Lecture on the Vedas, or the Sacred Books of the Brahmans (1865)
I have brought with me one volume of my edition of the Veda, and I should not wonder if it were the first copy of the work which has ever reached this busy town of Leeds. Nay, I confess I have some misgivings that I may have undertaken a hopeless task, and I begin to doubt whether I shall succeed in explaining to you the interest which I feel for this ancient collection of sacred hymns—an interest which has never failed me while devoting to the publication of this voluminous work the best twenty years of my life. Many times have I been asked, But what is the Veda? Why should it be published? What are we likely to learn from a book composed nearly four thousand years ago, and intended from the beginning for an uncultivated race of mere heathens and savages—a book which the natives of India have never published themselves, although, to the present day, they profess to regard it as the highest authority for their religion, morals, and philosophy? Are we, the people of England, or of Europe, in the nineteenth century, likely to gain any new light on religious, moral, or philosophical questions from the old songs of the Brahmans? And is it so very certain that the whole book is not a modern forgery, without any substantial claims to that high antiquity which is ascribed to it by the Hindus, so that all the labour bestowed upon it would not only be labour lost, but [would] throw discredit on our powers of discrimination, and make us a laughing-stock among the shrewd natives of India? These and similar questions I have had to answer many times when asked by others, and some of them when asked by myself, before embarking on so hazardous an undertaking as the publication of the Rig-veda and its ancient commentary.
KeywordsEast India Company Religious Thought Bodleian Library Sacred Book Sanskrit Literature
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