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Oriental Religions and Christianity Part 4

One might suppose that the worship of the heavenly bodies would remain the purest and noblest; and yet the sun-worship of the Assyrians and the Phoenicians became unspeakably vile in its sensuousness, and finally the most wicked and abominable of all heathen systems. India in her darkest days never sank so low, and when her degradation came it was through other conceptions than those of nature worship.

In the early Vedic hymns are to be found many sublime passages which seem to suggest traces of those common traditions concerning the creation--the Fall of man and the Deluge, which we believe to have been the earliest religious heritage of mankind. They contrast strongly with the later and degrading cosmogonies of degenerate heathen systems, and especially with the grotesque fancies of the subsequent Hindu mythology.

In the Xth Mandala of the Rig Veda we find the following account of primeval chaos, which reminds one of the Mosaic Genesis:

"In the beginning there was neither aught nor naught, There was neither sky nor atmosphere above.

What then enshrouded all the teeming universe?

In the receptacle of what was it contained?

Was it enveloped in the gulph profound of water?

There was then neither death nor immortality.

There was then neither day nor night, nor light nor darkness.

Only the _Existing One_ breathed calmly self-contained, Naught else but him there was, naught else above, beyond; Then first came darkness hid in darkness, gloom in gloom, Next all was water, chaos indiscreet In which the _One_ lay void, shrouded in nothingness, Then turning inward by self-developed force Of inner fervor and intense abstraction grew."

In the early Vedic period many of the corruptions of later times were unknown. There was no distinct doctrine of caste, no transmigration, no mist of pantheism, no idol-worship, no widow-burning, and no authorized infanticide. The abominable tyranny which was subsequently imposed upon woman was unknown; the low superstitions of the aboriginal tribes had not been adopted; nor, on the other hand, had philosophy and speculation taken possession of the Hindu mind. The doctrine of the Trimurti and the incarnations had not appeared.[35]

The faith of the Hindus in that early period may be called _Aryanism_, or _Vedism_. It bore sway from the Aryan migration, somewhere about one thousand five hundred, or two thousand, years before Christ, to about eight hundred years before Christ.[36] By that time the priestly class had gained great power over all other ranks. They had begun to work over the Vedas to suit their own purposes, selecting from them such portions as could be framed into an elaborate ritual--known as the Brahmanas. The period during which they continued this ritualistic development is known as the Brahmana period. This extended from about eight hundred to five hundred B.C.[37] These, however, are only the approximate estimates of modern scholarship: such a thing as ancient history is unknown to the Hindu race. This Brahmana period was marked by the intense and overbearing sacerdotalism of the Brahmans, and by an extreme development of the doctrine of caste. Never was priestly tyranny carried to greater length than by these lordly Brahmans of India. One of the chief abuses of their system was their depravation of sacrifice.

The earliest conception of sacrifice represented in the Vedas is that of a vicarious offering of Parusha, a Divine being. Very obscure references to this are found in the oldest of the four Vedas, dating probably not later than 1200 B.C. It is brought out still more clearly in a Brahmana which was probably composed in the seventh century B.C. It is there said that the "Lord of creatures offered himself a sacrifice for the Gods." Principal Fairbairn finds Vedic authority for the idea that the creation of the world was accomplished by the self-sacrifice of deity; and Manu ascribes the creation of mankind to the austerities of the gods. Sir Monier Williams, the late Professor Banergea, and many others, have regarded these references to a Divine sacrifice for the benefit of gods and men as dim traces of a revelation once made to mankind of a promised atonement for the sins of the world.[38]

But so far as the actual observances of the early Hindus were concerned, they seem to have made their offerings rather in the spirit of Cain than in the faith of Abel. They simply fed the gods with their gifts, and regaled them with soma juice, poured forth in libations; the savor of melted butter also was supposed to be specially grateful. Still there is reason to believe that the piacular idea of sacrifice was never wholly lost, but that the Hindus, in common with all other races, found occasion--especially when great calamities befell them--to appease the gods with the blood of sacrifice. In the early days human sacrifices were offered, and occasionally at least down to a late period.[39] It was a convenient policy of the priesthood, however, to hypothecate the claim for a human victim by accepting the substitution of a goodly number of horses or cows. A famous tradition is given, in the Aitareya Brahmana, of a prince[40] who had been doomed to sacrifice by a vow of his father, but who bought as a substitute the son of a holy Brahman--paying the price of a hundred cows. When none could be found to bind the lad on the altar, the pious father offered to perform the task for another hundred cows. Then there was no one found to slay the victim, and the father offered for still another hundred to do even that. As the victim was of high caste the gods interposed, and the Brahman was still the possessor of a son plus the cattle. The incident will illustrate the greed of the priesthood and the depravation of sacrifice. It had become a system of bargaining and extortion. The sacrifices fed the priesthood more substantially than the gods. There was great advantage in starting with the human victim as the unit of value, and it is easy to see how substitution of animals became immensely profitable. The people were taught that it was possible, if one were rich enough in victims, even to bankrupt heaven. Even demons by the value of their offerings might demand the sceptre of Indra.[41]

