I have studiously avoided to speak or write for the public on matters of religion: There is great sense in the good old Sanskrit injunction that says: "Silance is victory where ten Buddhists are zealously preaching and promoting their religion." The same could be said of almost every other religion including Hinduism or Christianity. However, being asked several times by the so called "godless" Harvard men to give a frank expression to the Hindu attitude toward all missionary religions, I am undertaking the task and do hope it will be received in all fairness and intellectual honesty with which it is being discharged.
No Word "Religion"
The literature of the Hindus has no such word as "Religion". The word Dharma, mistranslated as religion does not stand for dogma or creed; it stands for righteousness or duty "to be applied in practice." Our sentiments toward God, our relations with our fellow beings, our individual conduct, all these are comprehended in the word Dharma Hinduism, i. e., Hindu-Dharma is thus a system of philosophies which are mainly founded on the basic teachings inculcated in the Vedas. In the words of a competent authority, "Happily, India, though it has at least 20 languages, has but one sacred and learned language (Sanskrit) and one literature (Vedic) accepted and revered by all adherents of Hinduism alike however diverse the race, dialect, rank and creed." Historically studied Hinduism is a growth embodying the truths, experiences, and institutions discovered and reared by man. It is admittedly of human making, fostered by divine inspiration, as every other good deed of man is supposed to be.
Deal With Metaphysical Problems
The Brahmans and the Upanishads are commentaries and expositions of the Vedic texts and deal with various physical and metaphysical problems. The 4 Upa-Vedas deal exclusively with sciences.
1. The Arth Veda deals with applied mechanics, engineering, perspection, practical arts (chemistry and physics) and geology.
2. Dhanurveda deals with military science, instruments, and tactics.
3. Ayur-Veda deals with surgery, botany, physiological chemistry, anatomy, physiology, materia medica and so on.
4. Gandharva-Veda deals with the science of music and fine arts.
Then come the 6 schools of philosophy--the Niyaya, the Sankhya, the Yoga, the Visheshaka, the Mimansa and the Vedanta. The teachings of Bhagvat-Gita (Bible of the Hindus) are based on the philosophies of Sankhya and Yoga.
Many Branches of Hinduism
This is the intellectual background of Hindu-Dharma and it is on this that the true existence of Hinduism depends. However the people of the west make little or no discrimination between the various communities inhabiting the vast subcontinent of India. All the different religions now found among millions of Hindus go by the name of Hinduism. Narrow minded persons have for the last 100 years been painting Hinduism in the most hideous possible colors. They have shown through pulpits and press their satisfaction that Hindu religious doctrines are mythological accounts of the passionate escapades and cruelties of a host of imaginary gods and goddesses. However, the East has maintained her philosophic calm at such a procedure, knowing full well that this is one way of getting public recognition and the only one known to the West: Casting slurs upon other peoples' institutions in order that one's own may shine prominently is an old trick, though a base one.
The word "Religion" in the case of missionary faiths implies the existence of a certain master, who stands between God (the Universal Father) and humanity, as the only go-between. His teachings make up a code of injunctions. These are divinely revealed and as such are sacred. It is sacrilegious to doubt these teachings and their exponent. There is no philosophic scrutiny permitted in the realm of religion, unless one is prepared to be called a "Radical". It is pure faith to the last degree of simplicity. It grants a monopoly of leadership to one, known as a prophet. Hindudharma on the other hand is very democratic: It conceives that the source of religious inspiration and promise can be improved upon; and as such it has never instituted a prophet, but has allowed itself to grow with the people, enriching its contents by the occasional contributions made by the philosophers, sages, and saints in the course of ages.
Hindus admit the possibility of multiple leadership in religious experiences, and, since their idea of religion reaches out of the limits of theology and covers the entire domain of human experiences, they have no single book like the Bible, Koran or Zenda Vesta but their religious doctrines are to be found in the vast Sanskrit literature of which I have spoken.
Caste System is Striking
Caste system is one of the strikingly distinguishing features of Hindu-Dharma. This in the present chaotic form, however, is not indicative of the original rational faith. Originally Hindu Society was divided into only four castes not on the basis of birth or monetary considerations: it was a perfect psychological classification on the basis of innate capacities and actual behavior in life. They did not have the Intelligence tests to classify individuals in terms of their ideas; but they followed much the same method that is still followed in schools of our times, in arranging pupils and administering their promotions. But due to several degenerating, causes that entered the Social life of the peoples of India the Caste System has assumed its present form and has become a social and religious curse to the nation. Here again the democratic nature of Hindu-Dharma is making possble a solution of this unhealthy predicament. Men like Gandhi, Pandit Malaviya and others have expressed their views on the situation and a "grand assembly" has been organized to reform the Faith and set it back on its pure philosophic foundation. The non-conversion policy of Hindu Dharma had made it possible for the missionary religions of the world to steal away Indian population into their faiths by several unreligious methods, but thanks are due to Pandit Malaviya and Swami Shradhamanda that they realized the gravity of the "game of grab" and started the reconversion of those who had gone into other religions. People by hundreds have returned to Hinduism after experiencing the boons of Mohamedanism and Christianity.
Religion Is Institution
It is in my opinion a mistake to believe that Religion is not a human institution in the same way as are other institutions of man. All good institutions of man need a rightious foundation and divine sanction--these are necessary for a religion as much as they are necessary for the government. Mankind should have the institutions that suites them best--they should see the institutions of other groups of people and derive inspiration from them but not become aggressive like the Bolsheviks and go out to scrap other's institutions to introduce their own instead: Just as the U. S. Constitution has in it the best principles of the older constitutions of other nations and as the new nations that have come into being during the past war period are showing the good sense in profiting by such a policy of taking from other well-governed nations what is desirable for, their own specific purpose, so should the Institutions of Religion that mankind has evolved or built learn to give and take. In order to take the best principles of the U. S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independance, no individual is required to give up his own nationality nor is any nation adopting certain provisions thereof declared a part of the U. S.; but it is everybody's privilege to adhere to what good points they have in their own institutions. This is a rational attitude which makes possible healthy international relations. But on the other hand Russia became a target of universal criticism and disrespect when she began her propaganda of preaching to the nations of the world the gospel of "Soviet" Republic (which according to her is the only right form of government) instead of Republican form of government. Russia wanted wholesale conversion of other nations scraping their names, traditions, culture and all; and she has been paid the natural reward of world ill-will. Missionary religions in their cook sureness about the superiority of their faiths over those of others often tend to fall into the traps of the Bolshevik attitudes. They forget the distintion between evangelization and conversion.
Every great religion has its merits in proportion to the truth it inculcates. Christianity or Islam have developed certain phases and consequently have their place but it is futile to expect that ingrafted upon Hinduism they can bring about better results. That is why they have failed to appeal to the enlightened Hindus of India who find in Hindu-Dharma a deeper philosophy and a nobler conception of religion.