Narach Philosophy

THE THEORY OF HINDU RELIGION


We have explained that there is but one foundation for all sacred thought of the Hindus, from the Vedas downwards, and now we shall see how far this is true of their principal systems of Religion as well.

In this connection we have explained the idea of the three principal systems of Philosophy, and corresponding to them, we have three principal systems of Religion, associated with the names of Vishnu, Siva, and Brahma the great Trimurti of the Hindus. We have also pointed out that the connection between the creative energies of life and the corresponding systems of Philosophy and Religion is as follows:

Principal Systems of Philosophy and Religion.
Creative Energies Soul Buddhi Mind Senses of Knowledge Senses of Action
Vedanta and Vaisnavism Soul Buddhi Mind    
Yoga and Saivism   Buddhi Mind Senses of Knowledge  
Sankhya and Brahmism     Mind Senses of Knowledge Senses of Action

Theory of Systems of Religion: We notice that, according to this theory, the principal systems of Philosophy and Religion coincide. Each of them has a threefold range, they are connected with one another, and they all meet in the region of the Mind. It would be of interest to examine the theory of each of these systems separately and to see how far it agrees with their actual practice prevalent today.

We have explained that there are three principal ways of examining the problem of life, (1) as created by God alone, (2) by God and Nature combined, and (3) by Nature alone; and these give us the three principal systems of Philosophy and Religion. We have shown how each of them has a threefold range; how principal Vedanta, believing that God is the sole creator of the universe, may yet consider the possibility of the separate existence of Nature or Prakrti; but either as a spectator of the work of God, or else inferior to him. Similarly principal Yoga, holding that God and Nature are joint creators of life, has three points of view God as greater than Nature, Nature as greater than God, and the two as equal. In the same manner, principal Sankhya, holding that Nature is the sole creator of the universe, may consider the possibility of the existence of God, only as inferior to Prakrti as a spectator of its work, or else as an inferior creator. These, as we have explained, are the three points of view of each principal system of Philosophy; and this gives us the connection between their corresponding systems of Religion as well.

The theory of Vaisnavism: According to this theory, Vaisnavism, like the principal system of Vedanta, has a threefold range, based on the character of the Soul, Buddhi, and Mind. According the first, God is conceived of as the sole creator of the universe; according to the second, Prakrti exists, but more or less as a spectator of his work; while according to the third, the share of Prakrti in the creation of life is more substantial, but still less than that of God. These, as we shall see, correspond to the threefold doctrine of Advaita, Visistadvaita, and Dvaita Monism, qualified Monism, and Dualism associated with this system.

Vaisnavism and Other Systems of Religion: We notice that the character of Buddhi is common to the religion of Vishnu and Siva, and of the Mind to that of Vishnu, Siva, and Brahma, the Trimurti Hindus. Hence we should find a great deal that is common to all these religions. When Vaisnavism refers to the character of the Soul, the highest energy of life which includes everything else it is all-embracing and all-inclusive, giving rise to the idea of the incarnations of Vishnu which, as we have explained, refer to all the great creative energies of life. In this character Vishnu is conceived of as the sole supreme creator of the universe, superior to Siva, Brahma, and all the gods of the Hindu pantheon. But when Vishnu refers to the character of Buddhi, assigning a small place to Nature or Prakrti, he is only an equal of Siva in the same character; and when he is associated with the idea of the Mind, he is the equal of Siva and Brahma in that character and inferior to Siva based on the idea of Buddhi. We should therefore expect to find a close connection between these deities; and sometimes they should be spoken of as equal and sometimes superior and sometimes inferior as occasion should demand. In the same manner a number of doctrines should be common to all these systems.

The theory of Saivism: We have explained that the religion of Siva is based on the idea that God and Nature are joint creators of life; and we might hold that the share of God is greater than that of Nature, or that the two are equal, or else that the share of Nature is Greater than that of God. Corresponding to these we should have three aspects of Siva religion. He should always be associated with Prakrti, Sakti or his female counterpart; sometimes he should be conceived of as greater than she, sometimes the two should be regarded as equal, and sometimes his Sakti should be given a higher place. We shall see that all these aspects of Siva worship still exist in India. The first in the Trika form of Siva worship is still prevalent in Kashmere; the second in the Ardhanarisa, or half male and half female, form of Siva, as well in his Linga or phallic worship, is common all over the country; and the third, largely prevalent in Bengal, is the worship of Kali or the Sakti of Siva, conceived of as creator and destroyer of the universe while the god himself is represented as either inert or lying dead at her feet.

