Antiquity of the Mahabharata

Orientalists accord the Mahabharata an antiquity of

* Against the latter assumption derived solely from the accounts of the Bible we have every historical fact. 1st. There are no proofs of these twelve tribes having ever existed; that of Levi was a priestly caste and all the others imaginary. 2d. Herodotus, the most accurate of historians, who was in Assyria when Ezra flourished, never mentions the Israelites at all! Herodotus was born in 484 B. C.

between twelve and fifteen hundred years B.C.; as to the Greek version it bears as little evidence as the other, and the attempts of the Hellenists in this direction have as signally failed. The story of the conquering army of Alexander penetrating into Northern India itself becomes more doubted every day. No Hindu national record, not the slightest historical memento, throughout the length and breadth of India offers the slightest trace of such an invasion.

If even such historical facts are now found to have been all the while fictions, what are we to think of narratives which bear on their very face the stamp of invention? We cannot help sympathizing at heart with Professor Meller when he remarks that it seems "blasphemy to consider these fables of the heathen world as corrupted and misinterpreted fragments of divine Revelation once granted to the whole race of mankind." Only, can this scholar be held perfectly impartial and fair to both parties, unless he includes in the number of these fables those of the Bible? And is the language of the Old Testament more pure or moral than the books of the Brahmans? Or any fables of the heathen world more blasphemous and ridiculous than Jehovah's interview with Moses (Exodus xxxiii. 23)? Are any of the Pagan gods made to appear more fiendish than the same Jehovah in a score of passages? If the feelings of a pious Christian are shocked at the absurdities of Father Kronos eating his children and maiming Uranos; or of Jupiter throwing Vulcan down from heaven and breaking his leg; on the other hand he cannot feel hurt if a non-Christian laughs at the idea of Jacob boxing with the Creator, who "when he saw that he prevailed not against him," dislocated Jacob's thigh, the patriarch still holding fast to God and not allowing Him to go His way, notwithstanding His pleading.

Why should the story of Deukalion and Pyrrha, throwing stones behind them, and thus creating the human race, be deemed more ridiculous than that of Lot's wife being changed into a pillar of salt, or of the Almighty creating men of clay and then breathing the breath of life into them? The choice between the latter mode of creation and that of the Egyptian ram-horned god fabricating man on a potter's wheel is hardly perceptible. The story of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, ushered into existence after a certain period of gestation in her father's brain, is at least suggestive and poetical, as an allegory. No ancient Greek was ever burned for not accepting it literally; and, at all events, "heathen" fables in general are far less preposterous and blasphemous than those imposed upon Christians, ever since the Church accepted the Old Testament, and the Roman Catholic Church opened its register of thaumaturgical saints.

"Many of the natives of India," continues Professor Müller, "confess that their feelings revolt against the impurities attributed to the gods by what they call their sacred writings; yet there are honest Brahmans who will maintain that these stories have a deeper meaning; that immorality being incompatible with a divine being, a mystery must be supposed to be concealed in these time-hallowed fables, a mystery which an inquiring and reverent mind may hope to fathom."

This is precisely what the Christian clergy maintain in attempting to explain the indecencies and incongruities of the Old Testament. Only, instead of allowing the interpretation to those who have the key to these seeming incongruities, they have assumed to themselves the office and right, by divine proxy, to interpret these in their own way. They have not only done that but have gradually deprived the Hebrew clergy of the means to interpret their Scriptures as their fathers did; so that to find among the Rabbis in the present century a well-versed kabalist, is quite rare. The Jews have themselves forgotten the key! How could they help it? Where are the original manuscripts? The oldest Hebrew manuscript in existence is said to be the Bodleian Codex, which is not older than between eight and nine hundred years.* The break between Ezra and this Codex is thus fifteen centuries. In 1490 the Inquisition caused all the Hebrew Bibles to be burned; and Torquemada alone destroyed 6,000 volumes at Salamanca. Except a few manuscripts of the Tora Ketubim and Nebiim, used in the synagogues, and which are of quite a recent date,

