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Hinduism - Hindu Religious Faiths

( Originally Published 1916 )



THE civilisation which the Hindu has built up has a type of its own, and that type has been shaped and formed by a particular ideal. The note throughout the ages that the Hindu has developed into a great harmony is spiritual culture.

More than five thousand years ago, when the Indo-Aryans crossed the Indus, they came to India with, a past culture. They were not a primitive race. They had a history, they had a tradition, they had an ideal. That ideal found its outlet under the starlit sky of their new atmosphere. They breathed a new breath. They sat down for a new meditation.

It began in Wonder. They found themselves in the midst of an exuberance of Nature. Its wide expanse enveloped them, and they sang as the chatak-bird sings in the summertime as it rises higher and higher in the sky and in its realised dream bathes the mass of mankind below. So the Indian bard sang his celestial song.

For whom did he sing? He sang for his God, the God within and without. He wanted to realise himself. He wanted to realise God. He did not want to create. He wanted to find. He wanted to find his Self, and in this finding he saw that there was a Self behind his self, there was a Self behind all the surrounding Nature. Vast was his laboratory. The great sky above, the ever-glowing sun, the beautiful dawn, the maddening moon of nights, the starlit atmosphere, the snow-wreathed heights of the Himalayas, the ever-flowing majestic rivers by his side. What else did he want? That was enough.

He had his deep forest as his University. He built his home on the banks of the river. Nature appeared to the Hindu of the Vedic time as a great reality, because through Nature he received his revelations. He sat with folded arms deep in meditation, and received the electric current from the Great All, the great encircling Spirit. On the heights of the Himalayas he exclaimed, " What art Thou, O Thou Beautiful? " The surrounding rivers appeared to him as the flow of the great Spirit of the Universe also. He witnessed this great Spirit everywhere, to it he offered his sacrifices. He saw God in the sacrificial fire as Moses saw Him in the burning bush. He saw the lightning. He heard the thunder. He addressed God in all ; the One Being who was in the sun, behind the sun, in the moon, behind the moon, in the stars, behind the stars, in the heights of the Himalayas, in the waters of the rivers; that Spirit which was the Life, that Spirit which was the Soul, that Spirit which was the All.

Thus grew his wonder, thus grew his passion, thus grew his worship. It began with wonder and in all the ages through which Hindu history has passed, the same is the wonder of the Hindu. He finds and yet he wants to find. He is ever running towards that Ideal of God. His ideal is to rise higher and higher in the scale of evolution, an evolution that is for Eternity.

It is simply preposterous to the idea of a Hindu that he should ever have thought of a dual or a trial God. No race or nation on earth, with even a little intelligence, can ever think that there are two Gods. It is far more so then with a race which in the beginning of the world's civilisation conceived a philosophy and system of thought which no other nation has ever equalled.

"They call Him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and He is heavenly nobly-winged Garutman. He is One, sages call Him by many names, Agni, Yama, Matarisvan."

" What God shall we adore with our oblation? The great One who is the Sole Ruler of all the moving world that breathes and slumbers, and is the Lord of bipeds and quadrupeds."

" What God shall we adore with our oblation? The great One whose are these snow-clad mountains as well as the terrestrial seas, and whose arms are these heavenly regions."

" Even He is Agni, He is Aditya, He is Vayu, He is Chandramas, He is Sukra, He is Brahma, He is Apa, He is Prajapati."

These few slokas are enough to show that the Hindu did not worship Nature and then lead himself up to Nature's God. He realised the existence of a great Purusha (Being) behind all Nature's phenomena. And in order to realise himself in that Being whom he addressed as the very Soul of everything, he had his rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices. Sacrifice to a Hindu had a great symbolism. It was not a meaningless something which he did and does now as an external propitiation. The whole kernel of sacrifice was to bring him into direct touch with God.

Thus he began the foundation of his culture. No body of men came from outside with written pamphlets and books to say, " That is not what you ought to think or do. Come take this book which contains the only Truth." He was not influenced by such external, material things. He was experimenting on Nature within him and without. He received his revelation through Nature. He established his university in his forest home, and from his Forest-university came the stream of his ideals and culture. Let us see what was the principle which could be the foundation for such cultural ideals.

