Free Web Hosting Provider - Web Hosting - E-commerce - High Speed Internet - Free Web Page
Search the Web

BRAHMANISM & THE FINAL DEVELOPMENT OF HINDUISM

Again we must start with some background information for our current study. We must understand the conquest of India some four thousand years ago by a group of Aryans belonging to the same stock as those who later made Zoroastrianism their national creed. This group of ancient Aryans burst into India, established themselves as the dominant race, and instituted the intricate system of Priestly and sacerdotal law and discipline known as Brahmanism. Since the political problems of India were quite different from those of Egypt or Iran, the religion of India developed along entirely different lines than we have seen before. These changes will be important when we look later at how the Essenes adopted many of the tenants of Brahmanism. India already possessed a teeming population, which had learned to wring subsistence from the soil by agriculture: the Aryans could, therefore, perpetuate their position, privileges, and sovereignty only by divine sanctions. Revelation, as determined by the Priesthood became an instrument, not of national, but of class and race policy. As the conquerors swept eastward across the land, they established various codes, such as The Laws of Mann, who was said to have been the second progenitor of the human race after the flood; the Institutes of Vishnu, delivered, it was said, personally by the god; and many others, of which the Apastamba, the Baudhayana, and the Vasishtha Darmasastra are representative.

Nowhere else, except perhaps in Egypt, has a single religion controlled a national population so long. The oldest sacred book in the world is the Rig-Veda. Other canonical Vedas, also very ancient, are the Yagur-Veda and the Sama-Veda. There is also the later and uncanonical Atharva-Veda, consisting of magical spells and incantations. A theology, which made Brahman the creator of the universe and the father of mankind, gradually evolved; and along with it a priesthood, known as the Brahmanas. This was reinforced by various codes of civil and ecclesiastical law devised by the hierarchy, as noted above. Finally came the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Anugita, and other documents expounding the metaphysical doctrines of mature Brahmanism.

The most ancient scared literature of Hinduism is called the Vedas. This collection of hymns, poems, and ceremonial formulas represent the beliefs of several Aryan tribes. Initially the Vedas were considered so sacred that they were only transmitted orally from one generation of Brahmans to the next. The passages of the Vedas were eventually written in Sanskrit, we believe, near the end of the third century B.C.E., and primarily consist of four collections called the Rig-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, and the Atharva-Veda. Collectively, these are referred to as the Samhitas.The Rig-Veda contains elements congenital with Zoroastrianism; we are reminded throughout of the fervid Gathas. The Rig consists of hymns or invocations written by ancient Aryan poets and filled with a lust for life; they know nothing of caste, purgatory, hell, heaven, eschatology, metempsychosis, introspection, metaphysics, monotheism, or renunciation.

THE INFLUENCE OF ZOROASTRIANISM ON BRAHMANISM

The primitive Mazdeism of Iran was the parent of Zoroastrianism and of Brahmanism, both of which developed their own idealogies in Persia and India: but, as they did so, they carried with them certain common and congenital characteristics. Both had a similar sacred plant and drink: the Zoroastrian, the haoma, the Brahmana, the some. The Indo-Aryans worshipped Mitra, the sun-god; Agni, the fire; and Vayu, the wind just as did the Iranians; and with both, the sky, water, plants, and trees were holy. In both, the cow was sacred; but since the people of India were not sheepherders, the dog became to them a worthless and unclean beast. The lovable Anahita, goddess of the waters and of domestic happiness, bears a close resemblance to Varuna in the Rig. By a curious inversion, the evil daevas of the Persians became the angels and inferior gods of India. In Persia, fire and water were so holy that no corpse could be brought near them; but in India, by another strange convolution, the dead body was consigned to them because they were holy. And this difference in practice stemmed naturally from the opposing metaphysics which developed with the passing centuries: whereas the Persians became absolute dualists, the Brahmanas became monists and pantheists; with the latter the world and everything in it were made by and were literally the one Supreme God.

The late Vedanta-Sutra declares: "the entire world forms the body of Brahman" (Institutes of Gautama, I, 1). In such a metaphysical system, no cosmic evil could exist.

