the Bonzes of Japan and China were in the company of a motley crowd of Indian Brahmins, Tibetan Lamas, and Siamese Talapoins. In the doctrinal sphere not much solid information had been gained since the days of the sixteenth-century Japan mission when the elements of the Buddha's "deathbed confession" made their first appearance. Though the Jesuits in Japan and China had studied some Buddhist texts such as the Lotus Sutra, biographies of the Buddha, and collections of Zen sayings -- and though Simon de la Loubere had published some excerpts that someone had translated from Buddhist texts in the Pali language -- the purportedly very large literature of this "Indian religion" remained an enigma. Kircher's inclusion of Indian Brahmins and de Visdelou/Le Gobien's view of the polomen as adherents of Fo further blurred the picture. If Indian Yogis, Gnanigols, and Tamil Siddhas were associated with the esoteric followers of Buddha, could it not be that the fabled Indian Vedas, too, formed part of the literature of the Samaneens?

This kind of haze lent itself to rampant speculation. For example, in a letter by Deshauterayes (de Guignes's co-disciple under Fourmont) to Anquetil-Duperron, the professor speculated that "this Budha or Phta could be the same as the founder of the Egyptian monarchy, the first to introduce among men the system of the transmigration of souls into animal bodies."15 But Deshauterayes was acutely aware that only the study of Asian languages and the ability to read its sacred literature could bring change to the state of ignorance enveloping even the natives themselves: "It is in their books that one must find what one wants to know" (NAF 8872:71V). He thus urged his young disciple to study the Pali language, "which is the only language of the Indies that, apart from the Tibetan, I advise you strongly to learn because these are the languages of the learned through which you will make an abundant harvest" (p. 70v).

Barely one year after this letter, the first Buddhist sutra appeared in the French translation of de Guignes. In fact he had already included a rendering of the short preface of this Chinese text in the second part of his 1753 Samaneens paper (de Guignes 1759:802-3). His portrayal of the central doctrines of the Samaneens was primarily based on his reading of this text that, according to de Guignes, Fo had "left to us" (p. 787) and that supposedly laid out the essence of the doctrine of the Samaneens. It appears that de Guignes was the first European who by himself translated a Buddhist text from an Asian language and published it. This can be seen as another waystation toward the "new Orientalism" that Thomas Trautmann too narrowly associated with early students of Indian languages (1997:32-33) and Raymond Schwab with Anquetil-Duperron and the Zend Avesta (1950:25). The particular text that de Guignes translated from Chinese into French was held in high esteem throughout East Asia as the (reputedly) earliest of all Buddhist texts and as the first sacred scripture to be brought from India to China in the year 65 C.E. We have seen that thanks to this text this date stood like a fixed centerpiece among the ever shifting shards in the European kaleidoscope of Asian religions. What kind of text is this "Book of Fo"? Which version did de Guignes use for his pioneer translation? And how did he arrive at his monotheistic interpretation of its fundamental doctrine?

The Forty-Two Sections Sutra

De Guignes had a kind of Bible for all things Chinese. Whether he was writing about Chinese history or religion, on virtually every page he either refers to or quotes from the Wenxian tongkao (Comprehensive examination of literature) compiled by MA Duanlin (1245-1322). Published after twenty years of work in 1321, this masterpiece of Chinese historiography soon became indispensable because it provided thematically arranged extracts from a very wide range of other Chinese works. Students preparing for China's civil service examinations sometimes memorized Ma's chapter introductions, and missionaries and early Western Sinologists appreciated the giant work because it furnished so much (and so judiciously selected) textual material from original sources.

One can say that this excellent work is by itself equivalent to an entire library and that even if Chinese literature would only consist of this work it would be worth the trouble to learn Chinese just to read this. It is not only about China that one would learn much but also a large part of Asia, and regarding everything that is most important and noteworthy about its religions, legislation, rural economics and politics, commerce, agriculture, natural history, history, physical geography, and ethnography. One only has to choose the subject which one wants to study and then to translate what Ma Duanlin has to say about it. All the facts are reported and classified, all sources indicated, and all authorities cited and discussed. (Abel-Remusat 1829:2.170)

This was the work that men like de Visdelou and de Guignes always seemed to have at hand; and some China missionaries only appeared to be so well read because they failed to mention that Ma Duanlin was the source of their quotations from so many Chinese works (p. 171). It was in the Wenxian tongkao that de Guignes found much of the material for his History of the Huns, and the influence of this collection was so great that Abel-Remusat stated in 1829 that Ma Duanlin alone was at the origin "of the large part of positive knowledge that one has so far acquired in Europe about Chinese antiquity" (p. 171-72). While this may be a bit exaggerated in view of the translations of Chinese classics and histories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there is no doubt that for de Guignes this collection was of supreme importance. For example, fascicles 226 and 227 of Ma Duanlin's work, which deal with Buddhism and its literature, are the source of much of the solid information (as opposed to speculation) that de Guignes conveyed about this topic to his pan-European readership.

In the introduction to his Buddhism sections, Ma Duanlin recounts the traditional story about the dream of Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty (re. 58-75 CE.) and the introduction of Buddhism to China. The emperor saw a spirit flying in his palace courtyard, was told that this had to do with an Indian sage called Buddha, and sent an embassy to India. Accompanied by two Indian monks, this embassy brought the Forty-Two Sections Sutra and a statue of the Buddha on a white horse back to China in 65 CE. The famous White Horse Monastery (Baimasi) was built near the capital Chang'an (today's Xian) in order to store this precious text and China's first Buddha statue.

This is the story de Guignes was familiar with. But the more modern Sinologists led by Maspero (1910) learned about it, the more this Story turned out to be a classic foundation myth. Today we know that there is no evidence that such an embassy ever took place; that the oldest extant Story of Emperor Ming's dream had a man as leader of the ambassadors who had lived two hundred years earlier; that Buddhism was introduced to China before the first century of the common era; that the first references to a White Horse Monastery date from the third century CE.;16 and of course, as is the rule with such myths, that striking details -- such as the first Buddha image and the two Indian monks accompanying the white horse -- enter the game suspiciously late (here in the fifth century).

While this tale of the introduction of Buddhism to China is today regarded as a legend without any historical basis, the Forty-Two Sections Sutra itself has a reasonable claim to antiquity. It is an exaggeration to say that "most scholars believe that the original Scripture of Forty-Two Sections, whatever its origins, was indeed in circulation during the earliest period of Buddhism in China" (Sharf 2002:418). One can only state with confidence that some of its maxims and sayings are documented from the second century onward and that some of the vocabulary of the text indicates (or wants to indicate) an origin in the first centuries CE. The scholarly consensus in Japan holds that the text as we know it stems not from the first or second century but is a Chinese compilation dating from the fifth century CE. that combined passages and sayings from a number of different Buddhist texts (Okabe 1967).

Twentieth-century research has also revealed that there are three major versions of this text (Okabe 1967). The first, included in the Korean Buddhist canon, appears to more or less closely reproduce the original fifth-century compilation and is here called "standard version." The version used by de Guignes, by contrast, first emerged around 800 CE. and contains some sections that are strikingly different from the standard version. Figure 9 shows the genealogy of editions of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra.

