CHAPTER XIX. INDIA AND THE WEST
Religious, Hindu, Religion, Christian, Indic, Worship
If in Hinduism, and even in Brahmanism, there are certain traits which, with some verisimilitude, may be referred to the immediate environment of these religions, how stands it in respect of that wider circle of influence which is represented by the peoples of the West? With Egypt and Phoenicia, India had intercourse at an early date, but this appears to have been restricted to mercantile exchange; for India till very late was affected neither by the literature nor by the religion of Egyptians or Syrians. Of a more direct sort seem to have been the relations between India and Babylon, and the former may owe to the latter her later astronomy, but no definitive proof exists (or even any great historical probability) that Babylon gave India even legendary additions to her native wealth of myths. From the Iranians the Hindus parted too early to receive from Zoroastrianism any influence. On the contrary, in our opinion the religion of Zoroaster budded from a branch taken from Indic soil. Even where Persian influence may, with propriety, be suspected, in the later Indic worship of the sun, India took no new religion from Persia; but it is very possible that her own antique and preserved heliolatry was aided, and acquired new strength from more modern contact with the sun-worshippers of the West. Of Iranian influence in early times, along the line of Hindu religious development, there is scarcely a trace, although in 509 B.C. Darius's general conquered the land about the Indus. But the most zealous advocate of Persia's prestige can find little to support his claims in pre-Buddhistic Brahmanic literature, though such claims have been made, not only in respect of the position of secondary divinities, but even as regards eschatological conceptions. It is not so easy to refute an improbable historical theory as it is to propound it, but, on the other hand, the onus probandi rests upon him that propounds it, and till now all arguments on this point have resulted only in increasing the number of unproved hypotheses, which the historian should mention and may then dismiss.
The Northern dynasty that ruled in India in the sixth century seems to have had a hand in spreading Iranian sun-worship beyond the Indus, but we doubt whether the radical effect of this dominion and its belief (it is described by Kosmas, an Egyptian traveller of the time) is as great as has been claimed.
From Greece, the Hindus received architectural designs, numismatic, and perhaps a few literary hints, but they got thence neither religious myths, nor, with the possible exception of the cult of the later Love-god and fresh encouragement to phallic -worship, new rites; though they may have borrowed some fables, and one even hears of a Buddhistic king endeavoring to buy a sophist of Antiochus. But there is no ground for assuming philosophical influence on Brahmanism.
Christianity came late into the religious life of India, and as a doctrine made upon her no deep or lasting impression. Certain details of Christian story have been woven into the legends of Krishna, and some scholars believe that the monotheistic worshippers depicted in the pseudo-epic were Christians. But in respect of the latter point it is enough to say that this account of foreign belief had no new monotheizing effect upon the pantheism of India; the strange (unbrahmanic) god was simply accepted as Vishnu. Nor do we believe that the faith-doctrine of Hindu sectarianism and the trinitarianism of India were derived from Christian sources. But it must be admitted to be historically possible that the creed of the Christians, known to the Hindus of the sixth and seventh centuries, may have suggested to the latter the idea of the trinity as a means of adjusting the claims of Brahmanism, Krishnaism, and Çivaism.
But from the Mohammedan India has taken much, albeit only in the last few centuries. When Alexander entered India there were still two bodies of Indic people west of the Indus. But the trend was eastward, as it had been for centuries, and the first inroad of the Mohammedan had little further effect than to seize a land forsaken by Aryans and given over to the hordes of the North. The foundation of the new empire was not laid till the permanent occupation of the Punj[=a]b and annexation of Lahore in 1022-23. In the thirteenth century all Hindustan acknowledged the authority of the slave sultan of Delhi. Akbar died in 1605. By the end of the century the Mogul rule was broken; the Mahratta princes became imperial. It is now just in this period of Mohammedan power when arise the deistic reforming sects, which, as we have shown, were surrounded with deists and trinitarians. Here, then, we draw the line across the inner development of India's religions, with Kab[=i]r, N[=a]nak, D[=a]du, and perhaps even Basava. In the philosophy of the age that succeeds the epic there are but two phases of religion, pantheism for the wise, a more or less deistic polytheism for the vulgar (in isolated cases may be added the monotheism of certain scholastic philosophers); and so Indic religion continued till the advent of Islamism. Nevertheless, though under Mohammedan influence, the most thoughtful spirits of India received monotheism and gave up pantheism, yet was the religious attitude of these thinkers not averse from that taken by the Sankyan philosophers and by the earlier pantheists. From a philosophical point of view one must, indeed, separate the two. But all these, the Unitarian Hariharaist, the real pantheist of the Upanishads, who completed the work of the Vedic quasi-pantheist, and the circle that comprises Kab[=i]r, N[=a]nak, and D[=a]du, were united in that they stood against encircling polytheism. They were religiously at one in that they gave up the cult of many divinities, which represented respectively nature-worship and fiend-worship (with beast-worship), for the worship of one god. Therefore it is that, while native advance stops with the Mohammedan conquest, one may yet claim an uninterrupted progress for the higher Indic religion, a continual elevation of the thoughts of the wise; although at the same time, beside and below this, there is the circle of lower beliefs that continually revolves upon itself. For in the zoölatry and polytheism that adores monsters to-day it is difficult to see a form of religion higher in any respect than that more simple nature-polytheism which first obtained.
