Page images
PDF

and undeviating, whose immediate benefits exist, and are conspicuously displayed in its effects, no ritual necessity called for the commemoration of its first cause, or the propitiation of its future influence. The Hindoos believe implicity in predestination, and in the transmigration of the soul. The first, though it may operate in cramping the genius and obstructing it's progressive powers, has a happy tendency in assuaging their misfortunes, and administering a comfort in all the wants of life. They say, it is the hand of God, which for some inscrutable purpose, directs and impels the actions of his creatures. The doćtrine of Metempsychosis restrains them from the use of animal food,” an aliment not necessary in a hot climate, and often attended with pernicious consequences. This restrićtion may also have contributed to infuse into their minds an abhorrence of sanguinary ačts, and inculcate the virtues of humanity and general philanthropy. The Hindoos compute their grand evolutions of time by epochs, called in their language Jogues, of which there are four, corresponding, in the ascribed qualities, with their golden, filver, brazen, and iron ages of the ancients. The present, they say, is the Khullee, F or the fourth Jogue ; and that at the expiration of every age, the Supreme Being has destroyed the world, and that a continued succession of Jogues will revolve ad infinitum. The records of this ancient people teem so profusely with fable, and abound throughout in such extravagant relations of their demigods, similar in their feasts to the Bacchus, Hercules, and Theseus of the Greeks, that no rational or satisfactory conclusion can be drawn, for any adjustment of chronology. A pundit will introduce into his legend a lack of years,” with as much facility, and perhaps convićtion to himself, as our commentators of theological history would reduce to their standard, half a century. The principles of the Hindoo religion, with its most essential tenets, were composed, it is asserted, by Brimha, and comprised in four books, entitled the Bairds or Vaids; a word in the Sanscrit language signifying mystery. In that part of the peninsula of India bordering on the Coromandel side, these sacred writings are named the Vaidums. The Talinghahs and Malabars make little diffináion between the letters B, and V, and invariably terminate with an M, all Sanscrit words. The Shastre is a voluminious commentary on the Bairds, and has been written by various pundits, for the purpose of illustrating the Hindoo Mythology. From the Shastre proceed those preposterous ceremonies, which have been dragged into the Hindoo system of worship ; all tending to shackle the vulgar mind, and produce in it a slavish reverence for the tribe of Bramins. The privelege of reading the Bairds, and expounding its texts, is only allowed to them ; and prohibited to the other casts, under severe penalties, By the sole investment of this important authority, the priest is left at liberty to explain the original doćtrine in the manner that may most forcibly consolidate the power and promote the interest of his order. In the transmigration of the soul into different bodies, consists the various gradations of reward and punishment amongst the Hindoos. Conformably to their actions, they are transposed into such bodies, whether of the human or brute species, as their conduct, whilst they occupied their former tenements, may have merited. They do not admit of eternal punishments, and shudder at the idea of a belief so disconsonant to the opinion which they have formed of the Supreme Being. Evil dispositions, they say, are chastised by a confinement in the bodies of those animals, whom they most resemble in their nature, and are constrained to occupy them, till their vices are either eradicated, or sufficiently qualified to deserve the possession of superior forms. The good actions of man, the Hindoo law-giver has written, will be rewarded by his admission into those bodies which enjoy the utmost human happiness; as that which the magistrate feels on the just and merciful execution of the trust which has been committed to him; or that high sense of pleasure which the man of humanity participates, when he has alleviated the distresses of the unfortunate, or otherwise promoted the welfare of mankind.

* This tenet is not, at this day, strićtly adhered to ; for the Hindoos of the second and fourth cast occasionally use flesh meat, and the Bramins of Bengal invariably eat fish. The Christian AEra, 1787, corresponds with 4888, of the Khulle Taque.

continued

[ocr errors][merged small]

—After a certain series of transmigration rendered acceptable to the the Deity by a pursuit of virtue, and when his soul shall be completely purified from the taints of evil, the Hindoo is admitted to al participation of the radiant and never-ceasing glory of his first cause.* The soul's receiving this ačt of bliss, is described by comparing it to a ray of light, attračted by the grand powers of the sun, to which it shoots with an immense velocity, and is there abforbed in the blaze of splendor. Yum Durm Rajah officiates in the same capacity amongst the Hindoos, as Minos did in the infernal regions of the ancients. All souls liberated from the body, are supposed to appear at the tribunal of Yum Durm, where their former ačtions are proclaimed aloud, and examined by this judge, who passes an immediate sentence. Should the disposition of a man, have been so flagitiously depraved, as to be judged unworthy, even of an introdućtion into the body of the vilest animal, such coporal punishment is imposed on him, as may be thought adequate to his crimes ; and the soulis afterwards placed in some suitable station on earth. According to the religious tradition of the Hindoos. Sree Mun Narrain, fince the creation of the world, has at nine different periods as: sumed incarnated forms, either for the purpose of eradicating some terrestrial evil, or chastifing the fins of mankind:# The Hin doos worship a secondary species of deity, which they wildly multiply to the number of thirty-three crores,” who in their different funétions, are designed to represent the numberless attributes of the Supreme Deity. From the crowd of images which the Bramin has placed in the temples of the Hindoos, they have been branded with the appellation of idolaters. When this mode of offering supplications or thansgiving to the Supreme Being is dispassionately examined, it will be seen, that a personification of the attributes of the Deity is not unfitly adapted to the general comprehension, Those (and they compose a great portion of the people) who are not endowed with the ability of reading the praise of God, can with facility conceive a certain idea of his greatness, in contemplating a figure, sculptured with many heads and with many hands, adorned with every symbol of human power, and beheld by all classes of men with unfeigned reverence. The origin of emblematical figures has long preceded the use of letters. We find in the Spanish records, that intelligence of the first arrival of the Europeans on the coast of Mexico, was described to Montezuma by figures painted on cotton cloth. In a rude society, it was evidently a more easy operation to convey an idea through the medium of a figure cut in wood or moulded in clay, than to invent an alphabet, and out of it compose a regulated assemblage of words, necessary for the formation of a written language. -

[ocr errors]

t. According to the Hindoo tradition, a tenth incarnation of the Deity is yet expected.

[ocr errors]

* A crore is a hundred lacks.

• THE

« PreviousContinue »