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AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS.
No. VII. October, 1832.
THE TEN INCARNATIONS OF VISHNU.
Purushoo-Ram Avatar. Ram Avatar.
EXPLANATION OF THE PRECEDING ENGRAVINGS.
The Monthly Paper, No. 2, for May, contains three engravings, representing the three principal gods of the Hindoos, Brumbu, Vislinu and Siva; not in their incarnate, but in their original state, as they were produced by the energies of the eternal Brumha. The ten engravings on the preceding page, represent the ten great avatars, or incarnations, of Vishnu. A brief account of the object of these will now be given. It should however be remarked, that the Hindoo shasters contain so many different and conflicting accounts of these incarnations, that it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to give a history
, which would correspond with the faith of bramhins in different sections of the country.
Vishnu is generally represented in Hindoo paintings, as a black, or rather indigo-colored man, with four arms and hands. In one, he holds a club, in another a shell, in the tbird, a chuckru (an instrument of destruction, like a wheel) and in the fourth, a water-lilly.
1. Fish Avatar. At one of the periodi- monstrous form of a Ner-singh, cal dissolutions of the universe, a number lion, tore out the entrails of the atheistical of which are supposed to have taken place, father. From this time many began 10 the Vades, or sacred books, had been stolen worship Vishnu, under the form he had by some demon, and buried in the ocean. now assumed. These books being necessary for the in V. Dwarf Aratar. The giant Bullee, struction of Brumhu, in new creating the terrible in his wars with the gods, having world, Vishnu was appointed to make accomplished the sacrifice of an hundred search. In doing this he assumed the white horses, by which he became invinciform of a fish, and brought up the sacred ble in arms, contemplated universal de. books from the bottom of the ocean. struction. To prevent this catastrophe
, II. Tortoise Aratar. In a certain war Vishnı became incarnate, in the form of a between the gods and demons, the latter pigmy brahmin; presenting himself before were victorious, and wantonly cast the the giant king, requested as a favor so celestial treasures into the ocean. At the much territory as he could measure with close of the war, the gods consulted how three footsteps. The favor was granted, they might obtain the lost treasures. The and the promise ratified. The dwarf then plan devised was to churn the ocean. resuming his godlike form, with one step, They tore up a mighty mountain for the covered the earth, with the second, he churning stick, and took the divine serpent overshadowed the firmament, and demandWasookee for a rope, which they wound ed room for the third. In this way, he dearound the mountain. But in this churn- prived the giant of his kingdom and forever ing process, the earth began to tremble and held him a debtor. sink. - Whereupon, Vishnu assumed the VI. Purushoo-Rom Aratar. The object form of a tortoise, and on his broad back of this incarnation was to destroy a thousustained the tottering earth. To this hour, sand-handed giant, who had become exthe Hindoos believe the earth is supported ceedingly insolent, and greatly oppressed on the back of a tortoise.
the worshippers of the gods. Twenty-one III. Hog Avatar. A celebrated demon, assaults, the giant sustained, but in the by his religious austerities, had acquired twenty-second, he was overcome. such power, that he actually sunk the VII. Ram Avatar. The giant Ravun, earth in the great abyss. Vishnu, the pre- king of Lunka, (Ceylon) stole the wife of server, assuming the form of a mighty Ram. To obtain the stolen wife, Ram colboar, drew up the sinking earth with his lected an army of monkies, under the great tusks, and slew the demon.
Hun-nu-man. This army of monkies, un IV. Lion Avatar. A certain impious der their divine leader, made a bridge of giant, who greatly afflicted the world by his rocks from the continent to Ceylon. The oppressions, had a pious son named Prul- remains of which, are to this day, called hard. The father greatly persecuted the Adam's bridge.) The way being thus pre son, and tried, in vain, to kill him. After pared, the army of Ram invaded the giant various fruitless attempts, to kill his son, and obtained the stolen lady. the father, in great rage, exclaimed, VIII. Kishnu Aratar. The object of this "Where does your preserver dwell?" "He incarnation was to destroy Pru-lun-bu and is every where,” meekly replied the son other impious giants. In his childhood and "Is he then in this pillar?" "Yes," said the youth, he lived in obscurity
, amusing himson. "Then
I will insult him;" and gave self and his companions, by his various the pillar a blow with his club Vishnu plays and petty thefts. When he became instantly bursting from the pillar, in the a man, he exhibited plenary evidence of
his divinity, by destroying the giant op- tual and moral deterioration, the Hindoos pressors of the world.
imagine, will continue and increase to some IX. Boodh Avatar. The object of this indefinite, future period, when they expect incarnation was to destroy the power of the another incarnation, which will complete giants. The manner of effecting this, was the grand drama. not, as on former occasions, by violence X. Kulkee Avatar. This is still future. and blood, but by deceit. By his writings According to the most popular shasters, and and preaching, Boodh promulgated a sys the expectations of many of the brahmins, tem of infidelity and scepticism. The infidelity in the Hindoo religion, will ingiants, through the influence of these doctrines, disbelieved in the gods, and of ish from among men.
crease, till all hope of reviving it will per
A few faithful worcourse, ceased to apply to them for those shippers of the gods will, however, remain, powers, by which they had become such a lingering almost in despair around the sascourge to mankind.
cred places. Then will Vishnu descend The Hindoos suppose themselves, to be from heaven on a white, winged horse;at the present time under the influence of placing himself at the head of the faith, this incarnation. This is the iron age, or ful few, he will do away infidelity, and the age of infidelity.
convert this iron, into a golden age. Every thing is necess
essarily degenerate and deteriorating. This physical, intellec
In addition to these ten great incarnations, the popular shasters teach, that there have been a great multitude of other incarnations of Vishnu, and of other gods and godesses. The prevalent opinion is, that there are many incarnations at the present day, hidden from common observation, but will, by and by, show themselves to be divine, and obtain a place on the catalogue of the gods. In speaking of the number of their gods, the Hindoos are in the habit of saying, there are 330,000,000. By which, it is supposed, they mean to say, that they are innumerable, using a definite for an indefinite number.
