Article Selections from “Our Ceylon Work”| Note by H.P.B.
The Ceylon Times, of Colombo, of June 8, noticing the good work of our President in that island, informs us of the following details as to the Buddhist educational movement.
“The movement that Col. Olcott and Megutuwatee Priest have undertaken among the Sinhalese for the promotion of denominational education, and the diffusion of religions intelligence about the Buddhist religion is progressing at a satisfactory pace. . . . [etc. etc.]”
Thus, the first foundation-stone of the revival of national faith is laid. Buddhism, smothered for several centuries, first, by the intolerant bigotry of the Dutch, then by that of the Portuguese, may yet, owing to the beneficent and wise policy of religious non-interference on the part of the British, awake once more to life and activity. Our esteemed friends, the padris, however, are not of the same way of thinking. The missionaries, as we are informed from Ceylon, are growing very unhappy about us. At Kotte, the other day (June 30) . . . The chief Padri . . . gave vent to the following pious sentiments. In addressing the meeting, the Rev. R. T. Dowbiggin “asked them to compare the words of his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor, who said that learning without religion was like a boat without a rudder, with those of Colonel Olcott who lately came to Kotte, and tried (and succeeded he should have added) to stir up the people to build schools in which the true religion would not be taught, and where man’s chief need, spiritual need, forgiveness of sins, would find no place. He said that each of the Christians had a work to do, namely, to make known the name of Jesus Christ to others, and that it was a work that is especially given to men to do, though God could have given it to angels,1 who would be very glad to do it; and if we did not do the work given to us to do, the angels would blame us, and those heathens who lived about us would stand up in judgment against us; and that we shall have to account for the blood of the heathen on the last day before the Almighty Judge.” . . .
1. And a great pity it is that “God” did not do so. It is an administrative mistake of his, as such an act would have proved conducive to more than one beneficent result for us poor mortals, namely: (a) to proving that there were such things as Biblical angels, and (b)—demonstrating to us the existence of their Creator himself—that “personal God” whose being has hitherto remained not only an open question, but an absolutely unprovable tenet. As the matter stands though, such a “hide and seek” policy leads every reasonable and thinking man unprepared to accept assertions upon blind faith to respectfully question the correctness of affirmations as blind when emanating from the well-meaning, but not always impartial, padris. What is true religion for them may be a false one for others. We claim freedom of conscience as the unassailable right of every free-born man. In the words of d’Holbach:—
“If the Christian must have his chimeras, let him at least learn to permit others to form theirs after their fashion.”