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To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
In Monday's CRIMSON appears a report of President Eliot's address on "Racial Religions" before members of the Graduate Schools in Phillips Brooks House on Sunday, 16th inst. Unfortunately no one of us was able to be present there and so we have to depend entirely upon the report as it appeared in the CRIMSON. Promising therefore the correctness of the same, and with all deference to President Eliot, we wish to make some comments thereon.
President Eliot's first point against the religions of India, China and Japan is that they have not reached any spiritual conception of the deity. Now if it is meant that the man on the street has not such a conception, we can say the same thing of any country, Christian or pagan. But if it is meant that even the thoughtful members of Asiatic communities have not had such a conception, either at present or in the past, this would betray an absolute ignorance of the Bhaktidoctrine of India which has been in existence there ever since 150 B.C. at least.
We fear that President Eliot has based his remarks about the religion of India, at any rate, upon the garbled reports of a few superficial observers. We know the good as well as the bad points in our country's intellectual development and can assert with confidence that most of the problems which Christianity likes to regard as her exclusive privileges have been long mooted and debated in India.
"The Eastern nations have no conception of the brotherhood of man"--President Eliot is reported to have spoken. To be sure we have not any statute proclaiming the rights of man and the Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity of the human race. But we know what Equality and Fraternity meant and did in France, and one fails to see how mere lip-devotion to these dogmas is going to help out any society. But if Equality and Fraternity are to be a matter of deeds and not mere words, it is an open question whether one can find a people more loving, more mild, and more charitably disposed than, for instance, are the Hindoos. The entire history of India, her epic ideals, and the concensus of the opinions of travellers ancient and modern (except of course a few missionaries) will bear us out in this. We would not waste time in trying to prove it.
A word perhaps regarding that poor woman in Canton. Now supposing this to be a fact attested by unbiased witnesses, would it be fair--unless it can be proved that it is an everyday occurrence--to condemn a people wholesale from one instance? As well consider the recent case of the New England clergyman Richeson as typical and condemn the whole American society! And apart from that, are there not even in the civilized West instances of suffering--unrelieved suffering--so heartrending as to lead some of the most thoughtful of men to turn pessimistic and pronounce modern civilization as a veritable curse?
We should not have gone at this length into this matter except for the fact that it is the utterance of a man of President Eliot's reputation, culture, and experience and before persons who are, most of them, perhaps destined to come into contact, as missionaries, with the much wronged Asiaties. If the Christian missionary activity requires things as these to kindle their well-nigh expiring zeal for their cause, it is safe to predict that a terrible disillusion is soon at hand for them.
Let us not, however, be misunderstood. It is true that the Christian missionaries in the East are not always the best representatives of the West. We nevertheless welcome them. For if there are men that choose to ignore the more pressing wrongs in their own country and take the trouble to come to us and help us, we are by no means above such help. But let our missionary brothers know at least wherein they can help us. It is certainly not in the way of preaching a higher religious gospel--for they have not any for India--nor again in the way of a "Conservation of the affections of the family." For anything in the world. India would not care to barter its own ideals of family life. HINDU STUDENTS AT HARVARD.
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