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The Satapatha Brahmana - Part I

  • #: 121193
  • Price: $0.99 In Apple Store
  • Category: Books
  • Updated: 2010-02-08
  • Current Version: 1.0
  • 1.0
  • Size: 1.40 MB
  • Language: English
  • Seller: Loni Oneil
  • Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 2.2 or later
  • © 2009 WideMedia
  •  Add to Favorite apps

 

Description

THE translator of the Satapatha-brâhmana can be under no illusion as to the reception his production is likely to meet with at the hand of the general reader. In the whole range of literature few works are probably less calculated to excite the interest of any outside the very limited number of specialists, than the ancient theological writings of the Hindus, known by the name of Brâhmanas. For wearisome prolixity of exposition, characterised by dogmatic assertion and a flimsy symbolism rather than by serious reasoning, these works are perhaps not equalled anywhere; unless, indeed, it be by the speculative vapourings of the Gnostics, than which, in the opinion of the learned translators of Irenæus, 'nothing more absurd has probably ever been imagined by rational beings 1.' If I have, nevertheless, undertaken, at the request of the Editor of the present Series, what would seem to be a rather thankless task, the reason will be readily understood by those who have taken even the most cursory view of the history of the Hindu mind and institutions.

The Brâhmanas, it is well known, form our chief, if not our only, source of information regarding one of the most important periods in the social and mental development of India. They represent the intellectual activity of a sacerdotal caste which, by turning to account the religious instincts of a gifted and naturally devout race, had succeeded in transforming a primitive worship of the powers of nature into a highly artificial system of sacrificial ceremonies, and was ever intent on deepening and extending its hold on the minds of the people, by surrounding its own vocation with the halo of sanctity and divine inspiration. A complicated ceremonial, requiring for its proper observance and consequent efficacy the ministrations of a highly trained priestly class, has ever been one of the most effective means of promoting hierarchical aspirations. Even practical Rome did not entirely succeed in steering clear of the rock of priestly ascendancy attained by such-like means. There, as elsewhere, 'the neglect or faulty performance of the worship of each god revenged itself in the corresponding occurrence; and as it was a laborious and difficult task to gain even a knowledge of one's religious obligations, the priests who were skilled in the law of divine things and pointed out its requirementsthe pontificescould not fail to attain an extraordinary influence 1.' The catalogue of the duties and privileges of the priest of Jupiter might well find a place in the Talmud. 'The rulethat no religious service can be acceptable to the gods, unless it be performed without a flawwas pushed to such an extent, that a single sacrifice had to be repeated thirty times in succession on account of mistakes again and again committed; and the games, which formed part of the divine service, were regarded as undone, if the presiding magistrate had committed any slip in word or deed, or if the music even had paused at a wrong time, and so had to be begun afresh, frequently for several, even as many as seven, times in succession 2.' Great, however, as was the influence acquired by the priestly colleges of Rome, 'it was never forgottenleast of all in the case of those who held the highest positionthat their duty was not to command, but to tender skilled advice 3.' The Roman statesmen submitted to these transparent tricks rather from considerations of political expediency than from religious scruples; and the Greek Polybius might well say that the strange and ponderous ceremonial of Roman religion was invented solely on account of the multitude which, as reason had no power over it, required to be ruled by signs and wonders

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