" Bring the fruit of a nyagrodha tree," said the Guru to his chela. When the disciple brought the fruit, the Guru said, " Break it and tell me what do you see? " " The seeds, almost infinitesimal." " Break one of them, and tell me what do you see? " " Nothing." Then the Guru said, " That subtle essence which you do not see, of that very essence this great tree exists. Even so in the Universe, that subtle essence which we do not see, even that is That by which the Universe exists."

Another example of this system of training, which the Hindus established thousands of years ago and which even today is the method of teaching, is the story of Bhrigu. Bhrign came to his father, the sage Varuna, and said, " Tell me, O revered father, how to know Brahman (God)." His father did not place before him a certain defined creed and say, " Get these things by heart and you will know Brahman." He did not even say, "Read the Vedas, and you will know Brahman." He said, "Go and meditate, my child. Thus will you know Brahman." And to help him in meditation, he gave him this formula: " That from which all that exists has come into being; that by which, after coming into being, all that is continues to be; that toward which all objects move and into which all objects enter; know that as Brahman." The son went away with his formula, and started his meditation; and when he came back, he said, " I find that Food is Brahman. Is that right, O Father? " His father said only, " Go and meditate, my child, and by meditation you will know Brahman." The son went away, and this time he came back with the answer, " Life is Brahman, O Father." " Go and meditate again," said his illumined father. He went away again, and again he came back and this time he said, " Unity of Consciousness is Brahman." His father said once more, " Go and meditate, and by meditation know Brahman." He went away once more, and when he came back he was glowing with enlightenment, his face indicated a passionate exuberance, the expression of the soul, and when he saw his father, he exclaimed from a distance, " I have found Him, I have found Him. Anandam (Love) is Brahman." His father embraced him and said, " Yes, my child, you are right. From Anandam have all things come into being; having come into being, by Anandam are they kept alive, towards Anandam do they move and into Anandam do they enter."

These were the methods which were in vogue and are in vogue in the Hindu schools and universities, ancient and modern. This is the note of spiritual culture which the Hindu has enunciated from the very first day of his civilisation. He has no such thing as a definition for his religion. His religion is not made of such a substance that it can be found in a particular book or books. The Hindu from his early days of life goes through a training and discipline which gradually leads him up to his Ideal. It is the individual character that a Hindu seeks to build. He knows that if the individual is properly trained and disciplined, his race will be trained. If X is right and Y is right and Z is right, then the sum of the Xs, Ys and Zs who compose the race will be right. Thus the Hindu went to the very root. He did not care very much for the external provided the internal was on a sound basis. So if you now go into any of our tols, or schools of the ancient type, where the learned Pandit is explaining to his disciples the various principles of life, you will find that he gives his training according to the individuality of each disciple and the degree of their evolution. He wants to build character. This training of the individual man has been the chief characteristic of Hindu culture. Through this method the Hindu has developed his various systems and cults, in which, although there may be hundreds and thousands, nay, millions of followers, each has his particular note, yet all are subordinate to the great keynote of the whole harmony. It is the same keynote that is sounded throughout the three main periods of the Hindu's cultural life, the Vedic, the Upanishadic, the Puranic.

There is a tendency at the present time to speak of the Vedic religion as a simple monotheism, in comparison with the so-called polytheism of modern India. But the truth is that the Vedic religion was neither more nor less monotheistic than the Puranic Hinduism of today.

" I know the all-pervading Supreme Being who is exalted above all, glorious like unto the suns and aloof from darkness. By knowing Him alone is death conquered. Except this, there is no other road leading to Salvation."

" The All-Wise, whose body is spirit, whose form is light, whose thoughts are truth, whose nature is ether, from whom all things proceed; He is my Soul within the heart, smaller than a corn of rice, smaller than a corn of barley, smaller than a mustard seed. He is my Soul with-in the heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven, greater than all the worlds. He from whom all things proceed, He, my Soul within the heart, is Brahma. When I shall have departed thence, I shall obtain Him."

