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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Or in the more special sense of Brahman priests


style="text-align: justify;">[Footnote 1: Pa@nini, III. iii. 94.]


comparatively advanced and refined sacerdotal class, the _Atharva-Veda_ is, in the main a book of spells and incantations appealing to the demon world, and teems with notions about witchcraft current among the lower grades of the population, and derived from an immemorial antiquity. These two, thus complementary to each other in contents are obviously the most important of the four Vedas [Footnote ref 1]."

The Brahma@nas. [Footnote ref 2]

After the Sa@mhitas there grew up the theological treatises called the Brahma@nas, which were of a distinctly different literary type. They are written in prose, and explain the sacred significance of the different rituals to those who are not already familiar with them. "They reflect," says Professor Macdonell, "the spirit of an age in which all intellectual activity is concentrated on the sacrifice, describing its ceremonies, discussing its value, speculating on its origin and significance." These works are full of dogmatic assertions, fanciful symbolism and speculations of an unbounded imagination in the field of sacrificial details. The sacrificial ceremonials were probably never so elaborate at the time when the early hymns were composed. But when the collections of hymns were being handed down from generation to generation the ceremonials

became more and more complicated. Thus there came about the necessity of the distribution of the different sacrificial functions among several distinct classes of priests. We may assume that this was a period when the caste system was becoming established, and when the only thing which could engage wise and religious minds was sacrifice and its elaborate rituals. Free speculative thinking was thus subordinated to the service of the sacrifice, and the result was the production of the most fanciful sacramental and symbolic


[Footnote 1: A.A. Macdonell's _History of Sanskrit Literature_, p. 31.]

[Footnote 2: Weber (_Hist. Ind. Lit_., p. 11, note) says that the word Brahma@na signifies "that which relates to prayer _brahman_." Max Muller (_S.B.E._, I.p. lxvi) says that Brahma@na meant "originally the sayings of Brahmans, whether in the general sense of priests, or in the more special sense of Brahman-priests." Eggeling (S.B.E. XII. Introd. p. xxii) says that the Brhama@nas were so called "probably either because they were intended for the instruction and guidance of priests (brahman) generally; or because they were, for the most part, the authoritative utterances of such as were thoroughly versed in Vedic and sacrificial lore and competent to act as Brahmans or superintending priests." But in view of the fact that the Brahma@nas were also supposed to be as much revealed as the Vedas, the present writer thinks that Weber's view is the correct one.]


system, unparalleled anywhere but among the Gnostics. It is now generally believed that the close of the Brahma@na period was not later than 500 B.C.

The Ara@nyakas.

As a further development of the Brahma@nas however we get the Ara@nyakas or forest treatises. These works

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