THE MATAPARIKSA CONTROVERSY: A CASE STUDY IN HINDU APOLOGETICS BASED UPON EARLY NINETEENTH-CENTURY SANSKRIT TREATISES DIRECTED AGAINST CHRISTIANITY

RICHARD FOX YOUNG, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Studies in Hindu apologetics have heretofore usually concentrated on intrareligious differences or argumentation vis-a-vis other religions of Indian origin. This dissertation turns instead to orthodox Hindu assessments of Christianity, taking as its focal point a controversy that started in 1839 when the Matapar(')iksa {Examination of Religions}, a Sanskrit treatise against Hinduism, was published by John Muir, a Christian Orientalist. To this assault three Hindu pandits responded, also in Sanskrit. Their texts, from which extracts are translated and analyzed, offer insights into an apologetics that, unlike what one finds in Neo-Hinduism, accented resistance instead of accommodation. The Introduction and "Resistant Hinduism," the second chapter, clarify the historical context of the Matapar(')iksa Controversy by reference to records of previous Hindu-Christian debates. Attention is paid to certain ideas which prevented pandits from seriously grappling with religions of non-Hindu origin until the early nineteenth century. Chapter three, "The New Hermeneutics, " traces the efforts of missionaries to overcome Hindu reticence to engage in dialogue by forging out of Sanskrit a terminology and idiom for expressing Christain doctrines. One finds biographical profiles of each participant, with emphasis on the specific religious traditions from which they viewed each other, in the fourth chapter, "The Disputants." The fifth chapter, "Resistance and Accommodation," takes each principal objection to Christianity and traces its connections with presuppositions of Hindu philosophy and religion. A crucial concern here is to indicate the extent to which patterns of responses found in these texts were dependent upon preexisting argumentation in intra-Hindu apologetics."Christianity in the General Scheme of Dharma," the sixth chapter, separates interpretations of religious plurality from individual anti-Christian arguments, and relates them to such diverse ideas of the pandits as the following: the unity and compatibility of religions; the impossibility of salvation apart from Vedic revelation; and divine propagation of delusive religions as a form of punishment. An Epilogue traces the impact of the Controversy on the subsequent thinking of the participants. Doctrine by doctrine analysis indicates consistently stiff resistance on the part of the pandits to all major aspects of Muir's presentation of Christianity. These include creation of matter and souls, which implicates God in the deformities of nature and the sinfulness of man; double predestination; original sin; justification by faith; probation or sanctification; heavenly rewards; and non-human life, for which there is said to be inadequate concern among Christians. Conversely, the pandits defend their religion vigorously against such allegations as the following: Hinduism is crass polytheism; its various branches lack equilibrium; it encourages idolatry; its gods disport immorally; its scriptures cannot be eternal; brahminhood contravenes human equality; and Puranic cosmography is scientifically uninformed. Notable in these arguments and counterarguments is lack of interest in Jesus Christ, Christianity's central figure. At this juncture, Hindu apologists found little in Christianity that had not already been rejected by Hinduism itself in the course of its own development. Moreover, previous patterns of apologetics were useful to the pandits in their encounter with Muir. This fact notwithstanding, each pandit produced a different scheme of religious plurality, one generating tolerance and the others intolerance. This evidence overturns the prevalent misconception that Hindus view other religions uniformly. Only the concept of adhikara unifies these theologies of religion. Though negative, these texts should be understood as historically representative of Hindu orientations to other religions.

Subject Area

Religious history

Recommended Citation

YOUNG, RICHARD FOX, "THE MATAPARIKSA CONTROVERSY: A CASE STUDY IN HINDU APOLOGETICS BASED UPON EARLY NINETEENTH-CENTURY SANSKRIT TREATISES DIRECTED AGAINST CHRISTIANITY" (1980). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8107818.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8107818

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