Page images

ledge of Sanscrit, and of the valuable works composed in it; but, if they wish to form a correct idea of Indian religion and literature, let them begin with forgetting all that has been written on the subject, by ancients or moderns, before the publication of the Gita.”*

In an appendix to an allegorical drama translated from the Sanscrit by Dr. J. Taylor,f he particularly distinguishes the two systems or schools of Hindū philosophy, known by the names of Vedanta and Nyaya. The latter, he observes, as Sir William Jones had previously remarked, bears a strong analogy with the doctrines of Aristotle, both with regard to his philosophic opinions and his principles of logic; and in the preceding quotations from Sir William Jones, the reader will have observed, that a tradition prevails in the East, of the Brahmins having communicated a technical system of logic to Callisthenes, which was transmitted by him to Aristotle, and which the Mohammedan author of the Dabistan supposes to have been the ground-work of the famous Aristotelian method. * Both the Vedanta and Nyaya philosophers as far as our knowledge extends, seem to make the great scope of sound philosophy to consist in the practice of virtue; in being guided in our actions by the dictates of reason, of that faculty which enables us to distinguish truth from falsehood, and what may be proper or unfit in our desires and affections: without entering into all the different expositions and divisions of the same subject, by Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and other ancient sages, such, in reality, is the result of their arguments on moral philosophy. Like Aristotle, the Nyaya philosophers make the operation of reason in regard to action, to consist in observing a just medium between extremes; thus,

* By Mr. (now Dr.) Charles Wilkins.

+ Intituled Prabodh Chandro Daya, or the Moon of Intellect; which I venture to recommend to the attention of the reader, together with the learned translator's introduction and appendix to it.

[ocr errors][merged small]

* See p. 221 .

fortitude consists in the medium between cowardice and presumptuous rashness; a becoming and useful economy, in the medium between avarice and profusion; and all agree in inculcating sobriety, and extreme temperance in the gratification of sensual appetites, as indispensable for the practice of virtue and attainment of happiness.

The Vedanta and Nyaya philosophers, like those of Greece above mentioned, acknowledge a supreme eternal Being, and the immortality of the soul; though, like the Greeks they differ in their ideas of those subjects. The Indian philosophers speak of the Supreme Being as an eternal essence that pervades space, and gives life or existence. What we understand by nature, in their mythology is personified, and frequently and beautifully introduced into their poetry under the name of Maja, and Prakrali.* Action in Maia, is supposed to

* We conceive the two names to be nearly synonym


[ocr errors]

be produced by the effect of the supreme pervading essence. It is said, figuratively, that the Supreme Being commanded Maia by a nod, who then spread out the universe. *

But after this simple exposition given by the Vedanti of their notions of the Supreme Being, as a universal and eternal pervading spirit, in their books they suppose four modifications of it: 1. Brimh; 2. Kutasth ; 3. Jiv; 4. Eesh; and they are compared to four modes of existence of ether: 1, as it appears clear and limpid in the vault of heaven; 2, as it is confined in a vessel or any given space; 3, as the sky is reflected in water; 4, as it is obscured by clouds. But as these different states or modifications do not change its nature, and as it would be erroneous to ascribe to each of them a distinct essence, so it is equally erroneous, say they, to imagine that the various modifications by which the all-pervading Being exists, or displays its power, are individual existences.


t. Or, &


tje in

strine it with in the

* See the drama and appendix above referred-to.

Happeni Thoid.

Creation is not considered as the instant production of things, but only as the manifestation of that which exists eternally in the one universal Being. * And in another place: “ They who are ignorant of the undivided Being, Brimh, the principle, the impassible one, dispute concerning Jiv and Eesh, the soul and divine spirit; but when this delusion is dispersed, all these distinctions vanish, and there exists only one quiescent spirit.”+

The Vedantas consider the occupations of life, or, according to Dr. Taylor, of action, as retaining the soul “ in the prison of passion and affection;" but whilst a person continues to perform the common acts of life, it is incumbent on him, say they, to attend to religious duties and rites. It also has been found expedient to modify the doctrine in such a manner, as to reconcile it with the occupations and acts on which the existence of society depends :

* Appendix to the Prabodh Chandro Daya, + Ibid.

« PreviousContinue »