The Utterances of Ramalingam Pillay
Theosophist, December, 1882
The communication from an esteemed brother, Mr. Velayudam Mudaliar, F.T.S., Tamil Pandit in the Madras Presidency College, which appeared in The Theosophist for July last, has been taken exception to by Mr. N. Chidambaram Iyer, of Trivadi, Madras Presidency, who sends his criticisms thereupon, together with a joint reply to certain questions of his addressed to a well-known Chela, or pupil, of the late Ramalingam Swami. The gentleman says in a private note to us, that he has “the greatest respect for the Adept Brothers, for the Founders of the Theosophical Society, and for Ramalingam himself, who was no doubt a great man in his own way.” He fully believes in the existence of the Brothers, and appreciates the work done by our Society “in so far as it tends to awaken in the minds of the Hindus a respect for the wisdom and learnings of their eminent ancestors.” So far, well; but having thus wreathed his rapier with flowers he then makes a lunge with it at the Founders’ ribs. “But I do not at all approve,” says he, “either their indirect attempts to spread Buddhism in the land of the Hindus, or the apathy with which the elite of the Hindu community view the evil that threatens to seriously injure the religion of their forefathers.” This—if we may be pardoned the liberty of saying so—is rhetorical nonsense. The public discourses and private conversations of Colonel Olcott in India will be scrutinized in vain for the slightest evidence upon which the charge of Buddhistic propagandism could be based. That work is confined to Ceylon. His addresses to Hindus have so faithfully mirrored the religious and moral sentiments and aspirations of the people, that they have been voluntarily translated by Hindus into various Indian vernaculars, published by them at their own cost, and circulated all over the Peninsula. They have—as abundant published native testimony proves—stimulated a fervid love for India and her glorious Aryan past, and begun to revive the taste for Sanskrit literature. As for the tone of this magazine, it speaks for itself. Take the thirty-nine numbers thus far issued, and count the articles upon Buddhism in comparison with those upon Hinduism, and it will be found that while confessedly an esoteric Buddhist, the Editor has taken great pains to avoid anything which might look like an Indian propagandism of that philosophy. For two years our Colombo Branch has been publishing a weekly paper—the Sarasavi Sandaresa—in advocacy of Buddhism, yet we have carefully abstained from quoting its articles lest we might depart from our rule of strict impartiality. No, this charge must be ascribed to that orthodox prejudice which, under every phase of religion, begets intolerance and runs into persecution. It may amuse our critic to learn that some narrow-minded Buddhist bigots in Ceylon regard Colonel Olcott as scheming to break down orthodox Buddhism by gradually introducing Hindu ideas about the Soul, and he was publicly called to account because we use the mystic syllable Om on our Society documents and call ourselves Theo-sophists! So, too, an eminent Mussulman gentleman among our Fellows was soundly rated by his still more distinguished brother, because he had joined a body of persons banded together to Aryanise Islam!
Following is the correspondence sent us by Mr. Chidambaram; together with the rejoinder of Mr. Velayudham, to whom we submitted it for comment. It scarcely proves the former’s case, but still, despite its length, we make place for it to give both sides the chance to be heard.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[Note: here followed the abovementioned correspondence, a selection of which we append here as it included a footnote by H.P.B.]
. . . Questions asked by N. Chidambaram Iyer, and replies thereto by the Members of the Shadantha Samaras Sudha Sanmarga Satya Dharma Sabha of Uttaragnavasitti-puranam, otherwise known as Vadalur or Parvatheepuram, . . .
Q. 3. Did he [your guru] not believe in a personal God, especially in Siva, and does he not refer in his works to God as having appeared before him in a physical shape?
A. He never said there was no personal God.1 He said there ws but one God; that that God possessed all the attributed ever assigned to him by man in word or thought, and many other attributed; that the world was governed by persons chosen by Him for the purpose, and that he was one of the chosen few. . . .
1. If he had believed in a personal God would he not have so declared? Since the above article was put in type Mr. Chindambaram has kindly sent us for inspection an original copy of a Tamil handbill (Notice) issued by Ramalingam about 10 years ago, together with his (Mr. C.’s) English rendering of the same. We find upon a careful examination of the Tamil what seems unquestionable evidence that the famous Sadhu believe in the God of the Advaitees, i.e., a non-personal Universal Essence; and that the wonders he promised to his followers were only to be enjoyed by Siddhas, or Yogis.—Ed. [H.P.B.]