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Dubois, Jean Antoine (1765 - 1848): A description of the character, manners and customs of the people of India and of their institutions, religious and civil / J. A. Dubois. Transl. from the French ms., with notes, corr. and additions: G. U. Pope. -- 3. ed.. - Madras : Higginbotham, 1879. -- S. 59 - 63: Chapter XI: Of the mantras, or forms of prayer. -- (Materialien zur ´Saivâgamaparibhâ.sâmańjarî / von Alois Payer. -- 2. Zweierreihen ; Anhang A). -- Fassung vom 2004-05-24. -- URL: http://www.payer.de/saivagama/saiv02a.htm. -- [Stichwort].
Erstmals publiziert: 2004-05-24
Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung SS 2004
©opyright: Public domain
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
Abb.: Abbé Dubois, 1820
"DUBOIS, JEAN ANTOINE (1765-1848), French Catholic missionary in India, was ordained in the diocese of Viviers in 1792, and sailed for India in the same year under the direction of the Missions Etrangres. He was at first attached to the Pondicherry mission, and worked in the southern districts of the present Madras Presidency. On the fall of Seringapatam in 1799 he went to Mysore to reorganize the Christian community that had been shattered by Tipu Sultan. Among the benefits which he conferred upon his impoverished flock were the founding of agricultural colonies and the introduction of vaccination as a preventive of smallpox.
But his great work was his record of Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies. Immediately on his arrival in India he saw that the work of a Christian missionary should be based on a thorough acquaintance with the innermost life and character of the native population. Accordingly he abjured European society, adopted the native style of clothing, and made himself in habit and costume as much like a Hindu as he could. He gained an extraordinary welcome amongst people of all castes and conditions, and is still spoken of in many parts of South India with affection and esteem as the princes son, the noblest of Europeans. Although Dubois modestly disclaimed the rank of an author, his collections were not so much drawn from the Hindu sacred books as from his own careful and vivid observations, and it is this, united to a remarkable prescience, that makes his work so valuable.
It is divided into three parts:
- a general view of society in India, and especially of the caste system;
- the four states of Brahminical life;
- religion, feasts, temples, objects of worship.
Not only does the abb give a shrewd, clear-sighted, candid account of the manners and customs of the Hindus, but he provides a very sound estimate of the British position in India, and makes some eminently just observations on the difficulties of administering the Empire according to Western notions of civilization and progress with the limited resources that are available.
Duboiss French MS. was purchased for eight thousand rupees by Lord William Bentinck for the East India Company in 1807; in 1816 an English translation was published, and of this edition about 1864 a curtailed reprint was issued. The abbe however, largely recast his work, and of this revised text (now in the India Office) an edition with notes was published in 1897 by H. K. Beauchamp.
Dubois left India in January 1823, with a special pension conferred on him by the East India Company, and on reaching Paris was appointed director of the Missions Etrangeres, of which he afterwards became superior (1836-1839).
He translated into French the famous book of Hindu fables called Panchatantra, and also a work called The Exploits of the Guru Paramarta.
Of more interest were his Letters on the State of Christianity in India, in which he asserted his opinion that under existing circumstances there was no human possibility of so overcoming the invincible barrier of Brahminical prejudice as to convert the Hindus as a nation to any sect of Christianity. He acknowledged that low castes and outcastes might be converted in large numbers, but of the higher castes he wrote: "Should the intercourse between individuals of both nations, by becoming more intimate and more friendly, produce a change in the religion and usages of the country, it will not be to turn Christians that they will forsake their own religion, but rather . . . to become mere atheists." He died in I848."
[Quelle: Encyclopedia Brtannica 1911. -- s. v.]
CHAPTER XI. OF THE MANTRAS, OR FORMS OF PRAYER.
The Mantras, so celebrated in all the Hindu books, are nothing more than certain forms of prayer, or words of efficacy, which (to borrow a Hindu expression on the subject,) have such virtue as to be able to enchain the gods themselves.
They are of various sorts,
By means of them, all effects may be produced.
But I should never finish if I attempted to enumerate in detail the whole of the pretended virtues of the Mantra.
The Purohitas, of all the Hindus, understand them best. They are indispensably necessary to them for accompanying the ceremonies which it is their office to conduct. But, in general, the whole of the Brahmans are conversant with these formulae, agreeably to this Sanscrit strophe, which is often in their mouths:
Devâdhînam jagat sarvam
Brâhma.nâ mama Devatâ
Which may be translated :
"all the universe is under the power of the gods; the gods are subject to the power of the Mantras: the Mantras are under the power of the Brahmans; the Brahmans are therefore our gods."