* Dr. Kennicot himself, and Bruns, under his direction, about 1780, collated 692 manuscripts of the Hebrew "Bible." Of all these, only two were credited to the tenth century, and three to a period as early as the eleventh and twelfth. The others ranged between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In his "Introduzione alla Sacra Scrittura," pp. 34-47, De Rossi, of Parma, mentions 1,418 MSS. collated, and 374 editions. The oldest manuscript "Codex," he asserts — that of Vienna — dates A.D. 1019; the next, Reuchlin's, of Carlsruhe, 1038. "There is," he declares, "nothing in the manuscripts of the Hebrew 'Old Testament' extant of an earlier date than the eleventh century after Christ."

we do not think there is one old manuscript in existence which is not punctuated, hence — completely misinterpreted and altered by the Masorets. Were it not for this timely invention of the Masorah, no copy of the Old Testament could possibly be tolerated in our century. It is well known that the Masorets while transcribing the oldest manuscripts put themselves to task to take out, except in a few places which they have probably overlooked, all the immodest words and put in places sentences of their own, often changing completely the sense of the verse. "It is clear," says Donaldson, "that the Masoretic school at Tiberias were engaged in settling or unsettling the Hebrew text until the final publication of the Masorah itself." Therefore, had we but the original texts — judging by the present copies of the Bible in our possession — it would be really edifying to compare the Old Testament with the Vedas and even with the Brahmanical books. We verily believe that no faith, however blind, could stand before such an avalanche of crude impurities and fables. If the latter are not only accepted but enforced upon millions of civilized persons who find it respectable and edifying to believe in them as divine revelation, why should we wonder that Brahmans believe their books to be equally a Sruti, a revelation?

Let us thank the Masorets by all means, but let us study at the same time both sides of the medal.

Legends, myths, allegories, symbols, if they but belong to the Hindu, Chaldean, or Egyptian tradition, are thrown into the same heap of fiction. Hardly are they honored with a superficial search into their possible relations to astronomy or sexual emblems. The same myths — when and because mutilated — are accepted as Sacred Scriptures, more — the Word of God! Is this impartial history? Is this justice to either the past, the present, or the future? "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon," said the Reformer, nineteen centuries ago. "Ye cannot serve truth and public prejudice," would be more applicable to our own age. Yet our authorities pretend they serve the former.

There are few myths in any religious system but have an historical as well as a scientific foundation. Myths, as Pococke ably expresses it, "are now proved to be fables, just in proportion as we misunderstand them; truths, in proportion as they were once understood. Our ignorance it is which has made a myth of history; and our ignorance is an Hellenic inheritance, much of it the result of Hellenic vanity." *

Bunsen and Champollion have already shown that the Egyptian sacred books are by far older than the oldest parts of the Book of Genesis. And now a more careful research seems to warrant the suspicion — which with us amounts to a certainty, that the laws of Moses are copies from the code of the Brahmanic Manu. Thus, according to every probability, Egypt owes her civilization, her civil institutions, and her arts, to India. But against the latter assumption we have a whole army of "authorities" arrayed, and what matters if the latter do deny the fact at present? Sooner or later they will

have to accept it, whether they belong to the German or French school. Among, but not of those who so readily compromise between interest and conscience, there are some fearless scholars, who may bring out to light incontrovertible facts. Some twenty years since, Max Müller, in a letter to the Editor of the London Times, April, 1857, maintained most vehemently that Nirvana meant annihilation, in the fullest sense of the word. (See Chips, etc., vol. i., p. 287, on the meaning of Nirvana.) But in 1869, in a lecture before the general meeting of the Association of German Philologists at Kiel, "he distinctly declares his belief that the nihilism attributed to Buddha's teaching forms no part of his doctrine, and that it is wholly wrong to suppose that Nirvana means annihilation." (Trubner's American and Oriental Literary Record, Oct. 16, 1869; also Inman's Ancient Faiths and Modern, p. 128.) Yet if we mistake not, Professor Müller was as much of an authority in 1857 as in 1869.

