WHAT CAN IT TEACH US?
A Course of Lectures
DELIVERED BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
F. MAX MUeLLER, K.M.
TEXT AND FOOT-NOTES COMPLETE.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY
PROF. ALEXANDER WILDER, M.D.
FUNK & WAGNALLS, PUBLISHERS,
10 AND 12 DEY STREET.
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NOTE OF THE AMERICAN PUBLISHERS.
This volume contains the entire text of the English edition, also all the footnotes. Those portions of the Appendix which serve to illustrate the text are inserted in their appropriate places as footnotes. That part of the Appendix which is of special interest only to the Sanscrit scholar is omitted.
Professor Max Mueller writes in this book not as a theologian but as a scholar, not intending either to attack or defend Christian theology. His style is charming, because he always writes with freedom and animation. In some passages possibly his language might be misunderstood. We have thought it best to add a few notes. The notes of the American editor are signed "A.W.;" ours, "Am. Pubs."
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E. B. COWELL M.A., LL.D.,
PROFESSOR OF SANSKRIT AND FELLOW OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE.
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MY DEAR COWELL: As these Lectures would never have been written or delivered but for your hearty encouragement, I hope you will now allow me to dedicate them to you, not only as a token of my sincere admiration of your great achievements as an Oriental scholar, but also as a memorial of our friendship, now more than thirty years old, a friendship which has grown from year to year, has weathered many a storm, and will last, I trust, for what to both of us may remain of our short passage from shore to shore.
I must add, however, that in dedicating these Lectures to you, I do not wish to throw upon you any responsibility for the views which I have put forward in them. I know that you do not agree with some of my views on the ancient religion and literature of India, and I am well aware that with regard to the recent date which I have assigned to the whole of what is commonly called the Classical Sanskrit Literature, I stand almost alone. No, if friendship can claim any voice in the courts of science and literature, let me assure you that I shall consider your outspoken criticism of my Lectures as the very best proof of your true and honest friendship. I have through life considered it the greatest honor if real scholars, I mean men not only of learning, but of judgment and character, have considered my writings worthy of a severe and searching criticism; and I have cared far more for the production of one single new fact, though it spoke against me, than for any amount of empty praise or empty abuse. Sincere devotion to his studies and an unswerving love of truth ought to furnish the true scholar with an armor impermeable to flattery or abuse, and with a visor that shuts out no ray of light, from whatever quarter it may come. More light, more truth, more facts, more combination of facts, these are his quest. And if in that quest he fails, as many have failed before him, he knows that in the search for truth failures are sometimes the condition of victory, and the true conquerors often those whom the world calls the vanquished.
You know better than anybody else the present state of Sanskrit scholarship. You know that at present and for some time to come Sanskrit scholarship means discovery and conquest. Every one of your own works marks a real advance, and a permanent occupation of new ground. But you know also how small a strip has as yet been explored of the vast continent of Sanskrit literature, and how much still remains terra incognita. No doubt this exploring work is troublesome, and often disappointing, but young students must learn the truth of a remark lately made by a distinguished member of the Indian Civil Service, whose death we all deplore, Dr. Burnell, "that no trouble is thrown away which saves trouble to others." We want men who will work hard, even at the risk of seeing their labors unrequited; we want strong and bold men who are not afraid of storms and shipwrecks. The worst sailors are not those who suffer shipwreck, but those who only dabble in puddles and are afraid of wetting their feet.
It is easy now to criticise the labors of Sir William Jones, Thomas Colebrooke, and Horace Hayman Wilson, but what would have become of Sanskrit scholarship if they had not rushed in where even now so many fear to tread? and what will become of Sanskrit scholarship if their conquests are forever to mark the limits of our knowledge? You know best that there is more to be discovered in Sanskrit literature than Nalas and Sakuntalas, and surely the young men who every year go out to India are not deficient in the spirit of enterprise, or even of adventure? Why, then, should it be said that the race of bold explorers, who once rendered the name of the Indian Civil Service illustrious over the whole world, has well-nigh become extinct, and that England, which offers the strongest incentives and the most brilliant opportunities for the study of the ancient language, literature, and history of India, is no longer in the van of Sanskrit scholarship?