The argument is regular in form, and the conclusion technical; and accordingly in many books, as I have elsewhere mentioned, they are called the terrestrial gods. They assume these names to themselves, and listen with pleasure when they are applied to them by the other castes.
To place the efficacious virtue of the Mantras in a clear point of view, I will only refer to the following quotation from the Brâhmottarakhânda, a well known Hindu poem written in honour of 'Siva :
"Dâ'sara, King of Mathurâ, having espoused Kalâvati, daughter of the King of Kâ'si or Benâres, this princess, on the very day of the marriage, apprized him that it would be absolutely necessary for him to abstain from making use of the right which his title of husband gave him, because the Mantram of the five letters which she had learned, had penetrated her with purifying fire which would permit no man to come near her, with the risk of perishing, unless, before familiar intercourse, he should have been purified from his sins by the same means which she herself had practised : that, being his wife, she could not point out to him this purifying Mantram, because in doing so she would become his Guru, and consequently his superior.
The following day, they went together in quest of the great Rishi, or penitent, Garga; who having learned the purpose of their visit, ordered them to fast a whole day, to wash themselves in the river Gauges on the day following, and then to visit him again. This being complied with, and the prince having returned, the penitent made him sit down upon the ground with his face turned towards the east. Garga sat down beside him with his face towards the west, and secretly whispered these two words is his ear, nama.h 'Sivâya. That is the Mantram of five letters, or five syllables, and signifies,' health to 'Siva.' As soon as Da'sara had learned these two wonderful words, he perceived that he was excited by their purifying fire, and at the same moment, there sprung out from all parts of his body a multitude of crows, which flew up into the sky and disappeared. These were the sins committed by the prince in preceding generations.
"This, history," says the author," is certain. I had it from my Guru, Vedavyâsa, who had learned it of Para-Brahma. The king and his spouse, thus purified, lived together for many years, and retired at last to re-unite with Para-Brahma in the abode of bliss, without being obliged to be re-born any more upon earth."
When the Brahmans are rallied upon the present state of their Mantras, wholly divested of their boasted efficacy and power, they answer, that this loss of their influence is to be attributed to the Kaliyugam, which means that age of the world in which we now live, the true iron age, the time of evil and misfortune, in which every thing has degenerated. Nevertheless, they subjoin, it is still not uncommon to see the Mantras operate effects as miraculous as formerly; which they confirm by stories not less authentic than such as we have already reported.
Of all the Mantras, the most celebrated, and at the same time the most effectual for blotting out all sins, and of such potency as to make the gods themselves to tremble, as the Hindu books affirm, is that to which they give the name of Gâyatrî, which signifies the Mantram of the twenty-four letters or syllables. It is so ancient and so powerful as to have given rise to the Vedas. The Brahman when about to recite it, makes a previous preparation by prayers and the deepest meditation. Before pronouncing a word, he closes all the apertures of his body, and keeps in his breath as long as it is possible to retain it; and then he recites it in a low voice, taking good care that it shall not be intelligible by the 'Sűdras and the rest of the profane. Even his wife, especially at certain periods, is not allowed to hear it.
This famous Mantram consists of the following words :
Tat Savitur vare.nyam bhargo devasya
dhîmahi dhiyo yo na.h pracodayât.
This then is the celebrated Mantram of four and twenty letters or syllables. The meaning is very dark, and unintelligible to the Brahmans themselves. I have never met with any one who could give me a tolerable explication of it. Such as it is, it would be a horrible sacrilege and an unpardonable crime in any Brahman to communicate it to any profane or foreign ears. We may add that there are other Mantras which bear the name of Gâyatrî, but they are of much lower repute than this.
Although the Brahmans alone are held to be the true depositaries of the Mantras, yet there are many persons of other castes who scruple not to pronounce them. There are professions also in which it is indispensable. The Physicians themselves, who are not Brahmans, would be considered as ignorant beings and unworthy of the public confidence, however much entitled to it in other respects, if they were unacquainted with the Mantras suited to each disease as regularly as with the medicines which are applied in the cure. The cure is considered as arising from the Mantras as much as from the medical applications. One of the principal reasons for which the European physicians are held in such discredit in India, as far as regards their profession, is, that they administer their medicines without any accompaniment of Mantram.
The Midwives are called in some parts Mantra 'Sâri, or women who understand the Mantras; and never can those holy prayers be more necessary than at that crisis when, according to the notions of the Hindus, a tender infant and a newly delivered mother are particularly liable to the fascination of evil eyes, to the malign conjunctions of the planets, the influence of unlucky days, and many other dangers, each more perilous than another. A skilful midwife, stored with good and serviceable Mantras, pronounced at the proper moment, provides against all such fears and dangers.
