The religion in which entire renunciation is most closely approximated is the philosophical or esoteric religion of India. All the varieties of this religion reflect one fundamental attitude to life, the feeling that no good can come of persistent endeavor. The attempt to fulfill desire is hopeless. The Indian does not abandon himself to despair; but he differs from his occidental brother in this, that whereas the latter hopes by divine aid, or in the distant future, to achieve either personal happiness or the perfection of what he calls “civilization,” the former regards the whole attempt as founded on error. Its inevitable failure does not signify real failure, but the adoption of a wrong standard of success. According to the teaching of the “Upanishads” even separate individuality is an illusion perpetuated by desire. When all the passion is at rest That lurks within the heart of man Then is the mortal no more mortal, But here and now attaineth Brahman.〖Quoted by G. F. Moore, op. cit., p. 270.〗 In Brahman, the deeper unity of the world, the individual has his true being and is saved.

The importance of regarding the conception of God, not as the root of religion, but as the product of religion, appears when we come to the consideration of Buddhism.〖See lecture by Professor Lanman, below.〗 For Buddhism is, in fact, a godless religion, paradoxical as that may seem. It is true that Buddha himself has come like Confucius to be an object of religion. Every founder of a religion is almost inevitably deified by his followers. But Buddha did not deify himself. He taught men to regard even the soul itself as a transient and illusory experience. Suffering is the universal law of existence. Existence is the penalty of desire, a rebirth owing to Karma, the dispositions and desert which are the precipitate of a previous existence. There is a fatal recurrence of existence, for life tends ever to create the conditions of its own reincarnation and continuance. Salvation means not successful existence, the realization of actual desires, but escape from existence, through the conquering of desire. In such a religion there is no god, for there is no ulterior power in or through which man is to fulfill his positive longings. But it is nevertheless religion, in that it is a release of man from his predicament. Nirvana is perhaps from all other points of view equivalent to annihilation; but from the point of view of man, conscious of his helplessness and failure, it means salvation. It is a philosophy of life, an accord between man and his world by which he wins the greatest good that he can conceive.

In order to understand the general scope of religious literature it is not sufficient that one should grasp the general principle of religion. One must know something of the forms which religion assumes in human life; and especially important is it to know something of its relations to science on the one hand, and to art and poetry on the other hand.

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