Creating of Hinduism’s Image in Religiosus-Philosophical Thoutht of the Bengal Renaissance

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Based on the sources on religious-philosophical thought of the Bengal Renaissance (XIX - early XX century), author represents the process and results of creating of the Hinduism’s image by Brahmo Samaj leaders (Rammohun Roy, Debendranath Tagore, Keshubchandra Sen) and Neo-Hindu thinkers (Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Swami Vivekananda). Perceived from European orientalists, the term ‘Hinduism’ was filled the meanings and content by Bengal thinkers according to the epoch’s needs. For explaining of the features of the image construction method and results, multiple influences on Bengali thinkers are described, such as the influences of traditional Sanskrit education and intellectual culture, caste consciousness, Islam, Christianity, European orientalism and scientific rationalism. Using hermeneutical, axiological and comparative methods, the Bengal thinkers had created the image of Hinduism, which contained the experience of critical analysis of indigenous religious trends and the experience of creation of ‘ideal type’ (M. Weber) of native religion. General image of Hinduism has two sides in representation of positive and negative facets both for Indians and for the World.

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A comprehension of indigenous socio-cultural tradition was the integral part of national-cultural renaissance in nineteenth - early twentieth centuries Bengal. The Bengal Renaissance was the epoch of reconsideration of Indian traditional heritage in the light of European rationalism and Western innovations. The renaissance thinkers searched for ideal variant of Indian-Western synthesis in all spheres of socio-cultural life for adequate integration into Modernity [See: 1-3], and religion was an important factor in the reconsideration and searching for synthesis. The comprehension of Indian tradition includes an interpretation of religion, which underlies in foundation of the civilization. In certain sense, it is new discovery of native religion and spiritual tradition both for Indian themselves, as well as for others and all world. The creation of image of Hinduism is significant process from the point of view of the content and the results. Bengal religious philosophers were in the situation of Western challenge in all spheres of life, primarily, the challenge of Christianity. In the context of intricate intercourse with Christianity, they had clashed serious problem of the necessity to prove the value, significance and dignities of their own religion in its spiritual, social and cultural aspects. There were Brahmanical tradition supported by Brahmins’ authority and popular religion with great number of various regional cults, orthodox elite faith based on a set of sacred scriptures, and heterodox spiritual practices based on bhakti (religious devotion to personal God) in Indian subcontinent. Consequently, for Bengal thinkers, the problem was complicated by question on image of their own religion. Is this religion Brahmanical or popular, orthodox or heterodox, or a certain whole? The complex of Indian religious cults and faiths was united by dharma, scriptures, samskaras etc., but before eighteenth - nineteenth centuries C.E. it had not own name and self-image as the certain whole. British orientalists put forward the term ‘Hinduism’ to mark the religion of Hindu, which constituted the majority of population in India [See: 4; 5]. The term partly helped the solution of previously mentioned question: coming from outside term had been perceived by Bengal thinkers. It was convenient designation the religion as united whole, which was derivative from Vedic tradition. For the first time philosopher, reformer and ‘the father of the Bengal Renaissance’ Rammohun Roy (1772-1833) used synonymous terms ‘Hinduism’ [6. Vol. I. P. 73, 90, 179; Ibid. Vol. IV. P. 901-904], ’Hindu religion’ [6. Vol. I. P. 3, 4, 90, 179; Ibid. Vol. IV. P. 905-908] and ‘Hindu faith’ [6. Vol. I. P. 74], as well as its derivatives ‘Hindu theism’, ‘Hindu worship’, ‘Hindu mythology’ [6. Vol. I. P. 66, 68], ‘Hindu theology, law, literature’ [6. Vol. I. P. 3, 45, 36, 89], ‘Hindu idolatry’ [6. Vol. I. P. I, 5, 66], ‘the Hindu sacred texts’ [6. Vol. I. P. 35, 90] and ‘Hindu community’ [6. Vol. I. P. 21]. He comprehended this integrity of the religion and controverted about Hinduism with his orthodox Brahmins and European opponents. Philosophically, the appropriation of term ‘Hinduism’ have four aspects. Firstly, an ontological aspect manifests itself in grounding religious-philosophical picture of Universe as derivative from Brahman (Absolute), and human being as endowed with Âtman (soul). Secondly, an epistemological aspect is related to interpretation and understanding by Bengal thinkers of their own spiritual tradition which combines both universal and national components. Being the basis for development of society, civilization and culture, the tradition evolves in time. Thirdly, an axiological aspect pays attention to the values of