But those who are considered to be the most skilful in this kind of knowledge, and at the same time the most dangerous, are the persons who deal in the Occult Sciences; such as Magicians, Sorcerers, and Soothsayers. It is this sort of practitioners who pretend to be possessed of the true Mantras which can strike with sudden death, cure and inflict diseases, call up or lay the fiends, discover thefts, concealed treasures, distant objects, or future events. Such persons will always abound in a country where ignorance, superstition, and quackery so universally prevail.
The mischievous magicians being very much dreaded and hated, never fail to be punished when they are believed guilty of having brought down evil upon any one by their spells. The ordinary way of punishing them on such occasions is by drawing the two front teeth of the upper jaw, which prevents them from speaking plainly, and is supposed to mar their utterance of the evil Mantras. Now, the slightest imperfection or defect in pronouncing the Mantram is so offensive to their god or demon, for both are invoked in their magical rites, that if it occurred he would infallibly turn upon themselves the whole evils which they imprecated upon others.
Among the numbers who thus lose their teeth in the cause of magic, I knew one individual, who came to me the very day on which the cruel operation was performed, and threw himself at my feet, mumbling his innocence, and imploring my counsel and assistance to procure reparation for the injustice they had done him in knocking out his front teeth, and in imputing to him the hateful practises of a magician. The poor man seemed to me to have very little of the appearance of a conjurer; but having neither the power nor the inclination to interfere in the affair, I got rid of him as I best could.
All the magical Mantras are hard to pronounce; and it is this difficulty which gives them all their importance, because if a sorcerer pronounces a single syllable amiss the whole evil he was invoking would fall upon himself.
The Mantram on which this art chiefly depends cannot easily be expressed in European characters: Om, 'srî, hsan, hgita, Râmâya nama.h. The four first are barbarous words and without meaning. , The two last signify " Salutation to Rama."
I believe no nation on earth is so infatuated as the Hindus are with these notions of magic. The greater part of the cross accidents that befall them in life are attributed to the jealousy of some enemy who has had recourse to this wicked art for the purpose of injuring them. If they lose a wife or children by premature death; if a contagion breaks out among the cattle; or if a married woman continue unfruitful : none of these occurrences is believed to have had a natural cause, but they are all ascribed to preternatural arts employed by some secret enemy of their prosperity. Diseases, particularly such as are of long endurance, are attributed to the same cause, and if they should happen to take place while any quarrel or law-suit subsisted between the parties, the whole is laid to the charge of the opponent, who is accused of having devised it by magical contrivance. So serious a charge, to be sure, is not in general very patiently borne by the party accused; and thus a new cause of dissension is engendered.
It is to counteract the effects of this Wicked magic that a vast number of vagabonds roam over the country, calling themselves Beneficent Magicians, who are supposed to possess the Mantras that have power to heal the disorders and other evils occasioned by the Sapanam or malignant magic, to render barren women fruitful, to cast out devils from those who are possessed with them, to check the murrain among cattle, to destroy the insects which ravage the fields, and to produce other beneficial effects. After reciting all their Mantras and carefully performing their whole ceremonies, they give amulets to their patients, on which are inscribed some unmeaning words. These sacred symbols they direct to be worn about their persons, as having virtue to complete the cure which the Mantram had begun. They then take their fee and go in quest of fresh dupes.
But as this delusion will be discussed more largely hereafter, we now return to the subject of the Mantras. There is one species of them differing from any we have yet mentioned, and capable of much more wonderful effects. It is called Bîjâksharam, or Radical Letters; such as shrűm, craűm, him, hrűm, hrű,, hű, and others of the like sound. Those who understand their true pronunciation, combination, and application, may perform prodigies as fast as he pleases. Let 'us take the following example.
'Siva chose to communicate the knowledge of them to a bastard boy, the son of a widow of the Brahman caste, who, on account of the ignominy of his birth, had the mortification to be excluded from a wedding feast. He took his revenge, by merely pronouncing two of the radical syllables at the door of the apartment where the guests were assembled, and by the power of the two syllables the viands on the table were instantly turned into toads. Such an accident would naturally occasion much confusion in the party. None of them doubted but that it was the little bastard who had played them such a trick, and that, if they still kept him out, he might go on with his pranks. Accordingly they opened the door for him, and upon entering the room, he pronounced the same syllables, only reversing their order, when immediately the toads changed again into what they were at first, and the different dishes took their original form.
I must leave it to men skilled in antiquity to point out any thing in their researches equal in extravagance to this of the Hindus, or which could possibly have served them in it for a model.
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