Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

lated for the use of the accomplished prince Cara Shekeh, into the Persian language, and considerable portions had been rendered into the Hindoo tongue. At length seyeral English gentlemen, among whom the most distinguished was Sir William Jones, procured copies of valuable portions of the originals ; but it is to Mr. Colebrooke, that we are indebted for the most complete accounts of these ancient writings.

Some persons have hastily pronounced the Vedas to be modern forgeries ; but Mr. Colebrook has brought forward the most convincing arguments, corroborated by various proofs that, notwithstanding the possible inaccuracy of a few passages, the great body of the Vedas as now received, consists of the same compositions, which under the title of Vedas. have been revered by the Hindoos for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

These Vedas are four in number; the Rigveda, the Vajurreda, the Samaveda, and At'harva Veda ; and some writers reckon the books It'hasa and the Puranas as a fifth or sup. plemental Veda. By the age of the Vedas is not meant the period at which they were actually composed, but that in which they were collected and arranged by the sage Dwapayana, surnamed Vyasu, or the Compiler, or about fourteen centuries before the Christian era, and nine hundred years before Pisistratus performed the same office for the works of Homer, in danger of being lost, owing to the practice of the public rebearsers, who only declaimed detached passages and episodes.

The At'herban, or more properly At'herva Veda, is sup. posed to be more modern than the other three books, and indeed to be a compilation from them. The antiquity also of many of the puranas is questioned, but their real author and precise date is of little consequence ; since the fact of their being really the sacred books of India is acknowledged.

The Vedas consist of a compilation of prayers of muntras and hymns, the complete collection of which is called Sanhita, and of precepts and maxims called Crahmana. The theology of ludian scripture, including the argumentative part or Yedanta, is contained in tracts called Upinishads ; and to each Veda a treatise called Jyotish, is annexed, explaining the adjustment of the calendar for religious purposes.

The Rigveda contains chiefly encomiastic muntras, and its name is derived from the verb Rich, to land ; these prayers are mostly in verse, and, together with similar passages in any other peda, are called Rich, the authors of these hymns are

various, some of them being ascribed to different deities, male and female, others to kings and princes, or to sages and holy men.

The name of the Vajurveda signifies that it concerns oblations and sacrifices. Soon after it was compiled by Vyasa, it became polluted, and a new revelation called the White Va. jush was granted to Vajuyawalkya, while the remains of the former Yajush is distinguished by the title of the Black Ya. jurveda. Some of the prayers called Rich are included in this Veda, but its own peculiar muntras are in prose.

A peculiar degree of holiness is attributed to the Samaveda, as its name signifies that which destroys sin. Its texts are usually chanted, and I have occasionally been delighted with the solemn tones issuing from the domes of the native temples at sunset, before the moment for the ceremonial ablutions had arrived.

The last, or Atharvan Veda, is chiefly used at rites for conciliating the deities, or for drawing down curses on enemies, and contains some prayers used at lustrations.

The better notions of the Vedas, and particularly those of the Aitareya Aranyaca are professedly the fundamental doctrines of the philosophers of the Vedanta sect, whose speculations appear to coincide nearly with those of Berkeley, and perbaps of Plato. The Sastra, which contains the doctrines of the Vedantas, is ascribed to Vyasu, and the commentator is Saucara, who explains and enlarges the very ancient and almost obsolete texts of this author. The opinions of this school concerning matter are, that it has no existence independent on mental perceptions, and consequently that existence and perceptibility are controvertible terms. That external appearances and sensations are illusory, and would vanish into nothing, if the divine energy, which alone sustains them, were suspended but for a moment.

Speciinens of Hymns from the samu-vedu.- Possessed of innumerable heads, innumerable eyes, innumerable feet, Brumhu fills the heavens and the earth; he is whatever was, whatever svill be ; he is separate from all; in this separate state he exists in a three-fold forin above the universe, the fourth part is transfused through the world : he is therefore called the Great Being; his command is as the water of life ; from him proceeded the Viratu-poorushu ; he is the source of universal motion ; he is not separate from the universe ; he is the light of the moon, of the sun, of the fire, of the lightning, and of all that shines ; the vedu is the breath of his nostrils; the primary elements are his sight ; the agitation of human affairs is bis laughter; his sleep, is the destruction of the universe ; in different forms he cherishes the creatures, as, in the form of fire, he digests their food ; in the form of air, he preserves them in existence ; in the form of water, he satisfies them ; in the form of the sun, he assists them in the affairs of life, and in that of the moon, he refreshes them with sleep ; the progression of time, forms his footsteps ; all the gods are to him as sparks from fire. In the form of fire, he cherishes the gods ;-~therefore I bow to Him, who is the universe ; to the gods who dwell in heaven, I bow ; to the gods who dwell in space, I bow ; to the gods on earth, I bow : to the regent of waters, I bow ; to the gods who guard the regions, I bow.”