Hinduism, which enable the society to develop and integrate into modern world without losing its own original shape and characters. Fourthly, an ethical aspect makes an apparent moral content of faith as opposed to the external practices; this aspect must ground the place of Hinduism among world religions. Bengal thinkers began to fill appropriated term “Hinduism” by their own meaning and content. Being within religious tradition, they comprehended the scriptures, terms, philosophical schools (darśanas), dharma, practices, pantheon of deities, trends, sects, the way of living and social institutions (especially varna-jāti system). In the process of comprehending of Hindu religious tradition, the thinkers constructed specific image of Hinduism - for themselves, their co-religionists and peoples of different religions. From the one hand, high intention of presentation of “true Hinduism” incites Bengal thinkers, and they constructed its “ideal type” (I borrow the term from Max Weber) based on their notion on the due. From the other hand, they analyzed real religious practices and notions of their co-religionists and, consequently, either criticized Hinduism’s negative aspects and suggested to focus attention on one’s positive sides, or tried to prove its internal essential unity, which united outside diversity. To understand the process and results of this constructing the image of Hinduism, we must take into account the context and influences, which helped to form methods and principles of the image’s construction. If the general context was interaction of Indian traditional society with social, political and cultural components of Western civilization brought by British colonial rule, the special context was presence of Christianity and Islam in the Indian subcontinent. The current situation Bengal thinkers had discovered Christianity and Islam as Other-distant and Other-neighbour religions and attempted to understand them. Before the nineteenth century Hindu orthodox elites did not have any interest in Other religious tradition. W. Halbfass writes: ‘...Traditional Hinduism... has not been driven by zeal of proselytization and discovery, and by the urge to understand and master foreign cultures. It has neither recognized the foreign, the other as a possible alternative, nor as a potential source of its own identity’ [7. P. 172]. But the European (especially the British) invasion had become so powerful challenge to Indian elites (primarily due to the influence of English education), that traditional Indian xenology [7. P. 177-196] had changed by understanding-in-dialogue with Other peoples, religions and cultures [See: 8]. For the first time in India, Bengal thinkers began to comprehend the culture of their Motherland in relation to European culture. In that process they had built in their own consciousness the special ‘trialogue’ between their own religion, Islam and Christianity. The comparative juxtaposition helped them to find universal and original features in their own religion to appreciate its dignities and faults and to be directed to creation of its special version, which will be adequate for Modernity and as such will contribute to the revival of the society. Multiple influences on Bengal thinkers explain the principles and methods by which they consciously or intuitively use to construct of the image of Hinduism. Firstly, it is the influence of traditional Sanskrit education and intellectual culture based on textual exegesis. Most strict and heterodox reformist interpretation of Hinduism had been proposed by Bengal Brahmins, who had Sanskrit education according to varna dharma like Rammohun Roy, Debendranath Tagore, Sivanath Sastri and Christian convert Krishnamohun Banerjea (Bandyopadhyay). Having critical frame of mind, enlightened and sympathetic for West, these Brahmin-intellectuals were able from within to adopt all dignities and to see all defects both of Brahmanical orthodox doctrine and Brahmin stratum. In his first tract ‘A Gift to Believers in One God’ (Tuhfat-ul-Muwahiddin, 1804) Rammohun Roy wrote: ‘I, the humblest creature of God, having been born among them, have learnt the language and got those injunction by heart, and this nation (the Brahmins) having confidence in such divine injunctions cannot give them up although they have been subjected to many troubles and persecutions and were threatened to be put to death by followers of Islam’ [6. Vol. IV. P. 954]. The influence of caste status and consciousness is evident on social-caste structure of intellectual elite (bhadralok) and its representatives, which somehow treat Hinduism and its aspects. There were both Brahmins (Bankimchandra Chatterjee (Chattopadhyay), Bhudev Mukhopadhyay) and kayastha (scribers) among them. Kayasthas like Kesubchandra Sen, Pearychand Mitra, Narendranath Dutta (later Swami Vivekananda), Rajnarayan Bose, Aurobindo Ghose and others had made an intellectual revolt against orthodox Brahmins and their theological claims. Taking upon themselves the right to interpret the texts and traditions, they had founded a new unorthodox theology of Hinduism. The influence of Islam, Sufism, and