" I am the Spirit seated deep in every creature's heart.
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever,
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems."

These three quotations from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita show the oneness of the ideals of the three periods. The real difference between the Vedic and Puranic period is that the Vedic gods represented the cosmic attributes, and the Puranic gods the human attributes of the One " whose Being is Life, whose Shining is Light, and whose Glory is Love." In the Vedic period we have the gods of fire, of wind and water, of sky and sun, and the sacrifices are those of fire and libation.

The Homa sacrifice, the burning of ghi or clarified butter with the chanting of sacred hymns and mantrams, is preserved to-day in every orthodox Hindu home. It begins the day as both a physical and spiritual purification. Fire has al-ways been the most natural symbol of the divine; the great purifier, burning all the dross of earth, and flaming upward to God like an intense prayer of the heart.

" O Fire! Sacred Fire! Purifying Fire! Thou who sleepest in wood and mountest in shining flames on the altar. Thou art the heart of sacrifice, the fearless aspiration of prayer, the divine spark concealed in all things and the glorious Soul of the Sun ! "

This is one of the ancient Vedic hymns.

Like all things that are close to nature, there is a simplicity and grandeur about the Vedic ceremonials and teachings. They belong to a period when men were occupied with action. Fearlessness was a predominant virtue.

" As heaven and earth are not afraid and never suffer loss or harm, even so my spirit fear not thou. As day and night are not afraid, nor ever suffer loss or harm, even so my spirit fear not thou. As sun and moon are not afraid, nor ever suffer loss or harm, even so, my spirit fear not thou."

This is the heroic basis of Aryan thought.

The daily duties prescribed were the same as those of Hinduism to-day: worship of the Supreme, reverence for gods and holy men, reverence for parents, the doing of some kind deed every day to other human beings most often the giving of food; kindness to animals. These are really love of God and love of man, or rather of all living things. " Thou shalt love God and thy neighbour," including animals. This is characteristic of Hindu thought, for the Hindus, like St. Francis, have always considered the birds and beasts and even the flowers and the trees as their

HINDU RELIGIOUS FAITHS 29 little brothers. As Mr. Havell says in his Ideals of Indian Art, "Only in rare moments of illumination has Christian Europe realised, with St. Francis, that all creation is one. It has been left to modern science to confirm what Indian philosophy taught s000 years ago, and what Indian art has ever sought to express. It is to symbolise this universal fellowship of man, the unity of all creation, that the Indian artist loves to bring into his picture all forms of teeming life to symbolise the universal law of the One in many."

Shelley conceived and expressed this oneness of all life in his Ode to the West Wind

" Make me thy lyre, ev'n as the forest is,

What if my leaves are falling as its own? The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep autumnal tone, Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, My Spirit! be thou me, impetuous one! "

The Vedic period may be called the era of the will in religion. The period that followed was the time of the great epics and the great forest universities of India. The Vedantas, or Commentaries on the Vedas, were written, and the sublime philosophy of the Upanishads was evolved. " Human mind has never soared higher in speculations on God and the soul." Codes of law and schools of philosophy were established. Six great systems have come down to the present time, containing nearly every philosophic theory that can be found since, from the most agnostic and material thesis to the spiritual philosophy of Vedanta.