Figure 9. Stemma of major Forty-Two Sections Sutra editions (Urs App)

Since exactly these modified sections (Yanagida 1955) are of central importance for de Guignes's interpretation of "Indian religion," a bit more information is needed here. The book entitled Baolin zhuan ("Treasure Forest Biographies") of 801 -- which was the first text to include the modified Forty-Two Sections Sutra -- is known as a scripture of the Chan or Zen tradition of Chinese Buddhism. Rather than a separate "sect" in the ordinary sense, this was a typical reform movement involving Buddhist monks of a variety of different affiliations who had a particular interest in meditation17 and wanted to link their reform to the founder's "original teaching." For this purpose, lineages of transmission were created out of whole cloth, and soon enough the founder Buddha was linked to his eighth-century Chinese "successors" by a direct line of Indian patriarchs at whose end stood Bodhidharma, the legendary figure who fulfills the role of transmitter and bridge between India and China. Needless to say, all this was a pious invention to legitimize and anchor the reform movement in the founder's "original" teaching that supposedly was transmitted "mind to mind" by an unbroken succession of enlightened teachers reaching back to the Buddha. According to this very creative Story line, the Buddha once showed a flower to his assembly and only one member, his disciple Mahakashyapa, smiled. He thus became the first Indian "Zen" patriarch who had received the Buddha's formless transmission. Such transmission lineages had much evolved since their modest beginnings in genealogies of Buddhist masters of Kashmir and in Tiantai Buddhist lore. In the eighth century, Zen sympathizers tested a number of variants until, in the year 801, a model emerged mat carried the day (Yampolsky 1967:47-50). This was the model of the Baolin zhuan featuring twenty-seven Indian patriarchs and the twenty-eighth patriarch Bodhidharma, the legendary founder of Zen whom Engelbert Kaempfer had depicted crossing the sea to China on a reed (see Figure 10 below).

The partially extant first chapter of this "Treasure Forest" text presented the biography of the founder, Shakyamuni Buddha, and this chapter contained the modified text of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra. The setting is, of course, significant: the sutra is uttered just after the Buddha's enlightenment and thus constitutes the founder's crucial first teaching. This alone was quite a daring innovation that turned a collection of maxims, anecdotes, and rules into a founder's oration. Bur the ninth-century editor of the Baolin zhuan went one significant step further. Not content faithfully to quote the conventional text of the sutra, he changed various sections and added passages that clearly reflected his own reformist "Zen" agenda. This method of putting words into the founder's mouth was and is, of course, popular in many religions; but in this case it was a particularly effective ploy. Not only did the Buddha now utter things that furthered me editor's sectarian agenda-and turned the text into a "sutra" -- but he said these things in his very first speech after enlightenment! And this speech formed a text that was not just any text but the reputedly first and oldest text of Buddhism and for good measure also the first one to make its way to China and to be translated into Chinese! What better pedigree and vehicle for reformist teachings could one wish for?

The Zen movement as a whole was crowned with brilliant success, as Ma Duanlin's list of Buddhist literature in fascicle 227 of his work shows: more than one-third of the eighty-three listed texts are products of the Zen tradition (for example, the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Blue Cliff Record, and Records of Linji). The "Zen-ified" text of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, too, was a smashing success. It became by far the most popular version of this sutra, was printed and reprinted with various commentaries, and in the Song period was even included as the first of the "three classics" (Ch. sanjing) of Buddhism.18 A copy of it found its way into the Royal Library in Paris, and this is the text de Guignes set our to translate in the early 1750S.19 It is worthy of note that it was exactly the most "Zen-ified" version of this text that served to introduce Europe to Buddhist sutras, that is, sermons purportedly uttered by the Buddha.20

The difference between the three major versions of the Forty- Two Sections Sutra is of great interest as it exhibits the motives of their respective editors. For example, the end of section nine of the standard version reads as follows:

Feeding one billion saints is not as good as feeding one solitary buddha (pratyekabudda). Feeding ten billion solitary buddhas is not as good as liberating one's parents in this life by means of the teaching of the three honored ones. To teach one hundred billion parents is not as good as feeding one buddha, studying with the desire to attain buddhahood, and aspiring to liberate all beings. But the merit of feeding a good man is [still] very great. It is better for a common man to be filial to his parents than for him to serve the spirits of Heaven and Earth, for one's parents are the supreme spirits. (Sharf 2002:424)

Whether one regards the portions of the text that are here emphasized by bold type as interpolations or not, their emphasis on filial piety clearly exhibits the Chinese character of this text and fits into the political climate of fifth-century China. The Imperial Zhenzong edition (Zen version A), which adopted a number of the "Zen" changes from the Baolin zhuan, leaves out part of the first phrase but also praises filial piety:

Feeding one billion saints is not as good as feeding one solitary buddha (pratyekabudda). Feeding ten billion solitary buddhas is not as good as feeding one buddha, studying with the desire to attain buddhahood, and aspiring to liberate all beings. But the merit of feeding a good man is [still] very great. It is better for a common man to be filial to his parents than for him to serve the spirits of Heaven and Earth, for one's parents are closest.

For a religion whose clergy must "leave home" (ch. chujia) and effectively abandon parents and relatives in order to join the family of the monastic sangha, this call for filial piety may seem a little odd; but this kind of passage certainly helped fend off Confucian criticism about Buddhism's lack of filial piety. Compared to the standard edition, the "imperial" edition (Zen version A) effectively sidelined the issue and made it clear that "feeding one buddha, studying with the desire to attain buddhahood, and aspiring to liberate all beings" is the highest goal. The Shousui text (Zen version B), by contrast, mentions not one word about filial piety and advocates a rather different ideal:

Feeding one billion saints is not as good as feeding one solitary buddha (pratyekabudda). Feeding ten billion solitary buddhas is not as good as feeding one of the buddhas of the three time periods. And feeding one hundred billion buddhas of the three time periods is not as good as feeding someone who is without thought and without attachment, and has nothing to attain or prove.

This goal reflects the agenda of the Zen sympathizer who edited the Forty-Two Sections Sutra around the rum of the ninth century and decided to put this novel teaching straight into the mouth of the newly enlightened Buddha. De Guignes, who used a "Zen version B" text, translated the part emphasized by bold type quite differently from my rendering above:

One billion O-lo-han are inferior to someone who is in the degree of Pie-tchi-fo, and ten billion Pietchi-fo inferior to someone who has reached the degree of San-chi-tchu-fo. Finally, one hundred billion Sanchi- tchu-fo are not comparable to one who no more thinks, who does nothing, and who is in a complete insensibility of all things. (de Guignes 1759:1.2.229)

This last passage played a crucial role in de Guignes's definition of the Samaneens and their ideal. He interpreted the different stages of perfection as stages of rebirth and purification. This conception lies at the heart of his view that the ideal Samaneens, who in the Zen version B text are credited with exactly such absence of discriminating thought and attachment, represent the ultimate stage of transmigration before union with the Supreme Being. Theirs is the "religion of annihilation" (la religion de l'aneantissemen) de Guignes found at the very beginning of the Sutra text where the Buddha says, "He who abandons his father, his mother, and all his relatives in order to occupy himself with the knowledge of himself and to embrace the religion of annihilation is called Samaneen" (de Guignes 1759:1B.227) The corresponding standard text defines the Samaneens as follows: "The Buddha said: Those who leave their families and their homes to practice the way are called sramanas." The Zen text version A and also version B used by de Guignes, by contrast, have: "The Buddha said: A home-leaver or sramana cuts off all desire and frees himself from attachment, understands the source of his own mind, attains the Buddha's profound principle, and awakens to the doctrine of wu-wei." This "doctrine of wu-wei" (literally, "nonaction") was interpreted by de Guignes as "religion of annihilation."21 It was thus exactly the eight-character-phrase [x] ("know the mind / reach the source / understand the doctrine of wu-wei") that the Zen editor had slipped into the opening passage that inspired de Guignes to define the religion of the 5amaneens as a "religion of annihilation." He found this ideal confirmed in other passages of his Forty-Two Sections Sutra. The second section, which is also exclusive to the Zen versions, is shown in Table 7.



