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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Since the time of the Vedic civilization


In

my interpretations I have always tried to follow the original sources as accurately as I could. This has sometimes led to old and unfamiliar modes of expression, but this course seemed to me to be preferable to the adoption of European modes of thought for the expression of Indian ideas. But even in spite of this striking similarities to many of the modern philosophical doctrines and ideas will doubtless be noticed. This only proves that the human mind follows more or less the same modes of rational thought. I have never tried to compare any phase of Indian thought with European, for this is beyond the scope of my present attempt, but if I may be allowed to express my own conviction, I might say that many of the philosophical doctrines of European philosophy are essentially the same as those found in Indian philosophy. The main difference is often the difference of the point of view from which the same problems appeared in such a variety of forms in the two countries. My own view with regard to the net value of Indian philosophical development will be expressed in the concluding chapter of the second volume of the present work.

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CHAPTER II

THE VEDAS, BRAHMANAS AND THEIR PHILOSOPHY

The Vedas and their antiquity.

The sacred books of India, the Vedas, are generally believed

to be the earliest literary record of the Indo-European race. It is indeed difficult to say when the earliest portions of these compositions came into existence. Many shrewd guesses have been offered, but none of them can be proved to be incontestably true. Max Mueller supposed the date to be 1200 B.C., Haug 2400 B.C. and Bal Ga@ngadhar Tilak 4000 B.C. The ancient Hindus seldom kept any historical record of their literary, religious or political achievements. The Vedas were handed down from mouth to mouth from a period of unknown antiquity; and the Hindus generally believed that they were never composed by men. It was therefore generally supposed that either they were taught by God to the sages, or that they were of themselves revealed to the sages who were the "seers" (_mantradra@s@ta_) of the hymns. Thus we find that when some time had elapsed after the composition of the Vedas, people had come to look upon them not only as very old, but so old that they had, theoretically at least, no beginning in time, though they were believed to have been revealed at some unknown remote period at the beginning of each creation.

The place of the Vedas in the Hindu mind.

When the Vedas were composed, there was probably no system of writing prevalent in India. But such was the scrupulous zeal of the Brahmins, who got the whole Vedic literature by heart by hearing it from their preceptors, that it has been transmitted most faithfully to us through the course of the last 3000 years or more with little or no interpolations at all. The religious history of India had suffered considerable changes in the latter periods, since the time of the Vedic civilization, but such was the reverence paid to the Vedas that they had ever remained as the highest religious authority for all sections of the Hindus at all times. Even at this day all the obligatory duties of the Hindus at birth, marriage, death, etc., are performed according to the old

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Vedic ritual. The prayers that a Brahmin now says three times a day are the same selections of Vedic verses as were used as prayer verses two or three thousand years ago. A little insight into the life of an ordinary Hindu of


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