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bidden as a great sin, large classes of half European parentage have sprung up, and are early accustomed to a foreign language and a foreign faith. The lower orders manifest an increasing neglect of the rules of caste, and are generally desirous to send their children to schools established by the English. It is predicted that English will become the prevailing language. The upper classes now generally speak it with fluency, and take great interest in its literature. It was formerly considered very wrong to give foreigners access to their Sacred Books; but there is now an established profession of Hindoo teachers in Bengal to instruct Europeans in Sanscrit, that they may examine the Vedas, the Shastras, and the Pouranas. Attendants on the temples begin to complain that the offerings are of little worth, compared with former times. One of them lately told a missionary that he was unable to procure means to repair the roof, in consequence of which water was dripping on the image of the god during all the rainy season. He reported this to the people, but they seemed quite indifferent about it. He thought they were all becoming unbelievers.
Bramins strive to reconcile themselves to this state of things, on the ground that they are living in the Cali Yug, when religion is reduced to naught by decrees of Deity, and therefore it is useless to try to screen their Sacred Books from the profanation of foreign bands. Atrocious murders have often been confessed and extenuated in their courts, on the plea that it is the Cali Yug, when crimes must abound.
No priesthood in the annals of the world have retained so much power, for such a long series of centuries, as the Bramins. That as a class they have abused this power, is the inevitable result of possessing it; but there are among them intelligent, learned, and exemplary men, whose characters would do honour to any nation. Bishop Heber says: “In one of the temples I saw a Bramin who passed the whole day on a little pulpit, about as high and large as a dressing-table. At night, he sleeps on the pavement
beside it. His constant occupation is reading or lecturing on the Vedas, which he does to as many as will hear him, from eight in the morning till four in the evening. He asks for nothing; but a small copper basin stands near the pulpit, and he subsists entirely on the alms which the charitable are disposed to drop into it. He is a small, pale man, of an interesting countenance, said to be eloquent and extremely learned in the Sanscrit.” Some of the Bramins of Malabar wrote to the Danish missionaries : “God alone rules all the world, and all that is therein. It is he who rules the eight hundred and forty thousand kinds of living creatures; but because of his various appearances, he has different names. Hence we say Brahma creates, Vishnu rules, Siva destroys; all which different expressions denote but One Supreme Being. And when we attribute the protection of towns and villages to tutelar gods, our meaning is that the Great God does mediately protect towns and countries by his vicegerents and governors. For there is not the least motion in the world without the will of the First Cause. Indeed there are many gods, but they cannot so much as move a straw out of its place, without the assistance of the First Cause; therefore, he is justly called the Lord of the World; for it is his power that rules all things, and he is infinite and incomprehensible.” This statement doubtless represents the general views of enlightened classes of Hindoos at the present time; but they cannot yet believe that ideas which elevate priests and princes would also elevate the people. They argue that to present the doctrine of a purely spiritual Deity to men absorbed in the cares of animal existence, would inevitably make them atheists. Strongly attached to their ancient religion, from force of education, Bramins maintain that it is entirely misunderstood by Europeans, whose modes of thought prevent them from having any conception of the spiritual significance of their allegorical writings and sacred ceremonies. Intelligent worshippers of every age and nation might urge the same plea with perfect justice; for every symbol, even the rudest, was originally made sacred as the embodiment of some idea, and the spiritual-minded long continue to reverence the adulterated form for what it originally signified.
A transition state, when society is preparing to cast its old skin, is unpleasant and difficult for timid and reverential temperaments. Sacred laws appropriate to one age, do not supply the wants of another age. They become inconvenient or impossible of application when progressive centuries have introduced manifold changes. Theologians of India have expended great learning and patience to make some old maxims of their Sacred Books harmonize with the new wants of society, gradually, though slowly, changing. In the process, several of those maxims have been formally abrogated by legal enactment; others have fallen into disuse, with the remark that "they were doubtless intended for a more perfect state of the world.”
