Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

all soldiers ; nor, in these days, are all soldiers of this class. Their rank is high, but they are not possessed of a divine nature like Brahmins. The third class are respectable, though somewhat inferior to the second; and are generally farmers and merchants. The fourth class, or Soodras, are generally farmers' servants and artisans. Of castes they compose the lowest. But there is a class of no časte, or outcastes; the descendants of those who have lost caste. They are placed by people of caste upon an equality with dogs, are held in the utmost detestation, and gain a subsistence by discharging the very lowest occupations in life. They can never rise so as to rank even with the Soodras. They are not allowed to live within the limits of a town or village with caste people ; but they dwell in a part by themselves, outside the walls. They are on no account permitted to draw water from the same well, but must have a well of their own. For a Brahmin to look at one of these outcastes is, under many circumstances, considered defiling. To save one of them from death, a Brahmin would not even touch him with one of his fingers. When a man high-born breaks any rule of his order, he does not fall into the caste below him, but becomes an outcaste. The punishment is supposed not to end with the present life, but to follow the soul in all its migrations. The class of outcastes, as well as each of the four castes, is separated into many subdivisions ; each boasting of some peculiarity, or contending for some privilege not possessed by the others,

AGES OF THE WORLD. The Hindoos have some confused notions of man's primitive state, the subsequent general wickedness, and the destruction of the world by a flood of waters; but their fabulous events and dates are the most exaggerated that can be imagined. The following tabular view of their method of computation will enable the reader to judge for himself.

1,728,000 Solar years make one Golden age.
1,296,000 ...

864,000
432,000

...Silver age. .Brasen age. Iron age.

[blocks in formation]

They tell us that fifty-one years of Brahma have elapsed, and that we are now, A.D. 1850, in the 4,951st year of the “iron age.” The first after the creation is called the “golden age,” because of the purity and happiness which prevailed during that time: the next age was somewhat inferior, the third still worse, and the fourth the worst of all. At the termination of the iron age there was a flood, which destroyed all the wicked upon the face of the earth. The righteous were miraculously preserved, and they re-peopled the earth after the waters subsided. A thousand of these floods are said to have happened during the first day of Brahma; namely, one flood at the revolution of the four ages. After these ages had revolved a thousand times, the day of Brahma came to a close, and his night commenced : he reclined, therefore, on a large snake, coiled so as to form a comfortable bed, and slept for a period of 4,320,000,000 years. During all this time there was a flood which submerged not only this earth and seven worlds below it, but also two worlds or heavens above it ; so that gods, as well as righteous men, had to flee to one of the highest worlds or heavens, in order to escape destruction. When Brahma's night had expired, he awoke and caused the waters to subside : the gods descended to their proper heavens, and the righteous either descended to the earth, or were succeeded by a new creation of men. The golden, the silver, the brasen, and the iron ages again revolved a thousand times during the second “ day of Brahma ;" and each day there were a thousand floods on the earth, for the destruction of the wicked. Brahma had a second sleep, and there was a second great flood, extending as before to the lower heavens. A third day followed with its thousand smaller floods, and then a third night with its one great flood ; and so on for one year of Brahma. In one of Brahma's years there would be, according to this calculation, 360 large floods affecting the two lower heavens as well as the earth, and 360,000 smaller floods affecting the earth only. But, they tell us, there have been fifty-one of these years, and forty-nine are yet to come before the life of Brahma will end. When this event happens, all material substances in heaven, or earth, or hell, will undergo a wonderful change : for every atom of matter will go through some process by which it will become spirit, and will then, with the spirits of gods and men and devils, be absorbed into the essence of Param Brahm, from whom they all emanated; and he will be alone in existence. Besides him, there will be no spirit, no mind : all will have been swallowed up in him. The first cause of all things will exist as he did before the creation, in a state of profound stupor, for millions of ages. At the expiration of these he will again diversify himself by creation, to repeat the absorbing of all things into his own essence.

THE AUTHOR OF EVIL.

