Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. 6.

BOOK II. Puccasa. He, who steals the gold of a priest, shall

- pass a thousand times into the bodies of spiders, of

snakes, and camelions, of crocodiles, and other aquatic monsters, or of mischievous blood-sucking demons. He who violates the bed of his natural or spiritual father, migrates a hundred times into the forms of grasses, of shrubs with crowded stems, or of creeping and twining plants, carnivorous animals, beasts with sharp teeth, or cruel brutes.”? After a variety of other cases, a general rule is declared, for those of the four castes who neglect the duties of their order: “ Should a Brahmen omit his peculiar duty, he shall be changed into a demon, with a mouth like a firebrand, who devours what has been vomited; a Cshatriya, into a demon who feeds on ordure and carrion; a Vaisya, into an evil being who eats purulent carcases; and a Sudra, who neglects his occupations, into a foul embodied spirit, who feeds on lice." The reward of the most exalted piety, of the most profound meditation, of that exquisite abstemiousness which dries up the mortal frame, is peculiar: Such a perfect soul becomes absorbed in the Divine essence, and is for ever exempt from trans. migration.3

We might very easily, from the known laws of human nature, conclude, notwithstanding the language held by the Hindus on the connexion between future happiness and the virtue of the present life, that rewards and punishments, very distant and very obscure, would be wholly impotent against temptations

man

[ocr errors]

Institutes of Menu, ch. xii. 54 to 58, 3 Ib. ch. xii. 125.

2 Ib. 71, 72

to crime, though, at the instigation of the priests, BOOK

? CHAP. 6. they might engage the people in a ceaseless train of wretched ceremonies. The fact corresponds most exactly with the anticipation. An admirable witness has said, “ The doctrine of a state of future rewards and punishments, as some persons may plead, has always been supposed to have a strong influence on public morals: the Hindoos not only have this doctrine in their writings, but are taught to consider every disease and misfortune of life as an undoubted symptom of moral disease, and the terrific appearance of its close-pursuing punishment. Can this fail to produce a dread of vice, and a desire to merit the favour of the Deity? I will still further,” he adds, “ assist the objector; and inform him, that the Hindoo writings declare, that till every immoral taint is removed, every sin atoned for, and the mind has obtained perfect abstraction from material objects, it is impossible to be re-united to the great spirit; and that; to obtain this perfection, the sinner must linger in many hells, and transmigrate through almost every form of matter.” Our informant then

ness

' According to Mr. Ward, as presently cited, the Hindus are in this respect not dissimilar from other people, whatever be their religious faith. This is a question we are not called upon to discuss, but as far as it bears upon the Hindus, it may be remarked, once for all, that Mr. Ward, notwithstanding the epithets bestowed upon him in the text, is neither an experienced nor an admirable witness; his experience was limited to Bengal, in which the best specimens of the Hindu character are comparatively rare, and his station and circumstances brought him into contact chiefly with bad specimens even of Bengalis. Although an intelligent man, he was not a man of comprehensive views, and his views were necessarily still more narrowed by his feelings as a missionary; his testimony, therefore, although not without value, must be received with considerable distrust, and admitted only with constant qualification and correction.-W.

BOOK II. declares; “ Great as these terrors are, there is noCHAP. 6.

thing more palpable than that, with most of the Hindoos, they do not weigh the weight of a feather, compared with the loss of a roopee. The reason is obvious: every Hindoo considers all his actions as the effect of his destiny; he laments, perhaps, his miserable fate, but he resigns himself to it without a struggle, like the malefactor in a condemned cell.” This experienced observer adds, which is still more comprehensive, that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments has, in no situation, and among no people, a power to make men virtuous."

