« ForrigeFortsett »
denote creation, preservation, and destruction, the constant succession of birth and death throughout all existence, the process of destroying to produce, and of producing to destroy. Here we perceive that, as soon as we pass upward through the disorderly mass of ordinary paganism, we come upon polytheism backed by philosophy; we may scatter the irregular levies, and are confronted by the outworks of disciplined theology. The great Brahminic Trinity are adored with various rites and sacrifices; they have innumerable temples, iniages, and personified attributes. Yet to all the more intellectual worshippers, Vishnu and Siva represent the course and constitution of nat
And, if you inquire further about these things, you will learn that all phenomenal existence is a kind of illusion, to be gradually dissipated by the acquisition of knowledge; for the reality becomes intelligible only to those whose souls have been strengthened and clarified by long meditation, by ascetic exercises, by casting out all worldly thoughts and desires. To the eye of inner illumination, those who know God only by delusive appearances see no more than the shadow of divinity. And, conversely, to the empirical or naturalistic mind the whole religion is intelligible as a kind of reflection or mystical transformation of human experience, the vast shadow of the earth projected upon the sky.
But all Hindus worship directly the high gods of Brahminism. Brahma, having accomplished once for all his work of creation, has retired into the background of the popular pantheon; he has very few temples or images. Vishnu and Siva divide the allegiance of devout and orthodox people. It is impossible here to give the diverse names or emblems under which they are worshipped; yet some mention must be made of the Sakhtis-that is, of the divine forces of preservation and destruction, especially the female principle of productiveness, as personified by goddesses, the mates or consorts of Vishnu and Siva. The worship of women plays a material part in all polytheistic systems; and the grosser forms have been caught up and transmuted into loftier conceptions of divine maternity. In Brahmanism, the lower rites are unclean and disreputable, though they become purified in the higher regions of ideas; and a curious likeness may be observed between the consorts of the great Hindu divinities and the emanations, or abstract personalities, of the Gnostic systems that prevailed in the first ages of Christianity. These emanations were arranged in pairs of male and female; and, indeed, it is obvious that human speculation can only attach form or function to divinity by drawing upon terrestrial analogies.
Thus, Vishnu and Siva, with their consorts, are the pinnacles of the visible Brahminic edifice; they are different manifestations of the Supreme Being; they represent among educated men separate systems of worship, which, again, are founded on separate schools or opinions regarding the relations between God and man, and the proper ways and means of attaining to spiritual emancipation. For the whole purpose of the higher Brahminism is to find and show the path which leads upward, from the simple, unvarnished popular superstitions to the true and pure knowledge of the Supreme Being, by laying out a connection between the upper and lower aspects of religion. One of the cardinal points upon which the two systems differ is in regard to what are called the Avatars—the bodily appearance of the Deity upon earth.
Vishnu, according to those who belong to Vaishnava tradition, has several times descended upon earth, and has appeared in various forms. From the high spiritual point of view, this tradition may be interpreted as a devout belief which helps worshippers to realize, so to speak, the relations between divinity and humanity, which brings the Supreme Being within our limited powers of conception, establishes a bond of sympathy, and allows us to address to Him prayers and offerings. In fact, the dogma of Avatars is symbolical of the spiritual link and intercourse between God and man; it sanctions and gives meaning to a widespread popular tradition, that divinities sometimes come down and mingle with mortals and their affairs.
Siva, on the other hand, is never represented by an image, always by an emblem of his powers, destructive or regenerative. He has no Avatars; and the high theologians of this school refuse to admit that the Deity assumes visible embodiment. They argue that, by assuming a man's body, He would become subject to the laws of mortality, to changes, imperfections, human passions, and the like, to birth and death-and this they hold to be impossible, and inconsistent with the divine nature. The Avatar, they say, is an illusion. They permit and encourage all the rites and worships of the people as making generally for devotion; but they maintain that the only true spiritual path to salvation, for the superior intelligences, is by ascetic practices, by meditation, by separation from all worldly thoughts and cares; so that the soul gradually obtains true communion with the Supreme Being, and becomes at last absorbed, like a drop in the ocean, into light and rest. The metaphor sometimes employed is that the soul is like the flickering lamp, tossed by the winds and darkness, which loses itself completely in bright, noon-day sunshine, and remains still and quiet. To this doctrine the reply of the Vishnu worshipper (I am quoting from a writer in a contemporary Hindu magazine - the Dawn) is that it is too high for the people. Worship and prayer can only be addressed by ordinary folk to a personified Deity. The spiritual Brahma may be realized by intense thought and constant discipline of the mind, so that spirit can commune with spirit; but only the ascetic who has arrived at the loftiest stage of devotional contemplation can reach this height. In the mean time, what is to be prescribed for the untrained, inferior souls? Man's spiritual cravings are as strong and as natural as his physical wants. What, then, should be his spiritual food ? He should take shelter under something, to inspire him with hope, liberate him from fear, and qualify him to be grateful and loving, so that he may be loved in return. A theology which does not attempt to be popular can never be generally useful; and so it is necessary to accept and believe in ways of approaching the Deity that can be used and understood by the people. Yet, each of these two schools only professes to show a different path to the same goal of the soul's liberation, and its absorption into Pure Intelligence; for the Hindu mind cannot accept, as an ultimate notion, a personal Deity caught in the meshes of time, space, and causality. It must follow until He is placed somewhere beyond all phenomenal relations; although the problem of reconciling the conditional with the unconditional remains insoluble. This, I repeat, is the high philosophical religion at the back of the rough, outward, popular worship of all kinds of animals, stocks and stones, natural forces, deified men, local gods, and so on.