"Zen" version B (Shousui text) / English translation based on de Guignes (1756:I.2.228) / English translation based on the Chinese text (App)

[x] / A Samaneen, after having abandoned everything and smothered his passions, must always occupy himself with contemplating the sublime doctrine of Fo; / A "home-leaver" or sramana cuts off all desire and frees himself from attachment, understands the source of his own heart-mind, attains the Buddha's profound principle, and awakens to the doctrine of wu-wei.

[x] / then there is nothing to desire any more, his heart is no more bound, nothing touches him, and he thinks of nothing. / He has nothing to attain inside and nothing to search for outside; his heart-mind is not bound to the Way nor is he tied to karma. Free of thought and action, he has nothing to cultivate and nothing to prove.

De Guignes's translation in places reads more like a paraphrase; some phrases are left untranslated, and there is a very understandable ignorance of technical terminology. For example, de Guignes translates the text's "nor is he tied to karma" as "nothing touches him." The lack of specialized dictionaries and a tenuous grasp of classical Chinese grammar must have made translation not just a tedious but also a hazardous enterprise. So much more astonishing is the degree of confidence that de Guignes seemed to have in his skill as a translator and interpreter of Chinese texts.

The God of the Samaneens

An anonymous British reviewer once described de Guignes as a man who is "almost always wading through the clouds of philology, to snuff up conjectures."22 He must have been thinking of de Guignes's theories about the Egyptian origin of the Chinese people or his conviction, built on a flimsy legend in Ma Duanlin's work, that Chinese Buddhist missionaries had discovered America in the fifth century C.E. (de Guignes 1761). But de Guignes's tendency to take some ambiguous drop of information and to wring earth-shattering torrents of conclusions from it is already in evidence in his very first translation from the Forty-Two Sections Sutra. His interpretation of the first word of the sutra's preface, as it happens, was just such a "cloud of philology," and the house of cards de Guignes built on this one-legged stool was of a truly astonishing scale. This was de Guignes's first attempt to come to terms with the content and history of the creed that he called "Indian religion" and to introduce the central and oldest text by this religion's founder, so it is no surprise that many readers and other authors were inspired.23 De Guignes's mistranslation and misinterpretation of the first word of this preface thus not only set his own interpretation of Buddhism on the wrong footing but misled a generation of readers unable to read Chinese who naturally relied on de Guignes's "expertise."

Zen version B's short preface appears to have been authored by the editor of the Baolin zhuan around the turn of the ninth century. Since that editor wanted to portray the Forty-Two Sections Sutra -- which he had so cleverly used as a host for his reformist "Zen" agenda -- as the first sermon of the Buddha after his enlightenment, his "Zen Version B" text, of course, situated the action at the Deer Park in Saranath where the Buddha first taught (turned the dharma wheel of the Four Noble Truths); see Table 8.
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Re: The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

Postby admin » Thu Dec 31, 2020 2:27 am

Part 4 of 4



Zen version B text / English tramslation based on de Guignes (1759:802-3) / English translation based on the Chinese text (App)

[x] / The veritable law of the adoration of Chi only consists in meditations, in the removal of one's passions, and in perfect apathy. The one who has reached the greatest perfection in this law, / When [Buddha] the World-honored One had attained the Way [buddhahood] he had the following thought: "To free oneself of desire and be calm is most excellent."

[x] / after having lost himself in profound contemplations, can submit the spirits, go in the middle of deserts, / Absorbed in a great state of meditation [samadhi], he subdued all demonic ways, and while in the Deer Park

[x] / traverse the revolutions of the four Ti, meditate on the five famous philosophers and particularly on Kiao-chin-ju, / he revolved the Dharma wheel of the Four [Noble] Truths. He converted Kaudinya, etc., the five companions.

[x] / and finally pass through the different degrees of sanctity that one acquires by practicing the law. / and had them attain the fruit of the Way.

De Guignes's translation of this preface makes one doubt his grasp of classical Chinese and confirms that he would hardly have been in a position to produce the translations in his History of the Huns without the constant help of de Visdelou's manuscripts. Bur translating such texts in mid-eighteenth- century Paris was an extremely difficult undertaking. Some reading of Buddhist texts would have quickly showed that "the world-honored one" is a very common epithet of the Buddha. But there were few such texts at hand, and the Chinese character dictionaries of the Royal Library (Leung 2002:196-97) as a rule did not list compounds. Still, the "subject-verb-past particle" structure should have suggested something like "XX having attained the Way ... " rather than de Guignes's wayward "the veritable law of the adoration of Chi only consists in ... " For de Guignes everything turned around this "adoration of Chi." In his view this "veritable law" consisted in "meditations, removal of one's passions, and in perfect apathy." Furthermore, de Guignes thought that this preface outlined a process through which those who practice this law "pass through the different degrees of sanctity" before reaching the greatest perfection, and used this as textual support for his conception of the Samaneens as the ultimate stage of the transmigration process. But ultimately de Guignes's interpretation hinged on the meaning of the first two characters that he translated as "adoration of Chi." The first character chi (which today is romanized as shi) usually means "century" or "world." But here it forms part of the compound shizun, which in Chinese Buddhist texts is one of the most common appellations of the Buddha. It literally means "the world-honored one" and is as common in Buddhist texts as in Christian texts the phrase "our savior" that, as everyone knows, refers to Jesus. Probably due to lack of exposure to Buddhist texts, de Guignes did not realize this and explained the meaning of the first character chi or shi as follows:

Chi, in the Chinese language, means century and corresponds to the Arabic word Alam, which the translator of the Anbertkend employed in the same sense; it is thus the adoration of the century that is prescribed in both works. What Masoudi reports of the Hazarouan-el-alam, a duration of 36,000 years (or according to others 60,000 years) was adopted by the Brahmins and is the same as this Chi of the Chinese. This Hazarouan possessed the power over things and governed them all. In the Indian system, the Chi or Hazarouan corresponds perfectly to this Eon of the Valentinians who pretend that the perfect Eon resides in eternity in the highest heaven that can neither be seen nor named. They called it the first principle, the first father. (de Guignes 1759:803)

In support of this view, de Guignes here referred to the famous two-volume Critical History of Mani and Manichaeism (1734/1739) by Isaac de BEAUSOBRE (1659-1738). Citing St. Irenaeus, Beausobre had characterized this Eon of the Valentinians as "invisible, incomprehensible, eternal, and alone existing through itself" and as "God the Father" who is also called "First Father, First Principle, and Profundity" (Beausobre 1984:578). Following Beausobre, de Guignes stated that these Christian heretics "admitted a perfect Eon, the Eon of Eons," and concluded without further ado that exactly this Eon of Eons "is the Chi of the Samaneens" (de Guignes 1759:804). For de Guignes and his readers this appeared to be solid textual evidence in support of a monotheistic interpretation of esoteric Buddhism, an interpretation that some had already encountered in Brucker (1742-44:48.821-22) or Freret (1753; see Chapter 7).

