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ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP

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Indian Savants' Obsrvations on China

Raja Rammohan Roy

4

A DIALOGUE BETWEEN A MISSIONARY ANDTHREE CHINESE CONVERTS

Missionary: How many Gods are there, my brethren!

Ist Convert: Three.

2nd Convert: Two.

3rd Convert: None.

Missionary: Horrid! The answers are from the Devil.

All: We know not where you got the religion which you have taught us, but thus you have taught us.

Missionary: Blasphemers!

All: We have heard you with patience nor ever thought of crying out against you, how much so ever you surprised us by your doctrine.

Missionary: (Recovering himself and addressing the 1st convert.) Come, come, recollect: how can you imagine that there are three Gods?

Ist Convert: You told me there was God the Father, and God the Son, and .God the Holy Ghost, and by my Swanpan [Calculating instrument] I find that one and one and one are three.

Missionary: O! I see your blunder. You remember but half the lesson. I told you also that these Three are One.

Ist Convert: I know you did, but I thought you had forgotten yourself, and concluded that you spoke the truth at first.

Missionary: O no! You must believe not only that there are Three persons, each God, and equal in power and glory, but also, that these Three are One.

Ist Convert: That is impossible. In China we do not believe contradictions.

Missionary: Brother! It is a mystery.

Ist Convert: What is that, pray?

Missionary: It is - it is - I know not what to say to you, except that it is something which you cannot possibly comprehend.

Ist Convert: (Smiling) And is it this that you have been sent 10,000 miles to teach?

Missionary: O the power of carnal reason! Surely, some Sccinian has been doing the Devil’s work in China.

But (turning to the 2nd convert,) how could you imagine, there are two Gods?

2nd Convert: I thought there were many more till you came and lessened the number.

Missionary: Have I ever told you that there are two Gods? (Aside.) The stupidity of this people makes me almost despair.

2nd convert: True, you have not said in so many words that there are two Gods, but you have said what implies it.

Missionary: Then you have been tempted to reason upon this mystery.

2nd Convert: We, Chinese, are wont to put things together and to come at truth by comparison. Thus you said there were three persons that were each perfect God, and then you said one of these persons died in one of the countries of the West, a long while ago; and I therefore concluded the present number to be two.

Missionary: Astonishing depravity! O the depths of Satan! It is in Bin to reason with these poor benighted creatures But (addressing thee 3rd convert) perverse as you two brethren are, you appear worse than they: What can you possibly mean by answering that there are no Gods? 

3rd Convert: I heard you talk of three, but, I paid more particular attention to what you said on the point of there being only one. This I could understand; the other I could not; and as my belief never reaches above-my understanding (for you know I am no learned Mandarin) I set it down in my mind that there was but one God, and that you take your name of Christian from him.

Missionary: There is something in this; but I am more and more astonished at your answer "None."

3rd Convert: (Taking up the Swanpan.) Here is one. I remove it. There is none.

Missionary: How can this apply?

3rd Convert: Our minds are not like yours in the West, or you would not ask me. You told me again and again, that there never was but one God, that Christ was the true God, and that a nation of merchants living at the head of the Arabian gulf, put him to death upon a tree, about eighteen hundred years ago. Believing you, what other answer could I give than “None’?

Missionary: I must pray tar you, for you all deny the true faith, and living and dying thus, you, will without doubt perish everlastingly

Ist Convert: Cong-foo-tse [Confucius], our revered master, says that bad temper always turns reason out of doors, and that when men begin to curse, the God Spirit of the universe abandons their hearts.

2nd Convert: You must be angry with yourself and not with us, for you have been teaching us al different times doctrines as contradictory as those of Cong-foo-tse and Buddha. The immortal emperor Sinchong has said that he is not to be numbered with wise men, nor to have a name in the hall of ancestors, who undertakes a voyage without making up his mind to its purpose, and preparing himself to give a clear and kind answer to the question of a stranger.

3rd Convert: These rebukes are just: but Ter-whangtee says, in his golden words, that mirth is better than tie. You came it seems, to bring us a new riddle: but while we thank you, we beg to inform you that Kienlong, our late celestial emperor, has supplied us with a plentiful store, much more entertaining than yours; and when you can read as well as speak our divine language, we recommend to you his delectable history of the Mantchoo [Manchu] Tartar, that pretended to be inspired by the Grand Lama, but could never be made to comprehend the Swanpan.

(Cited from Jogendra Chunder Ghose (ed.), The English Works of Baja Rammohum Roy, Delhi: Cosmo Publication, first published in 1906, reprint 1982, Vol. IV., pp. 911-13.)

 

 

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© 1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi

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