Hand in hand with this growth of the sacrificial system was the development of caste; the former was done away by the subsequent protest of Buddhism and the philosophic schools; but the latter has remained through all the stages of Hindu history.[42] Such was _Brahmanism_. Its thraldom has never been equalled. The land was deluged with the blood of slain beasts. All industries were paralyzed with discouragement. Social aspiration was blighted, patriotism and national spirit were weakened, and India was prepared for those disastrous invasions which made her the prey of all northern races.

It was in protest against these evils that Gautama and many able philosophers arose about 500 B.C. Already the intellectual classes had matched the Brahmans by drawing upon Vedic authority for their philosophy. As the Brahmans had produced a ritual from the Vedas, so the philosophers framed a sort of philosophic Veda in the _Upanishads_.

Men had begun to ask themselves the great questions of human life and destiny, "Whence am I? What is this mysterious being of which I am conscious?" They had begun to reason about nature, the origin of matter, the relation of mortals to the Infinite. The school of the Upanishads regarded themselves as an aristocracy of intellect, and held philosophy as their esoteric and peculiar prerogative. It was maintained that two distinct kinds of revelation had been made to men. First, that simple kind which was designed for priests and the common masses, for all those who regarded only effects and were satisfied with sacerdotal assumption and merit-making. But, secondly, there was a higher knowledge which concerned itself with the origin of the world and the hidden causes of things. Even to this day the Upanishads are the Vedas of the thinking classes of India.[43]

As the Brahmanas gave first expression to the doctrine of caste, so in the Upanishads we find the first development of pantheism and the doctrine of transmigration. The conclusion had already been reached that "There is only one Being who exists: He is within this universe and yet outside this universe: whoe'er beholds all living creatures as in Him, and Him the universal spirit, as in all, thenceforth regards no creature with contempt."

The language of Hindu speculation exhausts its resources in similes by which to represent personal annihilation. Man's origin and relations are accounted for very tersely by such illustrations as these: "As the web issues from the spider, as little sparks proceed from fire, so from the One Soul proceed all breathing animals, all worlds, all the gods, all beings." Then as to destiny: "These rivers proceed from the east toward the west, thence from the ocean they rise in the form of vapor, and dropping again, they flow toward the south and merge into the ocean.

And as the flowing rivers are merged into the sea, losing their names and forms, so the wise, freed from name and form, pass into the Divine spirit, which is greater than the great."[44] Another favorite illustration is that of the moon's reflection in the water-jar, which disappears the moment the moon itself is hidden. "If the image in the water has no existence separate from that of the moon," says the Hindu, "how can it be shown that the human soul exists apart from God?"

The Mundaka Upanishad, based upon the Atharva Veda (one of the latest,--the Upanishad being later still), contains this account of the universe: "As the spider spins and gathers back (its thread); as plants sprout on the earth; as hairs grow on a living person; so is this universe here produced from the imperishable nature. By contemplation the vast one germinates; from him food (or body) is produced; and thence successively, breath, mind, real (elements) worlds, and immortality resulting from (good) deeds.

"The Omniscient is profound contemplation consisting in the knowledge of him who knows all; and from that, the (manifested) vast one, as well as names, forms, and food proceed; and this is truth."[45]

It is a great blemish upon the Upanishads, that while there are subtle, and in some respects sublime, utterances to be found here and there, the great mass is fanciful and often puerile, and in many instances too low and prurient to bear translation into the English language. This is clearly alleged by Mr. Bose, and frankly admitted by Max Muller.[46]

In the common protest which finally broke down the system of Brahmanical sacrifice, and for a time relaxed the rigors of caste tyranny, Buddhism then just appearing (say 500 B.C.), joined hand in hand with the philosophies. Men were tired of priestcraft, and by a natural reaction they went to an opposite extreme; they were tired of religion itself.

