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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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or BRACHMINS, the highest caste of Hindoos, to whom is confined the priesthood, and, in general, all their ancient learning, which is locked up in their sacred language, called the Sanscrit. The Brahmins derive that name from Brahma, the Creator; for they maintain the doctrine of three embodied energies, the creative, the preserving, and the destroying; personified under the names of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, all sprung from Brimh; and to each of them is assigned a kind of celestial consort, a female deity, which they describe as a passive energy.

Like the philosophers of Greece, they seem to have had an open and a secret doctrine: the latter, a species of Spinozism, considering the great Supreme as "the soul of the world;" endowed with no other quality than ubiquity; requiring no worship, and exerting no power, but in the production of the three great energies above mentioned. These are so ingeniously diversified as to produce three hundred and thirty millions of gods, or objects of idolatry; so various in character as to suit every man's taste or humour, and to furnish examples of every vice and folly to which humanity is subject.

As it respects a future state, two of the principal doctrines of Brachminism are transmigration and absorption. After death, the person is conveyed by the messengers of Yumu, through the air to the place of judgment. After receiving his sentence, he wanders about the earth for twelve months, as an aerial being or ghost; and then takes a body suited to his future condition, whether he ascend to the gods, or suffer in a new body, or be hurled into some hell. This is the doctrine of several "pooranus;" others maintain, that immediately after death and judgment, the person suffers the pains of hell, and removes his sin by suffering; and then returns to the earth in some bodily form. The descriptions which the "pooranus" give of the heavens of the gods are truly in the eastern style; all things, even the beds of the gods, are made of gold and precious stones. All the pleasures of these heavens are exactly what we should expect in a system formed by uninspired and unrenewed men: like the paradise of Mohammed, they are brothels, rather than places of rewards for "the pure in heart." Here all the vicious passions are personified, or rather deified: the quarrels and licentious intrigues of the gods fill these places with perpetual uproar while their impurities are described with the same literality and gross detail, as similar things are talked of among these idolaters on earth.

But the highest degree of happiness is absorption. God, as separated from matter, the Hindoos contemplate as a being reposing in his own happiness, destitute of ideas; as infinite placidity; as an unruffled sea of bliss; as being perfectly abstracted, and void of consciousness. They therefore deem it the height of perfection to be like this being. Hence Krishnu, in his discourse to Urjoonu, praises the man "who forsaketh every desire that entereth into his heart; who is happy of himself; who is without affection; who rejoiceth not either in good or evil; who, like the tortoise, can restrain his members from their wonted purpose; to whom pleasure and pain, gold, iron, and stones, are the same." "The learned," adds Krishnu, "behold Brumhu alike in the reverend ‘branhun,' perfected in knowledge; in the ox, and in the elephant; in the dog, and in him who eateth of the flesh of dogs." The person whose very nature, say they, is absorbed in divine meditation; whose life is like a sweet sleep, unconscious and undisturbed; who does not even desire God, and who is thus changed into the image of the ever blessed; obtains absorption into Brumhu. The ceremonies leading to absorption are called by the name of "tupushya," and the persons performing them, a "tupushwee." Forsaking the world; retiring to a forest; fasting, living on roots, fruits, &c;—remaining in certain postures; exposure to all the inclemencies of the weather, &c; these, and many other austere practices, are prescribed, to subdue the passions, to fix the mind, habituate it to meditation, and fill it with that serenity and indifference to the world which is to prepare it for absorption, and place it beyond the reach of future birth.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Brahmins'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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