S. N. Dasgupta
(Open Court)Here is a little book by the professor of Presidency College, Calcutta, which offers salubrious reading to those persons who still labor under the delusion that the Hindus are privy to a store of wisdom hidden from Western eyes, and that their religion is, in some vague way, more refined and civilized than Christianity.
Professor Dasgupta, it appears, shares that notion himself, but he is too honest a man to conceal the facts that blow it up. Those facts he arranges neatly in six chapters. They show conclusively that the theology of even the most enlightened Hindus is almost as barbaric and nonsensical as the theology of the Swedenborgians or Seventh Day Adventists, firmly upon a bibliolatry precisely similar to the Christian bibliolatry --- nay, upon one that is far worse.
The Christian Fundamentalist at least tries to make himself believe that the Bible is a record of actual human experiences, and that its mandates do no violence to that wisdom which has come out of human trial and error. But the Hindu accepts the Vedas as completely transcendental --- and yet completely binding.
They are not a body of facts, but a body of commands and prohibitions.... They do not represent commands of the inner conscience or of the spirit within us; they do not give us any food for the spirit. They represent an objective and unalterable law...
In other words, they represent balderdash. Who manufactured that balderdash? The gods? Not at all. The gods seem to be bound by the Vedas quite as tightly as their worshippers. Let a devotee perform the monkeyshines ordained, and he can laugh at the gods. Those monkeyshines are "more powerful than the gods;" if they are carefully performed the magic will work, gods or no gods. And what do they consist of? Of
the utterance or chanting of the Vedic hymns with specially prescribed accents and modulations, the pouring of melted butter in the prescribed manner into the sacrificial fire, the husking of rice in a particular way, the making and exact placing of cakes.
I spare you more.
Dr. Dasgupta has an interesting chapter on the practises of the Yoga sect --- interesting not only because that sect attains to heights of imbecility unsurpassed even in India, but also because its blowsy nonsense has made many converts in America. They are chiefly concentrated in Los Angeles the damned, and include thousands of unhappy and half-witted women who have passed through the stages of High Church Episcopalianism, Christian Science and the New Thought. The essence of the Yoga revelation is that an adept, by the double device of thinking profoundly and breathing deeply, can throw off the trammels of the body and become a sort of gaseous angel, purged of sin and as happy as the boy who killed his father.
This benign process goes on in Los Angeles in dark rooms heavy with incense, the while the police outside chase bootleggers and mop up the blood of murdered movie Lotharios. The banker's widow from the Mortgage Belt, closeted in such shade with a yogin, comes out flapping her wings and convinced that her rheumatism is much better. The yogin on his part, feeling the feathery weight of a $10 bill in his hand, returns from the empyrean to enter it upon his books. The thing threatens to spread: the yogins, working eastward, have already reached the western suburbs of Dallas and Kansas City.
And why not? The United States is the original home of suckers. It houses more ecclesiastics than even Italy or Spain, and they are of much higher virtuosity. Once the principles of Hindu mysticism were known among us, it would flourish as the devil-chasing of Billy Sunday, or the Four-Square Gospel of Aimée Semple McPherson, D.D. All that is needed is propaganda. Unfortunately, Dr. Dasgupta's book is too intellligent. It must be translated into Brisbanes.