XI. IN THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
"Well, I first want to get up a show," he replied. "There's money to be made by a show of josses in London. London people never saw anything like this in their lives. Then the church folks help that sort of a show, if you manage them properly: it advertises the missions. 'Heathen idols from Japan!'... How do you like the baby?"
I was looking at a small gold-colored image of a naked child, standing, one tiny hand pointing upward, and the other downward, - representing the Buddha newly born. Sparkling with light he came from the womb, as when the Sun first rises in the east.... Upright he took deliberately seven steps; and the prints of his feet upon the ground remained burning as seven stars. And he spake with clearest utterance, saying, "This birth is a Buddha birth. Re-birth is not for me. Only this last time am I born for the salvation of all on earth and in heaven."
"That is what they call a Tanjo-Shaka," I said. "It looks like bronze."
"Bronze it is," he responded, tapping it with his knuckles to make the metal ring. "The bronze alone is worth more than the price I paid."
I looked at the four Devas whose heads almost touched the roof, and thought of the story of their apparition told in the Mahavagga. On a beautiful night the Four Great Kings entered the holy grove, filling all the place with light; and having respectfully saluted the Blessed One, they stood in the four directions, like four great firebrands.
"How did you ever manage to get those big figures upstairs?" I asked.
"Oh, hauled them up! We've got a hatchway. The real trouble was getting them here by train. It was the first railroad trip they ever made.... But look at these here: they will make the sensation of the show!"
I looked, and saw two small wooden images, about three feet high.
"Why do you think they will make a sensation?" I inquired innocently.
"Don't you see what they are? They date from the time of the persecutions. Japanese devils trampling on the Cross!"
They were small temple guardians only; but their feet rested upon X-shaped supports.
"Did any person tell you these were devils trampling on the cross?" I made bold to ask.
"What else are they doing?" he answered evasively. "Look at the crosses under their feet!"
"But they are not devils," I insisted; "and those cross-pieces were put under their feet simply to give equilibrium."
He said nothing, but looked disappointed; and I felt a little sorry for him. Devils trampling on the Cross, as a display line in some London poster announcing the arrival of "josses from Japan," might certainly have been relied on to catch the public eye.
"This is more wonderful," I said, pointing to a beautiful group, - Maya with the infant Buddha issuing from her side, according to tradition. Painlessly the Bodhisattva was born from her right side. It was the eighth day of the fourth moon.
"That's bronze, too," he remarked, tapping it. "Bronze josses are getting rare. We used to buy them up and sell them for old metal. Wish I'd kept some of them! You ought to have seen the bronzes, in those days, coming in from the temples, - bells and vases and josses! That was the time we tried to buy the Daibutsu at Kamakura."
"For old bronze?" I queried.
"Yes. We calculated the weight of the metal, and formed a syndicate. Our first offer was thirty thousand. We could have made a big profit, for there's a good deal of gold and silver in that work. The priests wanted to sell, but the people wouldn't let them."
"It's one of the world's wonders," I said. "Would you really have broken it up?"
"Certainly. Why not? What else could you do with it?... That one there looks just like a Virgin Mary, doesn't it?"
He pointed to the gilded image of a female clasping a child to her breast.
"Yes," I replied; "but it is Kishibojin, the goddess who loves little children."
"People talk about idolatry," he went on musingly. "I've seen things like many of these in Roman Catholic chapels. Seems to me religion is pretty much the same the world over."
"I think you are right," I said.
"Why, the story of Buddha is like the story of Christ, isn't it?"
"To some degree," I assented.
"Only, he wasn't crucified."
I did not answer; thinking of the text, In all the world there is not one spot even so large as a mustard-seed where he has not surrendered his body for the sake of creatures. Then it suddenly seemed to me that this was absolutely true. For the Buddha of the deeper Buddhism is not Gautama, nor yet any one Tathagata, but simply the divine in man. Chrysalides of the infinite we all are: each contains a ghostly Buddha, and the millions are but one. All humanity is potentially the Buddha-to-come, dreaming through the ages in Illusion; and the teacher's smile will make beautiful the world again when selfishness shall die. Every noble sacrifice brings nearer the hour of his awakening; and who may justly doubt - remembering the myriads of the centuries of man - that even now there does not remain one place on earth where life has not been freely given for love or duty?
I felt the curio dealer's hand on my shoulder again.
"At all events," he cried in a cheery tone, "they'll be appreciated in the British Museum - eh?"
"I hope so. They ought to be."