De Guignes's 1753 paper on the Samaneens thus ended with a monotheistic bang. Three years later, in the History of the Huns, he spelled out some of the implications. After having once more laid out his view of the exoteric and esoteric followers of Fo and described the Samaneen as a person who "is free of all these passions, exempt of all impurity, and dies only to rejoin the unique divinity of which his soul was a detached part" (de Guignes 1756:1.2.225), de Guignes explains the Samaneen vision of God in a manner that echoes Brucker:

This supreme Being is the principle of all things, he is from all eternity, invisible incomprehensible, almighty, sovereignly wise, good, just, merciful, and self-originated. He cannot be represented by any image; one cannot worship him because he is beyond any adoration, but one can depict his attributes and worship them. This is the beginning of the idolatric cult of the peoples of India. The Samaneen who is ever occupied with meditation on this great God, only seeks to annihilate himself in order to rejoin and lose himself in the bosom of the Divinity who has pulled all things out of nothing and is itself different from matter. This is the meaning that they give to emptiness and nothingness. (de Guignes 1756:1.2.226)

For de Guignes this sovereign Being, this "great God," is the one who in the "doctrine of the Samaneens or Philosophers has the Chinese name of Chi" (p. 226). This fact forms the core of de Guignes's conception of the real (monotheist) religion of Buddha. He even read a creator God into the last section of his 1756 translation of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra. That section contains a passage that compares the Buddha's "method of skilful means" (Ch. fangbianmen) to a magician's trick ([x]). Like a magician in his own right, de Guignes pulled nothing less than the creatio ex nihilo out of this simple phrase. He translated it by "the creation of the universe that has been pulled from nothingness [I regard as] just the simple transformation of one thing into another" (p. 233).

After his translation of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, de Guignes summarized his view of it as follows:

I thought I had to report here the major part of this work that forms the basis of the entire religion of the Samaneens. Those who glance at it will only find a Christianity of the kind that the Christian heresiarchs of the first century taught after having mixed ideas from Pythagoras on metempsychosis with some other principles drawn from India. This book could be one of those false gospels that were current at the time. With the exception of a few particular ideas, all the precepts that Fo conveys seem to be drawn from the gospel. (pp. 233-34)

De Guignes's misunderstanding and mistranslation not only confirmed his fixed idea of the monotheism of the Samaneens but also led to an entirely original assessment of the history of their religion. Without making any attempt to help his confused readers, de Guignes suggested that the purportedly oldest book of this religion was an apocryphal Christian gospel of gnostic tendency from the early first century C.E. In a paper read in the fall of 1753 he also argued -- possibly inspired by de Visdelou's annotated translation of the Nestorian stele that repeatedly made the same point -- that the Chinese had mixed up Nestorian Christians with Buddhists.24 Not content with this narrow argument based on the text of the stele, he grew convinced that the Chinese mixup of Christianity with Foism happened on such a scale that they even "gave Jesus Christ the name of Fo!' (de Guignes 1764:810). In a sense, his theory about the Forty-Two Sections Sutra was a counterpart to the story line advanced by Ruggieri (Rule 1986:10) and Ricci that proposed that Emperor Ming's dream about a saint from the West had been about Jesus Christ and that the imperial embassy had mistakenly brought back the idolatry of Fo instead of the truth of Christianity. According to de Guignes, however, the Chinese ambassadors had imported a heretical kind of Christianity and fallen victim to the delusion that it was the religion of Fo.

But what about the origin of the religion of Fo around 1000 B.C.E. that de Guignes had found documented in so many Chinese and Arabic sources? Did he now believe that its exoteric and esoteric teachings were all from the common era? Where did Pythagoras learn about metempsychosis? What were those "other principles" from (presumably pre-Christian-era) India that were supposedly mixed in? Do the Vedas belong to this religion or are they older? In the 1750s de Guignes left these and many other questions unanswered; and when he revisited the theme two decades later, the Christian heresiarchs and the view of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra as an apocryphal gospel had vanished like a magician's doves and rabbits.

The History of Buddhism

In the two decades since the publication of his History of the Huns, de Guignes had continued to study Ma Duanlin's Wenxian tongkao. Much of the accurate information conveyed by the Frenchman in his three 1776 papers stemmed from its 226th and 227th fascicles. These papers contained an extraordinary amount of solid information about the history of Buddhism that may have been lost on those who were only interested in origins and the most ancient events. De Guignes hoped that many such people, especially indomaniacs, would study his findings, accept his view of the Vedas as relatively young texts (not much older than 1100 B.C.E.) and regain or fortify their faith in the accuracy of the biblical account.

With regard w the history of de Guignes's "Indian religion," which, as we now know, consisted mostly of Buddhism, comparatively little solid information had hitherto been available in Europe. Much of it concentrated on tales about the founder's biography, and few missionaries had actually studied Buddhist texts. It was all very confusing. Bur from the 1750s, many decades before Pali and Sanskrit sources came into play, the ability of a few Europeans to read Chinese opened up a new and abundant source of data, and for a while Fourmont's two disciples, Deshauterayes and de Guignes, were the sole pioneers in Europe able to exploit this treasure trove. As we will see in Chapter 7, Deshauterayes was confused by some ideas that de Visdelou had sent from Pondicherry to Fourmont. Deshauterayes eventually produced some translations from the Chinese that were posthumously published in 1825 and 1826 and influenced Arthur Schopenhauer (App 1998b), but in the eighteenth century he had very little impact and was sidelined by de Guignes.

For information on Buddhism and its history (which for him, of course, formed pan of "Indian religion"), de Guignes profited mainly from Ma Duanlin's sections on Buddhism and from the famous travelogue by the Chinese monk Faxian (337-422), who had made a long pilgrimage via Central Asia to India. Such data transmitted by de Guignes had no equal in Europe until the appearance of studies by Jean-Pierre Abel-Remusat and Eugene Burnouf half a century later. However, the accurate data contained in de Guignes's writings tended to be overshadowed by his spectacular (and spectacularly wrong) conclusions. Yet long sections of his three papers lay Out, based on Ma Duanlin, how China had become familiar with Buddhism in the first centuries when Indian and Central Asian monks brought their sacred literature to China and helped translate it into Chinese.

Soon afterward, Chinese monks began to travel to Central Asia and then to India itself in search of Buddhist texts and relics. Some of these monks wrote travelogues that even today are considered precious sources of information about ancient India and Buddhism. Ma Duanlin described many important figures, events, and texts of Buddhism and provided an excellent survey of the history of Chinese Buddhism up to the thirteenth century. De Guignes's European readership thus could learn much about the Indian origin of the religion of Buddha; the life of its founder; the religion's early presence in Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Central Asia; its introduction into China; its famous missionaries, masters, and translators; its abundant sacred literature; some of its doctrines; its two main branches; its spread to Ceylon, Tibet, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and Japan; and much else.

Almost sixty years before Abel-Remusat's posthumous Foe Koue Ki (1836) and seventy years before Burnouf's justly famous Introduction a l'histoire du Buddhisme Indien (1844), the first shot at a presentation of the history of Buddhism was de Guignes's. Apart from details about famous Chinese India travelers such as Faxian and Xuanzang, many Indian or Central Asian monks who had sojourned in China were mentioned by de Guignes (Bodhiruci, Gunabhadra, Kumarajiva, etc.). For some of them even important translations into Chinese are listed; for example, the titles of no less than twenty-three texts translated by Kumarajiva are specified (de Guignes 1781b:40-41). The history of Buddhism in China was laid our in several phases: from the introduction of Buddhism in the first century to 419 (pp. 1-81); from 419 to 543 CE. (pp. 82-111); from 544 to 698 CE. (de Guignes 1781C:112-32); from 698 to 965 CE. (pp. 132-63); and finally from 965 to 1648 CE. (pp. 163- 200). Accurate historical information mostly stems from Ma Duanlin and is sometimes reproduced in detail; for example, de Guignes reports that the important Biographies of Eminent Monks (Ch. Gaoseng zhuan) and its supplement contain information about 257 persons between the years 67 and 519 CE (1781b:109-10). Bur apart from a few texts including the Forty-two Sections Sutra, de Guignes enjoyed no access to Buddhist literature in Chinese and could thus not study the content of the texts that were listed with so much detail. The readers of these three papers, however, must have been very impressed by the wealth of Buddhism's sacred literature whose history in China went back to the first century of the common era.

