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1. Translation of the Cena Upanishad, one of the chapters of the
Sama Veda ; according to the gloss of the celebrated Shancaracharya: establishing the unity and the sole omnipotence of the Supreme Being: and that he alone is the object of worship. By RAMMOHUN Roy. Calcutta : printed by Philip Pereira, at
the Hindoostanee Press. 1816. 2. Remarks on a second appeal to the Christian public, by RAM
MOHUN Roy. Originally published in No. 4. of the friend of India. Serampore: printed at the mission press.
1821. 3. Humble suggestions to his Countrymen who believe in the one
true God: by Prusunnu Koomar Thakoor. Calcutta. 1823. 4. Final appeal to the Christian public, in defence of the Pre
cepts of Jesus ;' by RAMMOHUN Roy. Calcutta : printed at the Unitarian press, Dhurmtollah. 1823.
The first and last of these works belong to a collection of sixteen publications, which are before us, by the same author. According to the little information which we have been able to ga. ther respecting his history, Rammohun Roy belongs to a Brahmin family of high cast, and was born about the year 1780, in the district of Bordovan near Bengal. He received his education in Patna and Calcutta, from Mohammedan and Brahmin masters, who taught him among other things the logic of Aristotle, the mathematics of Euclid, and the Arabic, Persian and Sanscrit languages. He appears to have removed from his native district soon after the year 1805, to a city called Moorshedabad, about 100 miles north of Calcutta, and to have published there in Persian, with an Arabic preface, a work which we have not seen, entitled, against the idolatry of all religions. Since the year 1814 he has resided in Calcutta. Some other particulars relating to him, which are not without interest, are given in the following extract from Fitz-Clarence's Journal of a Route across India, in the years 1817 and 1818.
" I became well acquainted with him, and admire his talents and acquirements. His eloquence in our language is very great, and I am told he is still more admirable in Arabic and Persian. markable, that he has studied and thoroughly understands the politics of Europe, but more particularly those of England; and the last time I was in his company, he argued forcibly against a standing army in a free country, and quoted all the arguments brought forward by the Members of the Opposition. I think that he is in many respects a most extraordinary person. In the first place, he is a religious reformer, who has amongst a people more bigoted than
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those of Europe in the middle ages, dared to think for himself. His learning is most extensive, as he is not only conversant with the best books in English, Arabic, Sanscrit, Bengalee and Hindoostanee, but has even studied rhetoric in Arabic and English, and quotes Locke and Bacon on all occasions. He is particularly handsome, not of a very dark complexion, of a fine person, and most courtly manners. He professes to have no objection to eat and live as 'we do, but refrains from it, in order not to expose himself to the imputation of having changed his religion for the good things of this world. He will sit at table with us while the meat is on it, which no other Brahmin will do."
The most recent account which we have seen of Rammohun Roy is contained in a letter dated in August last, from the editor of the Calcutta Journal, then in London, to the editor of the Monthly Repository. It was written in reply to some suspicions concerning Rammohun Roy, which had been expressed by a correspondent of the latter work. The following is an extract.
In June 1818, the month of my first arrival in Calcutta, I was introduced to Rammohun Roy, and was surprised at the unparalleled accuracy of his language, never having before heard any foreigner of Asiatic birth speak so well, and esteeming his fine choice of words as worthy the imitation even of Englishmen. My first hour's conversation with bim was in Arabic, that being the oriental language most familiar to me, and not knowing at first that he spoke English with ease and fluency; but accident changing our discourse to English, I was delighted and surprised at his perfection in this tongue. I know, moreover, that he is a profound scholar in Sunskrit, Bengallee, Arabic, Persian, and Hinduee, all of which he writes and speaks with facility. In English, he is competent to converse freely on the most abstruse subjects, and to argue more closely and coherently than most men that I know. His attention has also been lately turned to Hebrew and Greek, for literary purposes, and to French for colloquial intercourse. To represent a man with such acquirements at the age of thirty-five (for he cannot be much more) as deficient in intellect, must either be the work of extreme ignorance, or malice, or both. For myself, I have no hesitation in declaring that I could not name twenty Englishmen in India, whose intellectual endowments I thought even equal to his own, although I have come in contact with most of the distinguished men in the country. He is in short one of the wonders of the present age, and requires only to be known, to excite admiration and esteem.
It is barely possible that some of his earlier works might have been revised by an English pen; but I am convinced that if ever such revisions were made, they must have been merely literal. The subject was all his own. And as to his later writings, his controversies with the Missionaries of Serampore, I do not believe that they have one word in them which is not wholly his own. The Missionary converted by Rammohur Roy from Trinitarianism to Unitarianism, is a Mr. Adam, and not Dr. Marshman: which Mr. Adam was originally deputed, it is understood, from the mission at Serampore, to discuss personally with Rammohun Roy the several points of difference between their creeds, and being honestly bent on the search of truth, had the frankness to confess the arguments of his opponent to be convincing. Mr. Adam accordingly separated from the Baptist Mission at Serampore, and in conjunction with Rammohun Roy, and others of the same faith, established a Unitarian Chapel and an Unitarian Press in Calcutta. The late Bishop of Calcutta, on hearing of Mr. Adam's embracing Unitarianism, applied to the Advocate-General, Mr. Spankie, to know if it would not be possible to have Mr. Adam banished for preaching this heresy, in a land where idolaters, widow.burners, and slayers of human sacrifices, are allowed to preach their degrading doctrines and practise their abominable rites with impunity! Mr. Spankie then replied that by the law as it applied to India, any man might be banished for any thing which the Governor-General might deem sufficient cause: but he thought the day was past when it would be safe to banish a man for his opinions on religion, and there the matter ended.