Some of the Bramins manifest great earnestness and candour in examining other modes of faith. Among these none have been so remarkable as Rammohun Roy, a wealthy Bramin, born in Bengal, in 1780. He was well acquainted with Sanscrit, Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and English. While quite young, he published a book, “ Against the Idolatry of All Religions.” In this he gave great offence to Hindoos and Mahometans, by the freedom with which he animadverted upon what he considered the defects in both their religious systems. His gentle nature was pained but not discouraged by the enmity he excited. In 1816 he translated the more spiritual portions of the Vedas from Sanscrit into Hindostanee and Bengalee, two of the most widely spread languages of Hindostan, and circulated them wherever he could, free of cost. In the Preface he says: “I have never ceased to contemplate with the strongest feelings of regret the obstinate adherence of my countrymen to their fatal system of idolatry; violating every humane and social feeling, for the sake of propitiating their supposed deities, especially by dreadful acts of self-destruction, and the immolation of nearest relatives, under the delusion of conforming to sacred religious rites. In these practices I view with sorrow the moral de basement of a race capable of better things, whose susceptibility, patience, and mildness of character, render them worthy of a happier destiny. Under these impressions, I am impelled to lay before them genuine translations of portions of their own Scriptures, which inculcate not only the enlightened worship of One God, but the purest principles of morality. It seems to me that I cannot better employ my time than in an endeavour to illustrate and maintain truth, and render service to my fellow-creatures; confiding in the mercy of that Being to whom the motives of our actions and the secrets of our hearts are well known.”
This attempt to restore the primitive simplicity of the Hindoo religion made Rammohun Roy as unpopular as if he had sought to introduce an entirely new system.
But still following the great impulses of his liberal soul, wishing to see all mankind acknowledge themselves children of One Father, he translated an abridgment of the Vedanta into English; in order, as he says in the Preface, to prove to his European friends that the superstitious practices which deform the Hindoo religion have nothing to do with the pure spirit of its dictates." He says: “By taking the path which conscience and sincerity direct, I, born a Bramin, have exposed myself to the complaints and reproaches even of some of my relations, whose prejudices are strong, and whose temporal advantages depend upon the present system of idolatry. But these, however accumulated, I can tranquilly bear; trusting that a day will arrive when my humble endeavours will be viewed with justice, perhaps acknowledged with gratitude."
He studied the Christian Scriptures with profound attention, and held their maxims in great veneration. But the mischiefs he had seen result from a plurality of gods, led him to reject the doctrine of the Trinity, which he saw would inevitably degenerate into a new form of Polytheism, if received into minds trained like the Hindoos. But he believed that Christ was pre-existent, and of a nature superior to angels, which is extremely analogous to ideas entertained by various Hindoo sects concerning their own saints. He translated into Sanscrit and Bengalee the parables and moral teachings of Christ, entitled “The Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness." He omitted the miracles and doctrinal portions of the Gospels. In the Introduction he says: “Belief in a Supreme Superintending Power, the author and preserver of this harmonious system, prevails generally ; being derived either from tradition and instruction, or from an attentive survey of the wonderful skill and contrivance displayed in the works of nature. A due estimation of that law which teaches man to do unto others as he would be done by, is also partially taught in every system of religion with which I am acquainted; but it is principally inculcated by Christianity. This essential characteristic of the Christian religion I was for a long time unable to distinguish as such, amid the various doctrines I found insisted on in the writings and conversation of Christians. I feel persuaded that the moral precepts of the New Testament, separated from other matters contained in that book, will be more likely to improve the hearts and minds of men of different persuasions and degrees of understanding. The historical, and some other portions, are liable to the doubts and disputes of free-thinkers and anti-Christians; especially the miraculous relations, which are much less wonderful than the fabricated tales handed down to the natives of Asia, and consequently apt at best to carry little weight with them. The Hindoos have records of wonderful iniracles performed by their saints and incarnated gods, in the presence of cotemporary friends and enemies, the wise and the ignorant, the select and the multitude. The orthodox sects can even support them with authorities from their inveterate enemies, the Jains, who acknowledge entirely the truth of these miracles, and only differ in maintaining that the power to perform them was derived from Evil Spirits, while the orthodox believe it was given by the Supreme Deity. But moral doctrines, tending evidently to the peace and harmony of mankind at large, are beyond