Page images
PDF
EPUB

4

Hinduism, the Trimurtti, or Tri-une combination of BRAHMA, Vishnu, and Siva, ae typified by the mystical syllable Om.”*

Dr. Muir, in Part Fourth of his Sanskrit Texts, compares the representations which are given of the Indian deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra, and of the goddess Ambika in the Vedic Hymns and Brahmanas, with the accounts in the legendary poems called Itihasas and Puranas, and shows how far and by what steps in each case the earlier conceptions were gradually modified in the later works.” Siva seems to have been first worshipped in North India about 500 B. C. The followers of Vishnu began to multiply about the sixth century after Christ.

By the time the Laws of Manu were written (probably about 500 or 600 B. C.), the power of the Brahmans had become firmly established. Manu's Code should be examined. The heroic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, next demand attention. An outline of them is given in “ Indian Epic Poetry” by M. Williams. The Bhagavat Gita (Song of the Lord) professes to be an episode of the Mahabharata ; but it must have been written eight hundred years later. The English translation should be studied.

The Puranas, which are very voluminous, are the chief exponents of modern Hinduism. In their present forms, H. H. Wilson does not estimate the oldest of them as anterior to the eighth or ninth century, whilst some are not above three or four centuries old.* Wilson's translation of the Vishnu Purana should be read as a specimen. His analyses will give an idea of the others.

Moor's Hindu Pantheon professes to give a general view of Hindu Mythology. Mr. Higginbotham of Madras is preparing an improved edition. Popular Hinduism assumes different phases in different parts of the country. A good account of the system in Bengal is given

* Introduction to the Rig Veda, Vol. I. * Introduction to the Vishnu Purana.

in Ward's Hindus. Information may be gleaned from various works regarding its forms in other divisions of Judia. But, for the present at least, the Missionary must depend a good deal upon himself. Let him ascertain which Puranas, or fragments of them, have the largest circulation where he labours, and lead portions of them in the native language.

Max Muller's Comparative Mythology (Oxford Essays for 1856) and his lectures on Mythology in the Science of Language,” (2nd Series) should be read.

Refutations of Hinduism.--Of all works on this subject which have been published, Dr. Wilson's Exposures have been the most useful. The first is now quite out of print. A revised edition of both is contemplated. The Prize Essay by Messis. Smith and Leupolt will be found of much value.--See Appendix.

Hindu Philosophy.--The Hindus surpass even the Germans in their love of abstract speculation. Max

Muller says,

“No where have religious and metaphysical ideas struck root so deep in the mind of a nation as in India. The Hindus were a nation of philosophers. Their struggles were the struggles of thought, their past, the problem of creation ; their future, the problem of existence. The present alone, which is the real and living solution of the problems of the past and the future, seems never to have attracted their thoughts or to have called out their energies. The shape which metaphysical ideas take amongst the different classes of society, and at different periods of civilisation, naturally varies from coarse superstition to sublime spiritualism. But, taken as a whole, history supplies no second instance where the inward life of the soul has so completely absorbed all the practical faculties of a whole people, aud, in fact, almost destroyed those qualities by which a nation gains its place in history

It is said that a German philosopher when dying exclaimed, “ There is only one man who understands my system and even he does not understand it !"

"'*

* Sanskrit Literature, p. 31.

It would seem as if this might be applied to Hindu philosophy. The late Dr. Ballantyne was an able man, a good Sanskrit scholar, and possessed of every help. But though he gave the best years of his life to the study, Pundit Nehemiah considers that he never really understood it. Referring to several writers, the Pundit says,

“Unfortunately they are totally ignorant of the true nature of the Hindu pbilosophical systems. They just had a smattering of some superficial matter in those systems and mixing up their own theories with it, wrote very cleverly in refutation of it. But in truth what they refuted was not the true opinions of the Vedanta, Sankhya, &c., but their owu fancies substituted for those opinions."*

Dr. Fitz-Edward Hall, after alluding to Colebrooke, says, that " Later writers in the same department, with the exception of Professor Banerjea, will, as a rule, be much more likely to mislead than to render any solid assistance.”+

The Upanishads are considered the great standards of Hindu philosophy. Max Muller says, that they

are almost the only portion of Vedic literature which is extensively read to this day. They contain, or are supposed to contain, the highest authority on which the various systems of philosophy in India rest.”

