Benoy Kumar Sarkar.

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Translator of Sukra-mti (Hindu Economics and Politics), and Author of

The Positive Background of Hindu Sociology,

The Folk-Element in Hindu Culture, etc.

with an Introduction by


Late Chinese Minister to U.S.A., Spain, Peru, Mexico and Cuba


i & i e


Prloe 6 Shillings


(c A.D. 405)

A foremost Indian Educator of the age of Vikramadityan Renais-
sance, who carried forward the missionising activity of Em-
peror Asoka the Great (begun with Western Asia and
beyond) by bearing the torch of Hindu Thought
to the Far Eastern Cathay and thus became
instrumental in the establishment of Indian
hegemony throughout the Orient ;

(A.D. 602-664)

The great Chinese Master of Law, who, having studied Hindu Culture
in Tienchu (or Heaven, i.e., India) for 16 years (629-45) dur-
ing one of the most brilliant epochs of Indian Imperialism
under H;irsha-vardhana and Pulakesin II., propagated
it extensively in his native land under the pat-
ronage of the mighty Tang Emperor Tai
Tsung (627-50) and thus laid the
foundations of a re-interpreted
Confucianism ;


(A.D. 774835)

The scholar-saint of Japan, who, inspired by the example of his

illustrious predecessor, Prince Shotoku Taishi (A.D. 573

621), devoted himself to Hindu vidytis (sciences) for

three years (804-6) in China, and became the first

native pioneer to propagate Indono Damashii in

the land of the Ktimi, thereby developing in

manifold ways its infant civilisation;

By a Hindu Student of the institutions of


Neither historically nor philosophically does Asiatic mentality
differ from the Eur- American. It is only after the brilliant successes
of a fraction of mankind subsequent to the Industrial Revolution of
the last century that the alleged difference between the two
mentalities has been first stated and since then grossly exaggerated.
At the present day science is being vitiated by pseudo-scientific
theories or fancies regarding race, religion, and culture. Such
theories were unknown to the world down to the second or third
decade of the 19th century.

Comparative Chronology and Comparative History will show
that man, as an economic, political and fighting animal, has displayed
the same strength and weakness both on the Asian theatre as well
as on the extra-Asian.

Comparative literature and Comparative Art will show that man,
as " lover, lunatic and poet", has worked upon the same gamut of
passions from Homer to Maeterlinck as from the Pharaonic Book of
the Dead down to Gitanjali.

Comparative Philosophy and Comparative Metaphysics will show
that man, as positivist and mystic, has attacked the "problems of the
sphinx" in the selfsame way and with almost similar results under
the guidance of intellectuals from Confucius to Swami Vivek-ananda
as from Socrates to Bergson.

It has been held generally that the Orient is statical, and
that the dynamic doctrine of Change is essentially non-Oriental.
Thus, the following verses of Tennyson

"The old order changeth yielding place to new

And God fulfils himself in many ways

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world"
are supposed to embody exclusively the spirit of the Occident.

Let us, however, take a bit from the Mind of China, which is
the proverbial representative of "the unchanging East," and which,
besides, is known to be "sicklied o'er by the pale cast of the Con-
fucian tradition. " Even the Great Sage himself was an advocate of the
"new order.'' The second article in what may be regarded as the


Educational Creed of Confucius is thus worded by Mr. Ku Hung-
Ming in his recent translation of the classic Ta Hsueh* :

"The object of a Higher Education is to make a new and better
society (lit. people)."

An old commentary explains what ' to make a new and better
society' means. The following is Mr. Ku's translation of the
explanation :

1. "The Inscription on the Emperor Tang's bath says: ' Be a
new man each day, from day to day be a new man, every day be a
new- man. '

2. The Commission of Investiture to Prince Kang says :
' Create a new Society.'

3. The Book of Songs says: 'Although the Royal House of
Chow was on old state, a new mission was given to it.' "

The nature of the relation between Order and Progress was
also well known to the Hindu thinkers of the Ma/icUMra fa-cycle.
Their Messianic conception formulated:, in the (Pi/a-section (6th
century B.C. 2nd century B.C.) of this literature is pre-eminently
dynamic. The doctrine of YiigCmtara, i.e. "transformation of the
age-spirit" or "revolution in Zeitgeist," is recorded in the follow-
ing announcement of L,ord Krishna regarding the occasions of His
advent into the world of man :

"Whensoever into Order

Corruption creeps in, Bharata,

And customs bad ascendant be,

Then Myself do I embody.