The Battle Against Indomania

De Guignes's discoveries were invariably of a kind that stunned the public and seemed to provide answers to important questions. His Visdelou-inspired identification of the Xiongnu and the Huns (1751,1756) established a hitherto unknown connection between Chinese, Mongol, Turkic, Persian, Arab, and European history and seemed to have solved the mystery of the Huns. His analysis of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra (1753-56) claimed to have uncovered a connection between early Christian heretics and the "Indian religion" that dominates large parts of Asia by portraying one of Asia's most famous religious texts as an apocryphal gospel. His sensational discovery of the Egyptian origin of the Chinese (1758) not only proposed to rewrite the history of much of Asia and to show ancient Chinese historical sources in a new light but also to furnish a comprehensive solution to the riddle of China's "hieroglyphic" writing system. His theory about a fifth-century voyage of Chinese Buddhist monks (1761) to a country named Fusang, built on a Chinese legend mentioned by Ma Duanlin, supposedly dethroned Columbus by a thousand years as discoverer of the Americas. If the public thought that five major discoveries in ten years were plenty and that the time had come to furnish solid evidence, it underestimated de Guignes's creative powers. He had one more ace up his sleeve, and once more it was Ma Duanlin who furnished much of the raw material on which the French professor built an impressive tower of speculation.

During the 1760s Europe's interest in India had grown exponentially through Voltaire's propaganda, Abbe Mignot's papers on the ancient philosophers of India,25 and the supposedly very ancient texts of "Indian" origin that had made their way to Europe: Voltaire's Ezour-vedam, Holwell's Chartah Bhade Shastah, and Dow's Shastabad. By the early 1770s the major threat to biblical authority and chronology was no more China but India, so it comes as no surprise that de Guignes's last great endeavor was the debunking of India as cradle of all human culture. The title of three lectures held in 1776 at the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Literature ("On the Indian religion and the fundamental texts of this religion that were translated from the Indian [idiom] into Chinese") indicates the direction of his effort. De Guignes explained:

My principal aim in these researches is to demonstrate that the Chinese have not been cultivated by the Indians, to whom one pretends to attribute great antiquity, and that this sentiment [of great Indian antiquity] is only based on pure conjecture. They are a means that has for some time now been abused with too much impudence in order to establish a bunch of paradoxes because one does not consult the veritable sources and abandons oneself too much to one's own imagination. (de Guignes 1781a:77.349-50).

De Guignes does not mention any names but we can infer that he mainly thought of Voltaire, Raynal, and Bailly:

The Ancients chastized the poets for having altered and corrupted history: we could address the same criticism to several writers who in recent times have set themselves up as Historiens Philosophes. Abandoning themselves to their imagination, they dare to invent and assume facts because they are ignorant of the sources. Overall, they are little versed in the study of antiquity and even less familiar with the art of criticism; they do not weigh the authorities; and they adopt without examination everything that seems to agree with their system. After having shaped the earth to their liking, they place on it the diverse tribes and arrange the cradle of science where they see fit. According to some, the sciences were born in India; according to others in Siberia near Selinginskoi and Lake Baikal, a region where nature seems numb and where the inhabitants were anciently plunged in the greatest barbarity. Such are the aberrations which the spirit of systematization [esprit de systeme] produces! ... But all these hazardous assertions vanish when one examines history. (pp. 354-55)

Of course such assertions were only "hazardous" for someone attached to biblical chronology and the orthodox Christian ideology of history that held Europe in its grip for so many centuries. In the second half of the eighteenth century dissenters were no longer dragged before the inquisition and tortured by its henchmen until they confessed. But resistance to alternative views was still extremely strong and de Guignes, like many fellow pioneers of oriental ism, was eager to build academic barricades in its defense. It is amazing how much orientalism as a discipline owes to religious motivations. In this case, the will to defend Europe's orthodox view of history resulted not only in a series of mind-boggling theories but also in Europe's first detailed (and, thanks to Ma Duanlin, largely accurate) description of large chunks of Buddhist history.

In his first 1776 presentation, de Guignes proposed to establish some basic facts about Indian history and religion, and in the second and third lectures he planned to trace "the history of this religion in China" and discuss "various Indian texts that were translated into Chinese" (p. 350). The most important first step consisted in proving that Indian religion was not as old as the indomaniacs claimed. This was not too difficult given that for de Guignes both "sects" of Indian religion came from the same founder, namely, Buddha. Though the dates of this figure vary in different sources (de Guignes mentions 688, 1027, and 1122 B.C.E.; p. 361), they are nor of overly great antiquity. Since "these Brahmins as well as the Samaneens follow the same doctrine of Fo" (p. 360), de Guignes found that their religion cannot be older than 1122 B.CE. According to Ziegenbalg and La Croze, the Samaneens had first brought culture to India, and de Guignes read a confirmation of this in a Chinese author who wrote, "Boudha, after having examined the character of the Indians and adapting and rectifying it, succeeded in instructing and civilizing these people" (p. 372). All this led to de Guignes's conclusion that around 1100 B.CE the Indians were still "nothing but barbarians and brigands" (p. 372) and that any notion of India as cradle of human civilization was pure fantasy.

Ma Duanlin and the Chinese travelogues also permitted de Guignes to trace the dissemination of this "Indian religion" founded by Buddha into various regions of Asia. Much of this information was new for European readers. De Guignes traced the religion's spread southward to Ceylon (p. 393), northward to Tibet and Tartary (p. 406), south-eastward to the whole region of Southeast Asia including some islands (p. 429), and eastward to China and Japan (p. 447). But fact and fiction were hard to disentangle. For example, de Guignes also claimed that in the year 966 CE. India was still full of Samaneens and that only the name of their religion had disappeared from India, not its doctrine (p. 385). As confusing as the mass of data was, readers like Herder and Sainte-Croix had no trouble understanding de Guignes's overall notion of a huge pan-Asian religion of Indian origin that consisted of "interior" and "exterior" branches. In this vision the Samaneens represent the interior doctrine -- a doctrine that, according to de Guignes, had survived not only in India but also in other countries.

The Chinese Vedas

In the 1750s de Guignes had only mentioned the Yogic Anbertkend and the Forty-Two Sections Sutra as representatives of the interior teaching and failed to mention the Vedas. But in the age of growing indomania, he could not avoid this discussion, and he prepared himself by reading everything in his reach about these elusive texts. In the 1760s the purported age of Indian texts had become the centerpiece of arguments by proponents of India as humanity's cradle of civilization. The Chinese annals, Voltaire's exaggerations about the age of the Ezour-vedam, and the even greater antiquity claimed by Holwell and Dow for their Indian texts were becoming serious challenges to biblical chronology and Mosaic authority. At the end of the decade, another supposedly very ancient Indian text turned up in Paris: the manuscript of the Bhagavata purana ("Bagavadam") translated by the South Indian Maridas Poulle. In 1772 de Guignes rode a first attack against the antiquity of Indian texts. Debunking all claims of antiquity of the Bagavadam, he showed that this supposedly extremely ancient text is at best 1,000 years old (de Guignes 1777:320). But de Guignes had bigger fish to fry. For the better part of his century, the reputation of the Vedas as the oldest texts of humankind had been slowly growing (see Chapters 5 and 6), and at the beginning of the 1770s, the interest in these texts had reached a first peak that prepared the ground for the claim in 1790 by Louis-Mathieu Langles that the Old Testament's Pentateuch was a late imitation of the five Indian Vedas.26 In the mid-1770s de Guignes felt exactly the same danger as Father Gaston Laurent Coeurdoux in Pondicherty (see Chapter 7); but instead of using Coeurdoux's method of linking India's famous seven penitents (rishis) to some descendant of Noah, de Guignes employed a secular historical approach involving no reliance on the Bible: he linked India's sacred literature to the Buddha. Drawing his data mainly from Jean-Francois Pons (letter of 1740; Pons 1781), and to some degree also from Abraham Roger (1651)and some additional authors who had discussed the Vedas, de Guignes projected his exoteric/esoteric divide on the sacred literature of India and divided it in two categories (see Table 9).



