present hopes and fears of the enthusiastic, or trembling suppliant, the exclusive and especial adoration of BKAHMA has mixed itself with that addressed to VIsHNU and SIvA: gratitude is less ardent than hope or fear; in time it becomes overpowered by their superior potency, and its object is in a manner forgotten. But a Hindu, spurning at sobriety of narration, cannot plainly sta.e any historical or philosophical fact; it must have a fabulous and mythological origin, progress, and termination: hence the three sects, who separately worshipped the coequal, coeternal powers, have, by a series of poetical persecution and warfare, in which the followers of BRAHMA were discomfited, his temples overthrown, and his worship abolished, been reduced to two; and the sects of Vaishnava and Saiva now comprise all the individuals of that very numerous race, distinguished by the appellation of Hindus.
These two sects, or grand divisions, are variously subdivided1 as will be unfolded in the course of our work; but the whole, with the exception of the philosophic few, are influenced by a superstitious and idolatrous polytheism. The ignorant address themselves to idols fashioned by the hand of man; the sage worships God in spirit.
Of that infinite, incomprehensible, self-existent Spirit, no representation is made: to his direct and immediate honour no temples rise; nor dare a Hindu address to him the effusions of his soul otherwise than by the mediation of a personified attribute, or through the intervention of a priest; who will teach him, that gifts, prostration, and sacrifice, are good because they are pleasing to the gods; not, as an unsophisticated heart must feel, that piety and benevolence are pleasing to God because they are good.
But, although the Hindus are taught to address their vows to idols and saints, these are still but types and personifications of the Deity, who is too awful to be contemplated, and too incomprehensible to be described: still the ardour and enthusiasm of sectaries, when representing the object of their own exclusive adoration, dictate yery awful and sublime effusions, exalting him into the throne of the Almighty, and arraying him in all the attributes of the Most High. It is, therefore, under the articles allotted to the description of persons and attributes, and sects and symbols, that our attention will be chiefly arrested and detained. As the Hindu erects no altars to BRAHM, so we shall in this place make him but a brief offering of our consideration: in imitation of sectarial devotees, we shall dwell longer on the contemplation of created or imaginary beings, and haply aided by a ray of their philosophic light, look through nature up to nature’s God.