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قراءة كتاب Two Old Faiths Essays on the Religions of the Hindus and the Mohammedans

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‏اللغة: English
Two Old Faiths
Essays on the Religions of the Hindus and the Mohammedans

Two Old Faiths Essays on the Religions of the Hindus and the Mohammedans

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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try to realize the ideas of the Hindu regarding God, and the soul, and sin, and salvation, and heaven, and hell, and the many sore trials of this mortal life. He will then certainly have a much more vivid perception of the divine origin and transcendent importance of his own religion. Farther, he will then extend a helping hand to his Eastern brother with far more of sensibility and tenderness; and in proportion to the measure of his loving sympathy will doubtless be the measure of his success. A yearning heart will accomplish more than the most cogent argument.

In this Tract we confine ourselves to the laying down of great leading facts and principles; The purpose of the Tract.but these will be dwelt upon at sufficient length to give the reader, we trust, an accurate conception of the general character and history of Hinduism. We shall also briefly contrast the system with Christianity.

The history of Hinduism may be divided into three great periods, each embracing, in round numbers, about a thousand years.



Regarding the earliest form of Hinduism we must The most ancient writings of India.draw our conceptions from the Veda, or, to speak more accurately, the four Vedas. The most important of these is the Rig Veda; and internal evidence proves it to be the most ancient. It contains above a thousand hymns; the earliest of which may date from about the year 1500 B. C. The Hindus, or, as they call themselves, the Aryas, had by that time entered India, and were dwelling in the north-western portion, the Panjab. The hymns, we may say, are racy of the soil. There is no reference to the life led by the people before they crossed the Himalaya Mountains or entered by some of the passes of Afghanistan.

It would be very interesting if we could discover the pre-Vedic form of the religion. Inferentially this may, to some extent, be done by comparing the teachings of the Vedas with those contained in the books of other branches of the great Aryan family—such as the Greeks, the Romans, and, above all, the Iranians (ancient Persians).

The ancient Hindus were a highly gifted, energetic race; civilized to a considerable extent; not nomadic; chiefly shepherds and herdsmen, but also acquainted with agriculture. Commerce was not unknown; the river Indus formed a highway to the Indian Ocean, and at least the Phenicians availed themselves of it from perhaps the seventeenth century B. C., or even earlier.

As soon as we begin to study the hymns of the Veda we are struck by their strongly religious The hymns are strongly religious.character. Tacitly assuming that the book contains the whole of the early literature of India, many writers have expressed themselves in strong terms regarding the primitive Hindus as religious above all other races. But as we They are a on we become convinced that these poems are a selection, rather than a collection, of the literature; and the conviction grows that the selection has been made by priestly hands for priestly purposes. An acute critic has affirmed Pre-eminently sacerdotal.that the Vedic poems are "pre-eminently sacerdotal, and in no sense popular."1 We can thus explain a pervading characteristic of the book which has taken most readers by surprise. There is a want of simplicity in the Veda. It is often most elaborate, artificial, overrefined—one might even say, affected. How could these be the thoughts, or those the expressions, of the imperfectly civilized shepherds of the Panjab? But if it be only a hymn-book, with its materials arranged for liturgical purposes, the difficulty vanishes.2 We shall accordingly take it for granted Present the religious thought of the ancient Hindus.that the Veda presents only the religious thought of the ancient Hindus—and not the whole of the religious thought, but only that of a very influential portion of the race. With all the qualifications now stated, the Veda must retain a position of high importance for all who study Indian thought and life. The religious stamp which the compilers of the Veda impressed so widely and so deeply has not been obliterated in the course of thirty centuries.

Their religion is Nature-worship. The prevailing aspect of the religion presented in the Vedic hymns may be broadly designated as Nature-worship.

All physical phenomena in India are invested with a grandeur which they do not possess in Physical phenomena in India.northern or even southern Europe. Sunlight, moonlight, starlight, the clouds purpled with the beam of morning or flaming in the west like fiery chariots of heaven; to behold these things in their full magnificence one ought to see them in the East. Even so the sterner phenomena of nature—whirlwind and tempest, lightning and thunder, flood and storm-wave, plague, pestilence, and famine; all of these oftentimes assume in the East a character of awful majesty before which man cowers in helplessness Their effect on the religion.and despair. The conceptions and feelings hence arising have from the beginning powerfully affected the religion of the Hindus. Every-where we can trace the impress of the grander manifestations of nature—the impress of their beneficence, their beauty, their might, their mystery, or their terribleness.

The Sanskrit word for god is deva, which means bright, shining. Of physical phenomena The deities are "the bright ones," according to the language of the sacred books of was especially those connected with light that enkindled feelings of reverence. The black thunder-cloud that enshrouded nature, in which the demon had bound the life-giving waters, passed away; for the glittering thunder-bolt was launched, and the streams rushed down, exulting in their freedom; and then the heaven shone out again, pure and peaceful as before. But such a wonder as the dawn—with far-streaming radiance, returning from the land of mystery, fresh in eternal youth, and scattering the terrors of the night before her—who could sufficiently admire? And let it be remembered that in the Hindu mind the interval between admiration and adoration is exceedingly small. Yet, while it is the dawn which has evoked the truest poetry, she has not retained the highest place in worship.

No divinity has fuller worship paid him than Agni, Fire much worshiped.the Fire (Ignis). More hymns are dedicated to him than to any other being. Astonishment at the properties of fire; a sense of his condescension in that he, a mighty god, resides in their dwellings; his importance as the messenger between heaven and earth, bearing the offerings aloft; his kindness at night in repelling the darkness and the demons which it hides—all these things raised Agni to an exalted place. He is fed with pure clarified butter, and so rises heavenward in his brightness. The physical conception of fire, however, adheres to him, and he never quite ceases to be the