It is possible that the Brahmanas were the first to develop the concept of hell; and that the Zoroastrians elaborated their intricate eschatology independently or appropriated this one element of it from India. In any event, despite the common ancient source of the two religions, that of the Brahmanas and the Buddhists never had any dualism, cosmic warfare, prophecy, apocalypse, Messiah, resurrection, last judgment, final tribulation, universal holocaust, renewed earth and heaven, or personal immortality for every human soul.

LATER RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES THAT WERE NOT BASED ON THE VEDAS

Brahmanism claimed authority from the Vedas and declared them to contain the ultimate revelations; but it established a theology and a social system unknown to the ancient rishis, or prophets.

Besides a new social order, the simple nature gods of the Rig were replaced by a trinity:

This process of incorporation was similar to what happened in Egypt under the Sumerian conquerors. There were also some thirty other important deities, of whom the old Iranian gods Indra, Agni, Vayu, and Mitra ranked among the more important.

The Brahmanic creation-theory is similar to the Egyptian (Laws of Manu, I, 5-31). In the beginning, the universe existed only as darkness, immersed, as it were, in a deep sleep. Then he, the divine Self-Existent, placed a golden egg in the waters, from which he was himself reborn as Brahman, or Pragapati, the progenitor of the world, who produced all creatures from his own body (Ibid., I, 5-11).

A NEW SOCIAL SYSTEM....WHERE THE PRIESTS RULED

The fundamental feature of Brahmanism, however, is the social system it developed, and. enforced with such diabolical success that even Gandhi could never attack directly its basic and grotesque injustice. For centuries, the Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas, or nobles (kings, warriors), carried on a bitter struggle for supremacy, in which the former were finally victorious and were thus able to establish a priest-state.

They Brahman priests were successful in this objective because they monopolized learning, made all moral, religious, and civil decisions, issued all codes of law, appropriated nearly all social privileges, and gradually gathered most of the national wealth into their own coffers. The Brahmanic codes were designed to consolidate the supremacy of the priesthood and to maintain the racial purity of the upper castes.

THE CASTE SYSTEM

We are told that Brahman created the four castes for the eternal security and prosperity of the world:

The duties of the Brahmanas are to conduct religious rituals, teach the Vedas, and accept gifts; of the Kshatriyas, to study the Vedas, bestow gifts on the Brahmanas, sacrifice to the gods, defend the nation in time of war, and administer the codes prepared by the Brahmanas; of the Vaisyas, to make gifts to Brahmanas and work at agriculture, trade, cattle-raising, etc.; of the Sudras, to serve the three other castes, especially the Brahmanas (Apastamba, II, i, 10:4-8). The Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, who are Aryans, maintain the world (Inst. of Gautama, VIII, 1-3); but of these, the former are superior (Manu, IX, 320). The importance of the productive classes, who were the indigenous natives, was, however, not overlooked, for we read that should "these two castes swerve from their duties, they would throw this whole world into confusion" (Ibid., VIII, 418). They would indeed!

The three upper castes are "twice-born"; that is, in addition to their human origin, each experiences a second birth, after a prescribed course of study under a Guru, who is called a "father because he gives instruction in the Veda" (Vasishtha, II, 1-4). Sudras were of course excluded from the sacraments; and from all Vedic knowledge, as were women (Manu, IV, 81).

Brahman, as the creator of mankind, was the Great Father; and the Brahmanas, as his primary creatures, his direct representatives, and the microcosmic replicas of God, were themselves actually gods or lesser Brahmans, that is, Fathers, in their own persons. It was this concept which inspired the clergy of the Catholic Church to designate themselves as the Holy Fathers.

SOCIAL STRUCTURE IN THIS CASTE SYSTEM WAS VERY RIGID

This caste system froze the social fabric into a rigid structure. The conquered natives and their descendants were thus divinely ordained to everlasting inferiority, ignorance, and servitude. The greatest possible sin was to cause confusion or blending among the castes. A twice-born man became ceremonially unclean merely by reciting a Vedic text in the hearing of a Sudra (Vasishtha, XVIII, 12); the child of a Brahmana and a Sudra woman was a Parasava, "as impure as a corpse'' (Ibid., 10); and "a twice-born man who has eaten the food of a Sudra during impurity caused by death or a birth, will suffer dreadful punishment in hell and be born again as an animal" (Ibid., IV, 30).

