ESSENTIALS OF HINDUISM.
BY R. R. GUNARATNAM
"The one vital duty incumbent on you, if you really love your religion, if you really love your country, is that you must struggle hard to be up and doing with this one great idea of bringing out the treasures from your closed books, and delivering them over to the rightful heirs."
So says Swami Vivekananda in one of his learned addresses delivered in Ceylon, when he was on his way back to India after his Mission in the West. Every enlightened son of India and Ceylon, who feels proud of the precious treasures buried in the hoary books of the Hindus, should take to heart these words of earnest appeal, and act accordingly. Else, his less enlightened brethren, who cannot devote their time to study the many voluminous treatises on Hindu Philosophy and Religion will be left to grope in the dark.
But the task assigned here is indeed difficult and enormous. It requires patient research, untiring perseverance, and keen intelligence to master the many subtle problems of Hindu Philosophy, to delve deep into its bottomless depths, and to bring to light its teachings and truths of inestimable value. Nor is it in every one to achieve success in such a laborious task. In a thousand, there can be but one Max Muller, one Pope, one Nallaswami Pillai or one Ramanathan. And these deserve the undying gratitude of the whole Hindu Community from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas. Nay, the whole humanity is indebted to them for all they have done to interpret the religious thoughts of the East to the West, and infuse into the minds of the latter an admiration and love for the religious ideals of the Hindus. Except for writers like these, the Hindu sacred books with all their wealth of Philosophy and religion would have remained unknown not only to the Westerners, but also to those of our own men, who, aping Western methods of thought and action, remain in blissful ignorance of their own mellifluous tongue and are therefore unable to read and understand the lofty and inspiring words of the Indian sages in the original. Hence, it is the manifest duty of every learned Hindu, who is capable of expounding religious thoughts to follow in the wake of these learned writers and contribute his mite to the unfolding of spiritual truths.
Mr. S. Sabaratna Mudaliyar, Deputy Fiscal, Jaffna, is one of the few Hindus in Ceylon, who devote their time to the above cause. He does his noble work in more ways than one. It is a pleasure to find him, though in active Government Service, deliver public lectures, and contribute to the Siddhanta Deepika and other journals, learned articles worthy of his scholarship culture, and refinement. And his recent publication of "The Essentials of Hinduism" stands as a landmark of his religious activity, and places him high in the list of Hindu authors. This able work, written in elegant prose leaves nothing to be desired, as regards the logical arrangement of the subjects, the lucid presentation of the various philosophical and religious doctrines, the fair and equitable discussion of intricate problems, the summing up of scattered facts into illuminating essays, and the well-balanced stability of thought, earnestness of purpose, and sincerity requisite to the composition of religious books. In addition to being learned, well-arranged, well-written, and interesting, it contains in a nut-shell; the essentials of Hinduism, and presents them so clearly that it might serve as a text book not only to the beginners but also to the advanced students of Hindu Religion. It would be difficult to praise too highly the care, and ability bestowed by the author upon the preparation of this volume, which is the first of its kind published by a Hindu Author. Suffice it to say here that it deserves to be widely read and studied by everyone interested in the religion of one of the ancient and civilized races of mankind.
The subjects dealt with in this book are:
(1) General aspect of Hinduism
(2) Hindu idea of God
(4) Evil and its Origin
(7) Religious Conduct
(10) Sacred Books
(13) Caste System, and
(14) Religious Investigation.
Of these the author has devoted three excellent chapters to the discussion of the question of Transmigration, that question of questions, which is as old as the world itself. The reasons he has given in support of this theory and the arguments he has marshaled out to meet the objections commonly raised against it, cannot but he appreciated by the Hindus, to whom this theory is the Sine quarto of their faith. Just to show the nature and force of the arguments presented by the author, I shall quote here a few lines from the book under review. "We are all believers" he says, "in the existence of God, who, we further believe is just, merciful, and omnipotent" and again he pertinently asks, "How are we then to account for the various differences which we abundantly see in the creation of the great God." And having very lucidly pointed out the intellectual, temperamental, mental, physical, social, and other differences found among men, he says that "it would clearly follow that these differences were decreed by the great God in return for the actions of the respective souls in a previous existence and that the actions in our present existence will be rewarded in the same way in our next." He further adds that "when this conclusion is admitted the theory of Transmigration may be said to have been well established." He then states the various explanations that have been offered to reconcile the inequalities existing in this world with Divine Justice, and, having refuted them, one by one, says in the very beginning of the tenth chapter, "The inequality, which we abundantly see in this world, is satisfactorily explained by the Hindu Religion, which maintains that all these differences are the result of our Karma in a previous state of existence." The whole of this chapter is devoted to the exposition of the doctrine of Karma, a subject that is full of interest to Hindus as well as non-Hindus. The main objection, that is raised against this doctrine, is that it dispenses with the existence of a God. And here it will be instructive to note the view of our learned author. He says:- "There are again certain Karmas, that bear immediate fruit, while there are others that take a long time to produce their results. The same action when done by different people is found to produce its result at different intervals. This difference is mainly due to the non-exhaustion of the force of the previous Karmas of the different souls and it is therefore very clear that to regulate the counter action or the fruits of our Karma, an intelligent agent is required to be always at work; otherwise there will be a regular confusion by the force of one Karma clashing with that of another. It is therefore very clear that Karmas of themselves cannot be said to be capable of producing the results assigned to them, and the Hindu Siddhanta School, therefore, very aptly lays it down that the great God rewards our Karmas or actions. This rule of our God is so fixed and inviolable in itself, that the agency is forgotten, and the rule is considered the regulation of our destiny. In fact this rule of God is what we call Nature, and Nature nothing but the design planned by the great God in His sublime wisdom for the salvation of souls. This design, it must be understood, is the best possible means available for the purpose, in consideration of our nature and capacity, and God invented this design in his unlimited mercy towards us, with the sole object of delivering us from the bondage of Mala." The whole book is replete with such beautiful thoughts as contained in the above passage and bears ample evidence of the talented author being at once an earnest Hindu, clear thinker, and learned philosophy.
In this review I have confined myself to "Transmigration." But no less interesting are the other subjects dealt with. Everywhere the author displays uniform skill, judgment and wisdom. He has in him the rare faculty of making his subjects so luminous as to create in the minds of the readers a love for the truth urged in his book. Even men of alien faith will do well to read and study this book. For says Valluvar, the sage:-
"எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினு
In conclusion I should like to commend the book of the learned Mudaliyar to the earnest attention of those interested in the study of Saiva Siddhanta as the genuine production of one who has learnt the subject at the fountain-heads. Bacon says:- "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." It is the write's firm, opinion that "The Essentials of Hinduism" belongs to the class of books, that are to be chewed and digested."