11 DECEMBER 1880, Page 10


1 INDIAN stories, and especially Indian mythologic stories, are usually very tiresome reading, the thoughts being as obscure as the personages are shadowy or monstrous ; but men who care to study theologies will, we think, feel a keen interest in the paper which " Frederika Macdonald" sends to _Fraser this month, and calls "The Penitence of Rajah Yayati." We do not know who the lady is, or what her pretensions may be as an Orientalist, but she has told in a very clear way a story which, perhaps, of all others, most strikingly illustrates one central idea alike of Hindooism and Buddhism, the virtue of a Stoicism pushed, as no European stoic has ever pushed it, up to its extreme logical length, till the soul, utterly master of the body and of itself, becomes, so to speak, Deity, self-sufficing, almost self-existent, and is as little moved by Heaven as by the fear of Hell. That idea, though dominant over all Further Asia, and known to us all through the ascetic practices it encourages, has never been sufficiently brought home to the English mind, as one of the ruling convictions of the millions with whom they are so closely connected. It creates the Indian ultimate ideal of virtue. Every creed has its own ideal of virtue, which its pro- fessors sigh after or, it may be, strenuously pursue, but which they seldom even claim to attain ; and in the study of that ideal, one may learn much of the inner character of those who worship it. The Mahommedan Doctors and the few disciples of Jonathan Edwards alike found theirs in perfect submission and loyalty to the will of a God who is so/utus a legibus, unbound even by his own attributes,—who, in the Mahommedan description, flings "these to Hell, and I care not ; these to Heaven, and it is nought to me ;" or in Edwards's writings would have an equal claim to mortal gratitude, if each man had been created a torch, to burn for ever to give light in hell. Loyalty, irrespective of its object and pushed to delirious passion, is their ideal virtue. The ideal of the nobler Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, is, we ' suppose, submission to a God who is Love, and who, in return for that submission, has " saved " them from the consequences

which must follow the worship or cultus of self, the refusal to subordinate self to the desire of a nearer approach to the Divine. And the ideal of the undoes and Buddhists, who in one way or another make up a third of mankind, and who on this point think alike, is Stoicism, the dominance alike of mind and body by the soul, delivered by its own strength from terror and from hope, as well as from desire, until a condition has been reached which may be described either as perfect tran- quillity or perfect indifference, in which the soul, deriving its force not from God, or even from Fate, but from the necessary and essential condition of things, has risen to such ascendancy over matter, over mind, and over itself, that it is as little moved by the certainty of Heaven as by the fear of Hell. That tran- quillity is the governing thought or hope of the higher minds which are sincerely faithful either to Brahmanism or Buddhism, having been so placed before them for ages that it seems, like the individualism of the Englishman or the fear of solitude of the Frenchman, to have entered into the very struc-

ture of their intellects. A true Brahman hardly understands the Englishman, who suggests to him a doubt whether such

tranquillity—excluding, as it must do, benevolence—can be right, and asks if man can be higher than God, and if God is not tranquil. He would read with complete approval and, more- over, entire apprehension, the English lines quoted by Miss Macdonald :—

"The abysses forbid it not enter : the stars make room for the soul. Space is the soul's to inherit : the night is hers, as the day ; Lo, saith man, this is my spirit ; how shall not the worlds make way ? Space is thought's, and the wonders thereof, and the secret of space; Is thought not more than the thunders and lightnings? shall

thought give place ?

Is the body not more than the vesture ? the life not more than the meat ?

The will, than the word and the gesture, the heart, than the hands and the feet ?

Is the tongue not more than the speech ? is the head not more than the crown ?

And if higher than is heaven be the reach of the soul, shall not heaven bow down ?"

The ideal has beeu put before him in a thousand axioms and a hundred stories, till he never remembers when it was not part of his life, and till no extravagance in the expression of the central thought gives him any sense of absurdity. If he believes his mythology, he will assert with confidence that the ruling notion of Southey's " Kehama "—that penance can enable the soul to accrete miraculous power—is true, the soul, relieved of earthiness, being the controlling force over matter, and therefore capable of miracle ; and if he holds, as is often the case, that the mythology is mythical, he will still be moved to a sort of rapture by a story like that of "Yayati."

Yayati, a prince, like the hero of all such stories—for as only a prince can perfectly enjoy life, only a prince can consciously repudiate all the joys of life—after a sensual life of the ordinary kind, is doomed, by an offended saint, to become suddenly old.

