Robert Ernest Hume

Robert Ernest
Hume
1877
1949

Indian Author, Translator, Professor of the History of Religions in the Union Theological Seminary in New York

Author Quotes

In the Rig-Veda brahma seems to have meant first ?hymn,? ?prayer,? ?sacred knowledge,? ?magic formula.? In this very sense it is used in the Upanishads, as well as in compounds such as brahmavat, ?possessed of magic formulas,? and brahma-varcasa, ?superiority in sacred knowledge.? It also signified the power that was inherent in the hymns, prayers, sacred formulas, and sacred knowledge. This latter meaning it was that induced the application of the word to the world-ground?a power that created and pervaded and upheld the totality of the universe. Yet how difficult it was to preserve the penetrating philosophical insight which discerned that efficiency, that power, that brahma underlying the world?an insight which dared to take the word from its religious connection and to infuse into it a philosophical connotation?will be shown in the recorded attempts to grasp that stupendous idea, all of which fell back, because of figurative thinking, into the old cosmologies which this very Brahma-theory itself was intended to transcend.

Instead of being identified with my consciousness, this world of sense is the product of my constructive imagination, as is evident in sleep, when one ?himself tears it apart, himself builds it up, and dreams by his own brightness, by his own light. . . . There are no chariots there, no spans, no roads. But he projects from himself chariots, spans, roads. There are no blisses there, no pleasures, no delights. But he projects from himself blisses, pleasures, delights. There are no tanks there, no lotus-pools, no streams. But he projects from [44] himself tanks, lotus-pools, streams. For he is a creator.

It is the very consciousness of ?this? and of ?I? which is the limitation that separates one from the unlimited. And individuality and self-consciousness must be lost ere one reach that infinite Real. ?As these flowing rivers that tend toward the ocean, on reaching the ocean, disappear, their name and form [or individuality] are destroyed, and it is called simply ?the ocean??even so of this spectator these sixteen parts that tend toward the Person, on reaching the Person, disappear, their name and form are destroyed, and it is called simply ?the Person.? Thus the ultimate unity of reality which has been the search throughout the Upanishads is finally reached.

Knowledge of the truth banishes the illusion and restores the identity which was only temporarily sundered by ignorance.

Like the early Greek philosophers and also with the subtlety and directness of childlike insight, they discerned the underlying unity of all being. Out of this penetrating intuition those early Indian thinkers elaborated a system of pantheism which has proved most fascinating to their descendants. If there is [2] any one intellectual tenet which, explicitly or implicitly, is held by the people of India, furnishing a fundamental presupposition of all their thinking, it is this doctrine of pantheism. The beginnings of this all-pervading form of theorizing are recorded in the Upanishads. In these ancient documents are found the earliest serious attempts at construing the world of experience as a rational whole. Furthermore, they have continued to be the generally accepted authoritative statements with which every subsequent orthodox philosophic formulation has had to show itself in accord, or at least not in discord. Even the materialistic C?rv?kas, who denied the Vedas, a future life, and almost every sacred doctrine of the orthodox Brahmans, avowed respect for these Upanishads.

Almost contemporaneous with that remarkable period of active philosophic and religious thought the world over, about the sixth century B.C., when Pythagoras, Confucius, Buddha, and Zoroaster were thinking out new philosophies and inaugurating great religions, there was taking place, in the land of India, a quiet movement which has exercised a continuous influence upon the entire subsequent philosophic thought of that country and which has also been making itself felt in the West.

But if the metaphysical knowledge of the essential oneness of the individual soul (?tman) and the universal Soul (?tman) did not procure the blissful union with that Soul, neither does this theory of the avoidance of limiting desires; for they inevitably rise up in the ordinary life of activity. The final solution of the practical problem which the Upanishads offer, namely Yoga, is the outcome of that conception of strict unity which started the speculations of the Upanishads and which urged them on from cosmology to monism, from monism to pantheism, and from an external to an internal unity. That unity?under which it is the aim of every philosophy which has ever existed rationally to bring experience?the early Indian thinkers found in Brahma, and then in the objective Soul (?tman), and then in one?s own soul, wherein the manifoldness of thought itself and the limitation of the distinctions of object and subject and all sorrows of the heart are merged into an undifferentiated unitary blissful plenum. ?To the unity of the One goes he who knows this [i. e. that all is one]. The precept for effecting this [unity] is this: restraint of the breath, withdrawal of the senses [from objects], meditation, concentration, contemplation, absorption? This is Yoga (from the root yuj, meaning to ?join,? ?yoke,? ?harness?), a harnessing of the senses and mind from the falsely manifold objects and thoughts, and at the same time a union with the unitary blissful Self.

But such a realistic conception of Brahma as a conglomerate was subversive of the very idea of unity which the concept of Brahma fundamentally signified. All those diverse material objects, psychical functions, and mental states as such could not be regarded as the materials composing the structure of a unitary world-ground. Yet there is diversity and manifoldness in the being of the world which cannot be regarded as existing apart from the world-ground? Here is perhaps the first emergence of the thought which is the solution to the question put above. It is the distinction made between the so-called phenomenal and noumental, between the sensuously perceived and that which cannot be thus brought into consciousness, but can only be thought. This notion that there is much of reality which is not within the sphere of the senses, or within the world of what is called common-sense experiences, expresses itself here and there in the early part of the Upanishads

Good conduct was declared to be an equal requisite with knowledge.

The Golden Rule exists in each of the world's major religions... Hinduism: Do naught to others which, if done to thee, would cause thee pain: this is the sum of duty. Buddhism: A clansman [should] minister to his friends and familiars... by treating them as he treats himself. Confucianism: The Master replied: "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others." Taoism: To those who are good to me, I am good; and to those who are not good to me, I am also good. And thus all get to be good. To those who are sincere with me, I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere with me, I am also sincere. And thus all get to be sincere. Zorastrianism: Whatever thou dost not approve for thyself, do not approve for anyone else. When thou hast acted in this manner, thou art righteous. Judaism: Take heed to thyself, my child, in all thy works; and be discreet in all thy behavior. And what thou thyself hatest, do to no man. Christianity: All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them. Greek Philosophy: Do not do to others what you would not wish to suffer yourself. Treat your friends as you would want them to treat you.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert Ernest
Last Name
Hume
Birth Date
1877
Death Date
1949
Bio

Indian Author, Translator, Professor of the History of Religions in the Union Theological Seminary in New York