Buddha became an undoubted atheist or agnostic, and six distinct schools of philosophy arose on the basis of the Upanishads--some of which were purely rationalistic, some were conservative, others radical. Some resembled the Greek "Atomists" in their theory,[47] and others fought for the authority, and even the supreme divinity, of the Vedas.[48] All believed in the eternity of matter, and the past eternity of the soul; all accepted the doctrine of transmigration, and maintained that the spiritual nature can only act through a material body. All were pessimistic, and looked for relief only in absorption.

But the progress of Hindu thought was marked by checks and counter-checks. As the tyranny of the priesthood had led to the protest of philosophy, so the extreme and conflicting speculations of philosophic rationalism probably gave rise to the conservatism of the Code of Manu. No adequate idea of the drift of Hindu thought can be gained without assigning due influence to this all-important body of laws. They accomplished more in holding fast the power of the Brahmans, and enabling them to stem the tide of intellectual rebellion, and finally to regain the sceptre from the hand of Buddhism, than all other literatures combined. Their date cannot be definitely known. They were composed by different men and at different times. They probably followed the Upanishads, but antedated the full development of the philosophic schools.

Many of the principles of Manu's Code had probably been uttered as early as the seventh century B.C.[49] The ferment of rationalistic thought was even then active, and demanded restraint. The one phrase which expresses the whole spirit of the laws of Manu is intense conservatism. They stand for the definite authority of dogma; they re-assert in strong terms the authority of the Vedas; they establish and fortify by all possible influences, the institution of caste. They enclose as in an iron framework, all domestic, social, civil, and religious institutions.

They embrace not only the destiny of men upon the earth, but also the rewards and punishments of the future life. Whatever they touched was petrified. Abuses which had crept in through the natural development of human depravity--for example, the oppression of woman--the laws of Manu stamped with inflexible and irreversible authority. The evils which grow up in savage tribes are bad enough, the tyranny of mere brute force is to be deplored, but worst of all is that which is sanctioned by statute, and made the very corner-stone of a great civilization. Probably no other system of laws ever did so much to rivet the chains of domestic tyranny.[50]

The Code of Manu has been classified as, 1st, sacred knowledge and religion; 2d, philosophy; 3d, social rules and caste organization; 4th, criminal and civil laws; 5th, systems of penance; 6th, eschatology, or the doctrine of future rewards. No uninspired or non-Vedic production has equal authority in India. We can only judge of its date by its relative place among other books. It applies Vedic names to the gods, though it mentions Brahma and Vishnu, but it makes no reference to the Trimurti. Pantheism was evidently in existence and was made prominent in the code. The influence of Manu over the jurisprudence of India was a matter of growth. At first the code appears to have been a guide in customs and observances, but as it gained currency it acquired the force of law, and extended its sway over all the tribes of India. It was not, however, maintained as a uniform code throughout the land, but its principles were found underlying the laws of all the provinces. Its very merits were finally fruitful of evil. Human weal was sacrificed to the over-shadowing power of a system of customs cunningly wrought and established by Brahmanical influence. The author was evidently a Brahman, and the whole work was prepared and promulgated in the interests of Brahmanism as against all freedom of thought. Its support of the Vedas was fanatical. Thus: "A Brahman by retaining the Rig Veda in his memory incurs no guilt, though he should destroy the three worlds." Again: "When there is contradiction of two precepts in the Veda, both are declared to be law; both have been justly promulgated by known sages as valid law."

The laws of Manu make no mention of the doctrine of _Bakti_ or faith, and there is no reference to the worship of the _Sakti_; both of these were of later date. The doctrine of transmigration, however, is fully stated, and as a consequence of this the hells described in the code, though places of torture, resolve themselves into merely temporary purgatories, while the heavens become only the steps on the road to a union with deity. There is reason to believe that the practice of employing idols to represent deity was unknown at the time the code was compiled. There is no allusion to public services or to teaching in the temples, the chief rites of religion were of a domestic kind, and the priests of that age were nothing more than domestic chaplains.