This lower aspect of Indic religions hinges historically on the relation between the accepted cults of Hinduism and those of the wild tribes. We cannot venture to make any statements that will cast upon this question more light than has been thrown by the above account of the latter cults and of their points of contact with Hinduism. It may be taken for granted that with the entrance into the body politic of a class composed of vanquished or vanquishing natives, some of the religion of the latter may have been received also. Such, there is every reason to believe, was the original worship of Çiva as Çarva, Bhava, and of Krishna; in other words, of the first features of modern sectarian Hinduism, though this has been so influenced by Aryan civilization that it has become an integral part of Hindu religion.
But, again, for a further question here presents itself, how much in India to-day is Aryan? We are inclined to answer that very little of blood or of religion is Aryan. Some priestly families keep perhaps a strain of Aryan blood. But Hindu literature is not afraid to state how many of its authors are of low caste, how many of its priests were begotten of mixed marriages, how many formed low connections; while both legendary and prophetic (ex post facto) history speak too often of slave-kings and the evil times when low castes will reign, for any unprejudiced person to doubt that the Hindu population, excluding many pure priests but including many of the priests and the R[=a]jputs ('sons of kings'), represents Aryanhood even less than the belief of the Rig Veda represents the primitive religion; and how little of aboriginal Aryan faith is reflected in that work has been shown already.
As one reviews the post-Vedic religions of civilized India he is impressed with the fact that, heterogeneous as they are, they yet in some regards are so alike as to present, when contrasted with other beliefs, a homogeneous whole. A certain uniqueness of religious style, so to speak, differentiates every expression of India's theosophy from that of her Western neighbors. What is common and world-wide in the forms of Indic faith we have shown in a previous chapter. But on this universal foundation India has erected many individual temples, temples built after designs which are not uniform, but are all self-sketched, and therefore peculiar to herself. In each of these mental houses of God there is revealed the same disposition, and that disposition is necessarily identical with that expressed in her profane artistry, for the form of religion is as much a matter of national taste as is that which is embodied in literature, architecture, and painting. And this taste, as expressed in religion, isolates Brahmanic and Hinduistic India, placing her apart, both from the gloom of Egypt and the grace of Greece; even as in her earliest records she shows herself individual, as contrasted with her Aryan kinsfolk. Like Egypt, she feels her dead ever around her, and her cult is tinged with darkness; but she is fond of pleasure, and seeks it deliriously. Like Greece, she loves beauty, but she loves more to decorate it; and again, she rejoices in her gods, but she rejoices with fear; fear that overcomes reason, and pictures such horrors as are conjured up by the wild leaps of an uncurbed fancy. For an imagination that knows no let has run away with every form of her intellectual productivity, theosophy as well as art. This is perceptible even in her ritualistic, scientific, and philosophical systems; for though it is an element that at first seems incongruous with such systems, it is yet in reality the factor that has produced them. Complex, varied, minute, exact, as are the details which she loves to elaborate in all her work, they are the result of this same unfettered imagination, which follows out every fancy, pleased with them all, exaggerating every present interest, unconfined by especial regard for what is essential. This is a heavy charge to bring, nor can it be passed over with the usual remark that one must accept India's canon as authoritative for herself, for the taste of cosmopolitan civilization is the only norm of judgment, a norm accepted even by the Hindus of the present day when they have learned what it is. But we do not bring the charge of extravagance for the sake of comparing India unfavorably with the Occident. Confining ourselves to the historical method of treatment which we have endeavored heretofore to maintain, we wish to point out the important bearings which this intellectual trait has had upon the lesser products of India's religious activity.