Hindu-Islamic culture (in case of Rammohun Roy also Islamic education) [9. P. 27-28, 55] is expressed in the perception of such basic ideas as strict monotheism, the negation of polytheism and idolatry, equality of humans before God, social justice, mercy of the Creator, and also Sufi inner realization of the faith and its personal experiences. The influence of hermeneutics of Christianity and the controversy with Christian missionaries, who proposed their version of Hinduism and criticized it as heathendom and “religion of Satan”, is also important. The search of contact points between Christianity and Hinduism during interpretation their religious doctrines served to the creation of religious-humanistic image of Hinduism as religion of love - for example, by Bankimchandra Chatterjee - and anticipation of sacrifice of God-man as by Krishnamohun Banerjee. The influence of British orientalism, whose scientists had come in India from outside and largely obtained with the assistance of Indian traditional pandits. British orientalists like W. Jones, G. T. Colebrook, H. H. Wilson and others introduced the term ‘Hinduism’ and studied early forms of Indian religion - Vedism, Brahmanism and their texts, and philosophical schools (darśanas). The results of their oriental studies were taken by Bengal thinkers for using. Sometimes, these results were controverted, but usually ones were assimilated for argumentation of thinkers’ position. Western education and European scientific rationalism had transmitted in India the complex of Western ideas, which induced critics of indigenous religious practices as unsuitable to ‘common sense’ and unseemly to enlighten people. Besides, Western education and rationalism also had incited Bengal thinkers search for analogous ideas in the texts of Indian tradition, which would overcome the dogmatism and the traditionalism in religious and social life. Various combinations of aforenamed influences in thinkers’ biographies did not exclude general similarity in their principles of construction of Hinduism’s image. First of all, the most important principle is a historicism as a vector of investigation in evolution of Hinduism. Traditional Indian regressism and European lineal progress originally combined in this historicism: the current state of Hinduism can be estimated as degradation - during historical evolution - from high monotheism and ethics to polytheism and ritualism, but at the same time Hinduism has a potential of spiritual renascence based on recovery of pure tenor, or the ability to see high tenor in multitude of forms. Second principle is clear distinction between ‘the spirit’ and ‘the letter’ namely religious spirit of personal life and external forms and symbols of religious practice. The principle helps to lead the positive critique of current and historical Hinduism based on either a preference of spirit to daily practices or an attempt to adjust spirit and letter in real religion. The principle operates in the approaches to the analysis of all faiths, including non-Hindu. Third principle is priority of ethics over ritual practices, owing to which social content of religion is transformed for claims of Modernity, and at the same time, saves originality of spiritual culture. The key method of constructing an image of Hinduism by Bengal intellectuals was the hermeneutical reading and the interpretations of scriptures from Vedas to “Bhagavadgīta” and the accompanying set of Śāstras. But in contrast to the traditional exegesis by special Brahmin jāti, the interpretation of the Bengal thinkers had been confronted with tradition in spite of some succession with latter. First of all it is evident in “phenomenological” approach to texts. Texts were read and interpreted, taking out brackets of orthodox interpretation, and discovering their meaning as for the first time. But indigenous cultural upbringing and mentality didn’t free thinkers from native tradition. They read the text with some pre-understanding of the essence of Hinduism from which came a possibility of specific interpretation of the religion and а creation of unorthodox exegetic tradition. Bengal thinkers used axiological method which was in choice of religious-humanistic values derived from the existence of Brahman. This method helped them to build ideal image of Hinduism and simultaneously to criticize existing forms and practices that were considered from the point of view of conformity with values of the due. This method characterizes reformist aspirations of Bengal thinkers both in theory and practice. Comparative method is applied in Bengal thought as juxtaposition of Hinduism with Christianity and Islam, on the one hand, to find universal meanings and values of the indigenous (native) religion and to ground it world status, and on the other hand, to mark unique features of native spiritual tradition. Notwithstanding to similarity of principles and methods of creating an image of Hinduism, there are two variants of that image in religious-philosophical thought of the Bengal Renaissance. The first variant was Brahmoist, developed in religious-reformist society “Brahmo