birth of Christ, representing Him as having been born at the foot of the tree, and at that moment (according to one explanation) directing the tree to let its fruit fall for Mary to eat, and telling her of the flowing streamlet. From its accordance with this apocryphal Gospel in this respect, it is evident that this explanation of the words of the Qur'an is more likely to be correct than the gloss which attributes the speech to Gabriel.

But we have now to inquire from what source the Qur'an borrowed the idea that Christ was born at the foot of a tree: and also what is the origin of the legend that the tree bowed down to let the mother and Child eat of its fruit. It is hardly necessary to say that for neither the one statement nor the other is there the very slightest foundation in the Canonical Gospels.

The source of both incidents is found in the books of the Buddhist Pali Canon, which, as we are informed in the Maha-Vamso, was reduced to writing in the reign of King Vattagamani of Ceylon, probably about 80 B.C. at latest 1. But it is very possible that very considerable parts of these Pali books were composed several hundred years earlier. The legends contained in them were, in later but still very early times, widely spread, not only in India and Ceylon but also in Central Asia, China, Tibet, and other lands. Buddhist missionaries are mentioned in Yesht XIII., 16,

1 Vide The Noble Eightfold Path, pp. 69, 70.

as having appeared in Persia as early as the second century before Christ. The influence which Buddhism exercised on thought throughout Western, as well as Central, Eastern and Southern, Asia was immense. Manichaism, Gnosticism and other heresies were largely due to this, as was the rise of Monasticism 1. Several passages in the apocryphal Gospels show that ideas of Buddhist origin had gained access to the minds of the writers of these spurious works, though doubtless these men were quite unaware of the real source of their inspiration. It was easy for Muhammad therefore to be misled in the same way; and we can point to the very passages in the Pali books which represent the earliest known form of the legends about the tree.

One of these occurs in the Nidanakatha Jatakam (cap. i., pp. 50-3). There we are told that when Maya, who was to be the mother of Gotamo Buddha, was with child and knew that her time was at hand, she obtained her husband Suddhodano's permission to return to her father's house to be delivered, according to the custom of that country. On the journey she and her handmaidens entered a beautiful forest, and Princess Maya greatly admired the abundant flowers which she saw on some of the trees. In the words of the passage to which we refer, the account of what then took place runs thus:—

1 Op. cit., pp. 196 sqq.