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was more wise, this learned scorn, or this popular aversion. Where he who listened was to hear nothing but the captious contradictions of contending sects; where erudition was employed but in the combats of sophistry, or exercised its powers but to extend and deepen the glooms of uncertainty and doubt; where every school was an arena, in which the gladiators of sophistry were to contend, not for honourable victory, or generous renown, but for the vain praise of a faction or a sect; where the creed, as of Pythagoras, was portentous and dark; or, as of Plato, was mysterious and contradictory; or, as of Epicurus, was impious and atheistical; or, as of Zeno, was superstitious and gross; where all was an entangled and gloomy labyrinth, in which they who pretended to possess the clue were inextricably lost, and common sense was never to find conviction and repose; under such circumstances, it was surely better to take refuge in established though erroneous doctrines, than to enlist under the banners of a philosophy so pernicious and perplexed; it was better to embrace even the errors of a settled and public religion, which still afforded some guiding principle to the world, than to adopt the tenets of a theology, which, far from being either wise or useful, was calculated only to disturb, divide, and distract mankind.

* Eusebius justly calls it-rigarwdns copia. Evangel. lib. xiv.

C. 12.

SECT. II.

Mythology of the Hindus-Sublime ideas and definitions of Divinity-Innumerable gods-Contradictory Attributes- Benevolent and Evil Genii-Contrast of Divinities-Incarnations numerous and whimsical-Character and adventures of the incarnate Powers -Assumption of the forms of bears, lions, tortoises, men-Magi and Necromancy-Subordinate power of the deities-CreationThe whole system pernicious or absurd.

WHEN we proceed from the Tyber and the Ilissus to the Ganges, and inquire of the Bramin what are the attributes of his divinities, we may sometimes hear a language more instructive, and more consonant to truth. He does not trace his doctrines to the defective knowledge of the statesman, the pundit, or the bard; but to the divine wisdom of the Shastrum and Purana, and to the holy colloquies of the Bagvhat-Geeta *; and, instead of being obliged to search for scanty and ambiguous instruction in the unauthenticated pages of the poet or of the philosopher, he may refer to the sublime tenets of volumes which he considers as marked with the impress of inspiration, and sanctioned by the authority of heaven. His religion, therefore, as he believes, utters no mortal voice. It speaks from the lips of deity. The disciple listens with acquiescence or veneration; and the respect and humility which suppress inquiry and comment, rescue him, at least, from the fluctuations of doubt, and the glooms of infidelity.

The Bagvbat-Geeta is an episode in the Mahabaret, a poem of great antiquity and extent.

By numerous passages of his sacred books the Hindu is emphatically instructed in the nature and attributes of God. "The Supreme," as it is said," was, at first, that which exists unperceived, pre"eminent, that which is, and must remain*-He is "the Almighty Being, the prime Creator, the world's "mansion, the incorruptible Being distinguished "from all things transient, the antient Poorosh, and

supreme supporter of the universe, and by whom "the universe is spread abroad-He is immaterial, "and, therefore, above all conception; he is invi"" sible, and, therefore, can have no form; and from "what we may behold of his works, we may con"clude that he is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, "and omnipresent t-He is the creator of all things, "the ineffable and inexhaustible source of all that is, "the great Everywhere, always‡-By his power he "framed all things from the four elements; infinite "is he in glory; nothing is like him in the three "worlds; wherefore he only is to be adored, and we "bow down before him, and supplicate his mercy ." These doctrines are of a sublime character. They indicate a high degree of attainment in the teachers by whom they were uttered, and of civilization in the people to whom they were announced; and, perhaps, they will not be found to be surpassed by the noblest tenets on the same subject, of the most applauded philosophers of Greece and Italy.

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The prayer of Arjoon in the Bagvhat-Geeta, pp. 94, 95. Translat.

+ See Dow's Dissertation, p. 4.

Bagvhat-Geeta; translat. p. 84. See also Ayeen Akberry, vol. iii. Bernier, Voyage, tom. ii. p. 159.

I Code of Gentoo Laws, Prelim. Disc. 'p. 73. Bagvhat-Geeta, pp. 94, 95.

But the authors of the Braminical religion afford us another instance of the frailty and fallibility of human creeds. Scarcely have they uttered the wisest and most salutary doctrines, when they descend to the most puerile and extravagant fancies. In their reveries, sometimes as obscure as the metaphysical Plato, and sometimes as wanton as the comic Aristophanes, they have blended the lofty and the ridiculous, the true and the false, the useful and absurd, in one extravagant mass, which they denominate religion; and the faith of their followers is perpetually tried, or insulted, by contradiction and incoherence, and trained to embrace, for the fair form of celestial wisdom, the unholy progeny of pious ignorance or fraud.

The " Every-where, always," is a profound and emphatic definition of Deity. The religion of Brama frequently forgets it, to descant on the doctrine of a universal soul, and its perpetual emanations*; or of a first mind, which, generated by death, trembles with alarm in the solitudes of space, and pines for a companion who might soothe the dulness of his unvaried existence t. The licence of fable, however, speedily supersedes the reign of these powers, and innumerable gods spring up, better calculated to excite the zeal of popular superstition. Brama and

• All intellectual natures, and especially human souls, are essential portions of this Being, and separated from it by an inconceivable emanation. When the stains, however, which they contract in their earthly wanderings, shall be purified by a due course of migration and punishment, they are destined to return to the source from which they flowed. Bagvhat-Geeta, pp. 39, 65, 78, 85, 115. Bernier, tom. ii. p. 163. Voyage de Sonnerat, v. p.192.

+ Appendix, Note G.

Cali are invested with omnipotence. The throne of heaven is constructed for Indra " with innumerable texts of the Vedas." The daughter of Ambrhina, the mighty Vach, assumes the dominion of the ocean, the firmament, and the fire. The beautiful Nerayan, whose flowery braids reach to her ankles, and whose robes, brighter than sun-beams, "shed their heavenspun light over circling worlds," is liberally gifted with pre-eminent powers. Ganesa, the deity of wisdom, and the parent of things, appears to preside over various companies of the gods. Indra, the god of the visible heavens, resides on a polar mountain of gold and gems, and exercises his authority to regulate the winds and the showers. Yalona, the offspring of the sun, who claims the triple honours due to the king of justice, the lord of the patriarchs, and the judge of departed spirits, determines the punishment of the guilty in the doleful region of serpents, or consigns polluted souls, for their purgation, to some animal, vegetable, or mineral form. The Argus Cortyceya, with his six faces, and countless eyes, is the leader of innumerable armies, and the subduer of the mighty giants Sita and Ravan. And the dire and tremendous Seshanaga, the king of serpents, the black god, the sovereign of the infernal regions, whose thousand heads are each encompassed with a crown of starry gems, whose eyes gleam like flaming torches, and whose garments are skirted with yellow flames, bears aloft in his arms the holy shell, the radiated weapon, the mace of war, and the divine and immortal Lotos*.

These are among the gods of a higher class; but myriads of subordinate deities, and beneficent or evil

* Sir William Jones on the Gods of Greece, Italy and India.

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