Samaj” founded by Rammohun Roy in 1828. The second variant is ‘neo-Hindu’, which had been opened owing to both impulse from Bengal preacher Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the emergence of cultural nationalism in the latter half of nineteenth century. The conceptualized image of Hinduism is represented in Rammohun Roy’s work. His pre-understanding is concentrated in the idea of monotheism as true essence of every religion. Therefore, he presented Hinduism as monotheistic religion, which united ‘a conviction of the rationality of believing in an adoring to the Supreme Being only; together with a complete perception and practice of that grand and comprehensive moral principle ‘Do unto others as ye would done by’ [6. Vol. I. P. 74]. Rammohun appealed to the Vedas authority, well knowing on their heterogeneity, and had taken out to foreground Upanishads, where Brahman is depicted as Supreme Ruler and Creator. In interpretation of Upanishads by Rammohun Roy, the spirit of the scriptures was opposed to ritualism and idol-worship to multiplicity of gods and goddesses [6. Vol. I. P. 66-67, 71] and as well as opposed to Brahmanical interpretation of faith taken as whole. Rammohun Roy writes: ‘The doctrines of the unity of God are real Hinduism as that religion was practiced by our ancestors, and it is well-known even at the present age to many learned Brahmans...’ [6. Vol. I. P. 90]. In controversy with orthodox Brahmins, he distinguished in the Vedas the spiritual parts, grounded monotheistic religion system and paths to salvation [6. Vol. I. P. 131], and also allegorical components, namely appellations to celestial deities, intended to ‘those who are unfortunately incapable of adoring the invisible Supreme Being’ [6. Vol. I. P. 10, 13]. The Vedānta was the grounding of both Rammohun’s demarcation and image of Hinduism as whole, because it was most suitable darśana for his monotheistic pre-understanding of the religion. The origin of Rammohun’s treating in The Abridgement of Vedanta had become the interpretation of Brāhma-sutra-bhāśya by Śankara. According to Rammohun Roy, the Vedānta is special theological system, that maintains universality and unity of Supreme Being, high moral principles and love of mankind in a society. Regardless dualism of other darśanas, Rammohun reconciles all darśanas with monism of Vedānta in the controversy with Christian missionaries. According to Rammohun, faith in God-Creator and love for Him must lead to ‘a friendly inclination towards their fellow-creatures, impressing... their hearts at the same time with humility and charity, accompanied by independence of mind and pure sincerity’ and ‘abstaining from evil acts’ [6. Vol. I. P. 46-53]. He saw these principles of Hindu life as counterbalance to scrupulous observance of prohibitions in diet, behaviour, ritual purity and jāti-dharma. The influence of regressive historicism is evident in juxtaposition of Hinduism’s modern condition with ‘ideal type’ created by Rammohun. Аncient pure religious doctrines had disappeared behind multiplicity of rites, ceremonies, festivals and customs of idolatry; the latter had born prejudices, superstitions, humanness and total destruction of moral principles of Hindu majority. Rammohun argues, that is guilt of Brahmins: ‘Many learned Brahmans are perfectly aware of the absurdity of idolatry, and are well-informed of the nature of the purer mode of divine worship, but as in the rights, ceremonies and festivals of idolatry they find the source of their comforts and fortune, they not only never fail to protect idol-worship from all attacks but even advance and encourage it to the utmost of their power, by keeping the knowledge of their scriptures concealed from the rest of the people’ (Preface to Isa-Upanishad) [6. Vol. I. P. 66]. Rammohun considered preference of ritual and blind unreasonable faith as the result of socio-religious monopoly of priesthood. Against the background polytheism, dogmas of caste system, variety of customs and practices (samskaras) of Hinduism are seen by thinker as crying violation of high ethics and true spirit of religion. Rammohun believes, that perspectives of Hinduism’s are connected with regeneration of spirit of religion and gradual removing of faith in custom and polytheism - firstly owe to enlightenment of people. For Indian intellectual tradition such resistance of ritual practice and inner essence of faith (mystics and ethics) is quite typical from time to time. Consequently, ancient resistance of Brahmanism and Upanishads had reproduced anew on Modern historical ground in works of Rammohun Roy. But influence both Islam and Christianity made him to strengthen the universal meanings in Hinduism in comparison with national. Finally, Rammohun had created the Other Hinduism in the frame of his religious tradition. This Other Hinduism is very elitist and refined, than orthodox schools of thinking in traditional India. Constructed by Rammohun Roy, the image of Hinduism had been adopted by the leaders and members of Brahmo Samaj. The Brahmoists developed it from the point of view of the due grounded in works of founder of the Brahmo