New Ideas in India During the Nineteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about New Ideas in India During the Nineteenth Century.

If what I have frequently repeated in these chapters be correct—­that in the nineteenth century educated India has become largely monotheistic, it is in keeping therewith that the prevailing conception of religion should have changed, alongside, from the quest of Saving Knowledge to that of Bhakti or enthusiastic devotion to a person.  Direct confirmation of that inference, a recent Hindu historian supplies.  In a different context altogether, he declares:  “The doctrine of bhakti (Faith) now rules the Hindu to the almost utter exclusion of the higher and more intellectual doctrine of gnan (Knowledge of the Supreme Soul).”  The conception of the all-comprehending impersonal Brahma has, indeed, lost vitality; for the educated also the externals of the popular religion have lost their significance and become puerile.  But for them also, the objects of popular bhakti, Ram and Krishna, are as much epical as religious heroes.  Hinduism needs an object of bhakti for her educated people.  The fact explains several of the novel religious features of the past half-century.  The great jogi, Buddha, although not a brahman, was rediscovered as a religious hero for Hindus; at the commencement of the century he was a heretic to the brahmans.  “The head of a sect inimical to Hinduism,” the great Rammohan Roy calls him.  So Sir Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia had a great vogue some twenty years ago.  Then Krishna has had his life re-written and his cult revived—­purged of the old excesses of the Krishna-bhakti.  More recently, Chaitanya, the religious teacher in Bengal in the fifteenth century, has been adopted by certain of the educated class in Bengal as an object of bhakti.  Here, it seems to me, is found the place of Christ in the mind of educated India.  They are fairly familiar now with the story of the New Testament, and Jesus Christ stands before them as the supereminent object of bhakti; and I venture to say is generally regarded as such, although comparatively few as yet have adopted the bhakti attitude towards Him.  The Imitatio Christi, however, is a well-known book to the spiritually minded among the educated classes.  India has advanced beyond the cold, intellectual, Unitarian appreciation of Jesus Christ that marked the early Br[=a]hma and Pr[=a]rthan[=a] Sam[=a]j movements and manifested itself in their creeds in express denial of any incarnation.  For Br[=a]hma worship, I have seen the hymn, “Jesus, lover of my soul,” transformed into “Father, lover of my soul.”  Hindus of the newer bhakti attitude to Christ would find no difficulty in singing the hymn as Christians do, provided the doctrinal background be not obtruded upon them.  Sober faith has dawned, and will formulate itself by and by.

CHAPTER XXI

CONCLUSION

  “Draw the curtain close,
  And let us all to meditation.”

    SHAKESPEARE, Hen.  VI.  II.

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New Ideas in India During the Nineteenth Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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