For the advancement of the good

And miscreants to overthrow

And for setting up the Order

Do I appear age by age."

The Hindu Messiah is Revolution, Progress and Optimism
personified. His was the message of Change and Hope. The idea
of "God fulfilling himself in many ways" is thus neither an
Occidental patent nor a modern discovery.

* Higher Education (The Shanghai Mercury, L,td., Shanghai, 1915). This
is one of the four books in the Confucian Bible and has been called The Great
Learning by Dr. I/egge in his translation.


Comparative Anthropology and Comparative Psychology will
show that man has everywhere and always been fundamentally a
beast, and that beneath a superficial varnish of so-called culture
"the ape and tiger" hold their majestic sway, giving rise to
superstitions, prejudices, idolas and avidyas under different guises
and conventions. The brute-in-man is a fact, the datum; but the
god-in-man is only an idea, the ideal to be realised.

Comparative Religion and Comparative Mythology will show
that man in his desire to have "something afar from the sphere of
our sorrow" has everywhere had recourse to the same modus operandi
and has achieved the same grand failure which in his vanity he al-
ways chooses to call success. It would be found that, after all, divinity
is but an invention of human imagination, in fact, the first postulate
taken for granted. And on a broad view of all the forces that have
inspired and governed elan and activity, some of which are miscalled
religion, and some not, man has ever been essentially a pluralist and
an idolist.

If anywhere there have been people professing a so-called
monotheism in religion, a study of their daily life would indicate
that they have been polytheists with vengeance in every other sphere
indulging in thousand and one varieties, social, economic and
political. These varieties which take away the monotony of life and
give a zest to it, do not, "pragmatically" speaking, differ in the last
analysis from the varied rites and practices underlying a so-called
polytheistic faith. What the polytheists call religion, the monotheists
call culture. Life demands variety; culture, therefore, is varied.
If you abstract a millionth part of this kultur, e.g. , the unverifiable
hypothesis of man about God, and choose to call it religion, every
race can be proved to be monotheistic. But if you take the total
inspiration of a human being or the chart of the whole life that a
people lives, mankind has ever been polytheistic.

If, again, anywhere there have been people who have repudiated
idols in religion, a study of their heart and feelings, their daily
habits, their literary and artistic tastes, would indicate that they are
paying the debt to "old Adam" in the shape of hero-worship,
souvenir-cult, love-fetishes, "pathetic fallacy," mementos, memorials,


relics, and what not. As formative principles of character, these
"charms" are of the same genus as images erected in the temples by
those who in their simplicity confess "We do not understand, we

If there is superstition in the one form of pluralism and idolism
there is equal superstition in the others. These are really "human,
all too human." In fact, the greatest and most abiding of all super-
stitions in world's history has been the human demand for that
ambiguous term Religion.

Superstition is nothing but avidya or mdya, i.e., ignorance,
rendered perceptible. Emancipation from this has been the highest
ideal of man. The prayer of the most ancient Hindu Rishis or
"seers" was

A-sato ma sad-gamaya,
Tamaso majyotir-gamaya,
Mrityor ma amritam-gamaya.
From the non-existent (i.e- transitory, unreal)

me to the ever-existent {i.e. permanent, truth, or reality)
From darkness (i.e. ignorance)

me to light (i-e. knowledge) lead ;
From death me to immortality lead.

This has been the prayer of mankind ever since. Knowledge is the
only truth the ever-existent reality the light immortality itself.
Whether it be called religion or not, man has ever wanted this
knowledge sat, jyoti, amritam.

The modern world congratulates itself on the thought that the
Bastille of ignorance was demolished with the Papal Doctrine of
Infallibility. The flood of light that was being thrown on world-
questions with the discovery of Sanskrit in the 18th century certainly
heralded a new era. And the modern means of communication did
really bring world-sense home to seekers of truth. Comparative
philology, comparative mythology, and what Maxmuller hesitated
to call comparative jurisprudence, were the first fruits, the Synthetic
Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, the Philosophy of History of Hegel,
and Comte's Positive Philosophy were genuine attempts in the direc-
tion of sat, jyoti and amritam.