These gods are not represented as acting in concert. They frequently invade each others' territories, and interfere with each others' plans; hence they are unceasingly engaged in disputes and quarrels. To describe their various dispositions and exploits, their wars, conquests and defeats, is a task no less than a rehearsal of the whole fable and mythology of the poorans. No sing can be named, that have not been committed by this great family of gods; and yet they are represented as sinless, because they are gods, and therefore above moral obligation.
One of the most consoling doctrines of the Christian scriptures is, that of the holy, wise and merciful providence of Jehovah. This, to a mind rightly affected, stills every murmur, and produces contentment and bar ess, in all the vicissitudes of human life. But from what part of the pagan system can be derived comfort in adversity? To which of the 330,000,000 of gods, can they turn? The Eternal, if indeed there be an Eternal, is insensible to every thing that transpires! The inferior gods, for aught the worshippers can know, may be engaged in contests with each other. In seasons of adversity, the poor pagan has no consolation--in death, he has no hope. He must steel his heart with insensibility in the hour of affliction, and comfort himself, that he is born to an evil destiny and cannot help himself. In death, hear him uttering his sorrowful conjectures in some such language as this—"Where am I going— into what reptile form shall I pass?-If I lose the human existence, I must pass through sixty millions of births among the brute or insect tribes, e're I can become man again! O when will these endless transmigrations cease!_O Gunga receive me!-Ram, Ram; Narayun, have mercy on me!”. Amidst all this doubt, and painful anxiety, he groans and dies! Now fables dissipate, and eternity, with all its dread realities, is disclosed to his astonished view.
Christian reader, your British and Saxon ancestors were worshippers of Wodin and Thor, and a numerous rabble of pagan gods, as cruel and obscene as are the gods of the Hindoos. Your ancestors were delivered from their
abominations, by the instrumentality of Christian missionaries. It is to their labors, under God, that you owe all your religious and social privileges in this life, your peace in death, and your hope of future blessedness in heaven. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Give your prayers, your property and your influence to the great and benevolent cause of Christian missions to the heathen. Tell them, their idols are vanity and a lie-tell them of the Former of their bodies and the Father of their spirits—tell them of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ for their redemption-0 tell them the terms of salvation through his mediation, that they too may cast away their idols, and with you enjoy the privileges and cherish the hopes which the gospel inspires. Christian missionaries have gone forth into various parts of the pagan
world. And from every place where they have gone, they have sent back the same descriptions of ignorance, idolatry, wretchedness and crime; showing us that the pagans are without hope and without God in the world. Missionaries have translated the scriptures, they have established schools, they bave preached the gospel. Most cheering success has attended their labors. New, extensive and promising fields of missionary labor, are opening from time to time. Pious young men are, every year, coming forward and offering themselves as laborers, entreating the churches to furnish them with the means of going to the distant heathen, that they may preach to them the gospel.
But O how small a part of the pagan world has yet been visited by the heralds of the gospel! There are, at least, 500,000,000 of our race, who to this hour, remain in ignorance of Jesus Christ. In this state of ignorance and guilt, they will live and die, till they are visited by the missionaries of the cross! They are rapidly passing into eternity;--from 15 to 20 millions are every year leaving this world of probation, where they have abused the light of reason, and disregarded the voice of conscience, for a world of righteous retribution, and know not that salvation is provided, or the terms on which it may be obtained.
Now, Christian reader, do you ask, how you can extend to these dying pagans the knowledge and blessings of the gospel? God has, in his providence
, opened the way before you. The work is brought nigh, even to your door-In it, every man and woman and child may engage, with the fairest prospect of
Opportunities are afforded you, many times in a year, of contributing your money, as the Lord prospers.you, into his treasury. Every cent that is thus contributed is duly accounted for, and appropriated to the specific object to which it is designated. O be entreated, as you regard the last command of your blessed Savior and as you would gain his approbation—as you value the present and eternal
happiness of the heathen--and, above all, as you regard the glory of your Father in heaven, engage heartily in the cause of Christian missions. By your uniform and growing contributions, by your Christian self-denial in this cause, and by your fervent and persevering prayers for its success, evince the genuineness of your Christian discipleship. Among all the active duties of the Christian life, there is none that more assimilates the soul to Christ, and imparts purer enjoyment and brighter hopes, than pious and well directed exertions to enlighten and evangelize the heathen. Look around you for the brightest examples of Christian enjoyment and purity of life, and your eye will rest on the friends of missions. These are the ornaments of the church--the salt of the earth--the light of the world. Oh then as you be imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ, as you would be fellow-laborers with his holy apostles, as you would be sharers in the joys of those, who have turned many to righteousness, and as you would meet, in heaven, pagans ransomed by the blood of Christ, cherish the cause of missions! Be not weary in well doing!