Samaj. Devendranath Tagore emphasized transcendental character of God-Creator, comprehended by both rational thinking and revelation. He had rejected Advaitic identity of Âtman and Brahman: ‘Śānkarācārya has turned India’s head by preaching doctrine of Monism - the identity of God and Man. According to his teachings ascetic and men of the world both are repeating this senseless formula ‘I am that supreme deity’ [10. P. 100]. As well as Devendranath had rejected doctrines of avatarvāda (incarnation) and mayāvāda (illusionism). With his adherents he had studied four Samhitas complex and, on the one hand, had determined the succession of Vedic worship to Supreme God in different forms (Agni, Vayu, Indra, Surya, Yama etc.) and, on the other hand, vast difference between the pantheon of gods in Tantras and Puranas and the gods of the Vedas itself. Devendranath spoke on ‘gradual evolution of our ancient manners, customs and religion’ [10. P. 68] and, finally, had refused to acknowledge of unconditional Vedas’ authority. Devendranath had found unacceptable components of idolatry (especially various pujas) in Hindu ceremonies of life’s cycle, and scrupulously interpreted the symbolic side of faith from the standpoint of view of strict correspondence to ethical monotheism. Another leader of the Brahmo Samaj Kesubchundra Sen strongly strengthened social content of Hinduism. Along with oppression of women and idolatry sooner criticized by Rammohun Roy, Sen said, that caste system is ‘stupendous engine... for keeping large masses of mankind in the bonds of spiritual and social tyranny’ and ‘prevention the realization of the spirit of true brotherhood’ [11. P. 287]. For Kesubchundra Sen, the caste system origins from social distinctions and “division of society into trades and professions”, but later it has been fortified by religious sanctions [11. P. 272-273]. The thinker connects perspectives of Hinduism with restoration of pure faith in Personal God and spiritual brotherhood, and with social service and destruction of spiritual despotism and sectarianism in society. Thus, Brahmoism is image of Hinduism for enlightened intellectual elites. This image paradoxically got back British orientalists: for example, to H. H. Wilson, cooperated with Rammohun Roy in studying Sanskrit scriptures [12. P. 59-60], which collated with it their research results. Conventionally, Brahmoist image of Hinduism can be called ‘liberal’ both general reformist orientation and by the very fact of liberation from Brahmin’s authority and dogmas. In this image have founded the base of perception Hinduism as system evolved, historically, from antiquity (Vedic religion) to modernity; and one successive tradition with her own ups and downs, but wholly is capable of living. But first meaning of universal beginning - monotheism and Vedanta as one’s philosophical basis - in Hinduism dissembled his civilization’s originality and diversity. Therefore, Brahmoist image of Hinduism had not wide response in Indian society, but had been the motivation to social-reformist and cultural creative activity of the educated strata. Many of reformers, writers and scientists of Bengal are connected with the Brahmo Samaj. For example, Swami Vivekananda gave due to the society for awakening his own aspiration to analyze the problems of India. Paradoxically Neo-Hindu image of native religion unites both the Brahmoist components of - monotheism as a basis, accent on ethics, Vedas’ authority, Vedanta, recognition of Hinduism’s historical evolution - and the conservative esteem of tradition and wish to reconcile all diversity of present notions and practices in one harmonious picture. The purpose of Neo-Hinduism as stream of thinking was humanistic grounding of values of native religion and culture, consequently, accent was done on national originality without rejecting of universalism grounded by Brahmoists. From one origins the notions of Hinduism’s universalism, which can embrace both all religious practices of the subcontinent and be the ultimate expression of Other religions’ meaning, namely Christianity, Islam, Buddhism. The ground of pre-understanding of Hinduism for Neo-Hindu philosophers had been given by preacher and saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who atike brahmoists, discerned true faith and customs and rituals, but proved, that One God have multitude of names, aspects and forms. ‘As with one gold various ornaments are made, having different forms and names, so one God is worshipped in different countries and ages, and has different forms and names. Though He may be worshipped variously, some loving to call him Father, others Mother, etc., yet it is one God that is being worshipped in all these various relations and modes’ [13. P. 100]. Dialectical oppositions of treating of God had come together in Ramakrishna teachings on stages of God-knowing from idolatry to absolutely spiritual faith. Multitude of traditional religious ceremonies had reconciled with anti-ritual mood of the Brahmo Samaj. The Neo-Hindu image is heterogeneous; there are two forms in it. One form was created for compatriots, other one - for presentation of Hinduism outside India, literally for all world. First in pure form had presented in works by Bankimchandra Chatterjee (The True Dharma (Dharmatattwa, 1887) The Life of Krishna (Krishnacharitra), Letters on Hinduism). From the point of view of universalist monotheistic credo, Bankimchandra says: ‘The root of religion, in particular of Hindu religion, is one God is in all things, therefore it is our dharma to seek the welfare of all things’ [14. P. 191]. This God is impersonal, but only worship to Personal God endowed with attributes is fruitful and is in foundation of Hinduism - as well as in foundation of other religions. Therefore, that worship is acceptable to ‘men who are imitators of God’, or ‘those who are thought to be God in human form’ is ideal for people in first stages of religious worship to Infinite God [14. P. 166]. The best example of this is Krishna, who ‘united India by the strength of his knowledge, who proclaimed the wonderful dharma of non-attachment by the strength of his wisdom’, and ‘proclaimed the virtue of forgiveness’ and said: ‘Religion is not in the Vedas, but in the welfare of the people - whether he god or not’ [14. P. 167-168]. Bankimchandra’s interpretation of Krishna profoundly contrasted with Brahmoist understanding of Hinduism, treated Krishna as only one from multitude of god-idols. Rammohun Roy brought up by religious Vaishnav mother, once said: ‘The sweeper of my house would not do such an act, and can I worship a god sunk lower, than the man who washes my floors?’ [15. P. 113-114]. According to Bankimchandra, at more high stages of the God-knowing man realizes God in all things and the world is in Him. Owing to it love to God means love of self and all men, love of country and love of all world [14. P. 186]. The goal of Hinduism for Bankimchandra is mokṣa - freeing from suffering by ‘submission to ideal of God and achieving a nature identical with his’, owing to it man ‘became the possessor of all happiness’ [14. P. 166]. Therefore, Bankimchandra identifies dharma/religion with humanity, culture and happiness, and this many-sided Hinduism is true mean to happiness, which “concerns this life, God, man, all creatures and all the world. Hinduism is ‘all-encompassing, all happiness-producing and holy religion in the world’ [14. P. 170]. Described by Bankimchandra Hinduism is an ethical religious doctrine, based on love and devotion to humans in society, and formed solidarity and people’s character [14. P. 175-183]. Consequently, most authoritative text for the thinker is ‘Bhagavadgītā’, which helps to unite monotheism and popular forms of faith. The image of Hinduism by Bankimchandra is the attempt to prove for co-religionists that ‘Hinduism is... superior to other religions’ and ‘the best religion in the world’ [14. P. 176]. This attempt was motivated by thinker’s patriotic feelings. Developing the ideas by his teacher Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his own, Swami Vivekananda continued to create the image of Hinduism for both compatriots and the whole world in active enlightening works in India, Europe and America. And as far as depending on the audience, the philosopher accents either negative of positive sides in Hinduism. It is difficult to find in the end of nineteenth century India more severe and passionate critic of Hindu practices and rites - child marriage, gender inequality, Brahmins’ authoritarianism and others - detailed regulation of life and caste system (especially untouchability) than Vivekananda addressing to compatriots with appeal for regeneration of the country and for development of spiritual, cultural and social activity. But for Western audience he tells with dignity and pride on Indian spiritual traditions, cultural originality and customs. Just in lectures and speeches delivered in the West - from speeches in World Parliament of Religion (1893) to lectures on four yogas and the latest works - Vivekananda had created ‘presentative’ image of Hinduism with a synthesis of Brahmoist and Hindu ideas and based on universal conception of man and achievement of freedom. According to Vivekananda, Hinduism is principally monotheistic; its object is ‘by constant struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God and see God, and this reaching God, seeing God, becoming perfect even as the Father in Heaven is perfect, constitutes the religion of the Hindus’ [16. Vol. I. P. 13]. This object and essence received through revelation in the Vedas [16. Vol. I. P. 6]. Vivekananda connected the source of Hinduism with most ancient Vedic religion, in which all ‘sects were all sucked in, absorbed, and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith’ [16. Vol. I. P. 6]; owing to it quality it gradually become stronger. Philosopher suggested Hinduism as religion of the Book. He said: ‘...If you analyze all the various religions of the world, you will find that these are divided into two classes, those with a book and those without a book. Those with a book are the strongest, and have the largest number of followers. Those without books have mostly died out, and the few new ones have