"It will be difficult to settle," says (now) this great scholar, "whether the Vedas is the oldest of books, and whether some of the portions of the Old Testament may not be traced back to the same or even an earlier date than the oldest hymns of the Veda." * But his retraction about the Nirvana allows us a hope that he may yet change his opinion on the question of Genesis likewise, so that the public may have simultaneously the benefit of truth, and the sanction of one of Europe's greatest authorities.

It is well known how little the Orientalists have come to anything like an agreement about the age of Zoroaster, and until this question is settled, it would be safer perhaps to trust implicitly in the Brahmanical calculations by the Zodiac, than to the opinions of scientists. Leaving the profane horde of unrecognized scholars, those we mean who yet wait their turn to be chosen for public worship as idols symbolical of scientific leadership, where can we find, among the sanctioned authorities of the day, two that agree as to this age? There's Bunsen, who places Zoroaster at Baktra, and the emigration of Baktrians to the Indus at 3784 B.C.,+ and the birth of Moses at 1392.} Now it is rather difficult to place Zoroaster anterior to the Vedas, considering that the whole of his doctrine is that of the earlier Vedas. True, he remained in Afghanistan for a period more or less problematical before crossing into the Punjab; but the Vedas were begun in the latter country. They indicate the progress of the Hindus, as the Avesta that of the Iranians. And there is Haug who assigns to the Aitareya Brahmanam — a Brahmanical speculation and commentary upon the Rig-Veda of a far later date than the Veda itself — between 1400 and 1200 B.C., while the Vedas are placed by him between 2,000 and 2,400 years B.C. Max Müller cautiously suggests certain difficulties in this chronological computation, but still does not altogether deny it.§ Let it, however, be as it may, and supposing that the Pentateuch was t "Egypt's Place in Universal History," vol. v., p. 77. J Ibid., p. 78.

§ "Chips"; "Aitareya Brahmanam."

written by Moses himself — notwithstanding that he would thereby be made to twice record his own death — still, if Moses was born, as Bunsen finds, in 1392 B.C., the Pentateuch could not have been written before the Vedas. Especially if Zoroaster was born 3784 B.C. If, as Dr. Haug* tells us, some of the hymns of the Rig-Veda were written before Zoroaster accomplished his schism, something like thirty-seven centuries B.C., and Max Müller says himself that "the Zoroastrians and their ancestors started from India during the Vaidic period," how can some of the portions of the Old Testament be traced back to the same or even "an earlier date than the oldest hymns of the Veda"?

It has generally been agreed among Orientalists that the Aryans, 3,000 years B.C., were still in the steppes east of the Caspian, and united. Rawlinson conjectures that they "flowed east" from Armenia as a common centre; while two kindred streams began to flow, one northward over the Caucasus, and the other westward over Asia Minor and Europe. He finds the Aryans, at a period anterior to the fifteenth century before our era, "settled in the territory watered by the Upper Indus." Thence Vedic Aryans migrated to the Punjab, and Zendic Aryans westward, establishing the historical countries. But this, like the rest, is a hypothesis, and only given as such.

Again, Rawlinson, evidently following Max Müller, says: "The early history of the Aryans is for many ages an absolute

* Dr. M. Haug, Superintendent of the Sanscrit studies in the Poona College, Bombay.

blank." But many learned Brahmans, however, have declared that they found trace of the existence of the Vedas as early as 2100 B.C.; and Sir William Jones, taking for his guide the astronomical data, places the Yajur-Veda 1580 B.C. This would be still "before Moses."

It is upon the supposition that the Aryans did not leave Afghanistan for the Punjab prior to 1500 B.C. that Max Müller and other Oxford savants have supposed that portions of the Old Testament may be traced back to the same or even an earlier date than the oldest hymns of the Veda. Therefore, until the Orientalists can show us the correct date at which Zoroaster flourished, no authority can be regarded as better for the ages of the Vedas than the Brahmans themselves.

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