Saivism and Other Systems: We have observed that the religion of Siva has a threefold range, extending from the character of Buddhi to that of the Mind and the senses of knowledge. We have shown how, when Siva refers to Buddhi, he is identified with Vishnu in the same character; but he is inferior to Vishnu when the latter refers to the Soul, and superior when he refers to the energy of the Mind, Hence Siva should sometimes be spoken of as inferior to Vishnu, sometimes the two should be regarded as equal, and sometimes the place of honour should be given to Siva.

As between Siva and Brahma, the connection is similar. We have observed that Brahma refers to the Mind, the senses of knowledge, and the senses of action. Hence, when Siva refers to Buddhi, he is always superior to Brahma; but when they both refer to the Mind or the senses of knowledge, they are equal; but when Siva refers to the senses of knowledge and Brahma to the Mind, the latter is superior to Siva. Thus we should find that sometimes Siva is spoken of as greater than Brahma, sometimes the two are regarded as equal, and sometimes Brahma is said to be greater than Siva.

The theory of Brahmism: We have observed that the religion of Brahma, in its original form, is based on the idea that Prakrti is the sole creator of the universe. It has its threefold range, holding that Prakrti is the sole creator of life; but if God exists, he is either a spectator of its work, or else has a small share in the work of creation always less than that of Prakrti.

The Tantra System: One of the most important developments of the different systems of Hindu religion is to be seen in their Tantra form; and, as we shall see, it coincides with the threefold range of Brahma religion. We shall examine the character of the Tantra in the course of these pages.

Two Divisions of Brahma Religion: We have pointed out that the religion of Brahma extends from the character of the Mind to that of the senses of knowledge and action. These may be arranged in two parts (1) the Mind and the senses of knowledge, and (2) the senses of knowledge and the senses of action; and corresponding to these we have the systems of Buddhism and Jainism which, along with the religions of Vishnu and Siva, had their birth in India in the past.

Two Divisions of Buddhism: Buddhism, as we have observed, is based on the character of the Mind and the senses of knowledge; and these correspond to the two great schools of this system, Mahayana and Hinayana. We have explained that the Vaisesika system corresponds to the idea of the Mind; it is dualistic in character and holds that God and Nature are joint creators of the universe; and that should be the main idea of the Mahayana school. The Nyaya corresponds to the senses of knowledge, it is agnostic in character, and holds that either God has a small share in the work of creation, or else is a mere spectator of the work of Prakrti, who alone creates. This should be the main theory of the Hinayana school.

Two Divisions of Jainism: Jainism, similarly, is based on the character of the senses of knowledge and action; and corresponding to this we have two divisions of this religion the Svetambara and Digambara schools. As we have pointed out, the senses of knowledge are the basis of Nyaya; and so the Svetambara School, identified with the Hinayana school of Buddhism, should be agnostic in character and hold that God is a mere spectator of the work of Prakrti. Similarly the senses of action are the basis of the Sankhya, which has no place for God in its scheme; and so the Digambara school, which corresponds to this, should be atheistic in character.

Brahma and Vishnu: We notice that the religions of Brahma and Vishnu meet in the region of the Mind, according to which God and Nature are conceived of as joint creators of the universe. Hence, when Vishnu refers to the Soul and Buddhi, he is superior to Brahma; but when he refers to the Mind and Brahma too does the same, the two are equal. But at no time can Brahma be regarded as superior to Vishnu.

Buddha and Vishnu: The Mahayana school of Buddhism corresponds, as we have observed, to the idea of the Mind. The range of Vishnu also extends to the Mind, and so Buddha and Vishnu should be identified in this system. But the Hinayana school is based on the senses of knowledge which are outside the range of Vishnu thought; and so there should be nothing in common between them.

Brahma and Siva: The religions of Brahma and Siva meet in the regions of the Mind and the senses of knowledge; and so when Siva refers to Buddhi, he is superior to Brahma; when both of them refer to the Mind and the senses of knowledge, they are equal; but when Siva, refers to the senses of knowledge and Brahma to the Mind, the latter is superior. We shall see how far this agrees with the authority of the Sacred Books and the actual forms of worship in these religions.

Buddha and Siva: The religion of Buddha corresponds to the Mind and the senses of knowledge, and both of them are included in the range of Siva religion. Hence both the Mahayana and Hinayana schools of Buddhism are included in Saivism, and we should find many common forms of worship in them.