As, according to the Hindoo doctrine, the creator hath not made of one blood all nations of men, so neither did the souls of men come from him in a holy state ; but, as soon as souls were united to matter, they became impressed, according to their destiny, with more or less of three qualities, -viz., that which gives rise to excellency of character ; that which excites to anger, restlessness, worldly desire, &c.; and that which leads to inactivity, ignorance, and the like evils. The character is formed, and the future destiny is regulated, by the preponderance of any one of these elements; and whatever primitive quality, noxious or innocent, harsh or mild, unjust or just, false or true, the creator conferred on any being, the same adheres to it in all its future births; and in whatever occupation the supreme lord first employed any vital soul, to that occupation the same soul attaches itself spontaneously, when it receives a new body, again and again. The popular Hindoo creed is, therefore, that God is the author of all moral evil; that actions of every kind are His; that He is the Charioteer, and the body of man is the chariot ; that the human soul and God are one and the same. Hence a Hindoo often exclaims, “My fate ! My fate! My evil destiny follows me everywhere, as a shadow follows the substance.” “God does everything."

TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS.

The soul of man is doomed to pass through millions of mortal births, before it can be re-absorbed into the Deity whence it emanated. At one time it may be in the body of a Brahmin, thence to pass into some animal. It may in one birth animate the body of a king, and in the next find itself in the body of a snake or a fish, or in some vegetable or mineral substance. It may rise to one of the heavens, and, after remaining there for a number of years, may come to earth again ; or be sent to one of the hells, and, thence departing after many years of pain, again enter the body of a human being, and so proceed for millions of years. The happiness of any succeeding birth is considered the result of earlier merit; and sickness or misfortune is thought to avenge sins committed during a previous incarnation. But the number of births which the soul of any man has to experience before re-absorption, very much depends upon the degree and the number of evil qualities with which it was imbued at its emanation from the Deity. This number may be diminished by some specially meritorious acts of devotion. Some Hindoos perform severe penances, in order, as they think, to obtain absorption at once without passing through any more births : others profess not to wish for immediate absorption, but to prefer a long residence in one of the heavens : others, again, are only ambitious of advancing a few steps in the scale of caste, or of obtaining a somewhat better birth in this world. All accordingly regulate their devotions, and their attention to the engagements on which they rely for the accomplishment of their desires.

MERITORIOUS RITES AND PERFORMANCES.

The ceremony called Japa, “ to repeat," is considered a very meritorious act of worship. Hindoos, who are very devout, repeat the name of some god thousands of times every day : others, who have renounced the world, and have chosen the holy life of a beggar, repeat the name of some god continually, not ceasing day or night, except when they are asleep and during the time of eating. This they continue for many years, and they imagine that by these “vain repetitions” they shall obtain the object of their desire, whatever it may be ; provided, always, that they keep their minds fixed on the form of the idol or god whose name they repeat.

Dyāna, “holy meditation,” is often connected with the preceding ceremony. In this, the worshipper sits or stands in one posture for hours with his eyes closed; apparently lost in thought, meditating on the colour, the shape, the qualities, and the actions of the god whose favour he wishes to obtain.

Oopavāsa, “ fasting,” is another observance by which the Hindoo thinks he shall obtain many favours on earth, and an exaltation at last to the beaven of that god in whose name he fasts. The god is said to be delighted with a man who honours him with a fast ; especially, if it be one in which the man puts himself to the utmost inconvenience. Fasts are various, and performed on very many occasions : for example, at the changes of the moon, at the death of a relation, before a festival, in making and fulfilling

In some the votaries abstain partially, in others entirely, from

vows, &c.

food and water. Some persons fast on alternate days for many years : others dedicate a particular kind of food to an idol, and never eat of that kind again as long as they live.

Dāna, “ gifts,” or presents to the Brahmins and to the poor, are highly meritorious. Food alone is commonly given to the poor ; but to the Brahmins the rich Hindoos also give houses, lands, raiment, money, or whatever is in general use. The giver often worships the Brahmin, asking him for a place in heaven, or for some favour on the way thither, according to the nature and value of the gift. If he gives a black cow, he expects to pass the river which surrounds the hall of judgment without inconvenience ; to ride over on the back of a cow, or swim across holding fast by her tail. An additional fancy is, that, though it is boiling water to others, it will be cool to him. If he gives an umbrella, he will not be scorched in another world by the rays of the sun. The man who gives slippers or sandals will have his appropriate reward ; namely, that after death he shall not suffer in his progress to heaven from the heat of the ground, or from sharp stones or thorns on the path way. He who gives a house will obtain a palace in heaven. Feasts to Brahmins, according to the sacred books, ought to be connected with almost every rite in which their services are required; and after the feast such hierarchs are, of course, not dismissed without a present.