Manu's theory of creation was this: "The Self-Existent, having willed to produce various beings from his own substance, first with a thought created the waters and placed on them a productive seed or egg. Then he himself was born in that egg in the form of Brahma. Next he caused the egg to divide itself, and out of its two divisions there came the heaven above and the earth beneath. Afterward, having divided his own substance he became half male, half female. From that female was produced Viraj, from whom was created the secondary progenitor of all beings. Then from the Supreme Soul he drew forth Manu's intellect." This mixed cosmogony is supposed to indicate a diversity of authorship.

It will be seen that this is much less philosophical than the theory of creation quoted above from the Mundaka Upanishad.[51] If we compare Manu's account with the description of the "Beginning" found in one of the hymns of the Rig Veda,[52] we shall see that there has been a downward trend of Hinduism from the simple and sublime conceptions of the early poets to that which is grotesque, and which has probably been worked over to suit the purposes of the Brahmans. No mythological legend was too absurd if it promoted the notion of the divine origin of the Manus (sages) and the Brahmans.

Manu makes much of the Vedic passage which refers to the origin of caste.[53] He maintained that this distinction of caste was as much a law of nature and divine appointment as the separation of different classes of animals. The prominence accorded to the Brahmans was nothing short of divine. "Even when Brahmans employ themselves in all sorts of inferior occupations (as poverty often compels them to do) they must under all circumstances be honored, for they are to be regarded as supreme divinities." "A Brahman's own power is stronger than the power of the king, therefore by his own might he may chastise his foes." "He who merely assails a Brahman with intent to kill him, will continue in hell for a hundred years, and he who actually strikes him must endure a thousand years."

It is always the truth that is mingled with the errors of any system which constitutes its life and gives it perpetuity, and there is much in the Code of Manu to be admired. Like the Confucian ethics, it laid its foundations in the respect due from childhood to parents, and in guarding the sanctities of the home. It aimed at fairness between ruler and subject, in an age when over most of the Asiatic continent the wildest caprice of rulers was the law of their respective realms. Manu taught the duty of kings toward their subjects in most emphatic terms.

They were to regard themselves as servants, or rather as fathers, of the people; and rules were prescribed for their entire conduct. They were the representatives of deity in administering the affairs of mortals, and must realize their solemn responsibility.[54] It must ever be acknowledged that the Hindu laws respecting property were characterized by wisdom and equity. Taxation was not subject to caprice or injustice; where discriminations occurred they were in favor of the poor, and the heaviest burdens were laid where they should be laid, upon the rich.

There were wise adaptations, calculated to develop the industry and self-help of the weakest classes, and care was taken that they never should become oppressive. No political or civic tyranny could be allowed; but that of the priesthood in its relations to all ranks, and that of the householder toward his wife and toward all women, were quite sufficient. In this last regard we scarcely know which was the greater--the heartless wickedness of the Code, or its blind and bigoted folly. How it was that laws could be framed which indicated such rare sagacity, which in many other respects were calculated to build up the very highest civilization, and which, at the same time, failed to foresee that this oppression of woman must result in the inevitable degeneracy of succeeding generations of men, must ever remain a mystery.[55]

We have glanced at the purer and simpler Aryanism of the early period, at the bigoted, tyrannical Brahmanism, with its ritual, its sacrifices, its caste. We have merely alluded to the rationalistic reaction of the philosophers and the Buddhists. We shall now see that the Brahman power is not broken, but that it will regain all and more than it has lost, that it will prove elastic enough to embrace all that has gone before; that while Buddhism will be banished, many of its elements will be retained, and the whole woven into one marvellous texture which we will call _Hinduism_.[56] Even during the period of Buddhism's greatest triumphs, say, two or three centuries before Christ, changes of great moment were going on in the Brahmanical faith. The old sacrificial system had lost its power, but the flexible and inexhaustible resources of Brahmanical cunning were by no means dormant. In the border wars of the Aryans, with rival invaders on the one hand, and with the conquered but ever restless aborigines on the other, great and popular heroes had sprung up. The exploits of these heroes had been celebrated in two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the popularity of these poems was immense. The heroes were of the soldier caste, and gave to that caste a prestige which seemed to the Brahmans formidable and dangerous.[57] The divine prerogatives of their order were all in jeopardy.

