Chintamon 1874 Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita

This book consists primarily of Hurrychund Chintamon’s commentary on an English translation of the Gita but its opening pages provide a glimpse of his interests as an early “global esotericist” familiar with Freemasonry and Spiritualism as well as Indian religion. Sanskrit passages in the original were removed and marked by ellipses because OCR after scanning left them illegible. The entire book is available here and many other online sites, and is now being published in paperback.

PREFACE.

What little philosophy the reader may find in these pages is not that of Patanjali, or Epicurus, of Lucretius, or Kant, of Berkeley, or Cousin; let me call it the philosophy of common sense, and so appeal to all for its consideration. Its chief object is the cleansing of spiritual truth; for as in the material world gold and precious metals have at all times existed, but mixed with dross and dirt, and requiring purifi¬cation in the furnace of the refiner, so spiritual truth has likewise always existed in the world of knowledge, but has ever been mixed at first with some debasing alloy of ignorance or superstition, which must be removed by the refining influence of Reason.

The whole dictionary of ancient religion is made up of metaphor. Polytheism is but the polyonomy of religion; mythology is the baby talk of religion. The fault is ours if we now misunderstand that early speaking of a child to a child.       .

Various successive religions answer the purpose of God in proriding suitable meats for various digestions. Nor are the worshippers in every religion but one excluded from salvation.

“WHAT new thing is contained in this?” is the common question of those who are careless or incapable of understanding the importance of philosophical inquiry, when any work on the philosophy of religion is produced. There is no new thing contained in this work. The author of the sacred song, its subject, did but endeavour, as many before and after him, to raise the veil of ignorance and superstition from the heart of man, and so enable him to read the characters written there by Reason in her own fair hand. The old saying of the Greek sage “Know thyself,” is here, as everywhere, all-important. Man, who finds delight in the reason of others, must find yet greater delight in his own— still greater delight in considering that its origin is from God, and that it is the only path by which to approach Him. As man, before he can love God, whom he has not seen, must love his brother, whom he has seen, so, before he can know and feel pleasure in God, he must know and feel pleasure in himself.

The Indian pundits, from the age of Kapila, the modern Descartes, to that of Krishna Dwaipayana, whether they have been Nishvara or Seshvara, Charvaka, or the disciples of Atmabodha, care as little for the thirty-three millions of gods which people the Hindu Pantheon, as the educated ministers of the Church for the Saints of the Anglican Calendar. But the policy of priests in Asia, as in Europe, has ever been to hide knowledge from the vulgar, as nurses hide knives from children—not to throw pearls before swine, or that which is holy before dogs. In Hindustan, as in England, there are doctrines for the learned, and dogmas for the unlearned; strong meat for men, and milk for babes; facts for the few, and fictions for the many; realities for the wise, and romances for the simple; esoteric truth for the philosopher, and exoteric fable for the fool. The Chandala knows no more of Sanscrit than the French peasant of Latin, yet it is in these languages only that it is given to them respectively to know the mysteries of heaven,—in these, and in idle, if imposing, rites and ceremonies, and in profane and old wives’ fables, against which Timothy was cautioned by Paul. Divine service may be divided, therefore, into knowledge of external fable or ceremony, and knowledge of internal fact or truth. The latter finds fit audience, though few; the disciples of the former are the world at large.

I need not, I think, warn those for whom this book is intended, not to reject as nonsense that which is merely new, or to consider that which is barbarous, therefore bad. I presume they will judge for them-selves, like the old Berseans, whether these things are so; and if they are not, I shall at least have had the credit of assisting in the detection of error. Nor is the philosophy contained in this book difficult to understand. Its object is simply the removal of those mists of error which hide from man the beauty of his own spiritual nature; its end is to attract and reduce them to nothing by the warm, radiant light of Reason, in a time when the icy chains of error and superstition which have circled him so long and with so cold a clasp, are being fast melted by the increasing heat of education and intelligence.

The text, with the aid of the commentary, will, it is to be hoped, be sufficiently plain. One or two observations only, which seemed out of place in the notes, may be made here.