But the abstractions of intellect can never satisfy the heart of man. The divinity in man seeks the humanity in God. It requires a God with a heart as well as a soul. " I am the sky and I am the nest as well," sings Rabindranath Tagore. And in nothing, perhaps, has Hindu religion shown its divinity so much as in its teaching of the humanity of God. It is in the humanity of God that man has the promise of becoming divine. We cannot love that which is too far removed. The Upanishads say, " God is Truth, Wisdom, the Infinite, Joy, Immortality, Peace, Purity, the One, and Love." Love is the last word. " From Love have we come into being, by Love do we live, towards Love do we move, into Love do we enter." This is the path of bhakti or devotion. Hindu wisdom points out three chief paths to the realisation of God, corresponding to the human psychology of the will, the intellect, and the heart. The Hindu sages did not simply say that man must find God, but they told him how to find God, and the how was wonderfully adapted to the complex nature of man. Three chief paths are called Karma or the path of action, Jnana or the path of knowledge, and Bhakti or the path of devotion. Each soul takes one path or the other according to his dharma. Dharma, the inner law of one's being, differs according to the constitution of the individual. The dharma of one man cannot be the dharma of another. What is good for me is not necessarily good for you. Swadharma, or one's own dharma, does not mean, however, that one cannot change his particular belief, such as changing from Christianity to Mohammedanism. Religion in that sense does not exist to a Hindu. It is not his belief, but it is his character, his regulative principle, his Ideal. That is his dharma. So the dharma of the statesman and the warrior may be said to be the path of karma or action; the dharma of the scholar and the scientist, the path of jnana or knowledge; the dharma of the poet and the artist, the path of bhakti or love and devotion, beauty and sweetness. But bhakti is for all. Some Western missionaries have tried to prove that the bhakti element in modern Hinduism has been derived from Christianity, just as the ideal of Krishna has been claimed to be taken from Christ; but Krishna lived 5000 years ago, and the songs and stories of Him were part of the life of the people too far back to trace their origin. Bhakti is as old as the heart of man, even in its definite form in India older than Krishna, yea, older than that bugbear of the West, Hindu idolatry.

Of this the real meaning and significance is not understood. God is One, but He is present in every place and in every thing, great and small. Such form of worship simply develops that realisation. It has been the privilege of the Hindu mind to view the whole through the parts and in the parts. The Hindu is said to worship " sticks and stones," but he is really worshipping the One Being behind all sticks and stones. He may worship Nature, he may worship man, he may even worship animals; but he has never worshipped Nature as Nature, man as man, or animals as animals.

He wanted to see behind Nature the hand of the Great Purusha or Being; behind the man he wanted to see the hand of the same Purusha ; be-hind every possible and impossible thing his attempt was to witness the Invisible. If there has ever been born a race which has been able to perceive the existence of Spirit behind Matter, it is the Hindu race. He has idealised his Idolatry. It is not animism, but Idealism. The whole psychology of his idol-worship is in symbolism. He tries to fix his mind upon one particular thing, living or non-living, and thereby to see the Invisible in the visible, the Spiritual in the material. It is the Hindu who because he understood the real meaning of idolatry, understood the real meaning of art. " Beauty is inherent in spirit, not in matter." In making images of gods, the artist should depend upon spiritual vision only, not upon the appearance of objects perceived by the senses.

Idolatry is not what the European generally understands it to be. The Hindu worships God under various names and various images, but these are all the expression or manifestation of God as He appears to His particular devotee. God is not known merely as Father, He is known to us as the Indwelling Spirit of all the relations and interrelations which arise in our breasts, all the different purposes of heart and soul. The Hindu gives a concrete shape to the dream of his life which he dreams all his days. With brush or clay, he paints or moulds his Ideal as He appears to him in the particular mood of his mind. These images are merely representing in different spiritual colours and moods what he witnesses in his Supreme God. God is One and the same, His expressions manifold and varied. " He is One, sages call Him by many names." These names are expressions; the Hindu portrays an image of the expression, that is all.

One who knows the system of worship in India, knows that many of the images which he makes out of clay he throws into the river after worshipping the symbol for a few days. He does this, why? Because he knows that these images are nothing, but only the means to an end. If the music is necessary for the worship in the churches, if the church is necessary for the congregation to gather together, if the Cross is an inevitable symbol of a great Ideal, is not the image also a means of concentrating the heart on the God beyond the image? The image is to the worshipper his known quantity which leads him to the Unknown.