MARRIAGE LAWS WERE COMPLICATED

To maintain the caste system, it became necessary to classify all marriages according to quality; eight forms of wedlock were declared legitimate (Inst. of Vishnu, XXIV, 10-27). Of these, four were acceptable for Brahmanas: "the quality of the offspring depends on the quality of the marriage rite" (Baudhayana, I, xi, 21:1). A Brahmana could have four wives, a Kshatriya three, a Vaisya two, a Sudra one only (Inst. of Vishnu, XXIV, 1-4). The law of the gods was that "Men of the three first castes, who through folly marry a woman of the lowest caste, quickly degrade their families and progeny to the state of Sudras" (Ibid., XXVI, 6).

SOCIAL OUTCASTS...BELOW THE SUDRAS

There was a class of what you might call "untouchables" below the Sudras. Degraded as were the Sudras, however, they nevertheless had caste, and with it certain elementary rights. Below them were the unfortunates who had lost their social status entirely, i. e. had become outcastes. These were the untouchables, and especially the Parasavas and Khandalas, the offspring of Brahmanas or Brahmanis with Sudras. They were excommunicated from birth and compelled irrevocably to gain their livelihood through the most degrading servitude no matter what their virtues or natural capacities might be.

THE BRAHMANS TAUGHT THE DOCTRINE OF KHARMA TO JUSTIFY METEMPSYCHOSIS

The concept of Kharma was invented to account for and to justify the caste system. Naturally, those artificially excluded from social privilege or economic opportunity would point out that they were not inferior, either morally or mentally. To crush such sedition, the Brahmanas devised the doctrine of metempsychosis, or soul-transmigration, according to which all living creatures had an eternal generation, have already been born over and over, and will be born again and again. A soul inhabits every insect, fish, bird, animal, and human being; according to the Gainas, lichens, plants, trees, and particles of air or fire also possessed souls. The condition under which each soul re-enters the world is predetermined by its Kharma, that is, by the quantity of virtue or wickedness, merit or demerit, which it has accumulated during former incarnations. Sudras are simply being punished for sins so perpetrated and Brahmanas rewarded for merits so earned; each may enjoy his privileges, or must endure his punishment in patience and resignation, for it is the decree of Brahman.

REBIRTH IN LOWER OR HIGHER FORMS

Those who earn a higher place in the next birth are, upon death, rewarded with a temporary sojourn in heaven, after which they are reborn in a higher caste; those guilty of sins and crimes, go to hell, where they are tortured for an appropriate period, after which they become reincarnated in the form and condition they deserve: a lower caste, a beast of burden, a rat, an insect, or a plant. In addition to a miserable status, they will also often be marked by various diseases and deformities, the criminal will have leprosy; the drunkard, black teeth; the violator of a Guru's bed, skin disease; the malignant informer, stinking breath; the food thief, dyspepsia; the incendiary, madness (Inst. of Vishnu, XLV, 2-17). Thus, metempsychosis and the caste-system complemented each other. Not only did they account for evil and suffering in the world: they perfumed all human misery and injustice with the odor of sanctity.

CHARACTERISTICS OF BRAHMANIC SOCIETY

The main characteristic of Brahmanic society is the absolute authority of Brahman Priests. We read that all authority is vested in the Vedas as interpreted by tradition and by the Brahmanas (Varishtha, I, 4), a claim identical to that advanced later by the Catholic hierarchy; that the gods, who exist by the favor of the Brahmanas, will execute every curse or benediction uttered by them on earth (Inst. of Vishnu, XIX, 22-23), which was the very power the Roman See arrogated to itself because Jesus gave Peter the power to loose and to bind. Even as the gods are the invisible, so are the Brahmanas the visible deities, who sustain the world (Ibid., 20-21). We are overwhelmed by such modesty.

