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His habitation consisted of only one story. On each side of the door, there was a narrow gallery, covered, with the slope of the roof projecting over it, which was supported by, wooden pillars. The entrance led to a court, surrounded also by a gallery, on one side of which they were conducted into a large room, open in front, and covered with mats and carpets, where the Bramin was accustomed to receive visits and transact business.
The attaining at of knowledge being the principal object of Sydney's travels, nothing could be more favorable to his design than his intimacy with the Bramin, whose great knowledge in the religion, history and ancient customs of the Hindoos, had rendered him the oracle of his countrymen. He was of a communicative disposition, and took particular delight in explaining the mythology of the Hindoo deities, and the privileges of his order.
He boasted that his nation was of the most remote antiquity, and said, that by the command of their principal deity, Brama, they were divided into four distinct tribes, or castes, viz. the Bramin, the Khatry, or soldier, the Rhyse, or husbandman; and the Zoodera, or laborer. Of these, the Bramin is the most noble, taking precedence even of princes. His office is to instruct the subordinate castes, and superintend the religious ceremonies; consequently the priesthood is confined to that tribe. The duty of the Khatry is to govern and defend his country; from this tribe, therefore, are chosen sovereigns, generals, and other officers of the state. The employments of the Rhyse
are commerce and agriculture, and the hard lot of the Zoodera is labor and obedience.
No Hindoo ever quits the caste in which he is born, unless he degrades himself by the commission of certain crimes, which deprive him of that honor; a punishment that is considered the greatest disgrace that can befal a Hindoo. The miserable wretches who are thus consigned to infamy form a fifth class, called Pariahs, or Chandalas, who are despised as the very dregs of the people, and employed in the meanest offices. He enumerated the names of their principal deities, and described the symbols by which they are distinguished.
Under the appellation of Brama, he represented the Supreme Being as the primary cause of all things; mixing the universal belief of a creating and superintending Providence with the wildest superstition. The attributes of the Divinity, he characterized under different personages of their mythology, saying, that after having formed the world, Brama created a female deity, named Bewany, whom the Hindoos call the mother of the gods, because she is said to have produced three eggs, whence sprang Brinha, Vishnou, and Sheevah, representatives of the wisdom, goodness, and power of the Supreme.
Besides these, and a numerous train of inferior deities, they worship a variety of demigods, who inhabit the air, the earth, and the water; so that every mountain, river, town, and village, has its peculiar patron, who like a tutelar saint, watches over its privileges, and defends it from injury.
The amiable countenance of the philosophic Bramin became more animated, and his language more energetic, when he discoursed on their belief in a future state of reward to the good, and punishment to the wicked. He enlarged with peculiar complacency on the obligations to charity, gentleness, and hospitality ; observing, that they were due, not only to friends, but to enemies; “ for the gifts of Heaven,” said he,“ are extended to the whole human race; the degraded Chandala is equally warmed with the Bramin, by the rays of the same sun, and cheered by the beams of the same moon; the rain and gentle dews refresh the ground for the benefit of them both, and the earth yields her increase for their mutual support. Does not this,” continued he, “ teach a lesson of universal benevolence, and that we are not to confine our acts of kindness to any particular sect of men ? "
The life and practice of the Bramin accorded with his precepts. He instructed the ignorant, administered medicines to the sick, cheered the afflicted, and was the friend of the unfortunate. Mild and humane towards others, without being indulgent towards himself, he strictly observed the rules of his religion, and abstained most religiously from every species of animal food; living on rice, fruits, and milk, and avoiding with the utınost care destroying any living creature, so that he would go out of his path, rather than tread upon a worm or an ant.
An extraordinary instance of his adherence to these tenets occurred while Sydney was his inmate. As they were one day amusing themselves with experi
ments, with the air-pump, the electrical machine, and other philosophical instruments, that Sydney had brought from England, it happened that the subject accidentally turned on the surprising power of telescopes, and magnifying glasses. The Indian priest listened with admiration to Sydney's account of Dr Herschel's vast apparatus, near Windsor, by which the eye is enabled to explore the distant regions of the heavens, to discover planets unknown to the astronmers of former ages.
He next exhibited the wonders of the microscope, and proved that all nature teemed with inhabitants. He showed that the bloom of the plum consisted of innumerable swarms of the minutest insects; and that the most minute drop of water was full of animalculæ, that from their extreme smallness, could not be discovered by the naked eye.
The dignified serenity of the Bramin's countenance was changed on this discovery, to a distressing anxiety. He appeared to be suddenly indisposed, and bastily withdrew to his private apartment. The next morning, the sun had scarcely gilded the distant horizon, before he sought his friend, and eagerly demauded the price he would take for that curious glass he had shown him the preceding day. Sydney replied, that having brought it so far for his own use, he would not part with it for any sumn. The Bramin made large offers. Sydney still declined selling it; till at length, the Bramiu's desire to possess it overcame all considerations, and he declared that he was willing to give his whole fortune, which was very large, to become master of the microscope,
Sydney, astonished at his importunity, gave that to friendship, which he had denied to his pecuniary proposals. He presented him with the microscope as a free gift. The Bramin received it with joy and gratitude; but no sooner had he got possession of it, than raising his arm on high, he dashed it with his utmost force against a stone wall into a thousand pieces.
“ What do you mean by this mad action?” said Sydney ; 6 was it for this that you coveted it so earnestly ?”
“ Yes,” replied the Bramin with dignity, “this small machine has rendered me the most wretched of the human species, by showing me that it was impossible to obey the precept of Brama and live. I was therefore resolved on its destruction, lest it should likewise embitter the
my brethren.” Sydney, though he regretted the loss of his glass for so fruitless a purpose, could not help admiring the Bramin for his veneration of those doctrines he had early imbibed as the dictates of truth; and only lamented that he had not had the advantage of purer sources of information, before the prejudices of education had fettered his understanding. Whilst his erroneous notions of duty excited his pity, his virtue secured bis esteem; and the longer they remained together, the more sincerely they regarded each other.
The hospitality of the Bramin, and his many amiable qualities, rendered Sydney's abode at his house so agreeable, that when the time of separation arrived, he left it with regret; and ever after considered the accident of meeting him in the cavern, as one of the most pleasing incidents of his life,