What, then, is idolatry? Are there no idols in the West? Idols of gold, idols of fame, idols of power? The Hindu has but one idol, the idol of God. In the West, people often have a picture of a friend, father or mother, or loved one. Sometimes they even place flowers before it; but if the Hindu makes offerings to the memory of his parents, or brings fruit, flowers, and the fragrance of incense to his temple, he is a " heathen." God is everywhere. This no one understands better than the Hindu. Even Christian bishops have been astonished to find that the poorest and apparently most illiterate peasant understands the immanence of God, not as a doctrine, but as a reality. Where there is great love, the heart naturally centres around something associated with the one loved. Where there is great love for God, the same is true. Mothers often worship God as the Holy Child, and bathing the reflection of its image in a mirror, say, " This that we bathe is not the image, neither is the image that which we worship.". That which they worship is the Divine Ideal of perfect Love. " Do we love our children less, whatever they do? So should one love God." " We love most that which needs most. So one should love God." And their concentration on the image of the Holy Child helps their realisation of this ideal of love for God.

The Hindus have always understood the value of concentration. Their sages understood in a marvellous way the variety of human experience and the consequent various needs of human nature.

Hinduism is a vast cathedral of side-chapels for all the religions of the world. A family of religions with one heart-home, the Father, or more truly in India the Mother, at the head. God is all that not only in the human mind, but also the human heart can conceive. He is both impersonal and personal, with form and without form; both manifest and unmanifest, the One and the many.

" The Hindu's belief in gods and goddesses no more makes his religion polytheistic than the Catholic Christian's belief in angels makes Catholicism polytheistic, or the faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost makes Trinitarian Christianity tri-theistic." God is in all. He is in the forces of Nature, and He is in every human heart. Is there any great difference between the idea of angels and of gods and goddesses? If there are innumerable forms of life lower than man, is it not at least scientific to conceive of innumerable forms higher than man? If every drop of water is full of invisible life, is it not equally possible that the ether is full of ethereal life invisible to our grosser senses? Christianity speaks of guardian-angels as the ministers of God. What are they but gods and goddesses, that is, spiritual entities, like human beings, but with greater powers? Does this take away from the Unity of God any more than our own personalities take away from that unity?

But it is not even necessary to posit a polytheism in that sense behind the " idolatry " of the Hindus; for the images used in worship are invariably those of some Avatar, like Rama and Krishna and Buddha, as the Christians use the picture or image of Christ, or they distinctly represent some human attribute of God. Since Vedic times we no longer have nature gods and goddesses, of which, so far as is known, images were never made, but God is worshipped under the trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, as the Creator, the Destroyer (or rather the Purifier) and the Preserver. Brahma is more an abstraction of the intellect, and the name is used for the Supreme God in His attribute as Creator. Popular worship is divided between Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva is God as Purifier, the destroyer of evil; Vishnu God as Preserver, the Saviour. Along with this trinity and traversing it, as it were, is the doctrine of duality.

" The highest philosophical speculations of the Hindus have always posited two ultimate principles, called Purusha and Prakriti. One is the principle of permanence, the other of change." These two principles correspond in a general way to the idea of God and Nature in the West, Nature in this sense including Humanity. Again, Prakriti represents the feminine element, and Purusha the masculine element in the universe. This duality runs through the trinity of the intellect, the will and the heart, as expressed in the Vedanta philosophy where Purusha is Ishwara or Brahma, and Prakriti Maya; in the followers of Shiva where Shiva is Purusha and Prakriti the Divine Will as Mother; and in Vaishnaivism where Krishna is Purusha and Prakriti is Radha, the perfect Devotion of the Heart to the Beloved.

Thus there are various paths that one may take, but they are all only means to an end and that end is to find God. " I bless each worshipper after the manner in which he worships Me; man-kind in every way pursues My own path." This is perhaps the highest and the greatest principle that the Hindu has received to work upon. Be-cause of this he has never burnt any heretic; in fact he has never looked upon any one as a heretic. His land has been the land of freedom for all religions, however antagonistically the followers of any sect may have attacked the principles of Hinduism. The Hindu knows that God is the In-dweller of every heart and soul. In Hinduism there is no sect, hence no sectarianism. All the different cults are simply the growth of the human mind in its relation to the Universal. He does not condemn, therefore, either Moslem or Christian.