Through the whole extent of religious literature one finds what are apparently rare and valuable bits of historical information. It is these which, from the point of view to which we have just referred, one must learn to estimate at their real worth. In nine cases out of ten, these seeming truths are due only to the light imagination of a subsequent age, playing at will over the records of the past, and seeking by a mental caper to leap over what it fails to understand. To the Oriental of an age still later all the facts deducible from such statements as are embodied in the hoary literature of antiquity appear to be historical data, and, if mystic in tone, these statements are to him an old revelation of profoundest truth. But the Occidental, who recognizes no hidden wisdom in palpable mystification, should hesitate also to accept at their face value such historical notes as have been drafted by the same priestly hand.
Nor would we confine the application of this principle to the output of extant Brahmanic works. The same truth cuts right and left among many utterances of the Vedic seers and all the theories built upon them. To pick out here and there an ipse dixit of one of the later fanciful Vedic poets, who lived in a period as Brahmanic (that is, as ritualistic) as is that which is represented by the actual ritual-texts, and attempt to reconstruct the original form of divinities on the basis of such vagaries is useless, for it is an unhistorical method which ignores ancient conditions.
In less degree, because here the conditions are more obvious, does this apply to the religious interpretation of the great body of literature which has conserved for posterity the beginnings of Hinduism. But upon this we have already animadverted, and now need only range this literature in line with its predecessors. Not because the epic pictures Krishna as making obeisance to Çiva is Krishna here the undeveloped man-god, who represents but the beginning of his (later) greatness, and is still subject to the older Çiva. On the contrary, it is the epic's last extravagance in regard to Çiva (who has already bowed before the great image of Krishna-Vishnu) that demands a furious counter-blast against the rival god. It is the Çivaite who says that Krishna-Vishnu bows; and because it is the Çivaite, and because this is the national mode of expression of every sectary, therefore what the Çivaite says is in all probability historically false, and the sober historian will at least not discover 'the earlier Krishna' in the Krishna portrayed by his rival's satellites.
But when one comes to the modern sects, then he has to deplore not so much the lack of historical data as the grotesque form into which this same over-vivid imagination of the Hindu has builded his gods. As the scientific systems grow more and more fancifully, detailed, and as the liturgy flowers out into the most extraordinary bloom of weird legend, so the images of the gods, to the eye in their temples, to the mind in the descriptions of them, take to themselves the most uncouth details imagined by a curious fancy. This god is an ascetic; he must be portrayed with the ascetic's hair, the ascetic's wild appearance. He kills; he must be depicted as a monster, every trait exaggerated, every conceivable horror detailed. This god sported with the shepherdesses; he must have love-adventures related in full, and be worshipped as a darling god of love; and in this worship all must be pictured in excess, that weaker mortal power may strive to appreciate the magnitude of the divine in every fine detail.
These traits are those of late Vedism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism. But how marked is the contrast with the earlier Vedic age! The grotesque fancy, the love of minutiae, in a word, the extravagance of imagination and unreason are here absent, or present only in hymns that contrast vividly with those of the older tone. This older tone is Aryan, the later is Hindu, and it is another proof of what we have already emphasized, that the Hinduizing influence was felt in the later Vedic or Brahmanic period. There is, indeed, almost as great a gulf between the Dawn-hymns and the Çatapatha as there is between the latter and the Pur[=a]nas. One may rest assured that the perverted later taste reproduces the advance of Hindu influence upon the Aryan mind exactly in proportion to the enormity displayed.
On the other hand, from the point of view of morality, Brahmanic religion is not in any way individual. The race, whether Aryan or Hinduistic, had as fragile virtue as have other folks, and shows the same tentative efforts to become purer as those which characterize every national advance. There is, perhaps, a little too much formal insistence on veraciousness, and one is rather inclined to suspect, despite Müllers brave defence of the Hindu in this regard, that lying came very naturally to a people whose law-givers were so continuously harping on the beauty of truth. The vicious caste-system necessarily scheduled immorality in accordance with the caste order, as certain crimes in other countries are estimated according to the race of the sinner rather than according to any abstract standard. In the matter of precept we know no better moral laws than those promulgated by the Brahmans, but they are the laws that every people evolves for itself. Religious immorality, the excess of Çakti worship, is also not peculiar to the Hindu. If one ask how the morality of India as a whole compares with that of other countries, we reply that, including religious excesses, it stands level with the personal morality of Greece in her best days, and that without the religiously sensual (Hindu) element, it is nominally on a par with that of London or New York. There are good and bad men, and these make good and bad coteries, which stand inside the pale of a religious profession. There is not much theoretical difference. Few of the older gods are virtuous, and Right, even in the Rig Veda, is the moral power, that is, Right as Order, correct behavior, the prototype both of ritual and of [=a]c[=a]ra, custom, which rules the gods. In the law-court the gods are a moral group, and two of them, Varuna and Agni, hate respectively the sins of adultery and untruth. In the law it is, however, Dharma and the Father-god or his diadochos, who, handing down heavenly precepts, gives all moral laws, though it must be confessed that the Father-god is almost the last to care for morality. And pure Brahmanism stops with Brahm[=a]. In modern Hinduism, to kill, lust, steal, drink, so far from offending, may please a god that is amorous, or bloodthirsty, or, like Çiva, is 'the lord of thieves.' Morality here has God himself against it. In the Rig Veda, to sin is merely to displease a god. But even in Brahmanism, as in Buddhism, there is not that intimate connection between goodness and godness that obtains in Christianity. The Brahman, like the Buddhist, was self-controlled, in order to exert control upon the gods and the course of his own future life. He not only, as is perhaps the case elsewhere, was moral with an ulterior motive, but his moral code lacked the divine hand. It was felt as a system which he applied to himself for his own good. He did not assume that he offended a god by not following it, except in two special cases, as in sins against Agni and Varuna. Ulterior motives are deprecated, but because he that seeks absorption into God must quit desires.
