« PreviousContinue »
while the followers of natural religion are classed with the followers of philosophical systems, as ahlubahwâ, people of opinions.
Dharma. I know the difficulty of finding a word for religion in Sanskrit from practical experience.
Some years ago an enlightened and very zealous gentleman in India, Behramji M. Malabari, conceived the plan of having my Hibbert Lectures. On the Origin and Growth of Religion' translated not only into Sanskrit, but into the principal vernaculars of the country. The question was, how to translate the title. If the book had been on the origin of any particular religion, such as the teaching of Buddha or Mohammed or Christ, there would have been no difficulty. But the idea of religion in general had not presented itself clearly to the Hindu mind, and hence there was no recognised name for it. After long consideration, we settled that it should be simply Dharma-vyâkhyâna,‘an explanation of Dharma,' that is, the Law, and under that title translations of my Hibbert Lectures have appeared in Bengâlî, Guzarâtî, and Marâthî, and more will appear in Sanskrit, Hindi, and Tamil.
This dharma certainly means religion in one sense, but in one sense only. It means law, and a law-book therefore is called Dharma-sâstra. The same word dharma may be used to express dogma or objective religion, but it cannot include the subjective disposition which we likewise comprehend under the name of religion.
In the Rig-veda dharma, law, does not yet occur, but only the other form dharman. With the accent on the first syllable dhárman means one who holds and upholds; with the accent on the last, dharmál means support, ful-crum ; then law and order, what holds things as they are and as they ought to be. The gods are looked upon as the givers and guardians of these dharmas or laws. In later Sanskrit dhárma has the same meaning of law, then of duty and virtue, that is, of law performed. Lastly, it has been used in the sense of the nature or essence of a thing, as we might say the law or character of a thing, the eldos. When Manu (II. 12) in his Law-book explains dharma, he represents it as consisting of the Veda (revelation), of Smriti (tradition), of Sadâkâra (the behaviour of good people), and of what is dear to oneself, that is, what meets with the approval of our own conscience.
It was with the Buddhists that dharma became more exclusively the name of the doctrines taught by Buddha, which contained all that was supposed necessary for salvation. The three great treasures of the Buddhists are Buddha, the Church (sangha), and the Law (dharma); and when a man embraced Buddhism, he recited the formula, 'I take refuge with Buddha, with the Church, and with the Law, as preached by Buddha.
But through all these phases dharma always retains something of its etymological meanings. It is what holds us in the right path, and keeps us from what is wrong. It is the law that comes to us from without, not the law or the will, or whatever else we may call it, that comes from within.
1 Rv. V. 15, 2.
Veda. A Brahman, when speaking of his own religion, might use the word Veda. Veda means originally knowledge, but it has been restricted so as to signify exclusively what a Brahman considers as sacred and revealed knowledge. Instead of Veda we find in Sanskrit another curious word for revelation, namely, Sruti, which means hearing, from sru, to hear, the Greek kiúw. It is most carefully defined by Hindu theologians, so as to exclude all secular knowledge, and so as to comprehend such knowledge only as is received by direct inspiration from a divine source. Even the Laws of Manu, though invested with a sacred character, are not Sruti, but only Smriti, which means remembering or tradition, not revelation ; so that whenever there should be a conflict between Smriti and Sruti, Smriti is at once overruled by Sruti. All these expressions, however, refer clearly to objective religion only, to a body of doctrines placed before us for acceptance or rejection. They do not render what we mean by subjective or inward religion, an idea that seemed quite strange, and proved therefore untranslatable, to my Hindu translators.
There is, however, in later Sanskrit one expression which comes very near to what we mean by subjective religion, namely bhakti, devotion and faith.
The verb bhag, bhagati, from which bhakti is derived, means first of all to divide, to distribute, to give. We read in the Rig-veda of the gods distributing gifts to men, and also of rich people giving presents to their friends and followers. The same
verb, however, particularly if used in the Âtmanepada or the middle, takes also the meaning of giving something to oneself, that is, choosing it for oneself, holding it, loving it. From meaning to choose, to love, bhag took the more special meaning of loving, venerating, and worshipping a deity. Bhakta, the participle, thus came to mean a devoted worshipper, and bhakti faith, devotion, and love.
Bhakti, in the sense of loving devotion directed towards a certain deity, does not occur in the Vedic literature, except in some of the Upanishads. It gains more and more ground, however, in the Bhagavadgîtâ, where it means the loving worship paid to Krishna, and it then comes so near to the Christian conception of faith and love that several Sanskrit scholars as well as missionaries have expressed their conviction that the idea of bhakti must have been borrowed by the Brahmans from Christianity. It is strange that these scholars should not see that what is natural in one country is natural in another also. If fear, reverence, and worship of the Supreme God could become devotion and love with Semitic people, why not in India also ? Besides, we can see in India the same development of thought as in Palestine. No doubt the gods are feared and reverenced in India, but they are also addressed as friends, and sentiments such as 'thou art like a father to a son,' are by no means unfrequent in the earliest portions of the Rigveda. We read in the very first hymn of the Rigveda, 'Be easy of access to us, as a father to his son.' In the Upanishads, when the different gods of the
1. See Die Bhagavadgita, übersetzt und erläutert von Dr. F. Lorinser, 1869.
Veda have been superseded by the Supreme Lord, the Isvara, the feelings of love and devotion are transferred to him. And at a still later time, when Krishna was worshipped as the manifestation of the Supreme Spirit, we see in the Bhagavadgîtâ every expression that human love is capable of, lavished on him.
I shall read you first an extract from the Svetâsvatara Upanishad 1:
‘l. Some wise men, being deluded, speak of Nature, and others of Time (as the cause of everything); but it is the greatness of God by which this Brahma-wheel (the world) is made to turn.
7. Let us know that highest great Lord of lords, the highest deity of deities, the master of masters, the highest above, as God, the Lord of the world, the adorable.
10. That only God who spontaneously covered himself, like a spider, with threads drawn from nature (pradhâna, the chief cause), may he grant us entrance into Brahman.
11. He is the one God, hidden in all things, pervading all,—the Self within all beings, watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, the only one, free from all qualities.
12. He is the one ruler of many who are above their acts ; he who makes the one seed manifold. The wise who perceive him within their self, to them belongs eternal happiness, not to others.
20. When man shall roll up the sky like a hide, then only will there be an end of misery, unless that God has first been known.
1 Upanishads, translated by M. M., in Sacred Books of the East, xv. 260.
2 Nishkriya, without acts, i. e. not really active, but passive ; merely looking on while the organs perform their acts.