Inner (esoteric) Doctrine Religion of the Brachmanes/Samaneens / Outer (exoteric) Doctrine Religion of the people

Main scriptures: the four Vedas. Rig- and Yajurveda mainly used in South India, Sama- and Atharvanaveda mainly used in North India / Main scripture: Dharma shastram; by different authors

does not contain ceremonies of popular religion but explain meditation, ascetic practices / contains ceremonies, sacred rites of vulgar religion

inner doctrines and practices of philosophers / exterior practices of vulgar religion

strictly monotheistic / polytheistic; attributes of God are personified

Though Father Calmette had sent the Vedas in the 1730s to Paris in Telugu script (see Chapter 7), nobody could read them. But had not the Brahmins or polomen brought their religion to China, and could the Vedas not have formed part of their baggage of sacred scriptures? Scouring through Ma Duanlin's account of the introduction of Buddhism to China, de Guignes kept encountering the terms "small vehicle" and "great vehicle." At the time it was, of course, not yet known that these "vehicles" designate the Hinayana (Ch. xiaosheng) and Mahayana (Ch. dasheng) branches of Buddhism. For de Guignes these two terms signified the religion's exoteric and esoteric branches: "From the earliest times of the establishment of this religion, the opinions of the Buddha engendered two great sects. One was called Ta-tching and the other Siao-tching" (p. 370). He also learned from Ma Duanlin that the sacred scriptures of this religion did nor srem from the Buddha himself:

Buddha has written nothing; but after his death five hundred of his disciples, of which the principals were Ta-ka-ye or the great Kia ye and Onan, collected everything that he had taught, transcribed it, and formed a body of scriptures of it that they divided into twelve Pou or classes. The Japanese call these personages Kasja-sonsja &Annan-sonsja;27 this last word seems to correspond to the Indian Sanjassi. (p. 370)

As long as de Guignes stuck to the data that he found nearly arranged and summarized in Ma Duanlin, he conveyed more or less what the Chinese tradition held to be true. Of course, this can be quire different from what scholars today believe; we now know that for several centuries after the Buddha's death there was no written tradition and that the Mahayana reform movement arose about half a millennium after the founder's death. Bur de Guignes was not content simply to translate Ma Duanlin and present the result as the view of an extremely well-read Chinese intellectual of the early fourteenth century. Instead he presented very interesting (and for Europe, absolutely new) information about the history and texts of Buddhism in a framework of speculation that gave it a sensational touch. The first mistake was, as we have seen, de Guignes's rejection of La Croze's view that Buddhism and Brahmanism were different religions; he preferred Kircher's "Brahmin" missionaries of Buddhism and Le Gobien's polomen who venerate the Buddha, the dharma, and Brahmanic scriptures. The second mistake was his uncritical acceptance of the Buddha's supposed "deathbed confession" (of which the Chinese sources known to him contained no trace) and the identification of Buddhism's smaller and larger vehicle with the exoteric and exoteric branch of de Guignes's "Indian religion." But the third mistake was perhaps even more spectacular: on the basis of a slight similarity of epithet, de Guignes concluded that Shakyamuni Buddha was identical with the purported redactor of the Vedas, Vyasa.

This Che-kia or Schaka was the elder son of Tcing fan, King of the country called Kia-goei-goei; his mother was called Yeou-hie, and one recounts many fables about his birth. The name Che kia is, according to the Chinese, an Indian word that signifies very good, or very compassionate (Meng-gin); this is the same person whom Mr. Dow called Beass-mouni or Beas the inspired and whom the Indians, as he reports, regard as a prophet and philosopher who composed or rather collected the Vedas. (p. 363)

De Guignes's overall view of Indian sacred literature was mainly responsible for this mistake. It seduced him into identifying the "interior" doctrine and the Vedas with Mahayana doctrine and its texts. Starting with this idea, de Guignes soon detected evidence in support of his idea that the Vedas are scriptures of the Samaneens and thus of the followers of Buddha's "inner" or esoteric teaching. Once he had his stool standing on these seemingly solid feet, he piled more conjectures on it. In the absence of translations from the Vedas, he used the Ezour-vedam (see Chapter 7) as proof that the teaching of the Vedas and of the Samaneens are identical (p. 368): "The most perfect state taught by the Vedas, following the Ezour-vedam, is the same as that prescribed in the books of the Samaneens, which has me believe that these books are the same as the Vedas; it is a constant ... that the doctrine is identical" (p. 369). The Ezour-vedam's "total absence of passion in order to occupy oneself exclusively with the knowledge of God and the truth" is thus seen as matching the core teaching of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra. This suggested a link between the Vedas and the esoteric Buddhist scriptures that the polomen had brought to China and translated into Chinese. As mentioned above, de Guignes's main source about the Vedas was the famous letter by Father Pons of 1740 to which de Guignes refers time and again:

It is obvious, according to these missionaries, that the four Vedas did not form a single unified textual corpus because they are not generally adopted [in both the north and south]. Still, they could not contain the ceremonies of the people because it is prohibited to communicate them; besides, they belong to the secret doctrine that does not admit any such ceremonies. In India there are two doctrines, an exterior one which is the religion of the people and an interior one which is that of the philosophers. There is also a rather general consensus that the Adharvana-vedam -- to which Father Pons still gives the name of Brahma vedam -- is lost. It was followed in the North of India whence this religion passed to China. (pp. 380-81)

The Atharva-veda -- which was usually listed as the fourth veda and sometimes considered lost -- was thus among the texts that the polomen had conceivably brought from India to China. De Guignes was impressed by the number of Indian books that, according to Ma Duanlin's Wenxian tongkao, had been imported in China and translated into Chinese. Ma Duanlin, of course, regarded these texts as Buddhist; but as we have seen, this religion had a rather different scope for de Guignes who identified the Buddha with Vyasa:

Among the great number of Indian books that were translated into Chinese, there is one that is regarded as the basis of this Indian religion, and it carries the title of Book of Brahma. In China it is the most important book of this religion, and several translations and innumerable commentaries of it have been made. This book seems to me to be the Brahmavedam that is lost in India; but I am tempted to believe, for reasons that I will develop below, that it must be different from the Adharvanavedam. Consequently one can suspect that all the Vedas can be found in China. (de Guignes 178Ia:77.381)

This stunning conjecture of de Guignes seemed confirmed by a story that he read in his second major source on Buddhism, a polyglot glossary of Buddhist terms that he cites as Ou yin yun-tong (de Guignes 178Ib:78.25-28). The story is about Zhu Shixing, the first Chinese monk to leave his country in quest of Buddhist scriptures (Zurcher 1959:1.61). In the year 260 C.E., Reverend Zhu and his group went to Khotan in Central Asia where they found the Sanskrit text of the Prajnaparamita scripture in 25,000 verses.

These Samaneens stayed in Khotan until 282. When they prepared for departure, the inhabitants of Khotan who followed the doctrine of the small Tching [vehicle] were opposed to their departure and said to the King: The Samaneeens of China want to have the books of the Brahmins. (de Guignes 1781b:78.27).