We have said that the moral code of the Hindus at its best seems to be on a par with the best as found elsewhere. Not to lie, not to steal, not to injure another illegally, to be brave, to be loyal, to be hospitable,—these are the factors of its early and late law. In certain late cases may be added 'to be self-restrained.' But if these laws be compared with those of the savage races it will be found that most of them are also factors of primitive ethics. Therefore we say that the Hindu code as a whole is savage and antique, and that, excluding religious excess and debauchery, it is on a par with the modern ethical code only nominally. In reality, however, this savage and ancient code is not on a level with that of to-day. And the reason is that the ideal of each is different. In the savage and old-world conception of morality it is the ideal virtue that is represented by the code. It was distinct laudation to say of a man that he did not lie, or steal, and that he was hospitable. But to-day, while these factors remain to formulate the code, they no longer represent ideal virtue. Nay rather, they are but the assumed base of virtue, and so thoroughly is this assumed that to say of a gentleman that he does not lie or steal is not praise, but rather an insult, since the imputation to him of what is but the virtue of children is no longer an encomium when applied to the adult, who is supposed to have passed the point where theft and lying are moral temptations, and to have reached a point where, on the basis of these savage, antique, and now childish virtues, he strives for a higher moral ideal. And this ideal of to-day, which makes fair-mindedness, liberality of thought, and altruism the respective representatives of the savage virtues of manual honesty, truth-speaking, and hospitality, is just what is lacking in the more primitive ideal formulated in the code of savages and of the Brahman alike. It is not found at all among savages, and they may be left on one side. In India all the factors of the modern code are entirely lacking at the time when the old code was first completely formulated. Liberality of thought comes in with the era of the Upanishads, but it is a restricted freedom. Altruism is unknown to pure Brahmanism. But it obtains among the Buddhists, who also have liberality of thought and fair-mindedness. Hence, from the point of view of the higher morality, one must confess that Buddhism offers the best parallel to the best of to-day. On the other hand, Buddhistic altruism exceeds all other.
We have sketched the sphere of influence exerted by the West upon India, and found it on the whole inconsiderable. The Indic religions till the twelfth century assimilated what little they drew from foreign sources, and stand before the world as a peculiar growth, native to the soil in all their essential characteristics.
But to the other side of India's contact with the West we have as yet barely alluded. India has given as she has received. What influence has she had upon Western cults and beliefs? The worship that substituted idols for ideal forms we have traced back to the end of the Vedic period. It is not, however, a mark of early Brahmanism, nor is it a pronounced feature before the age of Buddhism. But in Buddha's time, or soon after, flourished the worship of images, and with it the respect for relics. The latter feature of the new religion made necessary shrines to keep the holy objects, sacred museums, which soon became the formal st[=u]pas, above-ground and under-ground, and these made the first temples of India. Fully developed, they became the great religious buildings affected by Buddhism, with their idol service, prostrations, repetitions of prayers, dim religious light (lamp-service), offerings of flowers, fruits, etc. From this source may have been derived many of the details in the Roman Catholic worship, which appears to have taken from Buddhism the rosary, originally a mark of the Çivaite. By what is, to say the least, an extraordinary coincidence, each of these churches is conspicuous for its use of holy water, choirs, sacred pictures, tonsure, vestments, the bell in religious service, the orders of nuns, monks, and the vows of the monastic system. The most curious loan made by the Roman and Greek churches is, however, the quasi-worship of Gotama Buddha himself (in so far as a Romanist worships his saints), for, under cover of the Barlaam and Josaphat story, Buddha has found a niche as a saint in the row of canonized Catholic worthies, and has his saint-day in the calendar of the Greek and Roman churches. But it is not his mother who is the Virgin of Lamaism, which has made of Buddha the Supreme God.
