« ZurückWeiter »
a pattern, or archetype, from which the visible universe was formed.
Pytbagoras said that “intelligible members are those which subsisted in the divine mind before all things, from which erery thing has received its form, and which always remain immutably the same. It is the model or archetype, after which the world, in all its parts, is framed.”
Kopilu made no distinction between the soul and the animal spirit, but declared, that when the soul became united to matter, it was absorbed in animal cares and pleasures.
Plato taught, that the soul of man was derived from God, through the intervention of the soul of the world ; that the soul of the world had some admixture with matter, and that consequently the soul of man must participate in the admix. ture. This material portion of the soul of man, Plato considered as the root or seed of moral evil.
Putunjulee taught, that the divine spirit and the soul of man were distinct, that the former was free from passion, but not the latter ; that God was possessed of form, or was to be seen by the Yogee, or those who desire absorption into the divine essence ; that he is placable, glorious, the creator, preserver, and the regenerator of all things ; that the universe first arose from his will, or command, and that he infused into the system a power of perpetual progression. He says that there are five kinds of men, viz. those who are governed by their passions, the wrathful, the benevolent, the pious, and those who are free from worldly attachments ; and that emancipation, or deliverance from passion, is to be obtained by yogu, that is, by perfect abstraction of mind. Pythagoras had the same idea. He says, " in the pursuit of wisdom, the utmost care must be taken to raise the mind above the dominion of the passions, that it may be inured to converse with itself, and to contemplate things spiritual and divine. Contemplative wisdom cannot be completely attained, without a total abstraction from the ordinary affairs of life. Vedu. Vyasu, one of the inost learned among the Hindoos, taught, that the best idea we can form of God is, that he is light, or glory. At the same time he maintained, that God was a spirit, without passion, separated from matter; that he is pure wisdom and happi. ness ; one without a second, everlasting, incomprehensible, unchangeable ; and that after describing all modes of existence, he is that which is none of these. He also believed, that to obtain deliverance from matter, or return to God, the devotee must read the vedus ; must suiler no desire of advantage to mix with his devotions ; renounce every thing
forbidden in the shastrus ; render himself pure by daily duties ; must acquaint bimself with the upprofitableness of that which is fleeting, and the value of that which is unchangeable ; renounce all hope of present or future rewards, and meditate on God in the form by which he is made known. By the power of these meditations, the soul will leave the body, and ascend to heaven, and will finally be absorbed into the divine nature.
Bhrigoo. This sage is said to have been tall, of a light brown complexion, with silver locks, wearing the beard of a goat, a shred of cloth only round his loins, and holding in his hand, a pilgrim's staff, and a beygan's dish. Diogenes wore a coarse cloak, carried a wallet and a staff ; made the porches and other public places his habitation ; and depended upon casual contributions for bis daily bread.
The above comparisons will suffice to show the philosophical, and religious opinions of the Hindoo sages, and their strict agreement with the doctrines taught by the Greek philosophers.
Present state of learning among the Hindoos.-In former ages, the Hindoo philosophers were unquestionably men of deep learning and erudition, and having spent many years in acts of rigid austerity, were honoured as persons of so great sanctity of character, that they attracted universal homage and applause : Some of them had more than a thousand disciples or scholars. These philosophers were almost invariably ascetics, or mendicants, wandering through all parts of the country, and instructing the people, in what was considered the most useful learning. One, named Shunkuru, determining to raise his sect, made the tour of India for the purpose of disputing with the learned, and gaining proselytes. In this pilgrimage, he was every where so successful, that he was styled the conqueror of the world. As his terms of dispute were, that if he was unable to obtain the victory he would embrace a secular life, while, if he defeated bis antagonist, this antagonist should become a dundee,* multitudes were constrained to enter into this order of ascetics.
The effects of this journey and these labours, are visible to this day : it is said that not less than 4000 dundees now reside at Benares, and there are still remaining four small elevations, on which it is said this philosopher used to sit to deliver his discourses. This age of learning arnong the Hindoos has
· * Dundee, means a staff, a name applied to this sect of philosophers, because they performed pilgrimages.
long since passed away. At present, almost every person who engages in the pursuit of knowledge, does so for the sake of a subsistence, or for the increase of his wealth. India contains few, if any, individuals, who, satisfied with their present possessions, devote their time to the pursuit of science. The whole is a trade; hence knowledge is only so far pursued as it will be productive of money, and no art or science is carried to perfection ; each person furnishes himself with what he thinks will carry him through life ; he has no ambition to enlarge the bounds of knowledge ; be makes no experiments ; it never enters into his mind that he can exceed his forefathers; to gain the smallest moiety of what they acquired, is almost more than he bopes to realize.