The absolute authority of the Brahman priests made any direct revolt impossible. As the laws and traditions of the Brahmanas became sanctified in hoary antiquity, the difficulty of removing or even relieving the straightjacket of caste became more and more insuperable. All questioning or heresy was forbidden on pain of the most ferocious punishment. There was no learning or teaching except that of the Gurus, the teaching Brahmanas. There was no historical record or chronology: in short, any direct revolt by the lower classes was no more possible than among the American slaves.

SPECIAL FEATURES OF THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE

Women were especially oppressed: like Sudras, they were excluded from all sacred learning (Baudhayana, I, i, 11:7). "In childhood, a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband; and when her lord is dead, to her sons; a woman must never be independent" (Manu, V, 148). "No matter how destitute of virtue . . . a husband must be constantly worshiped as a god by the faithful wife" (Ibid., 156). If he dies, she must never take a second. So fearful was this crime of remarriage by a woman that even her son became an abhisasta outcast (Inst. of Gautama, XIV, 18). When the husband died, the good wife ascended the funeral pyre after him (Inst. of Vishnu, XXV, 14).

Every student took the vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He must never touch a woman, "nor," as Jesus was to reiterate, "shall he desire her in his heart" (Apastamba, I, i, 7:8-9). He must dwell at the Guru's house; must be his diligent, humble, and unpaid servant; must beg food and other necessities from virtuous and twice-born persons; must bring everything so obtained to his master; may eat a portion only of the food so collected after receiving permission from the Guru; and must avoid all frivolity during his years of studentship. If he is himself a Brahmana and continues as a student until death, he passes at once into Nirvana (Inst. of Vishnu, XXVIII, 1-47).

In the Brahmanic system, there were four orders, any of which a twice-born man might choose after his Vedic studies were completed. He could continue as a student, or might become a householder, an ascetic, or a hermit (Apastamba, I, ii, 21:1-3). But we are told that "the venerable teacher prescribes only . . . the order of householders (Inst. of Gautama, III, 36), because these alone produce wealth or children (Ibid., III, 3), and because "all mendicants subsist through the protection afforded by householders" (Vasishtha, VIII, 16).

THEOLOGY AND RELIGIOUS PRACTICE UNDER MATURE BRAHMANISM

NIRVANA

Thus we see that in addition to the four castes as well as the hordes of untouchables, two new religious orders sprang up within mature Brahmanic society. Just when ascetics and hermits became numerous, we cannot now know, but we may assume that it was at least six centuries before Christ. Why they arose is not difficult to comprehend; for in that heavily populated land, priest-ridden and ignorant, full of misery and frustration, countless human hearts must have been bursting with pent-up despair. The joy of living reflected in the ancient Rig had long since departed, there was no hope or solace for the fettered millions, hemmed in on every side by rigid caste, denied all hope and pleasure in this world of frustration and despair. This life was a morass of slavery and starvation: and that beyond the grave was even more terrifying. Even if one were fortunate enough to achieve a brief stay in heaven, one would soon be born again into this vale of tears and suffering, repeat the same useless struggle, perhaps be plunged into hell, and be reborn a louse or a worm.

And so it was that someone in ancient India devised the doctrine of Nirvana, which was ultimate extinction for the personal entity, the end of conscious soul-existence, and its final union with the Self, the Universal Soul, the Brahman, the Atman, even as the river loses itself in the boundless ocean. To escape forever the Wheel of Life, the endless round of birth and death, became the fervent yearning of countless millions. Through the practice of yoga, the concentration upon the Self, in which the syllable Ohm was endlessly repeated, men hoped to enter the Universal Soul (Apastamba, I, i, 22:3-6). This desire was a complete negation of the primitive Rig-Veda; and the concept itself certainly did not exist in earlier Brahmanism. But, as it was an irresistible popular reaction to prevailing conditions, it became necessary for the reigning priesthood to incorporate asceticism into their system as a social safety valve, and to offer the achievement of Nirvana to those plunged into ultimate despair.