De Guignes found this information noteworthy because it indicated that to communicate the Prajnaparamita scripture to the Chinese would signify "altering the true doctrine":

You are the king of this land, they said, if you do not prevent them from taking along these books, the great Law will be destroyed because the Chinese are a deaf and blind people, and it will be your fault. (p. 27)

This is a legend of interest for the history of Buddhism since it indicates tensions between adherents of traditional (Hinayana) and reformist (Mahayana) branches of Buddhism. But for de Guignes, fixated as he was on his conception of "Indian religion," this seemed to be a conflict between adherents of the Buddha's "inner" and "outer" doctrines. Making the connection to the Indian Brahmins and the Vedas, de Guignes grew convinced that the Vedas contain the Buddha's secret doctrine and that this doctrine was well known in China through the Mahayana texts that had been translated into Chinese. He explained:

The Indians have even today the same principles about their Vedas that they do not want to communicate to anybody. Not even all of them may read them since this privilege is reserved to the Brahmins, and those who do may not be involved in commerce. Also, they are not allowed to teach it to everybody without distinction. The people may not speak of it nor listen to others talk about it. So these books of the Indian religion must be guarded as a secret among a few elect ones. As to the text in question here, whose communication proved to be so difficult, could it be one of the Vedas? One would have [to have] the Vedas before one's eyes to decide this question; but the text is portrayed as the basis and foundation of the entire secret doctrine. It seems likely that those in China who followed the Indian religion had to know finally the most hidden books of this religion and to possess them in China where a great number of Indians resided. (pp. 27-28)

In de Guignes's mind, an interesting story about tensions between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhists in third-century Central Asia thus became a tale about the transmission of the scriptures of the esoteric branch of his "Indian religion," and the Prajnaparamita literature of early Mahayana Buddhism seemed to be the Vedas translated into Chinese. Scouring through Ma Duanlin's Wenxian tongkao, de Guignes found additional evidence to support this view. DHARMARAKSA (c. 230-308), an important translator of Indian Buddhist texts, was said to have translated the same text (p. 30). Moreover, Ma Duanlin's list of twenty-three texts translated by the great Kuchean monk KUMARAJIVVA (344-413) featured several texts containing "puon-jo" (Ch. banruo, Skt. prajna; wisdom) in their title. In second place of this list, there was a text whose tide attracted de Guignes's particular attention: the Diamond Prajnaparamita Sutra. Prajna paramita (literally, perfection of wisdom) is one of the perfections of the Bodhisattva, and in East Asia the word parami or paramita was often interpreted as "[means of] reaching the other shore." But for de Guignes the word parami (from Skt. parama, the highest), which the Chinese read "boluomi" (in de Guignes's transcription "Polomi"), had a very different meaning, namely, "Brahma"! This mistranslation (p. 46) confirmed de Guignes's idea that certain Mahayana texts are Chinese translations of the Vedas:

Father Pons speaks of a Veda that he names Adharvana vedam or Brahma vedam whose doctrine was followed in the North of India. Since the Chinese book under discussion is called the book of Brahma, is one of the principal books of this religion, and was adopted in the north, it could be this Brahma vedam or the Vedam of Brahma that the missionary talks about. (pp. 46-47)

As he scanned the pages of Ma Duanlin for text titles that somehow resembled the names of Vedas -- in particular, those of the Sama- and Atharvana-veda used in India's north where frequent communication with China was amply documented -- de Guignes struck gold and wrote:

Before the year 479 ... an Indian called Kieou na po-to-lo or Kieou-na poutra [Gunabhadra, 394-468] translated a work called Leng-kia-king [the Lankavatara Sutra] in four books. It is said that Leng-kia is the name of a mountain where Fo [Buddha] meditated on the Law. Leng-kia is pronounced Lang-ka in the Tibetan dictionary; it is the name that the Indians give to the island of Ceylon, which is famous in Indian mythology .... In the Tang period seven other books [of this sutra] were translated, and it was called Leng-kia O-po-to-lo pao king [Lengqie abatuoluo baojing], that is, the precious book called O-po-to-lo of Leng-kia. This name of O-po-to-lo resembles very much the word Obatar, which is the name of a Veda. (pp. 97-98)

The word "O-po-to-lo," whose Sanskrit equivalent avatara is well known to millions of garners and moviegoers today, made de Guignes think of the Veda that is traditionally listed as the fourth and youngest, the Atharvana Veda. De Guignes must have been excited about this additional confirmation. Now not only the Diamond Sutra and the great Prajna-paramita Sutra were Vedic texts in disguise, but the supposedly lost fourth Veda -- the very Veda, incidentally, as whose teacher Roberto de Nobili presented himself (see Chapter 7) -- was also extant in China, where it was called Lankavatara Sutra!

Thus, de Guignes became convinced that the "religion established in China is still absolutely the same as that of India" (p. 57) and that the Chinese had translated and were using the Indian Vedas including the fourth Veda. They contain the inner doctrine of Buddha, and the practice of both its Chinese followers and all sects of Indian philosophers "begins with the meditation and contemplation of the Supreme Being and ends with a kind of identity where there is no more feeling not will" -- a perfection that can only be reached after many transmigrations (p. 50). This was a repetition of the idea that he had already gained from his very particular reading, to put it charitably, of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra in the early 1750s.

Why Did Bodhidharma Go from India to China?

Between the 1750s and the 1770s, de Guignes thus sought to find additional textual evidence for his pan-Asian religion of Indian origin with esoteric and exoteric branches. This search constituted, as we will also see in the next chapters, a powerful force that propelled traditional orientalism toward an ever more secularized modern form-a form able to dispassionately and competently investigate ancient sacred texts and monuments. The literature of the esoteric branch seemed increasingly voluminous to de Guignes who quoted various texts, from the Anbertkend (de Guignes 1781b:60) and a text excerpted by Dow, the Neadirsen (p. 63), to the so-called Bequeathed Teachings of Buddha (p. 61). The latter is an apocryphal Buddhist text grouped by a Zen monk of the Song dynasty with the "zen-ified" Forty-Two Sections Sutra and a text of his own Guishan lineage to form the so-called Fozu sanjing, the Three Sutras of Buddha and Patriarch (Ch. Fozu sanjing). These three were among the few Buddhist texts studied by de Guignes. Given his idea of the doctrine of the esoteric branch of "Indian religion," he paid much attention to the word Chan (Jap. Zen, literally, contemplation or meditation). Since the main informer Ma Duanlin was writing in the golden age of Chinese Zen, the word popped up everywhere in his Buddhism section and was contained in many titles of scriptures. De Guignes was intrigued by these "particular treatises related to contemplation" and remarked:

As we have seen, this doctrine is very much in fashion with the Indians. These contemplatives are penitents who live in greatest austerity, observe the most extraordinary practices, and maintain the most ridiculous body positions. Although I do not have these treatises and do nor find them mentioned in the Chinese books [other than Ma Duanlin] that I can consult, I feel obliged to discuss this subject for a moment and explain what other works have to say about this. (pp. 64-65)

In his discussion, de Guignes throws all kinds of data from India and Tibet (from Giorgi's Alphabetum Tibetanum; p. 65) into the mix and quotes La Croze on the Gnanigols and the Anbertkend as well as Dow on Yogic practices (pp. 69-70). Everything seemed to support his idea that these practitioners were trying hard to achieve total concentration on God (p. 70).