He submits, but asks for a few years of youth, that he may fully taste the joys of existence, and prove to himself their worth- lessness; and his prayer is granted, on condition that another human being shall become old in his stead. A son consents to the sacrifice, and offers to make it perpetual; but in a few years, after a lofty career, marked by political success, as well as by enjoyment, Yayati hands back the burden of youth to his

son, in words that Schopenhauer might have written, but would not:— "My 8014 clothed in thy youth, I have tasted the pleasures of sense, I have conquered all difficulties. I have used time and strength according to my own will. But this is what I have found : the attain- ment of the thing desired does nut quench desire; desire grows as a fire on which is poured clarified batter. If all the rice and barley, all the flocks, all the gold, all the beautiful women the earth contains, cannot satisfy the desire of one man, true wisdom is to put away desire altogether. This thirst, the foolish so vainly strive to slake, is never quenched ; it does not grow old when men grow old : it is a mortal fever ; happy he who is free from it ! For me, I have passed many years attached to pleasures of the senses, and always amidst one enjoyment a thirst for new joys u-as awakened. Pura, I am content ; take now thy youth and this empire. For me, I will put off desire, and, turning my face towards the Absolute Being, will dwell tranquilly in the home of the gazelles."

He passes out to the life of the ascetic, and so dominates his body and himself by penance that he ascends at death direct to Heaven; whence, however, he is expelled by Indra, who finds that he endured his macerations not to possess his own soul in tranquillity, but to attain the place of bliss. He again submits in patience, and falls to an intermediate region, or place inhabited by saints not quite fit for the Swarga (Heaven), and there expounds to its ruler, Ashtaka, the supreme truth :—" I have fallen from Swarga, but 1 feel no pain or terror. The source of pain and pleasure is not in myself ; all iny strength thou is put forth to

remain untroubled by either One man says, ' I must give alms." Sacrifice,' they command another. '1 must read the Vedas,' says a third. 'I must bind myself by a vow of penance,' observes the fourth. One must lay aside these rest- less fears. These practices are obstacles in the soul's path. What is best is to identify oneself with the Eternal Being, and to aspire to supreme quietude in this world and the next." Ashtaka, deeply impressed with his visitor's holiuess, offers him his own future place in Heaven ; but Yayati " does not receive alms," and is about to plunge down to the place of torture, as proof that even this has no terror for him, when "suddenly there appear in the air five flaming chariots! Yayati is to ascend with Ashtaka and his three friends to Swarga ! But even so he is unmoved ; and as the fire-chariots are ascending through the air, be says : ' Better than Swarga is it to possess one's soul in tranquillity.'"

The story is, of course, Hiudoo, for it retains the notion of a place of bliss ; while the Buddhist would make the bliss consist in reabsorption into the All, that is, in a condition indistinguish- able iu words from aunihilation,—though the Buddhist tries to distinguish, asking if the drop is annihilated because it is in the river ; but to the men of both creeds alike, Yayati, prince and ascetic, who has tasted all earthly life, then risen beyond all earthly life, and theu risen above not only that life, but the one of spiritual bliss and spiritual torture, is the highest ideal of which they can conceive.

It is not a good ideal iu its results, for it leads, when it dominates ordinary men, to a poor and meagre life of asceticism, self-torture to no end ; and when it controls good men, to a life pure indeed and holy in all negative holiness—nobody is much cleaner in life than a Buddhist phoongyee, or one of the better Pundits—but self-regarding in excess, and penetrated through and through with spiritual pride; but it is a very different ideal from that which Englishmen ordinarily think of as entertained by Hindoos. It has nobility in it, or a potentiality of being noble, and developes the power of self-suppression, of which no Hiudoo, however debased or however ordinary, is ever entirely devoid. No other human being ever sat in ilharae. The power of eon- suppression, in which he exceeds all men, may be innate and the origin of his philosophy, but his philosophy has also a strong reflex action upon his power. Circumstances seem less when the fixed ideal which you reverence, though you do not seek it, is to be utterly above or outside eircumetauce, to care nothing for joy and as little for torture, to regard not even Heaven or Hell, but to be yourself tranquil though the uni- verse rush down, self-poised like a divinity, which indeed your soul, the essential "you," every Hiudoo believes to be. One hardly wonders that the Brahman, penetrated with such a philosophy, and full of the pride it generates, regards the preach- ing of the Missionary who accuses him of worshipping

and seeking indulgence, and crediting false physics, as rather meaningless babble, without much behind it. it will take wiser preaching than that to make much of him, or convince him that he can no more elevate his soul all for himself above its pro- clivity to sin, than he can elevate his body above the necessity of support from food. Men smile at the little success which has been gained over Hindooism, and ask why Christianity doee not win as in the old days ; but has the fortress of Hindooism, which is its philosophy and not its ridiculous ritual, the very meaning of which is forgotten, been seriously attacked ?