To dig a tank, or reservoir for water, by the side of a public road,- or to supply travellers and cattle with water in any way, particularly during the dry season,-is a work of high rank in the same category. Some of the tanks thus made for charity have cost hundreds of pounds, being large, and lined with stone steps from top to bottom. Some rich men have spent many thousands of pounds in works of this class. They generally plant a grove near these tanks; this being another meritorious act, and both entitling the benefactor to favour in this life, as well as to heaven hereafter, or (at least) to a much better birth at his next transmigration.

To make roads to sacred places, to plant rows of trees, and to erect resthouses for the behoof of travellers, are, in the estimation of all Hindoos, deeds of high desert.

The burning of widows alive, with the dead bodies of their husbands, is commanded in the sacred books, but not now allowed in those parts of India which are under British dominion. The doctrine is, that there is no greater act of merit than that performed by a virtuous woman who thus offers herself to be consumed on the funeral pile. If she does not submit to this rite, her soul will continually migrate into the bodies of female animals : but, by burning with her husband, she will purge away all his sins, all her own sins, and the sins of her father and mother also ; and she will remain in heaven as many years as there are hairs on the human body,--namely, thirty-five millions of years.

It is considered a very meritorious act for Hindoos to commit suicide, either by drowning in some sacred stream, or by allowing the wheels of the car of Juggernaut to pass over them. But, where British influence prevails, these things are now prohibited.

HOLY BEGGARS.

Many persons are to be seen in all parts of India called Sanyåsees and Vairāyees, that is, holy mendicants. To obtain a high place in one of the heavens, these men submit to inconceivable humiliations and discomforts. They sometimes hold up one hand for many years, until the arm becomes quite stiff and useless, and the finger-nails grow long like the claws of a bird. Some assume a horrid necklace of human bones ; and others carry a human skull in their hands, from which they often take their food. Some make a vow of perpetual silence. All live on charity, and pretend to have arrived at a happiness which frees them from all anxiety about worldly things,-at that state of abstraction which the Shasters describe as the consummation of their best hopes and wishes.

(To be concluded.)

REVIEW,

Memoir of the Life of Richard Winter Hamilton, LL.D., DD. By William

Hendry Stowell, D.D. Jackson and Walford. 1850. For more than two years (if we may thus apply human computation) has Richard Winter Hamilton been in Paradise. This record of his life has been before the churches for twelve months, constantly reminding us of a duty unperformed: we must not enter on a second year of unredeemed obligation to the memory of a man so high in our esteem. Dr. Stowell has performed his office of friendship with a fidelity which commands general approbation. The materials at his disposal were not, perhaps, in every respect such as a biographer would desire : so much the more creditable is the discrimination which has used them to so good purpose. The spirit of the work, however, most commends it. There is evidence, throughout, of a solemn restraint, imposed by the awful sanctions of the state into which the Christian dead have entered. Dr. Stowell writes of one who is with Christ, and therefore no longer ours. His departed friend is transfigured before him ; and, from the side of his Lord, reflects only light. This restraint has the force and holiness of law. The voice from heaven that commands us to write, prescribes the tone of the memorial : Blessed are the dead,--blessed in this, amid other boundless beatitudes, that they are kept in a pavilion from the strife of tongues ; withdrawn from the arbitration of fallible opinion; fenced from all unhallowed aggression, by an inviolable sanctity which pervades the secret of the Lord's presence. We may suppose them insensible to our criticism: the Keeper of the keys of hades allows no breath of praise or censure to find admission. But He is Himself their jealous Guardian. Their memory, as well as their death, is “ precious” to the King of saints. If He so keenly resents indignity to His little ones here, while they are so imperfect, how much more now that they are part of His holy court! He allows us, indeed, the unreserved benefit of recalling what they were, provided we reverentially think of what they are. Such is the honour of an achieved probation.

The biographer of such a man as the late Dr. Hamilton sets before himself a threefold task :-the erection of a monument to Christian worth ; the gratification of public curiosity; and the development of a personal character.

As the stars, both in number and in glory, are the names that have been preserved in the archives and history of Christianity; commencing with those blessed ones whose Biographer is the Holy Ghost, and brightening the ages with a succession not unworthy of the same memorial. They are

VOL. VII.-FOURTII SERIES.

« AnteriorContinuar »