« PreviousContinue »
Sraddha, faith. There is, however, a very ancient word for faith. It is a very important word, for while bhakti is a purely Indian concept, and even in India of later growth, sraddhâ, faith, is a very old word, and must have existed before the Aryan nations separated ?. Think what that implies. We read in the Rig-veda I. 55, 5: When the fiery Indra hurls down the thunderbolt, then people believe in him.'
Adha kana srat dadhati tvishimate
Indrâya vagram nighanighnate vadham. Here you have in one line the whole secret of natural religion. When people see the manifestation of power in the storm and lightning, then they believe in Indra. It is not said that they perceive Indra, or that they find out by reasoning that there must be a god, called Indra : no, they believe in him, they accept him, they do not doubt his existence. Or again, Rv. I. 102, 2 : 'Sun and moon move in regular succession, that we may have faith, O Indra.'
Asme sûryakandramase abhikakshe
Sraddhe kam indra karatah vitarturam. Here we have no longer faith in Indra or any particular deity, but faith in general, and that faith is taken as the result of our seeing the regular rising and setting of sun and moon.
Faith, therefore, is represented as reposing on terror produced by the overpowering convulsions of nature, and on trust, called forth by the discovery of law and order in nature. Few of the best living
1 Hibbert Lectures, p. 309. According to Sândilya (Sutra 24), bhakti is not identical with sraddhâ, because sraddha, belief, is merely subsidiary to ceremonial works; but not so is faith in Isvara.
philosophers have anything better to say on the origin of faith.
And now let us consider this word sraddhâ a little more closely. It is letter by letter the same as the Latin crédo, and our creed. When the Brahmans said srad-dadhe, the Romans said credidi; when the Brahmans said sraddhitam, the Romans said creditum.
The two words are therefore clearly the same; but if you ask me what sraddh â meant etymologically, I can only say, We do not know. Professor Darmesteter derives it from srad, in the sense of heart, and dhâ, to place. Phonetically this etymology might be defended, though srad, by the side of hrid, the regular word for heart in Sanskrit, would be without analogy. But Professor Darmesteter has not considered that srad occurs elsewhere by itself, and that there it cannot possibly mean heart. For instance, Rv. VIII. 75,2, srat visvâ vâryâ kridhi,' Make all our wishes true!' Here srad cannot possibly be taken as a dialectic form of hrid.
How srat should come to mean true, and sraddhâ, to make true, to accept as true, we do not know. But this only shows how old a word sraddhâ really is, and how early in the history of the human mind the idea must have sprung up that we may accept as true what can neither be confirmed by our senses nor proved by our reasoning, but what is nevertheless irresistible. Here you see how we may discover embedded in the very deepest strata of language the germs of religion --for there can be no name for believing before the first rays of faith have dawned in the human heart.
MY OWN DEFINITION OF RELIGION,
Former Definitions. W E have now examined the most important and
most characteristic definitions of religion. We have seen how some of them looked chiefly to the practical character, others to the theoretic character of religion, while some philosophers, such as Schleiermacher, would recognise the true essence of religion neither in its practical nor in its theoretic manifestations, but only in a complete change of our nature, in a loving devotion to and almost union with the Supreme Being.
Do not suppose that I look upon all these definitions as wrong, or that I intend to criticise them one by one. On the contrary, I believe that most of them contain some truth, some very important truth, but they all seem to me to be vulnerable in one and the same point, namely in taking the object of religious thought for granted and therefore leaving it undefined. This may be defensible, if in defining religion we only think of our own, or of the religion of the present age. But if the historical school has proved anything, it has established the fact, to which I alluded at the end of my last lecture, that in religion as in language there is continuity, there is an unbroken chain which
connects our thoughts and our words with the first thoughts conceived and with the first words uttered by the earliest ancestors of our race. A definition of religion ought therefore to be applicable, not only to what religion is now, but to what religion was in its origin, and in its earliest developments. Religion may change, and it has changed, as we know; but however much it may change, it can never break entirely with its past, it can never be severed from its deepest roots, and it is in these deepest roots that we ought to seek, as it seems to me, the true essence of religion. ..
But it is not only religion in its origin which the ordinary definitions would fail to comprehend. There are several of the historical developments of religion also which could hardly be brought within their gage.
Is Buddhism a religion ? If you tried, for instance, to bring Buddhism within the compass of any of the definitions hitherto examined, you would find it impossible to do so, and yet, as you know, the largest number of human beings bave trusted to Buddha's teaching as their only means of salvation. Those who define religion as a theory, as a mode of knowledge, must necessarily, as I pointed out before, supply an object that is to be known, whether they call it gods or god, the father, the creator, the Supreme Being, or the Supreme Will. Buddhism, as theoretical, not included under any definition.
But in Buddhism-I mean in Southern Buddhism, which ought to be carefully distinguished from Northern Buddhism or Bodhism—there is no mention of God as a creator or ruler of the world ; on the
See the account of Brahman as a Creator in Selected Essays, ii. 297,
contrary, a belief in creation is condemned, if not as heresy, at all events as a conceit highly reprimanded by Buddha himself. Gods or Devas are mentioned indeed, but only as subordinate, legendary beings, accepted as part of the traditional phraseology of the times. From a kind of compassion they seem to have been accommodated with a new position as servants and worshippers of the Buddha. Several of the great questions of religion, besides that of the existence of a Deity or Creator, are banished once for all from the discussions, nay from the thoughts of orthodox Buddhists. Some of Buddha's own disciples are introduced as blaming the master for not enlightening them on such questions as whether the world is eternal or had a beginning, whether Buddha and those who, like him, have arrived at perfect knowledge, will live after death or not? Whether the living soul is identical with the body or not?
Málunkya-patta and Buddha. After Mâlunkya-putta had expostulated with Buddha for leaving his disciples in uncertainty on such important points, Buddha answers 1 :
How did I speak to the formerly, Mâluňkyaputta ? Did I say: Come, and be my disciple, and I will teach thee whether the world is eternal or not, whether the world is finite or infinite, whether the living principle is identical with the body or different from it, whether the perfect man lives after death or does not, whether he lives and does not live at the