But this seemingly pure religion was not immune to change. Already in the 1750s, de Guignes had read about Fo's "three doctrines;" but at the time he believed them to be three religions of the seven Fo [Buddhas] of the past whom he saw as "foreign legislators":

Among the different religions that these Fo have established, there are three principal ones: 1. Tchim-kiao, the simple and natural religion; 2. Siam-kiao, the religion of idols; and 3. Mo-kiao, the posterior religion. (de Guignes 1759:779)

As his ability to read Chinese improved, de Guignes realized that Ma Duanlin had not written about three religions by foreign legislators but rather about three phases or epochs of the religion of Fo:

One distinguishes in this religion of Fo three different epochs. In the first it was called Tching-fa, i.e., the first Law. According to a book which treats of these first times, this epoch began with the death of Fo or Boudha and lasted five hundred years. The second is called Siang-fa, the Law of Figures or Images. It lasted for 1000 years. The third is named Mo-fa, or the last Law, and it must last for 3000 years. As Boudha was born in 1027 or II22 and lived 79 years, he died in 969 or 1043 B.C.E. That's when the first Law that lasted for 500 years began, and it must have ended in 469 or 543 B.C.E. (de Guignes 1781a:77.373)

De Guignes's reliance on Ma Duanlin had many benefits; In this instance he had more or less accurately grasped the Chinese conception of three periods of the dharma: (1) the period of the genuine dharma, Ch. zhengfa; (2) the period of the semblance dharma, Ch. xiangfa; and (3) that of the end of the dharma or law, Ch. mofa. But not surprisingly, he misinterpreted the first period as the pure monotheism of remote antiquity and the second period as the age of idolatry (p. 376). In this second period something happened that, unbeknownst to de Guignes, strangely resembles the fate of the Forty-Two Sections Sutra:

It is likely that in the second [epoch, i.e., Xiangfa], which began around 470 or 544 B.C.E., people abandoned themselves increasingly to the cult of images. In that period they would compose books to explain the most ancient texts in conformity with the new cult; and it is not rare in such circumstances that the partisans of the new religion compose such [purportedly ancient] texts and attribute them to the first legislator. Later on, further books by unknown authors could have been attributed to him. The Indians, by the way, ate quite used to attribute their religious texts to the Divinity. (pp. 376-77)

De Guignes saw this scheme of the Fo religion's three epochs as proof that "the Indian Religion has not always remained the same since its origin and is not as ancient as people pretend" (p. 374). The degeneration of relatively pure esoteric monotheism into idolatric cults was bad enough; but who was the culprit responsible for the further degradation that rang the bell for the final period of the Dharma?

Here we enter the treacherous territory of Indian religion's axis of evil. If the Vedas were seen as embodiments of the interior doctrine and of monotheism professed by philosophers who kept such teachings among themselves, de Guignes identified the Dharma shastra as their exoteric, vulgar counterpart:

After the Vedas, the Dharma-chastram was composed, which contains the practices of the different sects, the rites of all kinds, the ceremonies and the laws for the administration of justice: there you have vulgar religion, in which all the attributes of the divinity were personified and the most absurd fables admitted. The people believe them and the philosophers teach them to the people even though they believe nothing of it and admit only a single God, the soul of the universe present everywhere. (p. 383)

Here the reader will hear a distinct echo of the Buddha's "deathbed confession" story that was endlessly repeated in Western sources. If the four Vedas with the inner doctrine of Indian religion had made their way to China disguised as the Diamond Sutra and other texts that we today associate with the Prajna paramita literature of Mahayana Buddhism, then the vulgar Dharma shastra had conceivably also been transmitted to China. After all, the panorama of Chinese religion -- riddled as it was with superstitious practices -- did not look all that rosy. According to the three-stage scheme, the last period of the true doctrine was said to have begun in the sixth century C.E. As de Guignes read the names of the major Buddhist figures of that century in Ma Duanlin's book, he came across a "Bodhidharma," an Indian "contemplative philosopher" (p. 106) who "had come to China with many books of contemplation" and had retired to a small temple where he "devoted himself entirely to contemplation with his face turned to a wall that he did not cease to stare at for nine years" (p. 107). If his name already suggested an association of this man with the Dharma shastra, his purported pivotal role in both India and in China was an additional hint. Was he the person who had perverted the "Indian religion" of China and launched the era of "Mo-ja, that is, the end o/the Law which is to last for 3,000 years" (p. 112)?

I believe I can here conjecture that this [Bodhi-]Darma of whom I spoke is the author of this revolution [the beginning of the final phase of the Law]. In India there exists a book with the title Darma Schastram or Dirm Schastram, i.e., Explication of Darma; and the doctrine contained in this book is adopted by a great number of Indians. This Darma seems to have played a great role in India, and this authorizes me to regard him as the author of the change in religion. For the rest, this is only a conjecture that I propose, a conjecture that Indian history can confirm or destroy. (p. 113)

De Guignes was aware that he was stepping on slippery ground here; but the reputation of Bodhidharma as symbol of transmission was already firmly established. In fact he is a splendid example of a "person of memory" (Assmann 1998:9) who probably never existed in the flesh yet has had a large impact in history. Students of religion know all too well that invented personages and traditions can become so real that they can not only save many souls but also pack in enormous amounts of baggage.

By the Song dynasty, when Ma Duanlin wrote, the Zen tradition of Chinese Buddhism and its model of Ur-tradition had become so dominant that other schools of Buddhism and later even Daoist movements began to imitate its lineage trick. Bur it was not easy to invent such a colorful transmitter figure as Bodhidharma, who not only was credited with having brought the Buddha's original teaching from India to China floating on a reed and having sat for nine years facing a wall but even with having, as Kaempfer excitedly reported, cut off his eyelids to avoid falling asleep (see Figure 10). He threw them away -- and behold, the next day two tea shrubs had grown at the exact spot where they had hit the ground. Thus Bodhidharma became the inventor and patron saint of tea ... (Kaempfer 1906:218-19). In the Song period the "successors of Bodhidharma" began to use koans in their training, and an entire literature grew around these poignant "Zen presentations offered as a Zen challenge" (DeMartino 1983). One of the most famous koans features a simple question: "Why did the patriarch [Bodhidharma] go from India to China?" Twenty years ago, during a pleasant research group party, an aggressive Japanese university professor suddenly shouted this question in a shrill voice at Professor Seizan Yanagida. He calmly replied: "Watakushi no tame" ("Because of me").

Figure 10. Bodhidharma crossing the sea on a reed (Kaempfer 1906:221).

Now we also know de Guignes's answer, as I interpret it: Because Bodhidharma wanted to destroy genuine Indian religion in China and launch the final age of the dharma by carrying the entire Dharma shastra, packed with the exterior practices of vulgar religion, in his bulky robe as he crossed the sea on that slender reed!

If the idea of a pan-Asian religion gradually took hold in European minds during the first half of the eighteenth century, the second half turned into a race to substantiate this idea and supply textual evidence for it. This was a task only orientalists could hope to tackle, and the chapters of this book present various facets of this endeavor that is so intimately connected with the birth of modern oriental ism. Starting with de Guignes's translation of the Forty-two Sections Sutra in the early 1750s, texts that seemed to answer this need successively appeared, and most of them pointed to an Indian cradle. In 1761 it was Voltaire's Ezour-vedam, in 1767 Holwell's Shastah, in 1768 Dow's Bedang Shaster and Neadirzin, in 1771 Anquetil-Duperron's Zend- Avesta, in 1785 Wilkins's Bhagvat-Geeta, and so on until de Guignes's death in 1800. Despite an almost superhuman effort during half a century of orientalist research, de Guignes was unable to furnish conclusive textual evidence for his "Indian religion." But the search was launched, and passionate orientalists such as Anquetil-Duperron were ready to risk their lives to gain the prize that had eluded de Guignes.
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