The remedy chosen by the Brahmans was a bold and desperate one. These heroes must be raised out of the soldier caste by making them divine. As such they would hold a nearer relation to the divine Brahmans than to the soldiers. The legends were therefore worked over--Brahmanized--so to speak.[58] Rama, who had overcome certain chieftains of Ceylon, and Krishna, who had won great battles in Rajputana, were raised to the rank of gods and demi-gods. By an equal exaggeration the hostile chiefs of rival invaders were transformed to demons, and the black, repulsive hill tribes, who were involved as allies in these conflicts, were represented as apes. As a part of this same Brahmanizing process, the doctrine of the Trimurti was developed, and also the doctrine of incarnation. Most conspicuous were the incarnations of Vishnu; Rama and Krishna were finally placed among the ten incarnations of that deity. This was a skilful stroke of policy, for it was now no longer the heroes of the soldier caste who had won victory for the Aryans; it was Vishnu, the preserver, the care-taker, and sympathizer with all the interests of mankind. The development of the doctrines of the Trimurti and of incarnation undoubtedly followed both the rise of Buddhism and the promulgation of the Laws of Manu.

Meanwhile the Brahmans were shrewd enough to adapt themselves to certain other necessities. The influence of Buddhism was still a force which was not to be disregarded. It had demonstrated one thing which had never been recognized before, and that was the need of a more human and sympathetic element in the divine objects of worship. Men were weary of worshipping gods who had no kindly interest in humanity. They were weary of a religion which had no other element than that of fear or of bargaining with costly sacrifices. They longed for something which had the quality of mercy. Buddha had demonstrated the value of this element, and by an adroit stroke of policy the Brahmans adopted Gautama as the ninth avatar of Vishnu. Meanwhile they adopted the heroic Krishna as the god of sympathy--the favorite of the lower masses who were not too critical toward his vices.

We have now reached the fully developed form of _Hinduism_.[59] The Brahmans had embraced every element that could give strength to their broad, eclectic, and all-embracing system.[60] The doctrine of the Trimurti had become a strong factor, as it furnished a sort of framework, and gave stability. As compared with the early Aryanism, it removed the idea of deity from merely natural forces to that of abstract thoughts, principles, and emotions, as active and potent in the world.

At the same time it retained the old Vedic deities under new names and with new functions, and it did not abate its professed regard for Vedic authority. The Brahmans had rendered their system popular in a sense with the intellectual classes by adopting all the philosophies. They had stopped the mouth of Buddhist protest by embracing the Buddha among their incarnations. They had shown an advance in the succession of incarnations from the early embodiments of brute force, the fish, the tortoise, the boar, up to heroes, and from these to the ninth avatar, the Buddha, as a moralist and philosopher.[61] They left on record the prediction that a tenth should come--and he is yet to come--who, in a still higher range of moral and spiritual power, should redeem and renovate the earth, and establish a kingdom of righteousness.

Meanwhile, in this renaissance of the Hindu faith, this wide, politic, self-adapting system, we find not only Buddhism, Philosophy, the early Aryanism, and the stiff cultus of Brahmanism, but there is also a large infusion of the original superstitions of the Dravidians, Kohls, Santals, and other nature worshippers of the hill tribes. Much of the polytheism of the modern Hindus--the worship of hills, trees, apes, cattle, the sun, the moon, unseen spirits, serpents, etc.--has been adopted from these simple tribes, so that the present system embraces all that has ever appeared on the soil of India--even Mohammedanism to some extent; and as some contend, very much also has been incorporated from the early teachings of the so-called St. Thomas Christians of Malabar. Such is the immense composite which is called Hinduism. It continued its development through the early centuries of the Christian era, and down even to the Middle Ages. Since then there has been disintegration instead of growth. The Brahmans have not only retained the Aryan deities, and extended Vishnu's incarnate nature over the epic heroes, but in the Puranas they have woven into the alleged lives of the incarnate gods the most grotesque mythologies and many revolting vices.

