Evolution of Hindu Moral Ideals (An Old and Rare Book)
|P. S. Sivaswamy Aiyer
|8.50 X 5.50 inch
The aspect of Indian life and thought which the author has dealt with is the "Evolution of Hindu Ideals." One is confronted at the very outset with the question who are Hindus. Hinduism does not owe its origin to any historical person and does not connote adherence to the teaching of any particular founder. It has shown a capacity to absorb the beliefs and practices of many races and tribes. Hinduism represents not merely a set of belief but also a definite social organisation. The author has termed Hindus those who acknowledge the authority of the Vedas and the sacred literature in Sanskrit or who have been influenced in their life and conduct by the rules, principles, ideals and culture embodied in that ancient Sanskrit literature derived therefrom.
The learned author has thrown light on ethico-legal conceptions, marriage, sonship, property, liability for ancestor's debts, maintenance, inheritance, Stridhana, illegitimate son's right to inherit, exclusion from inheritance, woman, caste, slavery, law and justice, rights and duties of rulers & subjects, Ahimsa, cleanliness, foreign languages, travel, penances, Sanatanadharma, doctrine of Karma, moral standard, Purusarthas or ends of conduct, the four ashramas and the ways of salvation, conception of duty, duty for its own sake. Adhikarbheda or relativity, origin against Hindu ethics and its merits, moral progress, the drift of modern tendencies and the future.
THE aspect of Indian life and thought with which I propose to deal in my lectures is the "Evolution - of Hindu Moral Ideals". One is confronted at the very outset with the question who are Hindus. To say that Hindus are those who follow Hinduism is no satisfactory answer. Unlike Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, Hinduism does not Owe its origin to any historical person and does not con note adherence to the teaching of any particular founder. It has shown a capacity to absorb the beliefs and practices of many races and tribes, and in its endeavour to incorporate and assimilate them, it has not only exercised an influence upon the minds and habits of the peoples who were brought within its fold, but has also been influenced by its contact with them. For the purposes of the lawyer a Hindu has sometimes been defined as one who has been held by the courts to be governed by the rules of Hindu law. But this definition would include the followers of heretical or dissenting sects like the Sikhs and Jains' and would only take us back to the question to whom the rules of Hindu law should be applied. The rules of Hindu law applied by the courts are those originally laid down in the Sanskrit Dharma Sastras as modified by established usages. When western scholars speak of Hindu law, they generally mean the law as laid down in the Dharma Sastras composed by the ancient Sanskrit writers. Several writers, including some of our own countrymen, have been so impressed by the diversity of beliefs and practices among those who are called Hindus that they have confessed their inability to lay down any real test of Hinduism. A recent writer has described Hinduism as 'that all-embracing but undefinable system of toleration or synthesis which shelters within its capacious bosom every form of belief and practice that will agree with its few general conventions. Other writers have been struck by the fundamental unity of thought and belief which prevails among all Hindu communities. Hinduism represents not merely a set of beliefs, but also a definite social organisation. There is perhaps not much more difficulty in defining Hindus or Hinduism than there is in defining Christians or Christianity. There are numberless sects among Christians differing from each other in doctrine and practice, and even among the votaries of any particular sect all of them do not subscribe to all the articles of faith of that sector conform to all its practices. Nevertheless we are able to form some idea of Christianity as a whole. When western writers speak of Hinduism, they have in mind the system of religion, philosophy, ethics and laws contained in the Sanskrit scriptures, law-books and other sacred literature. Some writers have spoken of the laws and religion as Brahminical. That they were mostly of Brahminical origin in the sense that most of the authors of the treatises were Brahmins admits of little doubt: But it would be a mistake to imagine that they were applicable only to the Brahmins and not to the other castes and classes, or that the latter were not influenced in their daily life and conduct by the beliefs, principles and ideals contained in this literature. Taking, for instance, the two great epic poems of India, there are hardly any Hindus who do not cherish the ideals set forth in these works or who have not been affected by the cultural traditions they embody. They have exercised a profound influence upon the life and thought of India. Within the last one or two generations there has been an attempt to revolt against the authority of the sacred books of Brahminical origin, an attempt due partly to communal dissensions and jealousies and partly to the influences which have been tending to the break-up of the old caste system. Notwithstanding the difficulties of framing a scientifically satisfactory definition, we can form a more or less rough conception of Hinduism as ordinarily understood. It connotes among other things belief in the authority of the Vedas and other sacred writings of the ancient sages, in the immortality of the soul and in a future life, in the existence of a Supreme God, in the theory of Karma and re-birth, in the worship of ancestors, in the social organisation represented by the four main castes, in the theory of the four stages of life and in the theory of the four Purusarthas or ends of human endeavour. For the purpose of the present course of lectures we may include under the term 'Hindus' those who acknowledge the authority of the Vedas and other sacred literature in Sanskrit or who have been influenced in their life and conduct by the rules, principles, ideals and culture embodied in the ancient Sanskrit literature or in the vernacular literature derived there from. It is my purpose to deal with the ethical ideals rather than with the practice, with the rules of conduct rather than the degree of conformity to the rules. It would, of course, not be possible entirely to separate the consideration of the rules from the consideration of actual conduct. The ethical progress of a community has to be judged more by the ideals of conduct which it sets before itself than by the extent of the conformity of its members to the ideals. Shortcomings and deviations from the rules regarded as binding are bound to occur in every society. It would be difficult to form any estimate of the proportion of the members of any society who strictly and fully conform to the requirements of the current ethical code. The ideal rule is bound to be higher than the standard of attainment and it is an advantage to society that it should be so. If, on the other hand, the ideal is so high that it cannot possibly be attained by any one or is practically departed from by most members of the community, it cannot be treated as an accepted rule or standard. The maxim 'whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also' may safely be assigned to the category of impracticable ideals. Writers on the evolution of morals have therefore investigated the progress of ethical conceptions and ethical theories and do not consider it profitable to study the varying degrees in which the accepted rules of conduct have been fulfilled in practice.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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