1 “To this,” he says, “ may be added, what must have forced itself on the observation of every thoughtful observer, that, in the absence of the religious principle, no outward terrors, especially those which are invisible and future, not even bodily sufferings, are sufficient to make men virtuous. Painful experience proves, that even in a Christian country, if the religious principle does not exist, the excellence and the rewards of virtue, and the dishonour and misery attending vice, may be held up to men for ever, without making a single convert.” Ward, “ View, &c. of the Hindoos," Introd. p. lxxxiv. Here, however, Mr. Ward ought to have explained what he meant by the “religious principle," by which different persons mean very different things. This was the more necessary, that, having taken away all efficacy from the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, he strips religion of all power over the lives and actions of men, except in so far as good effects may be expected from the “religious principle,” which, whatever else it may not be, is at any rate, in his estimation, not the expectation of future rewards and punishments.-M. The whole of this review of the religion, as of the laws of the Hindus, is full of very serious defects, arising from inveterate prejudices and imperfect knowledge. Every text, every circumstance, that makes against the Hindu character, is most assiduously cited, and every thing in its favour as carefully kept out of sight, whilst a total neglect is displayed of the history of Hindu belief. The doctrines of various periods and of opposing sects, have been forced into one time and one system, and the whole charged with an incongruity, which is the creation of the writer. Had he been more impartially disposed, indeed, it would not have been easy to have given an unobjectionable account of the Hindu religion, as his materials were exceedingly defective. Manu is good authority for the time to which it refers, and Mr. Colebrooke's essays furnish authentic details of particular parts of the ritual, but the different travellers who are

BOOK II.
CHAP.7.

CHAP. VII.

Manners.

By the manners of a nation are understood the peculiar modes in which the ordinary business of human life is carried on. The business itself is every where essentially the same. In all nations men eat and drink; they meet, converse, transact, and sport together. But the manner in which these and other things are performed is as different as the nations are numerous into which the race is divided.

So much of the entire business of life, among the Hindus, consists in religious services, that the delineation of their religion is a delineation of the principal branch of their manners.

The singular distinctions, attached to the different classes, present another remarkable feature in the manners of this people. The lower orders, in other countries, are often lamentably debased; in Hindustan they are degraded below the brutes. With the single exception of the Vaisya caste, to whom is

given as authorities of equal weight, are utterly unworthy of regard. A word more on the subject of Fate, as understood by the Hindus; as it is something very different from that of other people. It is necessity, as the consequence of past acts—that is, a man's station and fortunes in his present life are the necessary consequences of his conduct in his pre-existence. To them he must submit, but not from despair. He has his future condition in his own power, and it depends upon himself in what capacity he shall be born again. He is not therefore the helpless victim of an irresistible and inscrutable destiny, but the sufferer for his own misdeeds, or the possessor of good which his own merits have secured him.-W.

BOOK
Chap. 7. "PPP

1. appropriated the business of agriculture and of bar

ter, the whole of the productive classes, according to the standards of law and religion, are vile and odious, unworthy to eat, to drink, or to sit with a member of the classes above them.

There are four remarkable periods into which, with respect to the three honourable classes, human life is divided. Of these periods; or orders, as they are denominated by the Hindus; the first is that of the student; the second, that of the householder; the third, that of the man who performs penance or other religious acts, residing continually in a forest; the fourth, that of the Sannyasi, or the ascetic absorbed in divine contemplation.

The period of the student commences at the era of investiture. Prior to this age, the situation of chil. dren is remarkable : even those of a Brahmen are not held superior in rank to a Sudra, The condition of the student much more closely resembles that of an European apprentice than that of a pupil in literature. He dwells in the house of his preceptor,

A very mistaken view is here taken of the condition of the 'productive classes :' and on all the most important occasions of social life, they hold quite as independent and respectable a position, as they do in Europe. That they may not eat, drink, or intermarry, with the castes above them, is no hardship to races who would not avail themselves of the privileges of such intercourse with many of the castes who are their equals. These laws of segregation are, in their case, self-imposed. European writers can little understand the prevailing feeling of the Hindus in these matters. It is pride-not shame of caste, that animates them down even to the meanest; and the sweeper is much more tenacious of his caste than the Brahman. As to 'sitting with them, let a blacksmith acquire wealth, and he will have his levee well attended by Brahmans of the most respectable descent, Instances are not wanting of this, at all the principal towns in India.-W. ? See Laws of Menu, ch. ii. iii. and vi. 3 See the account of this ara, in another part of this volume. 4 Institutes of Menu, ch. ii. 173.

« AnteriorContinua »