Jainism and Vaisnavism: The two schools of Jainism refer, as we have explained, to the senses of knowledge and action; and these are outside the whole range of Vaisnavism. Hence there should be nothing in common between Jainism and Vaisnavism.

Jainism and Saivism: The character of the senses of knowledge corresponds to the Svetambara school of Jainism as well as one aspect of the religion of Siva, and so we should expect to find common forms of worship between them. But the senses of action on which the Digambara school is based is outside the range of Saivism; and so they should exclude each other.

Buddhism and Jainism: Buddhism and Jainism are the two great divisions of the principal Sankhya system or the religion of Brahma, according to which Nature or Prakrti is given the first place in the work of creation; and so the two are closely connected together; and this will perhaps explain why their founders are regarded as related too. The Mahayana school of Buddhism refers to the Mind, and so it is outside the scope of the two schools of Jainism which refer to the senses of knowledge and action. But the senses are always regarded as allied to the Mind, and in this sense Jainism may be associated with the Mahayana school too. The Hinayana school of Buddhism and the Svetambara school of Jainism are both based on the idea of the senses of knowledge, and so they may be identified and would have a great deal in common between them. But the Digambara school of Jainism is based on the idea of the senses of action, and is outside the scope of the two schools of Buddhism. Hence there can be little in common between them.

The connection between the different systems of Religion may now be summarized as follows:

Creative Energies Soul Buddhi Mind Senses of Knowledge Senses of Action
Vaisnavism Soul Buddhi Mind    
Saivism   Buddhi Mind Senses of Knowledge  
Buddhism     Mind Senses of Knowledge Senses of Action
      (Mahayana) (Hinayana)  
Jainism       Senses of Knowledge (Svetambara) Senses of Action (Digambara)

Knowledge and Action, and Systems of Religion: We have explained the idea of knowledge and action as the goals of life according to different systems of Philosophy, and the point of view of the corresponding systems of Religion should be the same. Vaisnavism corresponds to principal Vedanta, extending from the character of the Soul to that of Buddhi and Mind. According to the first, knowledge and action are two twin goals of life. Buddhi has two aspects; and where it is identified with the Soul, knowledge and action would be regarded as two twin goals; but where it is considered in its own character, knowledge is the final end. In the light of the Mind too knowledge is the final goal. Hence Advaita and one form of Visistadvaita should hold that knowledge and action combined are the one goal of life; while another form of the latter and Dvaita would hold that knowledge is to be preferred. The range of Saivism extends from Buddhi to the Mind and the senses of knowledge; and so one form of the first, where Buddhi is identified with the Soul, would hold that knowledge and action are one common goal; while the rest would give the first place to knowledge. Similarly the range of Brahmism extends from the Mind to the senses of knowledge and action, and its two divisions, Buddhism and Jainism, should regard knowledge to be the ultimate end.

Bhakti and Knowledge: The relation between action and knowledge is often rendered in terms of Bhakti and Knowledge. Bhakti is usually understood to signify devotion, worship, service, love, and faith. It is sometimes distinguished from Karma or action, and more often from Jnana or knowledge. But in its original conception Bhakti is a form of Sacrifice or selfless and creative action, and so is said to be a kind of service or homage. In the Bhagavad Gita the highest ascetic is conceived to be a Bhakta or devotee of God. He worships God in different ways and with different kinds of faith, gains his desires, and attains to Him. The Bhaktas are said to be men of virtuous deeds, whose sin has come to an end; and, freed from the delusion of the pairs of opposites, they worship Him with firm resolve and so the great souled ones, of divine nature, ever worship God with a single mind and ever strive with a firm resolve.

Hence Bhakti may be regarded as an act of devotion and virtue, performed in the name of God and for the good of all; and that is the real idea of Sacrifice as we have explained. In this sense Bhakti and Karma or action may be identified. But Bhakti also implies love and faith, which are associated with the Heart. We have explained that the Soul is said to dwell in the Heart, and the system of Vedanta is based on this idea. Hence the doctrine of Bhakti should be closely associated with the system of Vedanta and the worship of Vishnu.

Knowledge, on the other hand, is conceived to be the goal of all systems of thought except pure Vedanta; and so with the exception of monistic and, to a certain extent, qualified monistic, schools of Religion, all other systems the dualistic forms of Vishnu and Siva religion, Buddhism, and Jainism should regard knowledge to be the ultimate goal.

This is the theory of the different systems of Religion that had their birth in India in the past, and we shall see how far it agrees with their actual forms of worship as described in the Sacred Books and practised by their followers.