Detroit Free Press
March 12, 1894
Kananda again in our midst
To the Editor of The Detroit Free Press:
"That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and yet to stand."
Is it reasonable to suppose for an instant that among 360,000,000 of Vishnu's followers, clever volunteers were not offered or selections made according to the eastern standard of wiliness or craftiness for representatives to the "World's Congress of Religious Bodies?"
"We wrestle against spiritual darkness in high places:' Be not deceived. You will not (though this being your purpose appears questionable) be able to convert Kananda. Such is my sincere belief, but he may do incalculable mischief. "Judge of the trees by their fruits." Compare the Fruits of Christianity with those of Brahminism. On the one hand, enlightenment, progressiveness, joy, comforts and good will towards men; not absolute but comparative. On the other hand, darkness, dreariness, misery, and for good will towards men, good will towards dogs, cats and cobras; not absolute, but comparative.
That any intelligent person can for a moment give greater credence to the statements of a Hindoo (educated or not) than to the numerous counter-statements of our own educated men and women, travelers, missionaries or what not, surpasses strangeness. And yet many are ready to argue that the stories we hear of infanticide, widow immolation, and other conditions of misery among the Hindoos are greatly exaggerated. In this connection please bear in mind that many of the stories we hear only claim to relate to periods prior to England's control of India's affairs; and we all know or should know, of their improvement since.
For my part my fears have been aroused recently so as to have produced a well-grounded belief that some of these stories are rather minimized than exaggerated at this time.... Within a week a man told me that when he was an officer of a vessel some years ago, at the mouth of the Hoogley river, about thirty miles below Calcutta, he was obliged to have his mooring lines cleared of the floating bodies of dead infants. For those unfamiliar with the facts, it is necessary to state that the mouth of the Hoogley river swarmed with crocodiles then, 1854, much as our own Mississippi did with alligators twenty-five years ago, when the writer saw at one glance of the eye say twenty alligators when there was a chance of their getting anything to eat, in the moat at Port Jackson, half of them large enough to swallow an infant. Whether the river outside the moat was as thick with them or not, he is unable to say, but one scarcely ever rode along this part of the Mississippi on warm days without seeing one or more of them roll off the logs into the river. The number of infanticides in Calcutta and along the river above and below can only be approximated by persons for themselves from these data; taking into consideration the time necessary for a body to rise to the surface and float thirty miles more or less, and the uncertainty of its even reaching the mouth and there becoming stranded on a vessel's mooring lines, in order that eight infant's bodies should thus have become stranded in the seven weeks time that the vessel was there.
One of the missionaries in our city last week, being interrogated on the subject of shocking infanticide in India now by another lady, answered thus: "Why, of course it is true, how could it be otherwise? Don't you know that the words virtue and morality have no meaning with the Hindoos, they are as much worse than the Chinese and Japanese as you can imagine." For those who may not appreciate this comparison, we must speak plainly. In Japan, when a man takes a fancy to a flower girl or tea girl he can negotiate with her parents for her services as a concubine about as we might negotiate for the services of a young girl as a domestic. The inquirer then said, "But Kananda denies all this," to which the missionary replied by smiling, shrugging her shoulders and saying, with as much doubt in her looks as possible, "Perhaps he doesn't know."
Horror of horrors! Wholesale infanticide, cobras, crocodiles and willful falsehood? Does the witches' cauldron in Macbeth equal this? One hardly knows though, whether to find greater fault with the educated heathen for deliberately falsifying, or with the missionary for failing to state plainly that such was her belief.
"False in one thing, false in all." Therefore, unless you have confirmatory evidence from other sources, please take all Kananda's statements cum grano salis (with salt); and For the love of heaven, let us have the plain truth.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.