RENUNCIATION

Since the burdens of supporting wife and children were almost intolerable to the poor, the conviction took root among them that celibacy would be rewarded eschatologically (Ibid., II, i, 23:5). But before they could become hermits living alone in the forest, or ascetics begging their way from door to door, they must first undergo a long period of Vedic study and then remain always under the authority of the Brahmanas. That great numbers embraced even these stringent terms we know: for all the Brahmanic codes detail the regulations governing the lives and the duties of both these religious orders. This is reminiscent of the Manual of Discipline and the Community rule we find among the Essenes later. And so Mother India spawned the monster Renunciation, which has played so vast and spectacular a role in European and world history.

The ascetic hoped to attain Nirvana by rejecting all human relationships; by eliminating fear and desire from his soul; by complete indifference to pain, pleasure, hell, heaven, past, present, and future. He must seek the Universal Soul by fixing his gaze upon the eternal and becoming impervious to the evanescent (Apastamba, II, i, 21:7-13); he must realize that his body is a filthy, stinking sink of iniquity, the stay of carnal desire, wrath, greed, folly, pride, and selfishness (Inst. of Vishnu, XCVI, 26-85; Vasishtha, X, 1-19; Manu, VI, 37-65).

Such was the ancient ascetic of India, the prototypes of Sts. Antony and Simeon Stylites.

And so while the ruling Brahmanas and the privileged Kshatriyas took the cash and let the credit go, preferring money, power, women, and pleasure, millions of their less fortunate brethren found surcease from slavery and exploitation in renunciation. When the human spirit has undergone indescribable torture for centuries, it seeks refuge at last in irrevocable extinction.

Thus we see that the basic ideal of the ascetic was an utter individualism by which he sought his own salvation only. He was the first Existentialist. Even as the world had given him nothing, so would he give nothing to the world. He would undertake no project, do no work, contribute nothing to the support or welfare of any one else: Nay more: he would not even lift a finger to provide his own most elementary necessities, but would live by begging, utterly indifferent alike to abuse or charity, to cold or heat, to life or death. He was the end-product of the Brahmanic system of degradation and suppression.

WORKS OF HOLINESS

In the Brahmanic system, works of holiness played a large role. These were not, however, as one might surmise, labors of charity but rather ceremonial performances, such as saving the life of a cow or a Brahmana, bestowing gifts upon a priest, reciting the Vedas, bathing in holy water, journeying to sacred places, or eating the five products of the cow (urine, dung, milk, sour milk, and clarified butter). All such activities were believed highly efficacious for removing guilt.

We read that "all mountains, all rivers, holy lakes, places of pilgrimage, the dwellings of rishis, cowpens, and temples of the gods are places which destroy sin" (Vasishtha, XXII, 12). At such sacred spots penances were extremely effective, and required only periods ranging from a single day to a year to obliterate a variety of sins, including the most revolting (Ibid., 13). Most sacrosanct were various altars and shrines to which pilgrimages were made. Hundreds of thousands of pious persons journeyed long distances, particularly to the Ganges at Benares, so that their souls might attain heaven and a more fortunate incarnation in the next birth.

PENANCE

Under the priestly codes, elaborate formularies were devised by which sinners might free themselves from guilt. They must "always perform a penance, by the advice of a Brahmana" (Inst. of Vishnu, XLII, 2). Scarcely by accident, these penances were often very profitable to the Brahmanas: and they ranged anywhere from giving them a bundle of straw to committing suicide by fire or starvation. Although there is not the smallest vestige of all this in Buddhism, in pristine Christianity, it became one of the characteristics of the Catholic Church in the fourth century and remains so to this day.

HEAVEN AND HELL

The Brahmanic concepts of hell were used to reinforce the caste system and metempsychosis. In Brahmanic eschatology hell and heaven are places, of reward for the obedient and further punishment for the wicked or heretical. While heaven remained vague and indefinite, hell became an elaborately developed concept with a multitude of graphic tortures appropriate for every type of miscreant.