It is laid down as a rule in the shastrus, that a gift to a bramhun is meritorious in proportion to his learning; hence those who are esteemed the most learned carry away the most costly presents at the close of teasts and great ceremonies : different offices under government require a knowledge of some of the law books ; this excites many to apply themselves to this sort of learning. To be a family priest, it is necessary that a person be acquainted with many of the forms of the Hindoo religion ; and these forms are not to be obtained without reading. It is owing to these, and the like circumstances, that the little knowledge the present race of Hindoos possess of their own shastrus is preserved. A considerable number of the bramhubs and voidyus learn the Sungskritu grarnmar, but the old Sungskritu, the dialect of the vedu, is known by very few. The contents of these trifling publications relate to the mythology of the country, to ascetics, to the miracles of Hindoo saints, and to the advantages of devotion to the gods : here and there will be found sentiments of a moral nature, but mixed with a far greater number relative to the revels of Krishnu. The great bulk of the people are perfectly unacquainted with letters, not possessing even the vestige of a book, and what they hear read or recited, neither enlightens nor improves the mind. It is supposed, that of the persons grown up to maturity among the male population in Bengal, not more than two hundred in a thousand can read, though there are schools all over Bengal, for the instruction of children in reading, writing, and accounts.
The paper upon which books are written, called toolatu, is coloured with a preparation composed of yellow orpiment and the expressed juice of tamarind seeds, to preserve it from insects. The price varies from three to six quires for a roopee. The Hindoo books are generally in single leaves, with
a flat board at the top, and another at the bottom, tied with cords, or covered with a cloth. They are about six inches broad and a foot and a half long. The copying ot works is attended with the creation and perpetuation of endless mistakes ; so that a copy can never be depended upon until it has been subjected to a rigid examination.
A great portion of what has been written by Europeans respecting the Hindoos, ought to be considered as having decided nothing: all the real knowledge that has been obtained of the Hindoo philosophy and mythology is to be attributed to the different translations from the Sungskritu. As these translations increase, these systems will be better known ; and whenever the time shall arrive that translations of their principal learned works shall have been accomplished, then, and not before, will the public be able completely to decide respecting a system of philosophy spread over so larye a part of the eastern world. If the British Government, or the East India Company, or any joint bodies of learned men, would encourage translations, or send out a few ingenious young men to study the Sungskritu, and then employ them, at proper salaries, in making the necessary translations, in a few years not a vestige of important knowledge respecting the real nature and principal features of the Hindoo philosophy and mythology would remain concealed. This is an object which every friend of true science must desire. The council of the College of Fort William and the Asiatic Society, in coming forward to patronize translations from the Sungskritu, deserve the thanks of the literary world ; but the operations of these two bodies alone, are too slow to accomplish what is desired in any reasonable time. A similar plan, on a more extensive scale, is wanted.
Colleges.-The name given to Hindoo colleges or schools is Chutooshpat’hee, which signifies the place where the four shastrus are studied. This word is changed, in its popular use, to Chouparee.
These places are generally built of clay. Sometimes three rooms are erected, and in others eight or ten, in two side rows, with a reading room, open on all sides, at the farther end; this is also of clay. These college sleeping rooms, and the college hall, would greatly surprise an English academician ; but the Hindoos have yet to learn, that splendid edifices and large endowments are essential to learning.
These miserable buts are frequently erected at the expense of the teacher, who not only solicits alms to raise the building, but also to feed his pupils. The buildings which
contain seven or eight rooms cost seven or eight pounds sterling: the ground is commonly a gift, but in some cases rent is paid. In particular instances both the ground and the expenses of the buildings are a voluntary gift, and there are not wanting cases of lands being bestowed on schools, and of persons appropriating a monthly sum to their support. At Nudeeya the last case is common.
After a school-room and lodging rooms have been thus built, to secure the success of the school, the teacher invites a few bramhuns and respectable inhabitants to a short entertainment, at the close of which the bramhuns are dismissed with some trifling presents.
If the teacher finds a difficulty in obtaining scholars, he begins the college with a few junior relatives ; but should he have obtained some reputation for learning in the common disputes at the funeral feasts, weddings, dedication of sacred things, &c. he soon collects a number af purooas, viz. pupils, or readers.
The school opens every morning early, by the teacher and pupils assembling in the college hall, or hut, when the different classes come up in turns. At the close of these labours, about three hours are devoted to bathing, worship, eating, and sleep; and at three they resume their studies, which continue till twilight. Nearly two hours are then devoted to evening worship, to eating, smoking, and relaxation ; and the studies are afterwards resumed, and continued till ten or eleven at night.
There are three kinds of colleges in Bengal ; one in which the grammar, the poetical works, and the dissertations on the beauties and blemishes of poetry, are read ; and in a few of these schools, something of the pooranus and smritees is taught. In the second order of colleges, the law works are read, and in some cases the pooranus; and in the third order, works on the nyayu durshunu. In all these colleges, select works are read, and their meaning explained ; but instruction is not conveyed in the form of lectores.
In the colleges for grammar, learning, &c. the pupils repeat assigned lessons from the grammar used in each college, and the teacher communicates the meaning of the lessons after they have been committed to memory. The evenings are occupied in repeating these lessons.
Works on Ethics. The Hindoo sages have written less on morals than on any other subject. Only one original work on ethics is to be found among the innumerable volumes of their literature. The author of this is Visbnoo-Shurma, and