1. Who was Maxmuller?
Maxmuller was a fugitive from Germany who in his youth was in extreme difficulty to earn even two square meals for him. (…Had not a penny left, and that in spite of every effort to make a little money, I should have had to return to Germany-ref –the life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p.61, London edn.) He was a scholar extraordinary but his situation made him easy tool in the hands of Britishers. Maxmuller who had continuously suffered from want and youthful zeal and an insatiable ambition willingly agreed to prostitute his pen, intellect and scholarship for the filthy lucre the new job promised him plenty. (I am to hand over to the company, ready for the press, fifty sheets each year-the same I had promised to samter in Germany; for this I have asked 200 pounds a year, 4 pounds a sheet- ref. the life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p.60-61, London edn.) He soon launched himself upon the project with the zeal and devotion that can be expected only from a religious zealot. He did his best to equate Hinduism with polytheism even though he had to invent for this purpose a new Jesuitical definition for the religion of the Rigveda.
2. Boden chair and its motives
Col. Joseph Boden one time Bombay colonel with the army of the east India Company wanted to do whatsoever lay in his power to help Christian missionaries to Christianize India in general and the Hindus in particular. So, after his retirement (in 1807) he donated 25,000 pounds to the university of oxford to enable it to found a chair of Sanskrit, which the university, justifiably and as a mark of gratitude, named after him. Boden objective was to enable his countrymen to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion by providing translations of the bible into Sanskrit.
As Christianity is founded upon and wedded to trinitarianism it would not give up its belief in three gods except at grave peril to its very existence. The Christian missions wanted therefore as the only other alternative available to them, to show someone to the world at large that Hinduism was a polytheistic religious faith. Since the Hindus traced their monotheism back to the Vedas, to the Rig in particular, it was considered absolutely necessary that the concocted evidence in order to be readily acceptable to the Hindus must have behind it the sanction and authority of the Rigveda. Once the decision had been made and the target fixed the only thing that remained to be done was to find the right marksman. The search for the right man continued till Maxmuller happened to come their way. Maxmuller was a German and was not at all well versed with English, Sanskrit was far off. But he was a youth of 24 and this task assured him bread and butter for next eight years. In addition he had at his back the combined might of all those Christian missionaries who wanted to convert the Hindus of India to Christianity. These missionaries readily and willingly broadcast to the world whatever Maxmuller said and wrote and this went a long way to enhance Maxmuller’s prestige as a scholar.
3. Maxmuller meets Macaulay and its impact
Macaulay was born in a Presbyterian family and brought in rigid clapham sect of Christians so he was having a strong bias in favor of Christianity to the exclusion of all other religions- a prejudice from which he was not able to free himself even when he had grown into a matured man of 55 years. He came to India in 1834 with plans in his mind to introduce European education in combination with Christian doctrines so that Indians could more easily be made to accept the religion of Christ.
In feb.1835 he made English language the compulsory medium of instruction in all Indian schools. Very gleefully he writes to his father in his letter dated Oct. 12, 1836 “our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it difficult – indeed, in some places impossible – to provide instructions for all who want it. At the single town of hoogle fourteen hundred boys are learning English. The effect of this education on the hindoos is prodigious. No hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as a matter of policy; but many profess themselves pure deists, and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief that if, our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be affected without any efforts to proselytize; without the smallest interference with religious liberty; merely by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the prospects. Ref. the life and letters of Lord Macaulay, pp. 329-330”
In 1851 Maxmuller met Macaulay for first time for a short while in a party in London. He met him second time only in Dec. 1855 when he had with him long interview. In between Maxmuller wrote a pamphlet “suggestions for the assistance of officers in learning the languages of the seat of war in the east” in which he had stressed importance of learning oriental languages especially Sanskrit. Macaulay a mulish Christian and a rabid enemy of oriental languages and literature did not like the idea of Maxmuller. Maxmuller went to plead Macaulay the case for oriental studies forgetting the historian fact that it was Macaulay who had imposed on the Indian people English language with the covert purpose of language being used as a vehicle for converting people to Christianity. Maxmuller wrote to his mother about this encounter as “…I made acquaintance this time in London with Macaulay, and had along conversation with him on the teaching necessary for the young men who are sent out to India. He is very clear headed, and extraordinarily eloquent…I went back to oxford a sadder, and, I hope, a wiser man. Ref. –the life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p.162, London edn”
Maxmuller profited very little because while he gathered pelf in accepting the company’s assignment he had, in the bargain, lost his soul. His writings took a different trend in as much as he became more active and less inhibited in praise of Christianity; of the bible and of Jesus Christ.