very small following’ [16. Vol. I. P. 126]. Mostly he appealed to Upanishads and ‘Bhagavadgita’ as authoritative scriptures, grounded the faith, ethics and philosophy. In Hinduism, as well as in other religions, Vivekananda saw three components. First is philosophy as its essence: ‘Religion without philosophy runs into superstition; philosophy without religion becomes dry atheism’ [16. Vol. VII. P. 36]. Second component is mythology, which is illustration of the essence by examples and ritual, which makes philosophy accessible to all men. Therefore, Vivekananda considers Vedanta as the philosophical foundation of Hinduism and identifies them. Vedanta encompasses all philosophical schools and religious doctrines of India and even shows itself as essence of all religions in the world and it is the basis of universal religion. But before come to philosophy of religion, majority of people needs in myth, symbols and cults. Paradoxical statement by Vivekananda - ‘I may tell you that there is no polytheism in India. In every temple, if one stands by and listens, one will find the worshippers applying all the attributes of God, including omnipresence, to the images’ [16. Vol. I. P. 15] - was accompanied the wide explanation, that image of divinity lets to relieve to understanding of high truth and God’s essence. Therefore, religious path in Hinduism was presented as gradual movement of people from the primary stage of ‘spiritual childhood’ to the highest stages of learning the truth in God. He says: ‘Idolatry in India does not mean anything horrible. It is not the mother of harlots. On the other hand, it is the attempt of undeveloped minds to grasp high spiritual truths’ [16. Vol. I. P. 17-18]. So Vivekananda harmonizes spirit and external form, faith and ritual by presenting of Hinduism as religion ‘is not in doctrines, in dogmas, nor in intellectual argumentation; it is being and becoming, it is realization’ [16. Vol. II. P. 43]. But if the forms cease to express the inner life, they must be broken; the possibility of renewing and development of Hinduism are connecting with this breaking in its historical evolution. Social aspect of Hinduism Vivekananda tracts from ethic point of view: self-renouncement and doing of the duty, love and non-violence, disinterestedness and mercy, sanctify the social life of Hindus. Three margas - karma, (action), jṅana (knowledge) and bhakti (love) - as paths to God characterize Hinduism as way of life. In modern time karma (any job in the world for the sake of work, and not for the result) are gaining special meaning. Created by Vivekananda the image of Hinduism for all world was appeared extraordinary attractive for the audience, but also for English-speaking Indian intellectuals, such as Aurobindo Ghose, M.K. Gandhi, S. Radhakrishnan, J. Nehru and others. In Vivekananda’s critical analysis does not conceal negative sides of native religion (sectarianism, intolerance, fanaticism, traditionalism etc.) and becomes a stimulus for realistic approach to native religion and the ground of its furthermost comprehending and interpretation. Neo-Hindu image of Hinduism is purposeful created image for contemporaries and future generations, for Indians and foreigners, for scientists and persons are interested in Indian culture. This is response to the Western challenge, which opposed Christianity to Hinduism in missionary and ideological spheres. On the whole, Brahmoist and Neo-Hindu images both are not opposed, but rather mutually complement each other. The succession between Brahmoist and neo-Hindu image is clear. But if first one is an attempt to build the ideal model of Hinduism, the second image is received to represent certain inner spiritual unity, which is disappeared in external multitude of cults and religious practices. The following features are essential in both images. 1. Hindu tradition are depicted as continuous from deep Antiquity (Vedic age) to Modernity, in spite of historical turning of ups and downs. 2. Hinduism is represented as religion, which provided by its own mode of civilization and cultural unity and originality of Indian subcontinent, and also it has universal tenor. 3. Due to the universal tenor, Hinduism can pretend to the status of world religion, along with Christianity and Islam. Created by religious-philosophical thought of the Bengal Renaissance, the image of Hinduism has been appeared as effective, because, firstly, it worked for creation of an attractive image of Indian culture and thought. Secondly, it encouraged religious-philosophical thought in twentieth century India. Thirdly, it contained the experience of critical analysis of indigenous religious trends and the experience of creation of ‘ideal type’ of native religion. In that later quality this image entered in oriental studies. Perception and critics of the image had played significant methodological role in studying of Dharma religion and Indian traditional society.

About the authors

Tatiana G Skorokhodova

Penza State University

Author for correspondence.
40, Krasnaya Str., 440026, Penza, Russian Federation


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