Besides external phases of the religious cult, India has given to the West a certain class of literary works and certain philosophical ideas. The former consists, of course, in the fable-literature, which spread from India to Eastern Europe (Babrius) and has preserved in many tales of to-day nothing more than Buddhistic Birth-stories or other Indic tales (the Pa[.n]catantra) and legends. Of these we can make only passing mention here, to turn at once to the more important question of philosophical and religious borrowing.
It has been claimed, as we have incidentally stated, that the Logos doctrine was imported from India. Were this so, it would, indeed, be a fact of great historical importance, but, interesting as would be such a loan, we cannot see that the suggestion is based on data of cogent character. The history of the doctrine in India and Greece is simply this: V[=a]c, Speech or Word, appears in the Rig Veda (in the hymn cited above, p. 143) as an active female divine power, showing grace to mortals. In the Brahmanic period V[=a]c becomes more and more like the Greek Logos, and it may truthfuly be said that in this period "the Word was God." In Greece, on the other hand, the conception of Logos begins with Heraclitus, passes on to the Stoics; is adopted by Philo; becomes a prominent feature of Neo-Platonism; and reappears in the Gospel of St. John. It is certainly legitimate to suppose that Heraclitus might have received the idea indirectly, if not directly, from contemporary Eastern philosophers; but the fact that he did so remains unproved; nor is there any foundation for the assumption of borrowing other than the resemblance between the Grecian and Indic conceptions. But this resemblance is scarcely marked enough in essential features to prejudice one in favor of Weber's theory (amplified by Garbe), as it is not detailed enough to be striking, for V[=a]c is never more than one of many female abstractions.
With the exception of the one case to be mentioned immediately, we are forced to take the same position in regard to the similarity between other forms of early Greek and Hindu philosophy. Both Thales and Parmenides were indeed anticipated by Hindu sages, and the Eleatic school seems to be but a reflexion of the Upanishads. The doctrines of Anaximander and Heraclitus are, perhaps, not known first in Greece, but there is no evidence that they were not original to Greece, or that they were borrowed from India, however much older may be the parallel trains of thought on Indic soil.
Quite as decidedly, however, as we deny all appearance of borrowing on the part of the founders of other early Grecian schools, must we claim the thought of India to be the archetype of Pythagorean philosophy. After a careful review of the points of contact, and weighing as dispassionately as possible the historical evidence for and against the originality of Pythagoras, we are unable to come to any other conclusion than that the Greek philosopher took his whole system indirectly from India. His 'numbers,' indeed, are the S[=a]nkhya only in appearances. But his theory of metempsychosis is the Indic sams[=a]ra, and Plato is full of Sankhyan thought, worked out by him but taken from Pythagoras. Before the sixth century B.C. all the religious-philosophical ideas of Pythagoras are current in India (L. von Schroeder, Pythagoras). If there were but one or two of these cases, they might be set aside as accidental coincidences, but such coincidences are too numerous to be the result of chance. Even in details the transmigration theory of Pythagoras harmonizes with that of India. Further (after Schroeder und Garbe) may be mentioned the curious prohibition against eating beans; the Hesiodic-Pythagorean ; the vow of silence, like that taken by the Hindu muni; the doctrine of five elements (aether as fifth); above all, the so-called Pythagorean Theorem, developed in the mathematical Çulvas[=u]tras of India; the irrrational number 2; then the whole character of the religious-philosophical fraternity, which is exactly analogous to the Indic orders of the time; and finally the mystic speculation, which is peculiar to the Pythagorean school, and bears a striking resemblance to the fantastical notions affected by the authors of the Br[=a]hmana. Greek legend is full of the Samian's travels to Egypt, Chaldaea, Phoenicia, and India. The fire beneath this smoke is hidden. One knows not how much to believe of such tales. But they only strengthen the inference, drawn from 'the Pythagorean school,' the man's work itself, that the mysticism and numbers with which he is surrounded are taken from that system of numbers and from that mysticism which are so astonishingly like his own. All subsequent philosophies borrowed from Pythagoreanism, and in so far has India helped to form the mind of Europe.