4. Maxmuller revealed himself as a Christian zealot
Maxmuller’s encounter with Macaulay left an indelible impact on Maxmuller. Despite his constant endeavors to hide his moves behind the secular mask of scholarship he too often gave himself away as a Christian proselytizer and evangelist. He had written a letter to Bunsen saying- “ …nevertheless I of course shall be glad if the Rigveda is dealt with in the Edinburgh review, and if Wilson would write from the standpoint of a missionary, and would show how the knowledge and bringing into light of the Veda would upset the whole existing system of Indian theology, it might become of real interest ”(The life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p. 117, London edn.)
Maxmuller’s hidden mission even received support of influential missionaries and ecclesiastics like bishop of Calcutta and Dr. Pusey.
Bishop of Calcutta wrote to him (Maxmuller) “I feel considerable interest in the matter, because I am sure that it is of the greatest importance for our missionaries to understand Sanskrit, to study the philosophy and sacred books of the Hindus, and to be able to meet the pundits on their own ground. Among the means to this great end, none can be more important than your edition and professor Wilson’s translation of the Rigveda. It would be most fitting in my opinion for a great Christian university to place in its Sanskrit chair the scholar who has made the Sanskrit scriptures accessible to the Christian missionary.”
(The life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p. 236-237, London edn.)
Dr. Pusey wrote to Maxmuller. “I cannot but think that your lectures on the Vedas… are the greatest gift which had been bestowed on those who would win to Christianity the subtle and thoughtful minds of the cultivated Indians.”
(The life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p. 237-238, London edn.)
Monier-Williams who had become second professor of Boden Sanskrit chair revealed more in being a proselytizer than a scholar of Sanskrit. In his preface to a Sanskrit- English dictionary which he compiled he boastfully gave vent to his christianish zeal and aspirations in these words: ‘in explanation I must draw attention to the fact that I am only the second occupant of the Boden chair, and that its founder col. Boden, stated most explicitly in his will that the special object of his munificent bequest was to promote the translation of the scriptures into Sanskrit so as to enable his countrymen to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion’
Today even people think Maxmuller as friend of Hindus; a scholar extraordinary in Vedas, the letter of Maxmuller written to his wife in 1866 exposed his aspirations.
“I hope I shall finish that work (translation of Rigveda), and I feel convinced, though I shall not live to see it, that this edition of mine and the translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India, and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what that root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung up from it during the last 3000 years”. (The life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p. 328, London edn.)
“…The missionaries have done far more than they themselves seem to be aware of, nay, much of the work which is theirs they would probably disclaim. The Christianity of our nineteenth century will hardly be the Christianity of India. But the ancient religion of India is doomed- and if Christianity does not step in, whose fault it be?”
(The life and letters of Maxmuller, vol.1, p. 357-358, London edn.)
Inspite of the fact that the Vedas sings monotheism Christian missionaries tried to show polytheism in Vedas. Maxmuller wrote, “… When I undertook to publish for the university press a series of translations of the most important of these sacred books, one of my objects was to assist missionaries. What shall we think if a missionary who came to convert us, and who had never read our bible? …. But, it will be said, you cannot deny that the Hindus are polytheists, that they worship idols. But let us look at their own bible, at the Veda, older than any other book in India. No doubt we find there many names for the divine, many gods, as we are accustomed to say. But there are also passages in which the oneness of the deity is clearly asserted.”
(The life and letters of Maxmuller, appendix D p.455, London ed.)
The world at large now knows it too well that this scholar extraordinary who masqueraded all his lifetime from behind the secular mash of philology was more a Christian missionary than a scholar of the Vedas.
5. Maxmuller as a scholar of Vedas
Maxmuller is considered as one of the foremost scholar of Vedas worldwide. But was his level of knowledge in Sanskrit and English (both were not his mother tongue) sufficient to complete this task. He himself has agreed with Swami Dayanand that it is not an easy matter to interpret the Vedas. The language is different from the classical as well as colloquial Sanskrit.
Maxmuller himself was aware of his limits so he started making impressions that his translations were genuine, flawless and correct. When he revised his first edition, he reaffirmed that” he believed that the translators (of the Rig-Veda) ought to be decipherers.( Ref- sacred books of the east, vol. 12 introduction, p.9)” he even confessed his utter failure as translator by saying “no one who knows anything of the Veda would think of attempting a translation of it at present. A translation of the Rig-Veda is a task for the next century. He further added “not only shall we have to wait till the next century for such a work, but I doubt whether we shall ever obtain it ”(Ref- sacred books of the east, vol. 12 introduction, p.9)”.