We are told that there are twenty-three hells which are characterized by darkness, howling, burning, parching, stench, iron spikes, frying pans, a flaming river, sword-leaved trees, iron fetters, etc., in all of which the worst criminals are tortured successively (Ibid., XLIII). Those who have committed a crime effecting loss of caste are tortured for a thousand years: they are dragged hither and yon upon rough roads, devoured by dogs and jackals, hawks and cranes, serpents and scorpions. They are scorched by blazing fire, pierced by thorns, divided by saws into parts, and tormented by thirst. They are agitated by hunger and fearful troops of tigers, and faint away because of foul stenches. They are boiled in oil, pounded with pestles, and ground in iron or stone vessels. They are compelled to eat vomit, pus, blood, and excrement. They are tormented by frost, suspended from trees, shot full of arrows and cut into pieces (Ibid., 1-45). "After having suffered the torments inflicted in the hells, the evil-doers pass into animal bodies." Several centuries later, concepts comparable to these reappeared in various Christian apocalypses.

EXCOMMUNICATION

As we have already noted, the Brahmanas insisted on controlling each and every member of society: no one could escape their rule and they made some kind of provision for every one. This, of course, is the fundamental characteristic of the priest-state: a hierarchy may or may not seek moral improvement, but it always insists on universal sway, heavy tribute from all, and the extirpation of every ideology except its own. It proclaims its prerogative to legislate for every phase of human activity, social, political, moral, domestic, civil, and religious, all by revealed and sacred authority. In such a society, no human being is permitted to live his own life, follow his own reason, or earn a living in his own way, asking merely to live at peace with his fellowmen. Anyone desiring such independence will be regarded as a dangerous subversive.

The fearful weapon always ready for use in the hands of the Brahmanas was excommunication. This was the punishment by which the heretic, the unbeliever, the independent individual, or anyone who did not adequately perform his religious obligations would be deprived of caste and degraded to the rank of Sudra or Khandala. Brahmanic law provided specifically that anyone "who does not worship standing in the morning, nor sitting in the evening, shall be excluded, just like a Sudra, from all the duties and rights of an Aryan" (Manu, II, 103). And again: "He who divulges the Veda to persons not authorized to study it, he who sacrifices for Sudras, and all those who have fallen from the highest caste shall be excommunicated" (Vasishtha, XXII, 12). We must never "honor, even by a greeting, heretics . . . or logicians, arguing against the Veda" And so we find that the principal thunderbolt of the Catholic clergy had been fully developed many centuries before in India. The fearful thing about excommunication was not that it cut the victim off from all religious associations, but that it sealed him away from all human contacts and made it impossible for him to earn a living. And where the priesthood had sufficient power, excommunication included also exile or death.

EXCLUSIVE SALVATION

The Brahmanic codes were declared unalterable and everlasting, because they were ancient and based upon irrefragable authority: "All those doctrines differing from the Veda, which spring up and soon perish, are worthless and false, because they are of modern date" (Manu, XII, 95-95). This, of course, was aimed at such heretical innovations as Buddhism, which, because of recent origin, must soon perish.

PANTHEISM

The Vedanta-Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads, contain the most complete exposition of mature Brahmanic metaphysics. Brahmanism moved finally into a thorough-going pantheism, and prepared the way for Buddhism by developing a philosophy which denied that the Vedas were in themselves sufficient for salvation.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, the instructor is Krishna, one of the various terrestrial incarnations of Vishnu. He declares that "in this world there is a two-fold path" (Bhagavad-Gita, III); just as we shall find the Essenes and the primitive Christians declaring. The first is pursued by those who overcome passion and desire, a doctrine elaborated in the Anugita (Vasishtha, IV, 30); who repudiate family, sex, property, wealth, and all material things; who are indifferent to all things good or bad, here or hereafter; and who seek only the Self, that is, the union of the finite with the infinite Soul of the Universe, which is Brahman, Atman, Vishnu, Pragapati the Over-Soul, as Emerson calls it. Thus, they will be freed forever from the circle of birth and death, from the endless Wheel of Life. The second pathway is that of those who, deceived by their senses and driven hither and yon by their passions, crave property, family, and wealth. They are slaves of delusion, who must descend in the scale of life, be tortured in hell, and be reborn again and again only to repeat their pointless sufferings through endless eons.

According to the Upanishads, the universe is Brahman; he is also the Atman, the living, permeating life, which is the Infinite Soul. This divine power is called the Self. Every soul that is manifest in plant, tree, fish, insect, bird, beast, or man is a portion of this omnipresent spirit, and every such microcosm, as it were, may choose to undergo continued misery as an independent existence or rejoin the Universal Self, the macrocosm, become one with the infinite, lose consciousness and identity, and so escape forever the Wheel of Life.

