Scripture of Mankind

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  The Scriptures of Mankind: An Introduction by CharlesSamuel Braden Dr. Braden was Professor of History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University (195!. Pu lished y #he $a%$illan &o'any) New *or+) %oyright 195 y &harles ,. Braden. #his 'aterial was reared for Religion -nline   y #ed  /innie Bro%+. &hater 50 #he ,a%red Literature of Hinduis' $other 2ndia) as she is lovingly %alled y her sons) has indeed een a 'other of religions. 3our of the eleven rin%ial living faiths of the world were orn in 2ndia0 Hinduis') Buddhis') 4ainis') and ,i+his') and all have etensive sa%red literatures.Hinduis' itself) fro' whi%h all the others have srung) has a vast and highly variegated set of s%ritures. 2n general there are two tyes of s%riture that are regarded as authoritative in Hinduis'0 (1!  sruti: that whi%h 'ay e regarded as the ipsissima verba, the very) very word of 6od. 2t was given y ver al insiration to the rishiis or seers) and gathered into a %losed &anon. 3ro' this nothing 'ay e ta+enaway and nothing 'ay e added. #his tye of sa%red writing has) in the %ourse of ti'e) %o'e to e thought of very 'u%h as the Bi le is thought of y &hristian 3unda'entalists0 as infalli le) in%aa le of error) e%ause of its non7hu'an %hara%ter.#he se%ond tye of s%riture is +nown as  smriti. /hile ad'ittedly of hu'an srcins) it has %o'e to e thought of as authoritative also) in the eression of religious faith) and of very high value in the tea%hing of religion and 'orals. #hough of less ealted srcin) and not of e8ual value with  sruti, as a asis of religious dog'a) it is erhas 8uite as influential in the lives of the eole in in%ul%ating and nourishing religious faith and ra%ti%e. 2f all the oo+s whi%h are %o'rised within these two %lasses of sa%red literature were to e rought together in a single %olle%tion) as has nowhere yet  een done) they would fill 'any thousands of ages. /hile there is rather general agree'ent as to what 'ay e %onsidered as  smriti, there is no %losed %anon. ,e%tariangrous differ to a %onsidera le degree as to what 'ay e so %onsidered. &ertainly they differ as to whi%h arti%ular oo+s of this %ategory are to e e'hasied within their own grous. #he rather generally tolerant attitude of 2ndians toward the religious eliefs of others in%lines the' to ad'it as sa%red for others what they 'ight not a%%et for the'selves. :s a 'atter of fa%t so'e se%tarian grous 'a+e)  ra%ti%ally) 'u%h greater use of non-sruti literature) as the asis for resent elief and ra%ti%e than they do of the re%ognied  sruti writings. 2ndeed for the' so'e oo+s generally regarded as  smriti have a%tually e%o'e  sruti. #here is nothing in Hinduis'to revent this fro' haening./ithin Hindu sa%red literature 'ay e found) as in 'ost s%riture) al'ost every tye of writing. #here is oth oetry and rose. ;a'les of nearly every variety of oeti%eression 'ay e found. ,o'e of it is lyri%) so'e elegia%) so'e ei%) so'e dra'ati%. Love songs a ound. #here is oetry of raise) oetry of la'entation) heroi%  verse) and oetry of desair) oetry of than+sgiving) oetry of devotion) oetry that islight) airy) fan%iful) and oetry that see+s to eress the 'ost rofound hilosohi% insight. -f rose there is every +ind) the short story) the dra'a) the fa le) legal lore)  hilosohi% essays) history) dra'a. -nly the eistolary) whi%h is so i'ortant in the  New #esta'ent) see's to e la%+ing. #here are rose assages of unusual eauty and strength< there are innu'era le ages of dry diale%ti% 'aterial) without gra%e or %har') ut none the less i'ortant for an understanding of Hinduis'.#his Hindu literature li+e that of 'ost other religions reresents the wor+ of 'any) 'any hands over a long eriod of ti'e. 2t re%ords the hoes) asirations) ideals) triu'hs) failures) strivings after 'eaning of a great eole) a%ross the %enturies) as they develoed fro' ar aris' to the highly %ultured so%iety whi%h is 2ndia today at its est. -ut of the struggle uward the literature was orn and y it 2ndia=s life has   een shaed and %ontrolled to a re'ar+a le degree) for 2ndia=s sa%red literature is no 'ere 'useu' ie%e. #he daily routine of the orthodo Hindu is ro a ly 'u%h 'ore deter'ined y so'e art of his s%ritures than that of the eole of the /est y the Bi le) or for that 'atter than that of any other