os Brumhu is the life of life, mind of mind, sight of sight; he dwells in the centre of light; he, without eyes, sees whatever was, is, or shall be ; without hands or feet, he holds every thing, and executes his purposes with the rapidity of lightning ; without the appropriate members, he hears and tastes of every thing ; becoming the cultivator, he tills the ground ; becoming the clouds, he waters it ; becoming corn, he fills the creatures. His power is seen in the cooling draught, the burning fire, the scorching sun, the cooling beams of the moon ; in the butter-yielding milk ; while he dwells in the body, it retains the vital heat ; when he retires, it becomes cold ; he preserves the life of those appointed to live ; he conceals those who are appointed to be hid ; he beholds the world ; he appoints the names and forms of things, and thus makes them knowa; he who seeks refuge in him, is worshipped by all the gods ; he destroys the sins of such a devotee as fire consumes the cotton thread ; to the holy, he is ever near ; from the wicked he is afar off ; he is the source of truth and of falsehood ; to assist men in their worship, to him have been assigned name, form, and place; he who takes refuge in him, is a holy person ; he whose face is turned from him, is a blasphemer.”

It appears, that when the Hindoos chant these hymns, the sounds are modified by peculiar rules of prosody, which may properly be called the melody or tune in which they are chanted.

Specimen of the Prayers of the vedu.—" O Ugnee, come and eat; sit on this kooshu seat ; I invite thee to feed on clarified butter, that thou mayest invite and entertain the gods ; thou art adored by all the gods. The gods have placed thee on earth to cherish all. O Ugnee, thou who dwellest in the mind, as well as in all places, thou knowest all creatures; make known my desires to God, that my sacrifice may be accepted, and that I may be bonoured among men. He has do enemies, who praises Ugnee, and who presents offerings to bim in the sacrifice, while the flame, unmixed with smoke, burps bright, and surrounds the altar from the south. Like a guest, Ugnee is welcome among men. He is applauded as an excellent charioteer, or as a swift messenger ; to know him is the object of desire. He is the most excellent of all the gods ; the Great Lord of earth; he makes known the good and evil belonging to all. O Ugnee, satisfy, as Chundru by his welcome beams ; preserve us from our enemies ; come before us ; deliver from all fear of future birth."

“O Ushwinee-koomaru ! we request your presence. The juice of the somu is prepared in one place, on the seat of the kooshu, for you both. Come, and receive all this somu.What do you resemble ? you are the destroyers of enemies ; the removers of disease : the lovers of truth. As the giants make their enemies, so make our enemies weep.”

Their notions concerning the human soul approach nearly to the Pantheism of some other philosophical sects, and may be understood from the following text. " That spirit from which these created beings proceed; through which, having proceeded from it, they live ; toward which they read, and in which they are ultimately absorbed, that spirit study to know ; that spirit is the great one."

The oldest philosopical sect in India appears, however, to have been that of the followers of Copilla, inventor of the Sanc'hya or numeral philosophy, which Sir Willian Jones thought resembled the metaphysics of Pythagoras, who is said indeed to have travelled into India in search of knowledge, and who might possibly have adopted the tenets of the Brahmins bis instructors. Next to the Sanc'hya, Gotama, and Canada invented the Nyaya or logical philosophy, admitting the actual existence of material substance in the popular sense of the word matter, and comprising a body of dialectics, with an artificial method of reasoning, with distinct names for the three parts of a proposition, and even for those of a regular syllogism.

The philosophy of the Bauddiha and Jaina religious sects, is branded with the name of atheism by the orthodox Brahmins, who assert that they deny the existence of spirit independent of matter, and consequently that of the supreme in. telligence. But we may doubt, how far the assertions of enemies and rivals are entitled to belief or regard.

CHAPTER II.

A VIEW OF THE

RELIGION AND CEREMONIES

OF OTHER PAGAN NATIONS.

SECTION I.

THE RELIGION OF CHINA.

It has already been intimated, that the object of worship is the same, essentially, in China, India, and some other eastern countries. But the idolatry of Cbina would seem not to be of such a gross and mysterious character as that of the Hindoos.

Confucius, the Apostle of the Chinese, taught a simple and excellent doctrine of moral philosophy ; but, though the Chinese still hold his memory in great veneration, and affect to be guided by his precepts, they have greatly departed from his practice, and the pure laws he laid down for their conduct in life.

This great and good man was contemporary with Pythagoras, and a little before Socrates. He was but three years old when he lost his father Tcho leang he, who had enjoyed the highest offices of the kingdom of Long ; but left no other inheritance to his son, except the honour of descending from Ti ye, the 27th emperor of the second race of the Chang. His mother, whose name was Ching, and who sprung origin. ally from the illustrious family of the Yen, lived 21 years after the death of her husband. Confucias did not grow in knowledge by degrees, as children ordinarily do, but seemed to arrive at reason and the perfect use of his faculties, almost from his infancy. He took po delight in playing, running about, and such amusements as were proper for his age ; he had a grave and serious deportment, which gained him respect, and plain!y foretold what he would one day he. But what distinguished him most, was his unexampled and exalted

« ZurückWeiter »