“ There are six Darsanas or recognised schools of Hindu Philosophy, more or less orthodox, viz., the Saukhya, the Yoga, the Vaishesbika, the Nayaya, the Purva Mimansa, and the Vedanta. The extant primary authorities for all these systems are the Sutras, or aphorisms ascribed to Kapila, Gotama, and the other sages who are regarded as their respective founders."

Translations of several of the Upanishads have been published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal.-(See Ap

* Report of Caleutta Tract Society for 1862, p. 426.

+ Preface to “ Rational Refutation of the Hindu Philosophical Systems.” p. viii.

# Dr. Muir, North British Review No. 49, p. 220.

pendix). Roer's translation of Vedanta Sara will be found useful.

The Missionary should begin with Colebrooke's Essays. They are held in the highest estimation by the most competent judges. Banerjea's Dialogues on Hindu Philosophy may next be read. It is an original and valuable work. The advocates of contending schools are made to show the fallacy of each other's reasoning. The treatise of Pundit Nehemiah, which is more in the oriental style, may be read with profit. The works of Ballantyne, Mullens, and others, should be examined. A list will be found in the Appendix.

Some knowledge of Hindu philosophy is necessary on the part of all Missionaries. The humblest classes have ideas on the subject. The compiler was once attempting to persuade a Tamil woman, the wife of a common labourer, to send her son to school. Her reply was, that God gave every one he sent into the world sufficient knowledge, so that it was not needful for him to be instructed! She was a step in advance of the modern philosophers, who deny the want of a book revelation; for she held that intuition was sufficient for all purposes whatever. Hindu philosophy is taught not only in bulky tomes, but in small pamphlets, sold for a trifle in the bazar. The compiler once collected specimens of the publications for which there seemed to be the greatest demand in the Madras book market. He was surprised to find how many were on Hindu philosophy. The extent to which the subject should be studied must depend on the nature of the field in which the Missionary has to labour.

Discussions on philosophy should be avoided as much as possible. Though occasionally satisfactory answers can be given, there is great danger of the time being occupied with profitless, interminable controversy. A knowledge of Hindu philosophy is valuable, chiefly because it better enables the Missionary

to adapt his addresses to the minds of his auditors. He knows in what way, from the previous ideas with which the Hindus are imbued, they are most likely to misunderstand what is said. Another use is to see what a caviller is driving at, and thus have the ability of adroitly cutting short the argument.

Hindu Sects. Their name is legion. Accounts of the principal of them are given in the works of H. H. Wilson. Local investigation, however, will be necessary, for the tenets vary in different parts of the country.

Brahmism - When English education began to spread among the Hindus, the Puranas were first abandoned as untenable, and a stand made upon the ' Vedas alone. With the progress of enlightenment, it was found the Vedas could not bear investigation. A system of theism, under the title of Brahmism, has now been adopted by some educated Hindus in Bengal. An account of the movement, written by Dr. Duff, will be found in Christian Work for 1862.

Muhammadanism. - The followers of the false prophet in India may be roughly estimated at 25 millions, In the districts of the Punjab to the west of the Sutlej, they form two-thirds of the population ; in Tinnevelly they number only one in eighteen. parts, they have not received a due share of the attention of Missionaries. It would seem as if one of their own doctrines had been adopted, that their fate was to perish, and that all efforts to save them would be in vain. It must be confessed, however, that it is impossible for one Missionary to work effectively among all classes.

The life of Mahomet by Washington Irving is little better than a romance. Muir's life, based on Arabic sources, should be read. Sale's Koran should be carefully studied. Mr. Muir characterises the notes as

invaluable.” An excellent article by Mr. Muir on the Mahommedan Controversy, is to be found in the

In many

« PreviousContinue »