'Studies in Religious History' by Ernst Renan (1886)

"This act of human consciousness, in which self-inspection ends merely in self-destruction, is one of the most extraordinary phenomena of history. It is difficult to imagine the strange impression produced by this ever identical thought, this eternal circle revolving round itself, and fatally leading to the stupefaction of thought; it is the witches dance of logic, the humming of a void like that of a hollow top. The wheel is a correct image of this eternal tautology. The wheel is the perfect symbol of Buddhistic countries. The devotees always hold in their hands a wheel, which they set spinning; there are some large ones, which are put in motion with the arms; others are set to work by streams; others, placed on the housetops, are kept moving by the wind; others again, hung up over the fireplace, are worked by the smoke. On their circumference is inscribed the formula: 'Om mani padme houm!' ('Hail to thee, pearl enclosed in the lotus!') This formula seems to be the rhythm of pulsation of Buddhistic life, from one end of Asia to the other. Men and women, old people and children, laymen and monks are ever repeating it on the beads of an endless rosary. Engraved over the doors, it also hangs in long streamers from one house to the other, from one tree to another; sometimes, crossing over a stream or a ravine, it unites two mountains, casting on the valley an ever-moving shadow. It may be read on the bark of trees, on rocks, on heaps of stones, on dried-up human skulls or shoulder-blades, on fragments of skeletons heaped up by the side of public roads. It is the first sentence a child pronounces; like a perpetual murmur it resounds through cities and deserts alike; the caravans measure their steps by these mystic syllables. ... 'From the sea of Japan to the frontiers of Persia,' says a missionary, [note: L'Abbe Gabet, Journal Asiatique; May, 1847, p.462] 'a long and uninterrupted murmur agitates all people, animates all ceremonies, is the symbol of all beliefs, the accompaniment of all festivities. The trunk of the Buddhistic religion covers a great part of the world with its gigantic branches, and everywhere this prayer is the vehicle of its life and of the movements that animate it.'