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reformer, is, that he was himself overcome by the omnipotent caste he had dared to assail; while some of his followers, not yet in any numbers, survived to instruct their successors in the moral doctrines of their master. The Bouddhists were then the mendicant friars of India; and the humble lives they led, as well as the favor of the kings and the conversion of many amongst all classes to their comparatively unpretending principles, protected them against the consideration or the anger of the Brahmins, satisfied, as these were, with their early victory in which Bouddha perished. Be this as it may, there are none but meagre accounts” of a strife by which India must at some time or other have been convulsed; the more unsatisfactory because they leave the reforms of Bouddha in almost total obscurity. The Brahmins, who triumphed by means easily conjectured, would naturally seek to obliterate all traces of the conflict in which their divine rights had been assailed. The voices against them must have had a noble tone; but they ceased, and their echoes were transported into other lands,” where they were changed and deadened. Only the superstition, dim and fearful, remained in India, that the world had at one time become so excellent, and the Brahmins so little distinguished by their virtues, that the god Vishnu was fain to assume the shape and the name of Bouddha, in order to pervert the minds of the inferior castes by evil teachings which should bring them back to sin and shame." It was by such interposition from their heaven that the Brahmins were content to have preserved their prečminence on earth. The reform, of which we know scarcely more than the name, having been attempted in vain, there was no other sign of hope or progress in the people of India. “Immemorial custom" became “transcendent law,” and the one great power of the Brahmins overshadowed religion and government and common life. Even their own liberty dwindled. The labors of the higher minds were more and more devoted to the revelations of deities and the commentaries of priests. Poetry was obliged to diffuse its ardor over the ponderous mythology to which it was enchained, and philosophy, as was only natural, completely lost itself in the vast and unending inquiries suggested by a vain theology, not by a true humanity. If it were true, as the code affirms, that a priest who went through the whole Veda was “equal to a sovereign of all the world,” it could only be in reference to the authority of his order, and not to the majesty of his knowledge. Intellectual cultivation was still childish and imperfect. It attempted various pursuits, but followed a straightforward or a well-directed course in none. There seemed to be too much impulse and too little wisdom, too much aspiration and too little accomplishment, in all things; the more so, that the aspiration and the impulse were purely speculative. Neither climate nor constitution will account for this universal barrenness of action and of meditation. The preponderance of one class, and of that class only, is alone a sufficient reason for its own inactivity and for the degradation of a whole people. Deep within the mountains of India are still the temples which were buried in darkness by the toil and the superstition of long-forgotten generations; but though they be solitary now, there may be seen in them the images of feelings, heavy, bewildering, and obscure, with which the living men, as well the priests as the worshippers, who thronged them once, were overpowered. The character of the Brahmins themselves is nearly all that can be rescued from the profound obscurity in which the lives of them and of their subjects are concealed.” Their system, as we are now, at last, prepared to judge it, was one of twofold operation, in the authority it established and in the repose it encouraged. The dominion which the Brahmins possessed is thus to be immediately connected with its results in relation both to its possessors and its subjects. There was a tendency to stagnation in the Brahmin civilization, as its own theology acknowledged. “I make myself evident,” said the god Krishna, “as often as there is a decline of virtue and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world; and thus I appear from age to age.” It was a greater want of progress than the Brahmins themselves desired, that thus needed to be supplied by divine appearances on earth. But none the less universal was their desire to invest their institutions, religious and civil, with eternity. To this end, laws and doctrines without number were heaped together, as if to barricade the way to truth; and there, within the strange fortification, the priests stood sentinels, with quick-eyed watchfulness against the occupations, the affections, and the passions” by which they seemed fearful of being surprised. It was not long either necessary or possible for them to keep their post. The subjects or the assailants whom they dreaded soon ceased to try the guarded way, and crept among the narrower paths yet left them free; while the priesthood garrison relapsed into scorn and negligence from which there was not a desire or a fear to rouse them forth. Within the repose, as they termed it, which ensued, there lay the principles which bound the priests one to another, and the other castes to them, by lassitude as well as by superstition. The promise of the same god Krishna, that, “if one whose ways were ever so evil served him [and, of course, his ministers] alone, he would be as respectable as the just man,” could be believed and acted upon only by men whose intellectual and moral natures were composed to uninterrupted slumber. It may be, that progress from the state they had already reached was the more difficult, because their civilization had been so early founded” and so rapidly settled; for almost any error in faith or in government would be natural to early times and to an imaginative and a warm-blooded people. To do the Brahmins full justice, their laws ought to be more fully transcribed;” although
49 Consult Elphinstone's History of India, Vol. I. pp. 209–213; and compare an article by Professor Salisbury, on the “History of Buddhism,” in the second number of the Journal of the American Oriental Society.
* The missionary enterprises of the Bouddhists were very remark
able, especially as the activity with which they were conducted was in such direct contradiction to the habits and the feelings of their countrymen. The religion of Bouddha, then separated from his political system, was taught throughout the centre and the east of Asia.
5l. For a different version of this 52 Menu, I. 108. and other traditions concerning to Ibid., IX. 245. Bouddha, see Coleman's Mythology of the Hindus, Ch. XII. part 1.
WOL. I. 5
54. Unless it be possible to sketch The reader is referred to the Vishnu the habits of the people from their Purana, Book III. ch. 9, for a parlaws, which would be much beyond ticular instance in the duties of the the limits of the present chapter. “householder.”
* Bhagvat-Gheeta, p. 52. lethargy of the Brahmins with their
* The intellectual, not the sensual, recommendations (addressed, indeed, passions; for debauchery and effemi- to themselves) to activity. See the nacy were tolerated, sometimes en- Bhagvat-Gheeta, pp. 43, 44, 53, 58, couraged. It is a great puzzle, 60, or the Appendix to Robertson's however, to reconcile the actual Ancient India.
57 Bhagvat-Gheeta, p. 82. Cf. the Vishnu Pur., Book III. ch. 11. “Let him [the wise man] abstain from virtuous or religious acts, if they involve misery or are censured by the world.” See also Book VI. ch. 5.
58 “We may so far accede,” says
early a period as any portion of the
the historian of British India, “to
notes, Book II. ch. 4. These laws go farther than any general description, to explain the progress from an earlier condition of things. The third book of the Vishnu Purana contains the laws in all their absurdity of detail.