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worldly things. A scanty vestment of the leaves or bark of trees but partly conceals his worn-out limbs. Forms and observances multiply upon him daily. In summer he surrounds himself with fires, and remains exposed, in that position, to the full beams of the sun; in the rainy season he dwells upon a stage raised on four poles above the waters which deluge the plains, and endures, without shelter, the unwholesome and enfeebling inclemency of the season. The fruits and grain that grow wild in the desert, after having been steeped a little in water, constitute his sole or principal food. When, by these austerities, he has subdued his body into apathy, he commences, for farther trial, a long and solitary journey towards the North, or the South. This pilgrimage he is permitted to close by an act of suicide, and thus to accelerate his acquisition of immortal felicity; but he may be restrained by the belief that, unless he also fulfil the fourth degree of probation, he forfeits all title to the more perfect and sublime rewards of Mokt, or heaven. - IV. In the last probation, the holiness of the aspirant is yet more fearfully and sternly tried. All things that are desirable upon earth are to be regarded with indifference or contempt; and all the evils that most afflict and overwhelm the spirit of man, are to be voluntarily endured. The probationer is clothed in a yellow girdle which scarcely circles his waist. He leaves his woods, exhibits his wretched form in the crowded Bazar, scourges and lacerates himself in the sight of the multitude, and demonstrates, by all possible means, an utter indifference to hunger and thirst, to shame and reproach, to nakedness and exposure, and to all the ties, interests and affinities of life. His voice is never heard, save to utter the mysterious term Awan, which commences the Vedas. Nothing molests, nothing pleases, nothing attracts him. His corporeal functions lose their power, his mental faculties are clouded and overwhelmed; and, in this state of uselessness, abstraction, and decay, he becomes the object of veneration to the whole populace, assumes to himself the especial favour of the eternal Vishnu, receives the homage alike of priest and people, and sanctifies, as he passes along, the dust on which he treads.
To encourage these vain and unprofitable austerities, and this utter renunciation of all that is human in the character of man, the promise is held out of unfading felicity and unbounded
proportion as the penance advances, and the votary decays under his trials, he daily acquires higher and brighter privileges; and the sufferings which impair his character and qualities as a man, are compensated by an increasing influx of supernatural perfections. He casts aside his humanity only to substitude for it a fancied Godhead. It is gradually permitted to him to extend his control to all the works of mate. rial nature, and to all classes of mortal existence. For him, as he wills, the stars are to descend from heaven, and the demons are to arise from the lowest region of punishment. He may disembody his soul, and soár into the skies; and the gods themselves are to submit their decrees to his authority, and to listen to his voice, with the assenting humility due to a superior being *
The religious reveries which thus stimulate the fanatic while they extinguish the man, have been indulged from the earliest periods of the mythology
Ayeen Akberry, vol. iii. 215, 210. Bagvhat-Geeta, p. 124.
of India. They are announced in the Vedas, and embodied in the popular religion of the country; and the absurdity, and superstition, and insanity, which they involve, seem only to have rendered them more dear to the faith and prejudices of the populace. Unworthy to be embraced, for a moment, even by the lowest classes of reasonable beings, they have yet operated, with a wide and pernicious influence, on the public temper and the public credulity. Multitudes of men have been abstracted from social duty, to perish by the slow suicide of lingering austerity. The woods have been crowded with maniac candidates for Godlike powers. A miserable fanaticism has been diffused abroad in direct hostility to every principle of rational religion and of common sense ; and man, becoming the dupe of an extravagant creed, has been alienated from himself, and taught to hope, from useless and pernicious observances, what he should have been instructed to seek by just piety and sober virtue. It is not the multitude of Yogees alone which have been impressed with these mischievous persuasions. From the bosom of the Yogee, they have extended their influence to common life. They who do not love the penance, learn to admire and respect the devotee who endures it. A false notion is communicated and imbibed of the duties which are due to God and man.
The Deity is degraded, in vulgar acceptation, into the friend and protector of the most worthless or useless of human beings; and the faith which is to govern so many millions of people, is vitiated by the infusion of a tenet calculated only to kindle the fanaticism, and to extinguish the moral virtues, of man
To this system, the Braminical priest has superadded a system of fraudful gain ; and they whom he should conduct to truth, learn from his lips that redemption from crime may be also procured by a holy bribe. All sins have their graduated price. The pagoda enriched, the guilt is absolved. The value of the offering determines the extent of the expiation, and the amount of the divine favour. The slightest coin may buy off a sin ; but a vine tree or chariot of gold is an irresistible oblation*; and the gods smile at the crime when the affluence of the criminal lavishes itself upon the altar, and appeases at once the avarice of heaven and of the priestt,
The ablution, the sacrifice, the penance, and the bribe, are not, however, the sole means of salvation proposed to the Hindu by his religion. For the variety of his crimes there are modes of redemption yet more absurd, if possible, than the most absurd of those which have been enumerated. For lesser sins a Brahmin may be absolved “ by once suppressing “ his breath or more, while he repeats in his mind “ the most holy text $.” “He who commits a crime “ of the first degree, may expiate his offence by “ attending a herd of cows for a year, and constantly “ repeating the divine text beginning with Pava« mini ll.” “ A fast of three days, and two ablutions, " and three repetitions, daily, of the text Agha“ marshana *, are of equal efficacy; but if a priest “ shall retain in memory the whole Rigveda, he “ shall be absolved from guilt even if he had slain " the inhabitants of three worlds, and had eaten “ food from the foulest hands f.” « For minor “ thefts an atonement may be made by a fast of " three days, or by swallowing a portion of the five
* Ayeen Akberry, vol. iii. 29. Tavernier, lib. i. c. 2. + He must submit to penance; but the penance being performed, he must give all he possesses to such as best know the Vedas, that is, to the priests. Laws of Menu. Sir W. Jones' Works, vol. vii. 95, 102.
Ibid. p. 117.
pure things produced from a cow, milk, curds, " butter, wine, and dung I.” “A Bramin, if he kill “ a snake, must give an hoe to the priest; if an “ eunuch, a load of rice straw; a masha of lead, if
a boar; and a pot of clarified butter, if a goose, a cormorant, a bittern, or a cow ll."
« For killing intentionally a virtuous man of the military cast, " the price or penance must be the fourth part of " that imposed for killing a priest;” but he who is guilty of the death of a Sudra, has only to discharge the mulct which is incurred by designedly destroying an ichneumen, a cat, a frog, a dog, a crow, or an
By these penalties, sometimes so ludicrous or so slight, the sinner is to be purified from his sins, and a redemption supplied without the cost, in a single instance, of a redeeming virtue. I dwell not on the tendency of such doctrines. The cheapness of the expiation may be thought to encourage the crime which is to be so easily absolved ; and the religion, however pure in other respects, which thus trifles with the ransom by which the penalty of sin may be discharged, can have little claim to the acceptance of mankind, and be little favourable to sound piety, or rational morals.
+ I ll $ Laws of Menu. Sir William Jones' Works, vol. viii. 127, 128, 111, 105. The rules for expiation laid down in these laws are numerous and puerile, and a further enumeration of them here, would neither instruct nor entertain the reader.