A Hindu will readily grant a piece of land for the building of mosque or musjid, he will with equal promptness offer it to the Christians for the building of their cathedrals or churches. He thinks that man must grow by his swadharma. A religion of real growth will never say, " Throw away that faith and accept mine." It will say, " Try to grow within the law of your own being." A religion of creed says, " Your religion is bad; accept mine and you will be saved." The Hindu salvation is different. It is the liberation of his soul from Avidya (ignorance), this he tries to accomplish, not by accepting any particular creed, but by developing his spiritual powers through training and discipline. And this training and discipline is the very life of a Hindu. All his attention is directed towards that. Training and discipline are not his end, but he knows his training and his discipline to be means, and a very great means, to his end the realisation of God in all things.

It is only in Hinduism, I think, that we have the conception of God in all the human relations of life. Christianity has the conception of God as Father. To Islam God is the Great Friend. But why should God be conceived of in only one relationship? Do they not all belong to Him?

The Hindu worships God in every relation. In the path of Bhakti, or devotion, the disciple is taught to think of God in the four great human relationships, Dasya or that of a servant to his master, Sakhya that of friend to friend, Batsalya that of a child to parent or parent to child, and Madhur that of lover and beloved. These are the natural cords of union between soul and soul. They are the means of reaching the heart of God. For God is a Heart as well as a Soul. He is " absolutely divine and absolutely human, for it is perfect humanity that is perfect divinity." If God were an Abstract God, He could have little to do with humanity. If God were abstract God, Creation would be impossible. It is because God is Love that He " willed Creation to be; " for Love must by its very nature express itself. " Love must ever give; by its own law of love it must create new objects for its love, and thus the Universe was formed, the human Heart of God." From God who is Love has Creation come, and all Creation is ever seeking the Home from whence it came. Through the devotion of the heart, the devotee becomes one with the Beloved; yet is there ever a union beyond union, a joy beyond joy, a love beyond love in the Infinite Heart.

It is this human note in his realisation of the " One whose Glory is Loving," that fills the heart of the devotee with a rapture that has overflowed in the wonderful songs of the Vaishnav poets, and has embodied itself in the countless stories of Krishna exemplifying the promise of the Gita that in whatsoever way we worship Him, in that way will He manifest Himself unto us. If we think of God as Father, we shall know Him as the Father; if we think of Him as Friend, He will be to us the Friend; if we think of Him as Mother, He will be our Mother. The Hindus worship God in every relation, but most of all as Mother and Beloved; and this is in harmony with the genius of the nation, which deifies woman. In his worship of woman, the Hindu worships that glory of devotion which in India is sacred and which he recognises is in general most often found in women. Such is their adoration of it that the greatest saints have wished that they might reach that perfection of love, to worship the Divine One with the absolutely unselfish purity of service and devotion of a loving woman. With the unerring instinct of the heart they have chosen the deepest human relationships to express the most perfect love for God. The Hindu thinks of God as Father, but the idea of Fatherhood is really absorbed in that of Mother as being deeper and tenderer. Mother is worshipped in India. " A yearning love that can never refuse us; a benediction that for ever abides with us; a presence from which we cannot grow away ; a heart in which we are always safe; sweetness unfathomed, bond unbreakable, holiness without a shadow all these indeed, and more, is Motherhood."

Such is the idea of Motherhood in India. That the Mother-heart of God must answer the call of its child has sunk deep into the life and the songs of the people.

A religion that has no place for God as Mother will never take root in India.

In the worship of the Virgin in the Roman Catholic Church there is an approach to the idea of the Motherhood of God; and in such deeply devotional books as the Imitation of Christ, we have the Voice of the Beloved.

" Whosoever is not ready to suffer all things, and to stand resigned to the will of his beloved, is not worthy to be called a lover."

" Every lover prepares the best and fairest abode for his dearly beloved; for hereby is known the affection of him who entertains his beloved."

" Oh, that it were given me to find Thee alone, that I may open my whole heart to Thee, and enjoy Thee as my soul desires; that Thou alone mayest speak to me, and I to Thee, as the beloved is wont to speak unto his be-loved."