• If Rammohun Roy had been the wretch which the friend of T. L. supposes, he might have had abundant opportunities of receiving rewards from the Indian Government, in the shape of offices and appointments, for his mere neutrality; but being as remarkable for his integrity as he is for his attainments, he has, during the five years that I have known him, and that too most intimately and confidentially, pursued his arduous task of endeavouring to improve his countrymen, to beat down superstition, and to hasten as much as possible those reforms in the religion and government of his native land, of which both stand in almost equal need. He has done all this, to the great detriment of his private interests, being rewarded by the coldness and jealousy of all the great functionaries of Church and State in India, and supporting the Unitarian Chapel, the Unitarian Press, and the expense of his own publications, besides other charitable acts, out of a private fortune, of which he devotes more than one-third to acts of the purest philanthropy and benevolence.
“I am ready to meet any man living and confirm verbally what I here commit to writing for your use ; for nothing will delight me' more than to do justice to one whom I honour and esteem as I do this excellent Indian Christian and Philosopher.'
The subjects of those writings of Rammohun Roy which we have seen, are the laws concerning Hindoo women, and the Hindoo and Christian theologies. The first of his publications on the former subject, issued in 1818, is called a translation of a conference between an advocate and an opponent of the practice of burning widows alive, from the original Bungla. The author ad
mits that some of the Hindoo sacred books speak favourably of this practice; but he argnes that they only encourage it by the promise of the enjoyments of Heaven for a limited time; and that they only intend to recommend it to such as are incapable of living in widowhood, seclusion, and the practice of austerities; which latter he shows to be the course prescribed in the institutes of Menoo, and other books of the highest authority, and to be recommended there by the promise of the highest future reward of all, no less than that of deliverance from the female form, and absorption into Brahma. If there is really a clashing of authorities, he maintains that of the two courses, inconsistent with one another, which are enjoined, that is to be preferred which rests on the highest authority, and is assured of the amplest reward. To a quotation by the advocate of a text from one of the Vedas, Raminohun Roy in the person of the opponent gives a reply, which shows the Hopkinsian doctrine of perfect disinterestedness to be also a tenet of Brahminical theology. He affirms that self-immolation is to be reckoned one of those rites which according to the following texts among others, are divested of the highest quality of merit by being performed with a view to reward. •All those ignorant persons who attach themselves to the words of the Veds that convey promises of fruition, consider those falsely alluring passages as leading to real happiness, and say that besides them there is no other reality. Agitated in their minds by these desires, they believe the abodes of the celestial gods to be the chief object; and they devote themselves to those texts which treat of ceremonies and their fruits, and entice by promises of enjoyment. Such people can have no réal confidence in the Supreme Being. All those who perform acts to procure gratifications may enjoy Heaven like the Gods; and he who performs acts free from desires, procures release from the five elements of the body; that is, obtains absorption. Another branch of the argument is that the practice, as it exists in Bengal, is wholly destitute of authority; for it is essential to a rite to be performed with a circumstantial observance of the rule, but the rule requires that a widow shall enter the flame in which the body of her husband is consuming, while the practice is for her to be fastened on the pile before it is kindled.
His second conference, &c. published in 1820, is not only more elaborate both as to learning and argument, but maintains the cause of humanity with great earnestness and force, and contains a just estimate of female character and claims which is in nothing exceeded even by tbeir distinguished advocate in the epistles on
No new leading points are here introduced into the controversy, and its details are not of a nature to interest our readers.
In 1822, Rammohun Roy published brief remarks regarding modern encroachments on the ancient rights of frmules, according to the Hindoo law of inheritance. This law had it seems been so interpreted by the Brahmin advisers of the British courts, as in most cases to leave the widows and daughters of a deceased Hindoo dependent on his sons. Rammohun Roy shows by va. rious citations from the ancient law, that it secures to such persons a competent provision ; and comments forcibly on the injustice of the modern exposition. It is not,' he says, from religious prejudices and early impressions only, that Hindoo widows burn themselves on the piles of their deceased husbands, but also from their witnessing the distress in which widows of the same rank are involved, and the insults and slights to which they are daily subjected, that they become in a great measure regardless of existence after the death of their husbands ;, and this indifference, accompanied with the hope of future reward held out to them, leads them to the horrible act of suicide. A highly important part of the same publication is that in which the author shows that the practice of polygamy, as it exists among his coun. trymen, is contrary to the sense of their sacred books.
These are excellent services to humanity, and rank the mind of their author among those, which, from time to time, a kind providence arms for the holy war against that unskilful reasoning which is every where the champion of so much pernicious conduct. It is peculiar neither to Pagan nor to Christian countries to be infested with weak minded men, who, in their assuming narrowness interpreting the letter of some fragments of their rule so as to contradict the letter of almost all of it, and the spirit of the whole, with all honesty and singleness of mind uphold folly and sin as matters of religion and conscience. Philanthropy has a hard task enough to traverse the schemes of the profligate when disguised under the gravity of the devotee. But she has no work so delicate, unpromisig, and thankless, as that of reforming the abuses of a zeal not according to knowledge. It will not be instructed, for it consecrates its errors, and dreads deliberation as next of kin to instability and defection; and it can with difficulty be resisted, for sincerity even in a bad cause commands a certain sort of respect and forbearance, and creates a favourable Prejudice in such as cannot understand the merits of the question. For endeavouring to correct a mistake which sustains the most detestable enormity, Rammohun Roy is accounted by the scrupulous religionists of his country as an impious innovator, who would exalt reason above faith; but this is no other price