But we cannot omit a yet more important religious influence exerted by India upon the West. As is well known, Neo-Platonism and Christian Gnosticism owe much to India. The Gnostic ideas in regard to a plurality of heavens and spiritual worlds go back directly to Hindu sources. Soul and light are one in the S[=a]nkhya system before they become so in Greece, and when they appear united in Greece it is by means of the thought which is borrowed from India. The famous 'three qualities' of the S[=a]nkhya reappear as the Gnostic 'three classes,' , , . In regard to Neo-Platonism, Garbe says: "The views of Plotinus are in perfect agreement with those of the S[=a]nkhya system." Porphyry, the disciple of Plotinus, has the Yoga doctrine of immediate perception of truth leading to union with the deity. As is well known and undisputed, this Porphyry copies directly from the treatise of Bardesanes, which contains an account of the Brahmatis; while in many instances he simply repeats the tenets of the S[=a]nkhya philosophy. The means of communication may have been Alexandria, where met the trades of the East and West. Perhaps the philosophers of India as well as of Greece were brought together there. But, if the East and West had a mutual meeting-ground, the ideas common to both occupy no common place in their respective homes. In Greece, Pythagoreanism and Gnosticism are strange, and are felt as such by the natives. In India these traits are founded on ancient beliefs, long current, universal, nationally recognized. The question of giver and receiver, then, admitting the identity of thought, can scarcely be raised. If two men meet, one a Methodist and one a Baptist, and after they have conversed the Methodist be found totally immersed, he will not be credited with having invented independently his new mode of baptism.
India's influence as an intellectual factor in modern European thought has thus far been of the slightest. Her modern deism is borrowed, and her pantheism is not scientific. Sanskrit scholars are rather fond of citing the pathetic words of Schopenhauer, who, speaking of the Upanishads, says that the study of these works "has been the solace of my life; it will be the solace of my death"; but Schopenbauer knew the Upanishads only in a very free form of translation, and it can scarcely have been the loose philosophy so much as the elevated spirit of these works that solaced the unphilosophical bitterness of his life. This general impression will doubtless continue to be felt by all that study the best works of Brahmanism. The sincerity, the fearless search of the Indic sages for truth, their loftiness of thinking, all these will affect the religious student of every clime and age, though the fancied result of their thinking may pass without effect over a modern mind. For a philosophy that must be orthodox can never be definitive. But, if one turn from the orthodox completed systems to the tentative beginnings of the Ved[=a]nta (in the Upanishads), he finds as the basis of this earlier speculation only an a priori meta-physical assumption.
Apart from philosophical influence there is at present more or less interest in Europe and America in Indic superstition and spiritualism, and half-educated people will doubtless be influenced for some time to come by Mah[=a]tmaism and Yogism, just as they are moved by native séance-spirits and mesmerism. Blavatskyism (which represents no phase of Buddhism) will always find disciples among the ignorant classes, especially in an agnostic or atheistic environment, so that one should attribute the mental attitude of such minds to their lack of culture rather than to India; for if Mah[=a]tmaism had not been discovered, they would still profess it under another name. Buddhism, too, apart from Hartmann, may be said to have some influence on popular thought, yet it is a very unreal Buddhism, which amounts only to the adoption of an altruistic creed. But we know of none among the many that profess themselves 'Buddhists' who has really adopted Buddhistic principles, and but few who even understand those principles. A bar to the adoption of Buddhism lies in the implicit necessity of renunciation for all who would become perfected, and in the explicit doctrine of karma in its native form. The true Buddhist is not satisfied to be a third-class Buddhist, that is, simply a man that seeks to avoid lust, anger, and ignorance. He will become a second-class Buddhist and renounce the world, give up all family ties and earthly affections, and enter the Order. But he will not do this, thinking that he is thereby to become perfect. For, to be a first-class Buddhist, he must get wisdom. He must believe in the impermanence of everything, and in the awful continuation of his own karma as a resultant group, which, as such, will continue to exist if, to the purity and peace of the lower classes of Buddhists, he fail to add in his own case the wisdom that understands the truth of this karma doctrine. Now no modern mind will believe this hypothesis of karma and no modern will even enter the Order. Nevertheless, while one may not become a true Buddhist in the native sense, it is possible to be a Buddhist in a higher sense, and in its new form this is a religion that will doubtless attract many Occidentals, though it is almost too chaste to win adherents where marriage is not regarded as detrimental to high thinking. But if one substitute for the Buddhistic karma the karma of to-day, he may well believe that his acts are to have effect hereafter, not as a complex but as individual factors in determining the goodness of his descendants and indirectly of his environment. Then there remains the attainment of purity, kindness, and wisdom, which last may be interpreted, in accordance with the spirit of the Master, as seeing things in their true relations, and the abandonment of whatever prevents such attainment, namely, of lust, anger, and ignorance. But to be a true Buddhist one must renounce, as lust, all desire of evil, of future life, which brings evil; and must live without other hope than that of extinguishing all desire and passion, believing that in so doing he will at death be annihilated, that is, that he will have caused his acts to cease to work for good or ill, and that, since being without a soul he exists only in his acts, he will in their cessation also cease to be.