" Oh, that with Thy presence Thou wouldest wholly consume me, and transform me into Thyself, that I may be made one spirit with Thee by the grace of inward union, and by the melting of ardent love!"

This is perfectly in harmony with the spirit of the Radha-Krishna songs in India ; but in general the idea of God as Mother and as Beloved is foreign to the mind of the West. The songs of Radha and Krishna which are sung all over India, and have been sung for centuries, are the songs of the perfect and absolute devotion of the heart to the Beloved.

The same spirit breathes in the songs of Rabindranath, whose poetry, now wondered at in the West, is simply the natural flowering of the Vaishnava culture

" Yes, I know,
This is nothing but Thy love,
O Beloved of my heart
This golden light that dances upon the leaves,
These idle clouds sailing across the sky,
This passing breeze leaving its coolness
Upon my forehead.

The morning light has flooded my eyes,
This is Thy message to my heart.
Thy face is bent from above,
Thy eyes look down in my eyes,
And my heart has kissed Thy feet."

That God must answer the sincere cry of the heart, is the unalterable faith of the Hindu. " Thou didst call, I am here," says Krishna to Narada, the sweet singer and devotee. " O, Narada, I am not always found on My throne in My Abode of Love, nor am I ,always found in the hearts of gods and yogis. But where My Name is intoned in the voice of love in the heart of the devotee, there am I ever and always found, My Narada."

Thus for more than 5000 years the Hindus have been realising their ideals through the various paths of the heart, the mind, the soul. Many a time their idealism has been in danger of being desecrated. Then there have come great and mighty ones to adjust their life to the traditional path of spiritual culture. The cultural ideal has been the note kept through all the ages. No such thing as a particular creed, no such thing as a particular religion. Five thousand years ago the mighty genius who came to give us a great awakening was perhaps the greatest of these Sree Krishna. Then came Guatama Buddha. Guatama Buddha left his palace home, wife and babe, to seek the ideal. He realised it. When our Hindu ancestors for the time being forgot the true Path and were busy in rituals and ceremonies without entering into the meaning, Guatama came and said

" Not by flowers or sandal powder,
Not by music's heavenly strain,
Is the soul's true worship rendered,
Useless are these things and vain!
But the brother and the sister,
Man devout and woman holy,
Pure in life, in duty faithful,
They perform the worship truly!"

It was in Buddha's time that the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation received particular emphasis, though they are clearly stated in the Gita. " What ye sow, ye reap," even in birth after birth; that is the doctrine of Karma. Buddha's life and the Brotherhood of his disciples established for the first time in the history of civilisation the Monastic Order. Kings embraced his faith. Women embraced his monastic ideals and formed sisterhoods. Thousands flocked round him and his disciples, and for centuries he remained the adored of the many. " I take my refuge in the Name of Buddha " is the devout prayer of thousands today. But the Buddhist type of worship, because of the credal character given to it by his successors, could not last long in India as a religion. It was absorbed into Hinduism. The most essential part remained. It had fulfilled the twofold mission of purifying the existing ritual in India, and of carrying the Hindu thought into other countries in the way best suited to their peculiar characteristics and institutions. Its un-paralleled Monastic Order established a Brother-hood where even the lowest animals had their place. The essentials of Buddhism are the same as those of Hinduism, and the much discussed Nirvana of the Buddhists is the same as the Hindu idea of Realisation or Yoga (Union-with-God) ; the losing of the personal egotistic self in the larger Self of God. " He that loses his life shall save it." The idea that Nirvana is annihilation is well answered by the words of the Buddhist High Priest in Ceylon to Edwin Arnold: " How should Nirvana be annihilation when our Lord had attained Nirvana while he still existed, and being already Buddha, moved about in the sight of men? " Buddha is considered one of the great Avatars. In India his teaching became ultimately another grand note in the realm of inquiry, and remains today as the everlasting possession of the Hindu race.