Maxmuller was even unaware of Panini grammar who was constantly referred to by Sayana in his commentary of the rig-Veda .He writes in his autobiography, p.94 that “he (boehtling) could have done the whole work himself, in some respect better than I, because he was my senior, and besides, he knew Panini, the old Indian grammarian who is constantly referred to in Sayana’s commentary, better than I did)”. Maxmuller admitted his shortcomings as a scholar of Vedic Sanskrit as “over and over again was I stopped by some short enigmatical reference to Panini’s grammar or Yasaka’s glossary, which I could not identify…how often I was in prefect despair, because there was some allusion in Sayana which I could not make out, and which no other Sanskrit scholar, not even Bournouf or Wilson could help me to clear up. It often took me whole days, nay weeks, before I saw light” (ref- my autobiography, p.108-109).
Maxmuller played another plank by saying that “the great difficulty in all discussions of this kind arises from the fact that we have to transfuse though from ancient into modern forms. In that process some violence is inevitable (ref- lectures of the origin and growth of religion, p.245, fifth Hibbert lecture)”
It’s not uneasy to understand that violence was inevitable because all the while Maxmuller had been pre-resolved to translate the rig from the standpoint of a missionary. And a Christian missionary’s standpoint is, nearly always, only to denounce and denigrate every other religious faith except his own brand of Christianity.
6. Maxmuller and Swami Dayanand
Great Vedic scholar Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Satyarth Prakash p.278 as “the impression that the Germans are the best Sanskrit scholars, and that no one has read so much of Sanskrit as Prof Maxmuller, is altogether unfounded exposed Maxmuller. Yes, in a land where lofty trees never grow, even recinus communis or the castor oil plant may be called as oak…. I came to learn from a letter of a principal of some German university, that even men learned enough to interpret a Sanskrit letter are rare in Germany. I have also learnt from the study of Maxmuller’s history of Sanskrit literature and his comments on some mantras of the Veda, that prof. Maxmuller has been able to scribble out something by the help of the so-called tikas or paraphrases of the Vedas current in India” Swami Ji was supported in his view by famous German scholar Schopenhauer that our Sanskrit scholars do not understand their text much better than the higher class boys their Greek or Latin.
In the context of the commentary/translation of the Vedas by Max Muller, it will be relevant to point out the opinion of Mr. Boulanger, the editor of Russian edition of The Sacred Books of the East Series as follows:
“What struck me in Maxmuller’s translation was a lot of absurdities, obscene passages and a lot of what is not lucid”.
“As far as I can grab the teaching of the Vedas, it is so sublime that I would look upon it as a crime on my part, if the Russian public becomes acquainted with it through the medium of a confused and distorted translation, thus not deriving for its soul that benefit which this teaching should give to the people”.
Swami Dayanand translation of Vedas is based on Yasaka’s, Nirukta and Panini Ashtadhyyayi that have been considered and accepted throughout the ages and throughout the world as indispensable for correct comprehension. He specially elaborated spiritual meaning of Vedas
Maxmuller with fear of being exposed started attacking swami Dayanand not through the way as scholar does but like a shrewd clever mind after his death. He write to malabari that he had “wished to warn against two dangers, that of undervaluing or despising the ancient natural religion, as is done so often by your half-Europeanized youths, and that of overvaluing it, and interpretating it as it was never meant to be interpreted, of which you may see a painful instance in Dayanand Saraswati’s labors on the Veda. (Ref- the life and letters of Maxmuller, vol. 2, p.115, newyork edn).” He thought Dayanand had interpreted the Veda ought to have been interpreted. That the interpretation had to be from the standpoint of a missionary so that the translation would be of help in uprooting Hinduism and in the conversion of the Hindus to Christianity. He like a coward tried to smear Dayanand’s name after his death in these words “…but he indulged for a time in the use of bhang, hemp, which put him into a state of reverie from which he found it difficult to rouse himself”(ref- chips from a German workshop, vol.2, p.178). In a postscript Maxmuller added “from what has come to light after Dayanand Saraswati’s death, I am afraid that he was not simple-minded and straightforward on his work as a reformer as I imagined” ”(ref- chips from a German workshop, vol.2, p.182)
Though Christian missionary backed government of India purposefully to ignore Swami Dayanand in his times but it did not deter the lion-hearted Dayanand from his mission of reviving the Vedic dharma.
It’s very clear that Maxmuller was a Christian missionary but only in secular garb of a philologist whose main aim was to denounce the Vedas to clear way for Christian missionaries. Maxmuller masqueraded all his lifetime from behind the mask of literature and philology and mortgaged his pen, intellect and scholarship to wreck Hinduism but Swami Dayanand exposed his cruel plans.