CONCLUSION

Let us summarize the final development of Hinduism. The Vedas were the original scriptures of the Aryan conquerors of India but in time their descendants developed legal and ecclesiastical codes to establish their authority and give divine sanction to the caste system and the doctrine of transmigration. A vast hierarchy proliferated, which clamped its iron rule upon every human being and every phase of life. The despair and frustration which resulted among the masses made it necessary to devise the doctrine of renunciation and to provide for hermits and ascetics within the framework of that society. And lastly, the pantheistic doctrines of the Upanishads were developed (Katha-Upanishad, I, i, 2:23), which rejected the sufficiency of the Vedas, promulgated the concept of the Self and the Wheel of Life, and prepared the way for Buddhism.

In the seventh and eighth centuries of our era, Islam swept into India and conquered large territories; but their converts were taken rather from the Buddhists than from the Brahmanas. There are in India today some 80,000,000 Mohammedans and 260,000,000 Hindus; the Buddhists were long since driven from India and have never regained a foothold there.

THE INFLUENCE UPON THE ESSENES AND CHRISTIANITY

The influence of Brahmanism upon the Essenes and Christianity was very slight, except insofar as its asceticism carried over into Buddhism; but upon the priesthood of the Catholic Church, especially after its political triumph, it became paramount. We may list the following practices, which were certainly derived from Brahmanism:

All these characteristics, unknown both to the New Testament and to the Apostolic Church, became standard after 350 A.D. The priestly prerogative to legislate for every one in all fields of human conduct was common to Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Brahmanism; and for their own parallel pretensions, the Catholics were probably indebted equally to Jews and Brahmanas. Finally, we may be certain that Catholic reverence for and worship of sacred images (so horrifying to Jews, Zoroastrians, and early Christians alike) came at least as much from India as from Greek and Roman paganism.

THE ENDURANCE OF BRAHMANISM

The success of Brahmanism is attested by its permanence: the Greeks of Alexander could not conquer it; after several centuries, it expelled Buddhism from India, and, after certain alterations, reappeared as Hinduism; it withstood the fiercest assaults of the Mohammedans, and neither Christianity nor modern enlightenment have been able to make any serious inroads into its domains. Brahmanism or Hinduism is a religion, a social system, a way of life: and it still holds the destiny of some 300,000,000 communicants in its iron grip, frustrating every effort intended to emancipate its victims. It remains to be seen what such men as the Marxist Nehru and his British-educated colleagues can do to alter or transform this ancient ideology and social structure. The modern Hindu has shown that he can elect socialists to operate his government, but he has not shown that he can conquer his ancient superstitions or adopt a secularist or progressive way of life.

We have noted why the Brahmanas called themselves Fathers (Vasishtha, II, 4). We know, furthermore, that the Buddhist heresy repudiated the Vedas, the Brahmanas, and their title of father-gods. In Matt. 23:9, Jesus says, "And call no man your Father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." We suggest that this text can have only a single meaning: it reflected Buddhist influence and was a repudiation of all such priestly authority as the Brahmanas arrogated to themselves. The Catholic hierarchy, however, found Brahmanic ideology far more to its liking than it did the teachings of Jesus; and therefore it patterned itself in the image of the former. The Catholic Church re-established the very system which Buddhism and the Jesus repudiated.The Church became the counter-revolution which rejected the religion of Jesus. From Brahmanism, through Buddhism, apostolic Christianity and the Catholic Church, the wheel turned full circle. It was therefore no accident that the new clergy, in the fourth and fifth centuries, began to call themselves by the very name which their nominal Founder had so stringently forbidden. And it was also no accident that under their authority a social structure was erected in Europe which substantially reproduced that of India: they themselves became the Brahmanas; the feudal aristocracy, the Kshatriyas; the tradesmen and peasants, the Vaisyas; serfs and the slaves, the Sudras. And the heretics became the outcastes.

{short description of image}bennoah1@airmail.net