Then came the great Sankara, who emphasised once more the path of Jnana or knowledge; and from the twelfth century down, a series of great teachers, Ramanuja, Ramananda, Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya, who developed the spirit of Bhakti to a wonderful height. They all came to stir up their people to carry on the Ideal. They came when India was falling into the evils of forgetfulness, to call her back to the Mother

"Listen, listen, Mother is calling again,
Night and day is plucking the strings of the heart.
Come, Children, come!
How many Avatars of the ages
Came to us and went away,
Giving us this call ! The Mother's call is in our very breath: Come, Children, come!
Let us go, let us go, Brother,
Crossing the ocean of this world !
Let us go to the Mother!"

But beneath the surface of all the different movements, the one grand note that encircles and throbs in them all is the note that was struck by Humanity's first Apostle, Sree Krishna. Krishna is the central name in both Indian history and Indian religion. He is to the Hindus what Christ is to Christianity, though in a more complex way. To some he is simply the human Ideal, as Christ is to the Unitarians; to the majority of Indians he is the greatest of the Avatars, as Christ, to the orthodox Christians, is the one Avatar. For to the Hindu conception, God has revealed Himself in human form, not once, but many times. As the Gita says

" I come, and go, and come. When Righteousness Declines, O Bharata ! when Wickedness Is strong, I rise from age to age, and take Visible shape, and move a man with men, Succouring the good, thrusting the evil back, And setting Virtue on her seat again."

Whatever the belief in the relative humanity and divinity in the great Teachers of the world, Krishna is the Great Teacher., It is he who struck for the first time in the history of evolution the doctrine of Harmony, Oneness of all life, Oneness of all paths to God. This doctrine is not only the legacy of the Hindus, but of the world. Karma (Service), Jnana (Knowledge), Bhakti (Devotion), these principles are everlasting ideals. All these three must move in harmonic speed. Each is necessary for the other, and thus there must be harmonious growth of the human soul, the human mind, the human heart.

Sree Krishna said

" Action is inevitable. But, let then, the motive for action be in the action itself, and not in the event. Do not be incited to actions by the hope of their reward, nor let thy life be spent in inaction. Lay aside all desire for any benefit to thyself from action, make the event equal to thee, whether it be success or failure.

" Whoever in acting dedicates his actions to the Supreme Spirit and puts aside all selfish interest in their result, is untouched by sin, even as the leaf of the lotus is unaffected by the waters.

" That man who sees how inaction may be action, and action may be inaction, is wise among men ; he is a true devotee and perfect performer of all action.

" He is considered to be an ascetic who seeks nothing and nothing rejects, being free from the influence of the pairs of opposites.

No one without having previously renounced all in-tentions can be devoted."

It is Sree Krishna who has become the great Ideal of the Hindu race. He includes all Paths. Work is indispensable, says Krishna, but you must do that work which is worth doing, and when you work must have no desire of your own in the work. Dedicate all to God. His injunction is perfect Yoga or communion with Him who is the author of All. The high and noble teachings of Sree Krishna have been embodied in that greatest book, the Bhagavat Gita. To any one who wishes to understand the ideals of Hinduism, I would say, " Read the Gita." The Gita is an epitome of the Vedas in simple, harmonised and humanised form.

These principles the true Hindu seeks to demonstrate throughout the whole of his life. He will serve his family, his race, his nation, in fact the whole universe; yet sink all desires of his own in dedication of all service to God. He will have to acquire knowledge, not for the sake of power, but to serve humanity, and in this knowledge he will know the secrets of the Universe. He will have to acquire Bhakti or devotion because that is, after all, the highest step, the gate he will have to enter. " Humility is the softened shadow of My love. It is the grace of all graces that I on My children bestow." What is man after all? He is His Beloved and in Him is our Refuge. Such is the Hope when all hopes are shattered. This is the supreme message of the Gita

Take My last word, My utmost meaning have!
Precious thou art to Me; right well-beloved!
Listen ! I tell thee for thy comfort this.
Give Me thy heart! adore Me! serve Me! cling
In faith and love and reverence to Me!
So shalt thou come to Me! I promise true,
For thou art sweet to Me! And let go those
Rites and writ duties! Fly to Me alone!
Make Me thy single refuge! I will free
Thy soul from all its sins! Grieve thou not!"



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