It may be interesting to trace for a moment the influence of the different lines of Hindu literature upon the general development of national character. Of course, the early Vedic literature has never lost its influence as the holy and inspired source of all knowledge to the Hindu race; but we have seen how much more potential were the Brahmanas and the Upanishad philosophy drawn from the Vedas, than were those sacred oracles themselves; how the Brahmanas riveted the chains of priestcraft and caste, and how the philosophies invigorated the intellect of the people at a time when they were most in danger of sinking into the torpor of ignorance and base subserviency to ritual and sacrifice; how it gave to the better classes the courage to rise up in rebellion and throw off every yoke, and think for themselves. We have seen how Buddhism by its protest against sacerdotalism crippled for a time the power of the Brahmans and raised a representative of the soldier caste to the chief place as a teacher of men; how its inculcation of pity to man and beast banished the slaughter and cruelty of wholesale and meaningless sacrifice, and how its example of sympathy changed Hinduism itself, and brought it into nearer relations with humanity. Driven from India, though it was, it left an immense deposit of influence and of power. We have seen how, as a counter-check to philosophy and Buddhism, the Code of Manu reasserted the authority of the Vedas, and riveted anew the chains of caste, and how it compensated for its oppressiveness by many wholesome and benign regulations--accomplishing more, perhaps, than all other literatures combined to maintain the stability of Hinduism, through its many vicissitudes, and in spite of the heterogeneous elements which it received and incorporated.

Scarcely less important was the influence of the great epics--the Ramayana and the Mahabharata--with their doctrine of Trimurti and the incarnations of Vishnu in the national heroes. This conciliated the soldier caste, subsidized the most popular characters in Hindu tradition, at the same time that it made them tenfold more glorious than before. The Epics widened out the field of Hindu mythology immensely.

Never before had there been such a boundless range for the imagination.

The early Brahmans had cramped all intellectual growth, and held mankind by the leash of priestly ritual. The philosophies had been too strait and lofty for any but the higher class; Manu's laws had been a stern school-master to keep the people under curbs and restraints; even the Brahmans themselves were the slaves of their own ritual. But all the people could understand and admire Rama's wonderful victories over the demon Ravana. All could appreciate the devotion of the lovely Sita, and weep when she was kidnapped and borne away, like Grecian Helen, to the demon court in Ceylon; and they could be thrilled with unbounded joy when she was restored--the truest and loveliest of wives--to be the sharer of a throne.

The Epics took such hold of the popular heart that any fact, any theory, any myth that could be attached to them found ready credence. The Mahabharata especially became a general texture upon which any philosophy, or all the philosophies, might be woven at will. And for a long period, extending from three or four centuries B.C. onward far into the Christian era, it was ever ready to receive modifications from the fertile brain and skilful hand of any devout Brahman. A striking example of this was the introduction of the Bhagavad Gita. When this was composed, somewhere about the second or third century of our era, there was no little conflict between the different schools of philosophy; and its unknown author attempted to unite them all in a poem which should harmonize their contradictions and exalt the virtues of each, and at the same time reiterate all the best maxims of Hinduism. Some centuries later, the pronounced Vedantist Sancarakarya revamped the poem and gave its philosophy a more pantheistic character; later still the demigod Krishna was raised to full rank as the supreme Vishnu--the Creator and Upholder of all things.[62]

It is important to notice that in the trend of Hindu literature through so many ages there has been no upward movement, but rather a decline.

Nowhere do we find hymns of so pure and lofty a tone as in the early Vedas. No philosophy of the later times has equalled that of the Upanishads and the six Darsanas. No law-giver like Manu has appeared for twenty-four centuries. No Sanskrit scholarship has equalled that of the great grammarian Panini, who lived in the fourth century B.C. And although no end of poetry has succeeded the great Epics, it has shown deterioration. The Puranas, written at a later day, reveal only a reckless zeal to exalt the incarnate deities. They may properly be called histories of the incarnations of Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, and glorifications of Krishna. And the very nature of the subjects with which they deal gives free scope to an unbridled imagination and to the most reckless exaggeration.

If anything more were wanting to insure their extravagance, it may be found in the fact that they were inspired by the rivalry of the respective worshippers of different gods. The Puranas mark the development of separate sects, each of which regarded its particular deity as the supreme and only god. The worshippers of Vishnu and the worshippers of Siva were in sharp rivalry, and they have continued their separation to this day.[63] Those who came to worship Vishnu as incarnate in Krishna, gained an advantage in the popular element associated with a favorite hero. Yet this was matched by the influence of the Sankhya philosophy, which assigned to Siva a male and female dualism, a doctrine which finally plunged Hinduism into deepest degradation. It brought about a new development known as Saktism, and the still later and grosser literature of the Tantras. In these, Hinduism reached its lowest depths. The modern "Aryas" discard both the Tantras and the Puranas, and assert that the popular incarnations of Vishnu were only good men. They take refuge from the corruptions of modern Hinduism in the purer teachings of the early Vedas.

