Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official eBook

William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,051 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.
the touch of his great toe the bow flew into a thousand pieces, which are supposed to have been all taken up into heaven.  Sita became the wife of Ram; and the popular poem of the Ramayana describes the abduction of the heroine by the monster king of Ceylon, Ravana, and her recovery by means of the monkey general Hanuman.  Every word of this poem, the people assured me, was written, if not by the hand of the Deity himself, at least by his inspiration, which was the same thing, and it must, consequently, be true.[8] Ninety-nine out of a hundred among the Hindoos implicitly believe, not only every word of this poem, but every word of every poem that has ever been written in Sanskrit.  If you ask a man whether he really believes any very egregious absurdity quoted from these books, he replies with the greatest naivete in the world, ’Is it not written in the book; and how should it be there written if not true?’ The Hindoo religion reposes upon an entire prostration of mind, that continual and habitual surrender of the reasoning faculties, which we are accustomed to make occasionally.  While engaged at the theatre, or in the perusal of works of fiction, we allow the scenes, characters, and incidents to pass before ’our mind’s eye’, and move our feelings, without asking, or stopping a moment to ask, whether they are real or true.  There is only this difference that, with people of education among us, even in such short intervals of illusion or abandon, any extravagance in acting, or flagrant improbability in the fiction, destroys the charm, breaks the spell by which we have been so mysteriously bound, stops the smooth current of sympathetic emotion, and restores us to reason and to the realities of ordinary life.  With the Hindoos, on the contrary, the greater the improbability, the more monstrous and preposterous the fiction, the greater is the charm it has over their minds;[9] and the greater their learning in the Sanskrit the more are they under the influence of this charm.  Believing all to be written by the Deity, or by his inspiration, and the men and things of former days to have been very different from the men and things of the present day, and the heroes of these fables to have been demigods, or people endowed with powers far superior to those of the ordinary men of their own day, the analogies of nature are never for a moment considered; nor do questions of probability, or possibility, according to those analogies, ever obtrude to dispel the charm with which they are so pleasingly bound.  They go on through life reading and talking of these monstrous fictions, which shock the taste and understanding of other nations, without once questioning the truth of one single incident, or hearing it questioned.  There was a time, and that not very distant, when it was the same in England, and in every other European nation; and there are, I am afraid, some parts of Europe where it is so still.  But the Hindoo faith, so far as religious questions are concerned, is not more capacious or absurd than that of the Greeks and Romans in the days of Socrates and Cicero—­the only difference is, that among the Hindoos a greater number of the questions which interest mankind are brought under the head of religion.

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Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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