At least one thing may be learned from Buddhism. It is possible to be religious without being devout. True Buddhism is the only religion which, discarding all animism, consists in character and wisdom. But neither in sacrificial works, nor in kindness alone, nor in wisdom alone, lies the highest. One must renounce all selfish desires and live to build up a character of which the signs are purity, love for all, and that courageous wisdom which is calm insight into truth. The Buddhist worked out his own salvation without fear or trembling. To these characteristics may be added that tolerance and freedom of thought which are so dissimilar to the traits of many other religions.
So much may be learned from Buddhism, and it were much only to know that such a religion existed twenty-four centuries ago. But in what, from a wider point of view, lies the importance of the study of Hindu religions? Not, we venture to think, in their face value for the religious or philosophical life of the Occident, but in the revelation, which is made by this study, of the origin and growth of theistic ideas in one land; in the light these cast by analogy on the origin of such ideas elsewhere; in the prodigious significance of the religious factor in the development of a race, as exhibited in this instance; in the inspiring review of that development as it is seen through successive ages in the loftiest aspirations of a great people; and finally in the lesson taught by the intellectual and religious fate of them among that people that have substituted, like the Brahman ritualist, form for spirit; like the Vedantist, ideas for ideals; like the sectary, emotion for morality. But greatest, if woeful, is the lesson taught by that phase of Buddhism, which has developed into Lamaism and its kindred cults. For here one learns how few are they that can endure to be wise, how inaccessible to the masses is the height on which sits the sage, how unpalatable to the vulgar is a religion without credulity.
Ever since Cotton Mather took up a collection to convert the Hindus, Americans have felt a great interest in missionary labor in India. Under the just and beneficent rule of the British the Hindus to-day are no longer plundered and murdered in the way they once were; nor is there now so striking a contrast between the invader's precept and example as obtained when India first made the acquaintance of Christian militants.
The slight progress of the missionaries, who for centuries have been working among the Hindus, is, perhaps, justified in view of this painful contrast. In its earlier stages there can be no doubt that all such progress was thereby impeded. But it is cause for encouragement, rather than for dismay, that the slowness of Christian advance is in part historically explicable, sad as is the explanation. For against what odds had not the early missionaries to struggle! Not the heathen, but the Christian, barred the way against Christianity. Four hundred years ago the Portuguese descended upon the Hindus, cross and sword in hand. For a whole century these victorious immigrants, with unheard-of cruelty and tyranny, cheated, stripped, and slaughtered the natives. After them came the Dutch, but, Dutch or Portuguese, it was the same. For it was merely another century, during which a new band of Christians hesitated at no crime or outrage, at no meanness or barbarity, which should win them power in India. In 1758 the Dutch were conquered by the English, who, becoming now the chief standard-bearers of the Christian church, committed, Under Varisittart, more offences against decency, honor, honesty, and humanity than is pleasant for believer or unbeliever to record; and, when their own theft had brought revolt, knew no better way to impress the Hindu with the power of Christianity than to revive the Mogul horror and slay. (in their victims' fearful belief) both soul and body alike by shooting their captives from the cannon's mouth. Such was Christian example. It is no wonder that the Christian precept ('thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself') was uttered in vain, or that the faith it epitomized was rejected. The hand stole and killed; the mouth said, 'I love you.' The Hindu understood theft and murder, but it took him some time to learn English. One may hope that this is now forgotten, for the Hindu has not the historical mind. But all this must be remembered when the expenditures of Christianity are weighed with its receipts.
In coming to the end of the long course of Hindu religious thought, it is almost inevitable that one should ask what is the present effect of missionary effort upon this people, and what, again, will eventually be the direction which the native religious sense, so strongly implanted in this folk, will take, whether aided or not by influence from without.