_The Contrasts of Hinduism and Christianity._

Hinduism has some elements in common with Christianity which it is well to recognize. It is theistic; it is a religion, as distinguished from the agnostic and ethical systems of India and China.[64] Hinduism always recognized a direct divine revelation which it regards with profound reverence; and through all its variations and corruptions it has inculcated in the minds of the Indian races a deeply religious feeling.

It has been claimed that it has made the Hindus the most devotional people in the world. Like Christianity, Hinduism appeals to man's intellectual nature, and it is inwrought with profound philosophy. It does not, however, like some modern systems, teach that divine truth has been revealed to man by natural processes; rather it regards the early revelation as having suffered obscuration.[65] It also has its trinity, its incarnations, and its predictions of a Messiah who shall restore the truth and establish righteousness. The Hindu traditions maintain that mankind descended from a single pair;[66] that the first estate of the race was one of innocence; that man was one of the last products of creation; that in the first ages he was upright, and consequently happy.

"The beings who were thus created by Brahma are said to have been endowed with righteousness and perfect faith; they abode wherever they pleased, unchecked by any impediment; their hearts were free from guile; they were pure, made exempt from toil by observance of sacred institutes. In their sanctified minds Hari dwelt; they were filled with perfect wisdom by which they contemplated the glory of Vishnu." Hartwell has pointed out the fact that the early Hindu traditions here unite with the Scriptural account in virtually denying all those theories of evolution which trace the development of man from lower animals.[67]

But compared with Christianity, its contrasts are far greater than its resemblances. First, as to the nature of God, there is an infinite difference between the cold and unconscious Brahman, slumbering for ages without thought or emotion or any moral attribute, and the God of Israel, whose power and wisdom and goodness, whose mercy and truth and tender compassion, are so constantly set forth in the Bible. The latter compares Himself to a Father who cares for his children, and who has redeemed the world by an infinite sacrifice. Even in the most popular emanation of Brahman--even in Vishnu--there is nothing of a fatherly spirit, no appeal as to children, no kindly remonstrance against sin, no moral instruction, or effort to encourage and establish character, no promise of reward, no enkindling of immortal hope.

Second, there is a striking contrast in the comparative estimates which Hinduism and Christianity place upon the human soul. Unlike Buddhism, Hinduism does recognize the existence of a soul, but it is only a temporary emanation, like the moon's reflection in the water. It resembles its source as does the moon's image, but coldly and in a most unsatisfactory sense; there is no capacity for fellowship, and the end is absorption.[68] On the other hand, Christianity teaches us that we are created in God's image, but not that we _are_ his image. We are separate, though dependent, and if reunited to him through Christ we shall dwell in his presence forever.

Third, the two systems are in strong contrast in the comparative hopes which they hold out for the future. The doctrine of transmigration casts a gloom over all conscious being; it presents an outlook so depressing as to make life a burden, and the acme of all possible attainment is individual extinction, or what amounts to the same thing, absorption into deity. The logic of it is that it would be better still not to have been born at all. Christianity promises an immediate transfer to a life of unalloyed blessedness, and an endless growth of all our powers and capacities; but why should Hinduism urge the cultivation of that whose real destiny is "effacement?" Hinduism finds the explanation of life's mysteries and inscrutable trials in the theory of sins committed in a previous existence. Christianity, while recognizing the same trials, relieves them with the hope of solutions in a future life of compensating joy. The one turns to that which is past, unchangeable and hopeless, and finds only sullen despair; the other anticipates an inheritance richer than eye hath seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived.

Fourth, Hinduism has no Saviour and no salvation. It is not a religion in the highest sense of _rescue_ and reconciliation. It avails us of no saving power higher than our own unaided effort. It implies the ruin of sin, but provides no remedy. It presents no omnipotent arm stretched forth to save.

Its fatalism places man under endless disabilities, and then bids him to escape from the nexus if he can; but it reveals no divine helper, no sacrifice, no mediator, no regenerating Spirit. It has no glad tidings to proclaim, no comfort in sorrow, no victory over the sting of death, no resurrection unto Life. Though at a period subsequent to the preaching of the Gospel in India--perhaps the seventh or eighth century A.D.--a doctrine of faith (_Bakti_) was engrafted upon Hinduism, yet it had no hint of a Saviour from sin and death.[69]

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