First, it is worth while to remark that pithy climax of Arjuna’s creed: after he has addressed Krishna as the formless form, mortal and immortal, indivisible and divisible, being and non-being, motion and rest, the great omnipresent and everlasting God, with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, he ends his hymn of praise with those sublime and impassioned words, “ Thou All I” The “Bhagavad-Gita” describes Him, in whom we live and move and have our being, and without whom nothing is, as the origin of all birth, death, might, wisdom, and goodness. It says He receives no one’s virtue or vice; that is, it is a matter of indifference to the Supreme whether man or any other animal be what man calls good, or what man calls bad. It is the pride of humanity alone which considers itself worthy of the notice of God…

The reader will notice especially the following opinions of philosophic latitudinarianism. Indifference to doctrines will be the result of escape from delusion. God is to be worshipped without any religious form. In the end, as Paul preached to the Corinthians, God is to be all in all. The real philosophical Nirvana is to be the final state, after all vicissitude and misery, of everlasting and supreme repose. Knowledge is throughout represented as power, and the worst form of poverty as the poverty of wisdom. Learning is more than loveliness, more than hidden treasure, a companion and a consoler. It distinguishes between what is transitory and what is eternal, and so subdues sorrow; it shows the sturdy tree carried away by the flood which passes by the bending rush, and so prevents pride; it teaches that religious ceremony cannot alone absolve from sin. It is the path by which man may pass from the unreal to the real, from night to dawn, from death to immortality; it is the ladder which leads to God.

I have only, in conclusion, to add my obligations to Mr. J. C. Thomson, whose excellent translation of the “Bhagavad-Gita ” into English—the best that is known to me—I have taken the liberty of choosing as the subject of my Commentary; and to Mr. Brockie, from whom I have borrowed some excellent remarks. I have also had throughout in my book the assistance of a distinguished English scholar, whose modesty, I regret to say, forbids my rendering my work more valuable with his name.

QUESTIONS ON UNIVERSAL THEOLOGY.

SINCE my arrival in this country I have visited several places both of amusement and of instruction, and have been astonished at the stride of progress in both ; but in the department of self-improvement, or that department which is the most vital and fundamental to mankind, the religious instruction communicated to the public in several denominatory institutions has, in this civilized country, in no small degree surprised me, and I have been at a loss to understand the aims and objects of these institutes; hence, I earnestly desire to be enlightened on the following few Questions:—

1.       Is not God, the creator of the universe, one without a second?

2.       Does not the fatherhood of God establish the brotherhood of mankind?

3.       Is not mankind in all countries and nations virtually the same, though differing in form, colour, dress, and speech?

4.       Is not reason a natural gift to all, by which men are superior to other animals?

5.       Since reason has the quality of discrimination, does it not presuppose the existence of the evil of ignorance?

6.       On what grounds are the differences in belief to be defended?

7.       On what ground is the conclusive opinion of the sole authenticity of each to be supported, and how can the pride of its supporters be upheld?

8.       Should such beliefs be allowed to remain—sources, as they me, of hatred in humanity, and stagnation in progress?

9.       If universality of belief and nationalization are to be united, what means are best conducive to the attainment of this end?

MORAL PRECEPTS.

1.       O MIND! desires are bad, and lead to sin, Keep these without, and bind good thoughts within.

2.       O Mind! forsake desires, to truth adhere;

For from desire come sorrow, suffering, fear;

And who of men such fruits as these holds dear?

3.       O Mind I away with anger, from which grew First grief; away with lust, whose child is pain;

Away with pride and envy; peace ensue, Sweet as in sultry tides the summer rain.

4.       O Mind! be constant always, and forbear

Vain talk, which murders time, of talk the worst. 0 Mind! let all your words be clean, and fair,

And sweet, to satisfy the hearers’ thirst.

5.       O Mind! how precious is good fame ! It is The ointment of sweet savour, like the wood

Of the brown sandal tree, perfumed is this, Living for ever, and for ever good.

6.O Mind! who in this world of woe Rests happy in hamlet or on throne ?

Alas! we reap what seed we sow; The hands that smite us are our own.

7.  Mind! be not afflicted, be not grieved;

Be not afraid, be not forlorn, O Mind!

Peace is by reason in the heart received, By perfect reason grows rash man resigned.

8. O Mind! One grieves for his brother’s death, and he Dies; loud ambition has no lodging here, Or should have none; it fills the bond and free With rage and lean remorse and quaking fear, And guilt that ever looks behind, and lust, Those idle passions of the child of dust.