eole y its s%riture) save only the $osle's.2ndia=s sa%red literature divides itself logi%ally and to so'e etent %hronologi%ally) into four 'ain grous0 (1! >edi% literature) (! Legal literature) (?! ;i% literature and (@! Purani% literature. #he ea%t %hronology of so'e writings it is diffi%ult to fi) and there is often a differen%e in ti'e etween the eginnings of a given ody of literatureand its final %o'letion. #he eginnings of the ;i%s 'ay well have een within the late >edi% age) their %o'letion 'ore than a 'illenniu' later. #he earliest for'ulation of legal %odes 'ay go well a%+ into the ast< the final fiing of the %odes is %o'aratively late) and of %ourse so'e %odes are 'u%h earlier than others. ,o'e of the Purani% lore is old. #he Puranas) as now found) are the latest of all Hindusa%red writings. /e %onsider first >edi% literature. Vedic Literature >edi% literature is  sruti, the infalli le) ver ally insired word of 6od. 2t is the 'ost sa%red of all. ,o sa%red was it held to e at the ti'e of the 'a+ing of the &ode of $anu) greatest of the law oo+s) that it was therein de%reed that a lowly Sudra, i.e.) low %aste 'an) who so 'u%h as listened to the sa%red tet would have 'olten 'etal  oured into his ears) and his tongue %ut out if he ronoun%ed the sa%red words of the holy >edas. 1  A/hether su%h laws were ever a%tually enfor%ed 'ay e dou ted. &ertainly there is no eviden%e that they were) ut they do serve to a%%entuate the degree of sa%redness whi%h atta%hed to the >edi% literature.>edi% literature %o'rises 'u%h 'ore than the >edas. #hese give their na'e to an etensive literature whi%h grew out of the'. ,e%ifi%ally regarded as art of the >eda are (1! the Brah'anas) (! the :ranya+as) and (?! the Uanishads. 2t has e%o'e a dog'a generally a%%eted that all that is found in these later writings is si'ly an outgrowth of the >edas) the 'a+ing eli%it of what was therein i'li%it. #hey are therefore regarded as e8ually sa%red. #here is another reason 77 erhas the ri'ary reason 77 for %onsidering the' as >edi%) na'ely) that these writings) e%et the  >edanta ,utras) were hysi%ally atta%hed to the >edas in their written for'.$ost asi% of all Hindu sa%red writings are the ,a'hitas) generally %alled the >edas the'selves) of whi%h there are four) and 'ost asi% of the four is the Rig7>eda. #he others) the ,a'a7>eda) the *aur7>eda and the :tharva7>eda) all derive to a %onsidera le etent fro' the Rig. $ost of our attention will therefore e given to this highly i'ortant sa%red oo+.#he na'e of the oo+) Rig7>eda) 'eans ro a ly >erse /isdo'. 2t is a %olle%tion of hy'ns) 1C1 in all a%%ording to 6riffith. 2n ul+ it is longer than the %o' ined  Iliad and Odyssey of Ho'er. #ranslated into ;nglish) and with so'e notes) the hy'ns 'a+e two 8uite su stantial volu'es.  2n the srcinal there are so'e C)CCC'etri%al verses in the whole %olle%tion.3or the Rig7>eda is ust that) a %olle%tion) the wor+ of a great 'any writers) or in so'e %ases) guilds of writers. 2t %onsists %hiefly of hy'ns to one or another of the nu'erous >edi% gods) designed for use in the worshi of these divinities. 2t reresentsthe oldest stratu' of Hinduis' of whi%h very 'u%h is +nown. 2n re%ent ti'es ar%haeologi%al dis%overies in the 2ndus valley have rought to light eviden%es of a highly develoed %ulture in 2ndia long efore the %o'ing of the invading :ryans. /hereas) earlier) it had een elieved that the :ryans found only eoles of relativelyundeveloed %ulture) now it is +nown that at least so'e of these early 2ndians had develoed the arts to a high degree) that they even had a +ind of hieroglyhi% writing)not yet de%ihered) and ro a ly an e8ually well develoed religion whi%h) suressed for a ti'e) gradually reasserted itself and greatly 'odified >edi% religion) gradually transfor'ing it into the Hinduis' as ra%ti%ed in 2ndia today. (3or an interesting a%%ount of this %iviliation see ,ir 4ohn $arshall)  Mohenjo-daro, ? volu'es.!Referen%e has een 'ade to the :ryan invasion of 2ndia. /ho were the :ryansE #here is 'u%h that is not +nown %on%erning the') ut it is +nown that long) long   efore they arrived in 2ndia they were art of a great 'igratory 'ove'ent of eole) so'eti'es identified in%orre%tly as a ra%e) ro a ly etter as a eole of a %o''on %ulture. #o this eole) eventually) the na'e 2ndo7;uroean %a'e to e atta%hed) sin%e sure signs of their resen%e