The holy quest of " enlightenment" is, however, always baffled
by M&ras or Tempters. It is probably not given to man to have
complete enlightenment at any stage of his history. He

trusted God was love indeed
And love creation's final law."
But ' ' Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek 'd against his creed."

The old avidya has only changed its guise. The guise of the
modern idola or superstition has been the dogma : ' ' Nothing
succeeds like success." The successful races of the last three genera-
tions have been interpreting world-culture and human civilisation
from the standpoint of a new "Infallibility." This is but the
modern version of the mediaeval Romanist theory.

The twentieth century demands a new synthesis, a fresh
transvaluation of values," and, as prolegomena to that, a New
Logic. A complete over-hauling of the whole apparatus of thinking
is urgently needed to carry forward the tendencies initiated by the
discovery of Kalidasa for world-literature and by the application of
steam to the furtherance of human needs.

The work owes its origin to the first two chapters which were
read before the Royal Asiatic Society (North China Branch) in
October, 1915, as "First Impressions of Chinese Religion," more than
which it does not claim to be. It was taken up at the kind sugges-
tion of the Society's learned Secretary and Editor, the most unassum-
ing sinologue, Rev. Samuel Couling.

A few chapters were read before the " International Institute"
in connection with their studies in Comparative Religion. Rev.
Dr. Gilbert Reid, Director-in-chief of the Institute, has placed me
under great obligation by taking the trouble of interpreting the
lectures in Chinese for those who did not understand English and
also by publishing Chinese translations of the papers in the Institute

I have made frequent use of the "Christian Literature Society's'
Library, and take this opportunity of expressing my heait-felt thanks
to the Director-Emeritus, Rev. Dr. Timothy Richard, who has been


prominent in the Far East, as being, among other things, a keen
student of Buddhism.

The Bibliography as well as the names of publications in the
Index will indicate the nature and amount of my indebtedness, both
direct and indirect. Footnotes with chapter and verse have, how-
ever, been avoided, as all interesting details, without which com-
parisons could not be instituted, have been given in full from the
works of well-known authorities.

For the benefit of those to whom China with four hundred
millions (?) and India with three hundred and fifty millions are still
only geographical expressions learnt from school primers I venture
here to single out two volumes :

1. Descriptive Sociology: Chinese " compiled upon the plan
organised by Herbert Spencer" by E-T.C. Werner, H.I. B.M's
Consul at Foochow, China (Williams and Norgate, London, 1910).
It is really an Encyclopaedia Sinica made up of extracts from about
200 English, French and German publications besides Journals, and
from over 700 Chinese works.

2. Early History of India (B.C. 600 A.D. 1200) by Vincent A.
Smith, late of the Indian Civil Service (Third Edition, Clarendon
Press, Oxford, 1914). This is the only authoritative and systematic
volume on " the political vicissitudes of the land." It is not a mere
compilation but the work of one who has himself been one of the
greatest figures in Indology.

A considerable portion of this work was published as articles in
"The National Review" (Shanghai) , "The Hindusthanee Student "
(U.S.A.), and in the Indian periodicals, " The Hindustan Review ''
(Allahabad), " The Vedic Magazine" (Hardwar), " The Collegian"
(Calcutta), and " The Modern Review" (Calcutta).

Dr. Wu Ting-fang, U,.D., late Chinese Minister to Wash-
ington, B.C. (U.S.A.), has kindly contributed his ideas on the
Religion of the Chinese in the form of an Introduction to this work.
The author is grateful for the favour thus accorded him by the
veteran Confucianist scholar.

Shanghai, China, )

March 9, 1916. ) BKNOY KUMAR SARKAR.


We often have visitors coming to China from Europe and
America on various missions ; some for scientific research ; some for
economic investigation ; some for educational purpose, and others for
art and general studies. It is the first time, if I am not mistaken,
that a gentleman from India has come to China for such a purpose.

Online LibraryBenoy Kumar SarkarChinese religion through Hindu eyes; a study in the tendencies of Asiatic mentality → online text (page 1 of 27)