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Buddhism in America

Buddhism In America

 As, in your leading article of May 6th, I am at one moment given credit for knowing something about the religion of the Brâhmans and Buddhists, and, anon, of being a pretender of the class of Jacolliot, and even his plagiarist, you will not wonder at my again knocking at your doors for hospitality. This time I write over my own signature, and am responsible, as I am not under other circumstances.

 No wonder that the "learned friend" at your elbow was reminded "of the utterances of one Louis Jacolliot."

 The paragraphs in the very able account of your representative’s interview, which relate to "Adhima and Heva" and "Jezeus Christna," were translated bodily, in his presence, from the French edition of the Bible in India.They were read, moreover, from the chapter entitled, "Bagaveda" – instead of "Bhagavat," as you put it, kindly correcting me. In so doing, in my humble opinion, he is right, and the others are wrong, were it but for the reason that the Hindus themselves so pronounce it – at least those of southern India, who speak either the Tamil language or other dialects. Since we seek in vain among Sanskrit philologists for any two who agree as to the spelling or meaning of important Hindu words, and scarcely two as to the orthography of this very title, I respectfully submit that neither "the French fraud" nor I are chargeable with any grave offence in the premises.

 For instance, Prof. Whitney, your greatest American Orientalist, and one of the most eminent living, spells it Bagavata; while his equally great opponent, Max Müller, prefers Bagavadgîtâ, and half a dozen others spell it in as many different ways. Naturally each scholar, in rendering the Indian words into his own vernacular, follows the national rule of pronunciation; and so, you will see, that Prof. Müller in writing the syllable ad with an a does precisely what Jacolliot does in spelling it ed, the French e having the same sound as the English a before a consonant. The same holds good with the name of the Hindû Saviour, which by different authorities is spelt Krishna, Crisna, Khristna and Krisna; everything, in short, but the right way, Christna. Perhaps you may say that this is mere hypothesis. But since every Indianist follows his own fancy in his phonetic transcriptions, I do not know why I may not exercise my best judgment, especially as I can give good reasons to support it.

 You affirm that there "never was a Hindû reformer named Jezeus Christna"; and, although I confined my affirmation of his existence to the authority of Jacolliot at the interview in question, I now assert on my own responsibility that there was, and is, a personage of that name recognized and worshipped in India, and that he is not Jesus Christ. Christna is a Brâhmanical deity, and, besides by the Brâhmans, is recognized by several sects of the Jains. When Jacolliot says "Jezeus Christna," he only shows a little clumsiness in phonetic rendering, and is nearer right than many of his critics. I have been at the festivals of Janmotsar, in commemoration of the birth of Christna (which is their Christmas) and have heard thousands of voices shouting: "Jas-i-Christna! Jasas-wi-Christna!" Translated they are: Jas-i, renowned, famous, and Jasas-wi, celebrated, or divinely-renowned, powerful; and Christna, sacred. To avoid being again contradicted, I refer the reader to any Hindûstânî dictionary. All the Brâhmans with whom I have talked on the subject spoke of Christna either as Jas-i-Christna, or Jadar Christna, or again used the term, Yadur-pati, Lord of Yâdavas, descendant of Yadu, one of the many titles of Christna in India. You see, therefore, that it is but a question of spelling.

 That Christna is preferable to Krishna can be clearly shown under the rules laid down by Burnouf and others upon the authority of the pandits. True, the initial of the name in the Sanskrit is generally written k; but the Sanskrit k is strongly aspirated; it is a guttural expiration, whose only representation is the Greek chi. In English, therefore, the k instead of having the sound of k as in king would be even more aspirated than the h in heaven. As in English the Greek word is written Christos in preference to H’ristos, which would be nearer the mark, so with the Hindû deity; his name under the same rule should be written Christna, notwithstanding the possible unwelcomeness of the resemblance.

 M. Taxtor de Ravisi, a French Catholic Orientalist, and for ten years Governor of Karikal (India), Jacolliot’s bitterest opponent in religious conclusions, fully appreciates the situation. He would have the name spelt Krishna, because (1) most of the statues of this God are black, and Krishna means black; and (2) because the real name of Christna "was Kaneya, or Caneya." Very well; but black is Krishna.And if not only Jacolliot, but the Brâhmans themselves are not to be allowed to know as much as their European critics, we will call in the aid of Volney and other Orientalists, who show that the Hindû deity’s name is formed from the radical Chris, meaning sacred, as Jacolliot shows it. Moreover, for the Brâhmans to call their God the "black one" would be unnatural and absurd; while to style him the sacred, or pure essence, would be perfectly appropriate to their notions. As to the name being Caneya, M. Taxtor de Ravisi, in suggesting it, completes his own discomfiture. In escaping Scylla he falls into Charybdis. I suppose no one will deny that the Sanskrit Kanyâ means Virgin, for even in modern Hindûstânî the Zodiacal sign of Virgo is called Kaniya. Christna is styled Kâneya, as having been born of a Virgin. Begging pardon, then, of the "learned friend" at your elbow, I reäffirm that if there "never was a Hindû reformer named Jezeus Christna," there was a Hindû Saviour, who is worshipped unto this day as Jasi Christna, or, if it better accords with his pious preferences, Jas-i-Kristna.

 When the 84,000 volumes of the Dharma Khanda, or sacred books of the Buddhists, and the thousands upon thousands of ollæ of Vaidic and Brâhmanical literature, now known by their titles only to European scholars, or even a tithe of those actually in their possession are translated, and comprehended, and agreed upon, I will be happy to measure swords again with the solar pandit who has prompted your severe reflections upon your humble subscriber.

 Though, in common with various authorities, you stigmatize Jacolliot as a "French fraud," I must really do him the justice to say that his Catholic opponent, De Ravisi, said of his Bible in India, in a report made at the request of the Société Académique de St. Quentin, that it is written.

 With good faith, of absorbing interest, a learned work on known facts and with familiar arguments.

 Ten years’ residence and studies in India were surely enough to fit him to give an opinion. Unfortunately, however, in America it is but too easy to gain the reputation of "a fraud" in much less time.

H. P. Blavatsky

[From the New York Sun, May 13th, 1877.]

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