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to a great extent, founded also on reasoning and speculation) profess to be mainly derived; or with which, at least, they all claim to be in harmony.
When I speak, however, of the history of the Veda, I am reminded that I am employing a term which will suggest to the philosophical reader the idea of a minute and systematic account of the various opinions which the Indians have held in regard to their sacred books from the commencement, through all the successive stages of their theological development, down to the present time. To do anything like this, however, would be a task demanding an extent of research far exceeding any to which I can pretend. At some future time, indeed, we may hope that a history of the theological and speculative ideas of the Indians, which shall treat this branch also of the subject, may be written by some competent scholar. My own design is much more modest. I only attempt to show what are the opinions on the subject of the Veda, which have been entertained by certain distinct sets of writers whom I may broadly divide into three classes—(1) the mythological, (2) the scholastic, and (3) the Vedic.
The first, or mythological class, embraces the writers of the different Purānas and Itihāsas, and partially those of the Brāhmanas and Upanishads, who, like the compilers of the Purānas, frequently combine the mythological with the theosophic element.
The second, or scholastic class, includes the authors of the different philosophical schools, or Darśanas, with their scholiasts and expositors, and the commentators
on the Vedas. The whole of these writers belong to the class of systematic or philosophical theologians; but as their speculative principles differ, it is the object of each particular school to explain and establish the origin and authority of the Vedas on grounds conformable to its own fundamental dogmas, as well as to expound the doctrines of the sacred books in sueh a way as to harmonize with its own special tenets.
The third class of writers, whose opinions in regard to the Vedas I have attempted to exhibit, is composed (1) of the rishis themselves, the authors of the Vedic hymns, and (2) of the authors of the Upanishads, which, though works of a much more recent date, and for the most part of a different character from the hymns, are yet regarded by later Indian writers as forming, equally with the latter, a part of the Veda. As the authors of the hymns, the earliest of them at least, lived in an age of simple conceptions and of spontaneous and childlike devotion, we shall find that, though some of them appear, in conformity with the spirit of their times, to have regarded their compositions as in a certain degree the result of divine inspiration, their primitive and elementary ideas on this subject form a strong contrast to the artificial and systematic definitions of the later scholastic writers. And even the authors of the Upanishads, though they, in a more distinct manner, claim a superhuman authority for their own productions, are very far from recognizing the rigid classification which, at a subsequent period, divided the Vedic writings from all other religious works, by a broad line of demarcation.
It may conduce to the convenience of the reader, if I furnish here a brief survey of the opinions of the three classes of writers above described, in regard to the Vedas, as these opinions are shown in the passages which are collected in the present volume.
The first chapter (pp. 1-217) contains texts exhibiting the opinions on the origin, division, inspiration, and authority of the Vedas, which have been held by Indian authors shortly before, or subsequent to, the collection of the Vedic hymns, and consequently embraces the views of the first two of the classes of writers above specified, viz. (1) the mythological and (2) the scholastic. In the first Section (pp. 3-10), I adduce texts from the Purusha Sūkta, the Atharva-veda, the Satapatha Brāhmana, the Chhāndogya Upanishad, the Taittirīya Brāhmana, and the Institutes of Manu, which variously represent the Vedas (a) as springing from the mystical sacrifice of Purusha; (6) as resting on (or inhering in) Skambha ; (c) as cut or scraped off from him, as being his hair, and his mouth ; (d) as springing from Indra; (e) as produced from time; (f) as produced from Agni, Vāyu, and Sūrya; (g) as springing from Prajāpati, and the waters; (h) as being the breathing of the Great Being; (i) as being dug by the gods out of the mind-ocean; (j) as being the hair of Prajāpati's beard, and (k) as being the offspring of Vāch.
In page 287 of the Appendix a further verse of the Atharva-veda is cited, in which the Vedas are declared to have sprung from the leavings of the sacrifice (uchchhishta).
In the second Section (pp. 10–14) are quoted passages from the Vishnu, Bhāgavata, and Mārkandeya Purānas, which represent the four Vedas as having issued from the mouth of Brahmā at the creation; several from the Harivañía, which speak of the Vedas as created by Brahmā, or as produced from the Gāyatrī; another from the Mahābhārata, which describes them as created by Vishnu, or as having Sarasvatī for their mother; with one from Manu, which declares the Vedas, along with certain other objects, to be the second manifestation of the Sattva-guna, or pure principle, while Brahmā is one of its first manifestations.
The third Section (pp. 14–18) contains passages from the Brāhmaṇas, the Vishnu Purāna, and the Mahābhārata, in which the Vedas are celebrated as comprehending all beings, as being the soul of metres, hymns, breaths, and gods, as imperishable, as the source of form, motion, and heat, of the names, forms, and functions of all creatures, as infinite in extent, as infinite in their essence (brahma), though limited in their forms as Rich, Yajush, and Sāman verses, as eternal, and as forming the essence of Vishnu.
The fourth Section (pp. 18-36) contains passages from the Satapatha Brāhmana and Manu, in which the great benefits resulting from the study of the Vedas, and the dignity, power, authority, and efficacy of these works are celebrated; together with two other texts from the latter author and the Vishnu Purāna, in which a certain impurity is predicated of the Sāma-veda (compare the Mārkandeya Purāna, as quoted in p. 12, where the four
Vedas are described as respectively partaking differently of the character of the three Gunas, or Qualities); and some others from the Vāyu, Padma, Matsya, and Brahma-vaivartta Purānas, and the Mahābhārata, and Rāmāyana, which derogate greatly from the consideration of the Vedas, by claiming for the Purānas and Itihāsas an equality with, if not a superiority to, the older scriptures. A passage is next quoted from the Mundaka Upanishad, in which the Vedas and their appendages are designated as the “inferior science,” in contrast to the
superior science,” the knowledge of Soul; and is followed by others from the Bhagavad Gītā, the Chhāndogya Upanishad and the Bhāgavata Purāna, in which the ceremonial and polytheistic portions of the Veda are depreciated in comparison with the knowledge of the supreme Spirit.
The fifth Section (pp. 36-49) describes the division of the Vedas in the third or Dvāpara age, by Vedavyāsa and his four pupils, according to texts of the Vishnu, Vāyu, and Bhāgavata Purānas; and then adduces a different account, asserting their division in the second or Tretā age, by the King Purūravas, according to another passage of the same Bhāgavata Purāna, and a text of the Mahābhārata (though the latter is silent regarding Purūravas).
Section vi. (pp. 49–57) contains passages from the Vishnu and Vāyu Purānas and the Satapatha Brāhmana, regarding the schism between the adherents of the Yajurveda, as represented by the different schools of Vaisampāyana and Yājnavalkya, and quotes certain remarks of