« AnkstesnisTęsti »
present, can with certainty be referred to an earlier date than that of the Sacred Canon of the Buddhists. Whatever age we may assign to the Avesta and to their final arrangement, there is no book in the Persian language of greater antiquity than the Sacred Books of the followers of Zarathustra, nay, than their translation into Pehlavi. There may have been an extensive ancient literature in China long before Kung-fu-tsze and Lao-tsze, but among all that was rescued and preserved of it, the five King and the four Shu claim again the highest antiquity. As to the Koran, it is known to be the fountainhead both of the religion and the literature of the Arabs. This being the case, it was but natural that the attention of the historian should of late have been more strongly attracted by these Sacred Books, as likely to afford most valuable information, not only in the religion, but also on the moral sentiments, the social institutions, the legal maxims of some of the most important nations of antiquity.
Leaving out of consideration the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, it appears that the only great and original religions which profess to be founded on sacred books, and have preserved them in manuscript, are:-1. The religion of the Brahmans. 2. The religion of the followers of Buddha. 3. The religion of the followers of Zarathustra. 4. The religion of the followers of Kung-fu-tsze. 5. The religion of the followers of Lao-tsze. 6. The religion of the followers of Mohammed.
A desire for a trustworthy translation of the sacred books of these six Eastern religions has often been expressed. Several have been translated into English, French, German or Latin ; but in some cases these translations are hard to procure, in others they are loaded with commentaries and notes which are intended for students by profession only. Oriental scholars have been blamed for not as yet having supplied a want so generally felt and so widely expressed, as a complete, trustworthy and readable translation of the principal Sacred Books of eastern religions. No doubt there is much in these old books that is startling by its very simplicity and truth, much that is elevated and elevating, much that is beautiful and sublime; but people that have vague ideas of primeval wisdom, and the splendour of Eastern poetry will soon find themselves grievously disappointed. It cannot be too strongly stated that the chief, and in many cases, the only interest of the sacred books of the East is historical ; that much in them is childish, tedious, if not repulsive, and that no one but the historian will be able to understand the important lessons which they teach. Having been so fortunate as to secure that support (viz., of Oxford) having also received promises of assistance from some of the best Oriental scholars in England and India, I hope I shall be able after the neces
sary preparations are completed, to publish about three volumes of translations every year, selecting from the stores of the six so-called *Book-religions' those works which can at present be translated, and which are most likely to prove useful. All translations will be made from the original texts; and where good translations exist already, they will be carefully revised by competent scholars. What I contemplate at present, and I am afraid, at my time of life even this may be too sanguine, is no more than a series of twenty-four volumes, the publication of which will extend over a period of eight years. In this Series I hope to comprehend the following books, though I do not pledge myself to adhere strictly to this outline :
1. From among the Sacred Books of the Brahmans, I hope to give a translation of the hymns of the Rig Veda. The translation of another Samhitâ, one or two of the Brâhmanâs or portions of them, will have to be included in our Series, as well as the principal Upanishads, theosophic treatises of great interest and beauty.
2. Sacred Books of the Buddhists will be translated from the two original collections, the southern in Pali, the northern in Sanskrit.
3. The Sacred Books of the Zoroastrians lie within a smaller compass, but they will require fuller notes and commentaries to make a translation intelligible and useful.
4. The Books which enjoy the highest authority with the followers of Kung-fu-tsze are the King and the Shu.
5. For the system of Lao-tsze we require only a translation of the Tao-teh King, with some of its commentaries.
6. For Islam, all that is essential is a trustworthy translation of the Koran. It will be my endeavor to divide the twenty-four volumes which are contemplated in this Series as equally as possible among the six religions. Oxford, Oct., 1876.-F. Max Müller."
Prof. Müller says :—"The following distinguished scholars, all of them occupying the foremost rank in their own special department of oriental literature, are at present engaged in preparing translations of some of the Sacred Books of the East: S. Beal, R. G. Bhandarkar, G. Buhler, A. Burnell, E. B. Cowell, J. Darmesteter, T. W. Rhys Davids, J. Eggeling, V. Fausboll, H. Jocobi, J. Jolly, H. Kern, F. Kielhorn, J. Legge, H. Oldenberg, E. H. Palmer, R. Pischel, K. T. Telang, E. W. West."
The first volume of the Serios is “The Upanishads. Translated by F. Max Müller. Oxford, 1879.” In the Preface to this volume Prof. Müller, says: “I must begin this series of translations of the Sacred Books of the East with three cautions ;-the first, referring to the character of the original text here translated; the second, with
regard to the difficulties in making a proper use of translations; the third, showing what is possible and what is impossible in rendering ancient thought into modern speech.