Although it is no part of our purpose to examine into the workings of that honest zeal which has succeeded in planting so many stations up the Indic coast, there are yet some obvious truths which, in the light of religious history, should be an assistance to all whose work lies in making Hindu converts. To compile these truths from this history will not be otiose. In the first place, Christian dogma was formally introduced into South India in the sixth century; it was known in the North in the seventh, and possibly long before this; it was the topic of debate by educated Hindus in the sixteenth and seventeenth. It has helped to mould the Hindus' own most intellectual sects; and, either through the influence of Christian or native teaching, or that of both, have been created not only the Northern monotheistic schools, but also the strict unitarianism of the later Southern sects, whose scriptures, for at least some centuries, have inculcated the purest morality and simplest monotheistic creed in language of the most elevated character. In the second place, the Hindu sectary has interwoven with his doctrine of pantheism that of the trinity. In the third place, the orthodox Brahman recognizes in the cult of Christianity, as that cult is expressed, for instance, in Christmas festivities, one that is characteristic, in outward form and inner belief, of a native heterodox sect. In the fourth place, the Hindu sectary believes that the native expression of trinitarian dogma, faith-doctrine, child-god worship, and madonna-worship takes historical precedence over that of Christianity; and the orthodox Hindu believes the same of his completed code of lofty moral teachings. Vishnuism is, again, so catholic that it will accept Christ as an avatar of Vishnu, but not as an exclusive manifestation of God. In the fifth place, the Hindu doctors are very well educated, and often very clever, both delighting in debate and acute in argument It follows, if we may draw the obvious inference, that, to attack orthodox Brahmanism, or even heterodox Hinduism, requires much logical ability as well as learning, and that the best thing a missionary can do in India, if he be not conscious of possessing both these requisites, is to let the native scholars alone.
But native scholars make but a small part of the population, and among the uneducated and 'depressed' classes there is plenty for the missionary to do. Here, too, where caste is hated because these classes suffer from it, there is more effect in preaching equality and the brotherly love of Christianity, doctrines abhorrent to the social aristocrats, and not favored even by the middle classes. But what here opposes Christian efforts is the splendid system of devotion, the magnificent fêtes, the gorgeous shows, and the tickling ritualism, which please and overawe the fancy of the native, who is apt to desire for himself a pageant of religion, not to speak of a visible god in idol form; while from his religious teacher he demands either an asceticism which is no part of the Christian faith, or a leadership in sensuous and sensual worship.
What will be the result of proselytizing zeal among these variegated masses? Evidently this depends on where and how it is exercised. The orthodox theologian will not give up his inherited faith for one that to him is on a par with a schismatic heresy, or take dogmatic instruction from a level which he regards as intellectually below his own. From the Sam[=a]jas no present help will come to the missionary; for, while they have already accepted the spirit of Christianity, liberal Hindus reject the Christian creed. At a later day they will join hands with the missionary, perhaps, but not before the latter is prepared to say: There is but one God, and many are his prophets.
There remain such of the higher classes as can be induced to prefer undogmatic Christianity to polytheism, and the lowest class, which may be persuaded by acts of kindness to accept the dogmas with which these are accompanied. It is with this class that the missionary has succeeded best. In other cases his success has been in inverse ratio to the amount of his dogmatic teaching. And this we believe to be the key to the second problem. For, if one examine the maze of India's tangled creeds, he will be surprised to find that, though dogmatic Christianity has its Indic representative, there yet is no indigenous representative of undogmatic Christianity. For a god in human form is worshipped, and a trinity is revered; but this is not Christianity. Love of man is preached; but this is not Christianity. Love of God and faith in his earthly incarnation is taught; but this, again, is not Christianity. No sect has ever formulated as an original doctrine Christ's two indissoluble commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets.
It would seem, therefore, that to inculcate active kindness, simple morality, and the simplest creed were the most persuasive means of converting the Hindu, if the teacher unite with this a practical affection, without venturing upon ratiocination, and without seeking to attract by display, which at best cannot compete with native pageants. Moreover, on the basis of undogmatic teaching, the missionary even now can unite with the Sam[=a]j and Sittar church, neither of which is of indigenous origin, though both are native in their secondary growth. For it is significant that it is the Christian union of morality and altruism which has appealed to each of these religious bodies, and which each of them has made its own. In insisting upon a strict morality the Christian missionary will be supported by the purest creeds of India itself, by Brahmanism, unsectarian Hinduism, the Jain heretics, and many others, all of whom either taught the same morality before Christianity existed, or developed it without Christian aid. The strength of Christian teaching lies in uniting with this the practical altruism which was taught by Christ. In her own religions there is no hope for India, and her best minds have renounced them. The body of Hinduism is corrupt, its soul is evil. As for Brahmanism—the Brahmanism that produced the Upanishads—the spirit is departed, and the form that remains is dead. But a new spirit, the spirit of progress and of education, will prevail at last. When it rules it will undo the bonds of caste and do away with low superstition. Then India also will be free to accept, as the creed of her new religion, Christ's words, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself.' But to educate India up to this point will take many centuries, even more, perhaps, than will be needed to educate in the same degree Europe and America.
|Written By Edward Washburn Hopkins|