Hinduism by New Advent Encyclopedia
To complement this article, which was taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent recommends a prayerful reading of "Nostra Aetate" from the Second Vatican Council.
Hinduism in its narrower sense, is the conglomeration of religious beliefs and practices existing in India that have grown out of ancient Brahminism, and which stand in sharp contrast to orthodox, traditional Brahminism today. Hinduism is the popular, distorted, corrupted side of Brahminism. In its broad sense, it comprises those phases of religous, social, andintellectual life that are generally recognized in India today as the legitimate outgrowth of ancient Brahmin institutions, and hence are tolerated by the Brahmin priests as compatible with Brahmin traditions. Far from being a uniform system of worship, Hinduism, in this large sense, comprises, besides orthodox Brahminism, the numerous sectarian developments of cult in honour of Vishnu, Siva, and their associates, in which for centuries the great mass of the people have found satisfaction for their religious cravings. In Hinduism, as distinguished from the heretical sects of India, it is of minor importance what sort of worship is adopted, provided one recognizes the supremacy of the Brahmins and thesacredness of Brahmin customs and traditions. In the pantheistic all-god Brahma, the whole world of deities, spirits, and other objects of worship is contained, so that Hinduism adapts itself to every form of religion, from the lofty monotheismof the cultivated Brahmin to the degraded nature-worship of the ignorant, half savage peasant. Hinduism, to quoteMonier Williams, "has something to offer which is suited to all minds. Its very strength lies in its infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity of human characters and human tendencies. It has its highly spiritual and abstract side suited to the metaphysical philosopher -- its practical and concrete side suited to the man of affairs and the man of the world—its esthetic and ceremonial side suited to the man of poetic feeling and imagination—its quiescent and contemplativeside suited to the man of peace and lover of seclusion. Nay, it holds out the right hand of brotherhood to nature-worshippers, demon-worshippers, animal-worshippers, tree-worshippers, fetish-worshippers. It does not scruple to permit the most grotesque forms of idolatry, and the most degrading varieties of superstition. And it is to this latter fact that yet another remarkable peculiarity of Hinduism is mainly due—namely, that in no other system in the world is the chasm more vast which separates the religion of the higher, cultured, and thoughtful classes from that of the lower, uncultured, and unthinking masses" (Brahmanism and Hinduism, 1891, p. 11). Hinduism is thus a national, not a worldreligion, it has never made any serious effort to proselytize in countries outside of India. The occasional visits ofBrahmins to countries of Europe and
According to the census of 1901, the total population of India is a little more than 294,000,000 souls, of which 207,000,000 are adherents of Hinduism. The provinces in which they are most numerous are
It was not till towards the end of the eighteenth century that Europeans—excepting Father de Nobili and a few other early missionaries—acquired any knowledge of Sanskrit and allied tongues in which the sacred literature of India was preserved. The extensive commerce which the English developed in Bombay and other parts of India gave occasion toEnglish scholars to make extensive studies in this new field of Oriental research. Sir William Jones was one of the firstEuropean scholars to master Sanskrit and to give translations of Sanskrit texts. He translated in 1789 one of Kalidasa'sclassic dramas, the "Sakuntalã", and in 1794 published a translation of the "Ordinances of Manu". He founded, in 1784, the Royal Asiatic Society, destined to prove a powerful means of diffusing the knowledge of Indian literature and institutions. An able, but less famous, contemporary was the Portuguese missionary, Father Paulinus a SanctoBartholomeo, to whom belongs the honour of composing the first European grammar of the Sanskrit tongue, published atRome in 1790. The first important study of Indian literature and rites was made by Henry T. Colebrooke. His "Miscellaneous Essays on the Sacred Writings and Religion of the Hindus", first published in 1805, became a classic in this new field of research. The collection was reedited in 1873 by Professor E. B. Cowell, and is still a work of great value to the student of Hinduism. Other distinguished scholars of England who contributed to the knowledge ofBrahminism and Hinduism were Horace H. Wilson, author of a Sanskrit dictionary and of a translation of the VishnuPurana (1840) and other Hindu texts; John Muir, author of the great work "Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the People of India, their Religions and Institutions" (5 vols., London, 1858-70), and Sir Monier Williams, whose work "Brahmanism and Hinduism, Religious Thought and Life in India" (4th ed., London, 1891), is a masterly exposition of Hinduism. With these may be associated Professor Max Müller, though whose exertions the most importantsacred texts of India as well as of other Oriental lands have been made accessible to English readers in the well-knowncollection, "The Sacred Books of the East". In
Ann. du Musée Guimet (Paris, 1885); HOPKINS, The Grand Epic of India, its Character and Origin (New York, 1901); India Old and New (New York, 1901); Religions of India (Boston, 1895); MITCHELL, The Great Religions of india (New York, 1906); WILLIAMS, Hinduism (New York, 1897); DAHLMANN, Das Mahabharata als Epos und Rechtsbuch (Berlin, 1895); IDEM, Genesis des Mahabharata (Berlin, 1899); ROUSSEL, Légendes morales de l'Inde empruntées au Bhagavata Purana et au Mahabharata (2 vols., Paris, 1900-01); IDEM, Cosmologie hindoue d'après le Bhagavata Purana (Paris, 1898); DE TASSY, Histoire de la littérature hindoue et hindoustanie (3 vols., Paris, 1870-71); WILKINS, Modern Hinduism (2nd ed., London, 1887); COLINET, Les Doctrines philosophiques et religieuses de La Bhagavadgita (Paris, 1884).