to whom

Buddhist prayer wheelI really enjoy HG Wells’s apparent outrage at the corruption of Buddhism by its nominal practitioners:

There was no effective prohibition of superstitious practices, spirit raising, incantations, prostrations, and supplementary worships. At an early stage a process of encrustation began, and continued. The new faiths caught almost every disease of the corrupt religions they sought to replace; they took over the idols and the temples, the altars and the censers.

Tibet today is a Buddhistic country, yet Gautama, could he return to earth, might go from end to end of Tibet seeking his own teaching in vain. He would find that most ancient type of human ruler, a god-king, enthroned, the Dalai Lama, the “living Buddha.” At Lhassa he would find a huge temple filled with priests, abbots, and lamas — he whose only buildings were huts and who made no priests — and above a high altar he would behold a huge golden idol, which he would learn was called “Gautama Buddha”! He would hear services intoned before this divinity, and certain precepts, which would be dimly familiar to him, murmured as responses. Bells, incense, prostrations, would play their part in these amazing proceedings. At one point in the service a bell would be rung and a mirror lilted up, while the whole congregation, in an access of reverence, bowed lower….

About this Buddhist countryside he would discover a number of curious little mechanisms, little wind-wheels and waterwheels spinning, on which brief prayers were inscribed. Everytime these things spin, he would learn, it counts as a prayer. “To whom?” he would ask.

Outline of History


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