THE THEOLOGICAL SITUATION IN INDIA.
No religion stable unless broad-based on philosophy.
We cannot do full justice in any review of it however full to that interesting and highly suggestive article which appeared from the pen of that talented Anglo-Indian statesman and Scholar who goes by the name of Vamadeo Shastri. It displays an amount of erudition and what is rare a deeper insight into the real feelings and thoughts of the people; and his observations are far truer than many we meet with in the writings of profound Oriental Scholars, and Indian Missionaries. The first observation which he makes is about the all-absorbing interest which is evinced by an Indian in regard to the consideration of religions and metaphysical problems, and he states his conclusions in these happy words, "I am sure that a religion without any philosophy at all is no more stable than a house built on the edge of a great Indian river, which cuts away its banks or changes its course periodically." And the common mistake which an ordinary foreigner commits is in supposing that no good can be found in the ordinary forms of religious beliefs prevailing in India except an endless series of superstitions rites and ceremonies, and when he has scoffed at these and answered to his own satisfaction what is supposed to be the philosophy of Hinduism, namely the Maya Theory of Sankara, he thinks he has under-mined Hinduism and he waits for the harvest, fondly hoping to see the old superstructure tumble and fall down into ruins. He is hardly aware that the two principal religions into which the whole Hindu population can be divided, Saivism and Vaishnavism, are each based on an old, very old philosophy, and variations in the forms of belief and rituals are not so real as the differences in the field of thought; and divisions and sub-divisions of these principal religions are also in the main due to ontological differences. The masses of the people have a religion which is all-sufficient unto them, which appeals to all their emotional, moral, and intellectual and historical susceptibilities and which as a learned theosophical lady observed combines both freedom of thought and rigidity of conduct. It must become more and more evident therefore as our learned 'Shastri' points out that if this ancient citadel of religion and philosophy should come to be shaken, should come to lost its all-absorbing hold on the Indian mind, the cause should be looked for not in any foreign religion or religions, not in any reforming faiths in India but is should surely be found in the materializing tendencies of western education and western forms of Government.
Indian Religion undermined by Western Education and Western Forms of Government.
The education imparted by Government is wholly secular and non-religious; the standard of living furnished by western sojourners in this land, who live almost in gilded palaces and flower-festooned villas is simply fascinating; the administrative machinery is becoming more and more costly; and the improved ideas of sanitation forces on the people new wants, which all tend to increase the cost of living. And the excesses and vices of the west in regard to drink and food &c., are also obtaining a firmer and firmer grip on the land. And reformers preach too that unless you have a high standard of living you cannot rise on the scale of civilization. All these influences induce a spirit of utter indifferentism to religious topics, a greater quest wealth and luxury, and the formation of a new school of political and social reformers. And it was only the other day one of our respected countryman pointed out the great necessity that existed for counteracting such materializing tendencies by the starting of great educational institutions such as the central Hindu College of Benares.
History, an old Almanac.
The writer next proceeds to show what various influences moral, physical and religious, are being brought to bear upon him and what his attitude generally is towards the Christian religion and after stating the old proverb that history is like an old almanac and the same events and modes of thought recur, though at different seasons and in a changed order, he proceeds to instance the case of the rise of Christianity itself on the Mediterranean coast and from thence to draw the parallels in the present case and the contrasts. He is good enough to point out that it was from Asia that Europe has drawn whatever was profound, philosophical and transcendental in the western creeds and that India was the fountain-head of all the higher and deeper religious ideas which had always flowed from the East to the West; and that the chief strength of Christianity consisted in its being a well-organized and perfected theological creed sanctioned and upheld by the union between church and state and enforcing its tenets and dogmas with both temporal and spiritual power; and he also points out elsewhere how this led to persecution, whereas in the case of the Hindu religion it was not possible.
Hinduism is Religion, Christianity a theology.
He also proves that Hinduism is a Religion and not a theology, and that we have cosmologies and theosophies but no dogmatic rulings upon such questions as are settled by the Christian creeds, the result of which is that whereas the Indian Religion and theosophy is elastic enough to change and adjust itself with the change of the advancing condition and stage of the individual, the Christian formulas and dogmas have become stereotyped and hardened, and the sacred history has become so immobile that nobody can lay his hand on it to explain it away as the Hindu does with his sacred History (Puranams) giving it a new allegorical meaning and significance to such facts; and in consequence, Christian theology is under the disadvantage of coming into open conflict and contradiction with Science and Rationalism. The vivifying principle of Christianity is the securing of moral good, by setting forth authoritatively some powerful motives for conduct; and on the mistaken impression, - the one of the very few mistakes we could discover in the whole article – that the Hindu system of Religious thought has its critical in transcendental idealism he says that the Hindu ethical sanctions are weak and ineffectual.
Hinduism not political.
Another more serious mistake which he makes is when he wishes to mark the sympathetic connection between increasing devotion to God Shiva, and open commemoration of the Mahratta chief Sivaji. A writer like Vamdeo Shastri should have known better of India, with its vast extent and geographical differences, and political variations in the past and before the British advent, when India was divided into so many hundreds of petty states and kingdoms at open war with each other. And we have the written opinion of a great Scholar in the western presidency that Saivism as understood in the South of India is utterly unknown in his presidency. And we may further bear testimony to the fact that the greatest preachers and writers we have today in the south would scorn to look upon questions of policy or Government with any concern, and they live the life of retired recluses than of public men. What obtains in one part of such a vast country and in one town, should not at all be applied or extended to any other place or town. By the way in in p 692 he is good enough to notice our magazine, and pay a fitting complement to our earned contributor Rev. Father G. Bartoli. And in the following passage, he nicely discriminates between the pursuit after higher and nobler spiritualism and yogic vision by the Hindu and the kind of spiritualism aimed at by his European brothers and sisters.
Hindu and European Yoga.
"Or, if the longing to see further through the outer husk of the phenomenal world overpowers and enthralls him, he may clarify the ordinary sense perceptions by ascetic exercises, which give the power of discerning subtle evolute of matter and spirit. I have heard that certain rudimentary indications of this latent faculty, which has course, been known to us for centuries, have latterly attracted notice in England, where some sort of group or sect of initiates has been formed for necromantic experiments. But it is said that, in accordance with the utilitarian complexion taken by all modern research, the chief object of this sect is to communicate with the ghosts of dead kinsfolk or national celebrities. In our country the cultivation of such abnormal faculties is the stock-in-trade of wizards and other wonder-workers, whom I by no means brand as impostors, though they take a very low degree in the occult science, and the true spiritualist rather disdains their acquaintance. It is at best a naturalistic art, directed towards the extension of our bodily faculties into a new region of experimental discovery; but we are no more disposed than are the Christian Churches to find any solace within the confines of sensational experience; for to accept such conclusions would be a confession of spiritual ignorance, the dishonoring servitude out of which we are perpetually striving to escape."