“Readers who have been led to believe that the Vedas of the Ancient Brahmans, the Avesta of the Zoroastrians, the Tripitaka of the Buddhists, the Kings of Confucius, or the Koran of Mohammad are books full of primeval wisdom and religious enthusiasm, or at least of sound and simple moral teaching, will be disappointed on consulting these volumes. Looking at many of the books that have lately been published on the religions of the ancient world, I do not wonder that such a belief should have been raised, but I have long felt that it was high time to dispel such illusions, and to place the study of the ancient religions of the world on a more real and sound, on a more historical, basis. It is but natural that those who write on ancient religions, and who have studied them from translations only, not from original documents, should have had eyes for their bright rather than their dark sides. The former absorb all the attention of the student, the latter, as they teach nothing, seem hardly to deserve any notice. Scholars also who have devoted their life either to the editing of the original texts, or to the careful interpretation of some of the sacred books, are more inclined after they have disinterred from a heap of rubbish some solitary fragments of pure gold, to exhibit these treasures only, than to display all the rubbish from which they had to extract them. I do not blame them for this, perhaps I should feel that I was open to the same blame myself, for it is but natural, that scholars at their joy at finding one or two fragrant flowers should gladly forget the brambles and thorns that had to be thrown aside in their search. .... We must face the problem in its completeness, and I confess it has been for many years a problem to ine, aye, and to a great extent is so still, how the sacred books of the East should, by the side of much that is fresh, natural simple, beautiful, and true, contain so much that is not only unmeaning, artificial and silly, but even hideous and repellent. This is a fact and must be accounted for in some way or other. To some minds this problem may seem to be no problem at all. To those (and I do not speak of Christians only) who look upon the sacred books of all religions except their owy, as necessarily the outcome of human or superhuman ignorance and depravity, the mixed nature of their contents may seem to be exactly what it ought to be, what they expected it would be. But there are other and more reverent minds who can feel a divine affilatus in the sacred books, not only of their own, but of other religions also, and to them the mixed character of some of the ancient sacred canons must always be exceedingly perplexing. ...
“In using what may seem to some of my fellow-workers this very
strong and almost irreverent language in regard to the ancient sacred books of the East, I have not neglected to make full allowance for that very important intellectual parallax which, no doubt renders it most difficult for a Western observer to see things and thoughts under exactly the same angle and in the same light as they would appear to an Eastern eye. All this I fully admit, yet after making all allowance for national taste and traditions, I still confidently appeal to the best oriental scholars, whether they think my condemnation is too severe, or that Eastern nations themselves would tolerate, in any of their classical literary compositions, such violation of the simplest rules of taste as they have accustomed themselves to tolerate, if not to admire, in their sacred books.
“But then it might no doubt be objected that books of such a character hardly deserve the honour of being translated into English, and that the sooner they are forgotten the better. Such opinions have of late been freely expressed by some eminent writers, and supported by arguments worthy of the Khalif Omar himself. .... There was some excuse for this in the days of Sir William Jones and Colebrooke. The latter, as is well known, considered the Vedas as too voluminous for a complete translation of the whole; adding that “what they contain would hardly reward the labour of the reader; much less that of the translator."* The former went still further in the condemnation which he pronounced upon Anequetil Duperron's translation of the Zend-avesta.
“ After this first caution, which I thought was due to those who might expect to find in these volumes nothing but gems, I feel I owe another to those who may approach these translations under the impression that they have only to read them in order to gain an insight into the nature and character of the religions of mankind. That is not the case. Translations can do much, but they can never take the place of the originals, and if the originals require not only to be read, but to be read again and again, translations of sacred books require to be studied with much greater care, before we can hope to gain a real understanding of the intentions of their authors, or venture on general assertions.
“ And now I come to the third caution. Let it not be supposed that a text, three thousand years old, or, even if of more modern date, still widely different from our own sphere of thought, can be translated in the same manner as a book written a few years ago in French or Germau. We must not expect, therefore, that a translation of the
Colebrooke's Miscellaneous Essays. 1873. Vol. II. n. 102.
sacred books of the ancients can ever be more than an approximation of our language to theirs, of our thoughts to theirs. I only wish to warn the reader not to expect too much from a translation, and to bear in mind that, easy as it might be to render word by word, it is difficult, aye, sometimes impossible, to render thought by thought.” [In illustration of this difficulty he quotes a sentence.] “This sentence has been rendered by Rogindrolal Mitra in the following way: • All this universe has the (Supreme) Deity for its life. That Deity is truth. He is the universal soul. Thou art He O Svetaketer.' This translation is quite correct as far as the words go, but I doubt whether we can connect any definite thoughts with these words. I have ventured to translate the passage in the following way: “That which is the subtile essence (the Sat, the root of everything), in it all that exists has its self, or more literally, its self-hood. It is the true (not the
, truth in the abstract, but that which truly and really exists). It is the self, i.e. the Sat is what is called the self of every thing.' Lastly, he sums up, and tells Svetaketer that not only the whole world, but he himself too is that self, that Satya, that Sat. No doubt this translation sounds strange to English cars, but as the thoughts contained in the Upanisheds are strange, it would be wrong to smooth down their strangeness by clothing them in langauge familiar to us. If some of those who read and mark these translations learn how to discover some such precious grains in the sacred books of other nations, though hidden under heaps of rubbish, our labour will not have been in vain."
I have copied so much from the “Program of the Translation,” and from "The Preface to the Sacred Books of the East," by the Projector and the Editor of the Series, that all my readers may have the opportunity of forming their own opinion of the nature of the work, in which so many distinguished scholars are engaged, and the objects to be accomplished thereby, from his own statement of the matter. I think every reader of this presentation of the subject will be disappointed in the expectations he had formed in regard to it. First it is repeatedly stated by the editor that among the contents of these books are heaps of rubbish; and that all he expects to get from these toils of translation are a few precious grains of truth. The Vedas have been spoken of as containing the richest deposits of precious grains. But of these Mr. Colebrooke, the distinguished Sanscrit scholar, has said that “what they contain would hardly reward the reader (of a translation] much less that of a translator.” But Prof. Müller says further, after telling us that there are only a few grains among heaps of rubbish, that “translations can never take the place