are to e found all the way fro' the British 2sles on the /est) to the Bay of Bengal on the ;ast) and fro' the ,%andinavian %ountries on the North to the $editerranean on the ,outh. #hough ossessing 'any %o''on %ultural traits found also in ;uroe and the /est) the 'u%h %loser si'ilarities etweenthe %ultures of 2ran or Persia and 2ndia have led s%holars to distinguish an 2ndo72ranian ran%h of the larger whole as having early searated itself fro' the %entral or srcinal :ryan 'igration) erhas 'oving eastward fro' the) as yet) not %ertainly lo%ated srcin of the :ryan grou. Later this seg'ent again searated into two   ran%hes. -ne of these entered the 2ranian lateau) a'alga'ated with the native  oulations and eventually gave rise to a new faith) Foroastrianis') whi%h develoedits own sa%red literature. #he other %rossed the Ghy er ass and entered the land of 2ndia) gradually fanning out to %over the greater art of that vast su %ontinent) ut losing) in the %ourse of its southern 'ove'ent) 'u%h of its srcinal %hara%ter.  2t was of this :ryan 'igration that the >edi% hy'ns were orn. 2n a real sense they) atleast the older of the') are not really 2ndian in srcin at all) ut were rodu%ed either   efore the :ryans had set foot on 2ndian soil) or were %o'osed y :ryans) i.e.) the foreign invaders) efore 2ndia had had ti'e to ut her own i'ress uon the'. /hen this invasion too+ la%e it is i'ossi le to state with any %ertainty. 2t is rather generally suosed to have o%%urred so'e ti'e within the eriod 5CC715CC B.&.) though so'e 2ndian s%holars ut it at a 'u%h earlier date) even as early as 5CCC B.&.2n 'odern ti'es the ter' :ryan has e%o'e a ra%ial ter') as in 6er'any under the  Nais) when a shar distin%tion was 'ade etween the :ryan and the ,e'iti% ele'ents in the oulation. But eyond the ro a le fa%t that the :ryan invaders were light rather than dar+ of s+in) little %an e alleged as to their ra%ial %hara%ter. #his is eviden%ed y the lighter %o'leions of the resent7day 2ndian in the northern arts of 2ndia where the :ryans 'ingled in largest roortion with the indigenous  oulation) in %ontrast to the 'u%h dar+er %o'leion of southern 2ndians where the :ryan influen%e is least. :lso it is an easily re%ognied fa%t that 'odern7day 2ndians)  arti%ularly of the northern half) or 'ore) aear to have ;uroean features desite their dar+er %olor. $odern anthroologists and ethnologists give no suort to the eisten%e) now or at any ti'e) of a ure :ryan ra%e. #hey do attest to an :ryan %ulture widely sread over 'ost of ;uroe) Persia and 2ndia) on the asis of eviden%es drawn fro' language) the ar%haeologi%al dis%overy of artifa%ts and o e%ts of art) and %ertain si'ilarities of religious ideas to e found in the areas overrun y these far7ranging 'igrants./hatever the nature of the :ryans) it is a roudly held word in %onte'orary 2ndia. -ne vigorous 'odern refor' 'ove'ent in Hinduis' whi%h see+s to re%ature the   est of 2ndia=s religious heritage %alls itself the :rya7,a'a) the ,o%iety of :ryans< another u lishes a religious ournal whi%h it %alls The Aryan Path. #o ehave as a true :ryan %o'es to have so'ething of the 'eaning of the &onfu%ian ter') the ,uerior $an) or the old ;nglish hrase of the true gentle'an.#he hy'ns of the Rig7>eda are 'u%h older) of %ourse) than the %olle%tion itself. $ost of the' were %o'osed for use in the %ult) although there are hy'ns whi%h see' to   e the 'ore or less sontaneous eression of the individual hu'an sirit. :t first this%ult) or worshi was %ondu%ted y the father of the household) ut in ti'e there arose a se%ialied riesthood for the erfor'an%e of the aroriate sa%rifi%es and rituals) and the hy'ns were ro a ly largely rodu%ed y the' and for their use in the %ult.  Not 'any hy'ns %an e assigned to se%ifi% authors) though the Rig7>eda %ontains seven grous of hy'ns attri uted to seven fa'ilies) the 6ritsa'ada) >isva'itra) >a'adeva) :tri) Bharadvaa) >asistha) and Ganva. #hese 'ay reresent searate s%hools of oetry 77 the hy'ns in any one grou are %ertainly not all y the sa'e individual. #he %olle%tion was not 'ade all at one ti'e) as see's evident also in the He rew oo+ of Psal's.#here are ten oo+s in all. -f these) Boo+s 22 through >22 %ontain the greater nu' er of the oldest hy'ns and were the first to e rought together) ossi ly at the
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