Volume IX - The Unity of Religious Ideals
FORMS OF WORSHIP
The Hindu religion is one of the most ancient in the world, and to it almost all the religions of the past may be traced. The primitive religion of sun worship, which came and went in the world, still exists among the Brahmins. They greet the sunrise after bathing in the river; and they are purified by its most inspiring rays. Besides the sun, they worship the moon and the planets, regarding each of them as a special god, signifying a particular power of the one God.
The mythical religion of the ancient Greeks, the gods and goddesses of the old Egyptians, all are still found today in the religion of the Hindus. They count among their gods almost all the animals and birds known to man; and all the different aspects of life are explained in their myths, which teach man to see the divine Being in all. The great powers of the Almighty are pictured as various gods and goddesses, to whom special powers are attributed. Some worship these. Even such savage animals as lions, elephants, or cobras are considered sacred, by which the moral of loving our enemies is taught.
The fire worship of the Zoroastrians may be recognized in the Yaj and Yajna ceremonies of the Hindus. The idea of Christian Trinity may be traced in the idea of Trimurti in the Hindu religion. The prostration at prayers, which exists in Islam, may be seen in its complete form in the Pranam and Dandavat forms of Hindu worship.
Besides all these objects of worship, they are taught the worship of the Guru, the teacher. They see the first Guru in the mother and father, then every person with whom they come in contact who teaches them anything, they esteem as their Guru; until they have developed in themselves the worshipping attitude which in the end they show to the real Guru, who helps them in their spiritual awakening. The following verse, from the Hindi by Sundar Das, gives an idea of what the Chela thinks of his Guru:
THE CASTE SYSTEM
When the Aryans came and settled in Bharat Khand, which is today called India, they wanted to found a life of solitude and self-sufficiency there.
Those among them who were learned and pious, whose way of life was better in every way than that of the others, formed a special group and called themselves Brahmins; their work was study, scientific investigation, music, and poetry; moreover priesthood was their right. They instructed people as teachers. At the weddings and at births and deaths they took charge of the ceremonies with their religious rites. Their life was like that of a hermit. They married only among their own people; and their living depended upon Bhiksha, freewill offerings.
There were others among them who revered the Brahmins for their learning and piety, but held themselves superior because of their warlike merits and their control of the land that belonged to them. They were called Kshatriyas, landowners or warriors.
Those who were clever at commerce took refuge under the power and control of the Kshatriyas, and handled all matters concerning money. They were called Vaishyas. Business of all kinds was carried on by them.
Those remaining were the ones who labored, and according to their labor, various grades were formed. They were called Shudras. Among them were some whose work was of such a nature that if they came into the house, or touched another person when working, it was against their sanitary principles. Brahmanism, being a most scientific religion, made it a law that they should not be touched.
In this way these four castes were formed, and went on peacefully until the entry of foreigners into their land, which naturally interfered with their harmony and the whole plan became a failure.
In spite of all the wisdom in forming these four castes,
there was much selfishness shown by the higher classes, as has
been always the case with the human race; and that has been
a great hindrance to the progress of Hindus in general, for
every chance of progress was barred for the lower classes. Their
only consolation was the idea that they would reincarnate and
be born in a higher class. There was no other way. This is the
chief reason why the doctrine of reincarnation has such importance
for the Hindu race.