If some of the young candidates for the Indian Civil Service who listened to my Lectures, quietly made up their minds that such a reproach shall be wiped out, if a few of them at least determined to follow in the footsteps of Sir William Jones, and to show to the world that Englishmen who have been able to achieve by pluck, by perseverance, and by real political genius the material conquest of India, do not mean to leave the laurels of its intellectual conquest entirely to other countries, then I shall indeed rejoice, and feel that I have paid back, in however small a degree, the large debt of gratitude which I owe to my adopted country and to some of its greatest statesmen, who have given me the opportunity which I could find nowhere else of realizing the dreams of my life—the publication of the text and commentary of the Rig-Veda, the most ancient book of Sanskrit, aye of Aryan literature, and now the edition of the translations of the "Sacred Books of the East."
I have left my Lectures very much as I delivered them at Cambridge. I am fond of the form of Lectures, because it seems to me the most natural form which in our age didactic composition ought to take. As in ancient Greece the dialogue reflected most truly the intellectual life of the people, and as in the Middle Ages learned literature naturally assumed with the recluse in his monastic cell the form of a long monologue, so with us the lecture places the writer most readily in that position in which he is accustomed to deal with his fellow-men, and to communicate his knowledge to others. It has no doubt certain disadvantages. In a lecture which is meant to be didactic, we have, for the sake of completeness, to say and to repeat certain things which must be familiar to some of our readers, while we are also forced to leave out information which, even in its imperfect form, we should probably not hesitate to submit to our fellow-students, but which we feel we have not yet sufficiently mastered and matured to enable us to place it clearly and simply before a larger public.
But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. A lecture, by keeping a critical audience constantly before our eyes, forces us to condense our subject, to discriminate between what is important and what is not, and often to deny ourselves the pleasure of displaying what may have cost us the greatest labor, but is of little consequence to other scholars. In lecturing we are constantly reminded of what students are so apt to forget, that their knowledge is meant not for themselves only, but for others, and that to know well means to be able to teach well. I confess I can never write unless I think of somebody for whom I write, and I should never wish for a better audience to have before my mind than the learned, brilliant, and kind-hearted assembly by which I was greeted in your University.
Still I must confess that I did not succeed in bringing all I wished to say, and more particularly the evidence on which some of my statements rested, up to the higher level of a lecture; and I have therefore added a number of notes containing the less-organized matter which resisted as yet that treatment which is necessary before our studies can realize their highest purpose, that of feeding, invigorating, and inspiriting the minds of others.
F. MAX MUeLLER.
OXFORD, December, 1882.
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LECTURE I. WHAT CAN INDIA TEACH US?
" II. ON THE TRUTHFUL CHARACTER OF THE HINDUS,
" III. THE HUMAN INTEREST OF SANSKRIT LITERATURE,
" IV. OBJECTIONS,
" V. THE LESSONS OF THE VEDA,
" VI. VEDIC DEITIES,
" VII. VEDA AND VEDANTA,
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Professor Max Mueller has been so long and widely known in the world of letters as to render any formal introduction unnecessary. He has been from his early youth an assiduous student of philology, justly regarding it as an important key to history and an invaluable auxiliary to intellectual progress. A glance at his personal career will show the ground upon which his reputation is established.
Friedrich Maximilian Mueller, the son of Wilhelm Mueller, the Saxon poet, was born at Dessau, December 6th, 1823. He matriculated at Leipzig in his eighteenth year, giving his principal attention to classical philology, and receiving his degree in 1843. He immediately began a course of Oriental studies, chiefly Sanskrit, under the supervision of Professor Brockhaus, and in 1844 engaged in his translation of the "Hitopadesa." He removed from Leipzig to Berlin, and attended the lectures of Bopp, Ruecker, and Schelling. The next year he went to Paris to listen to Eugene Burnouf at the College de France. He now began the collecting of material for his great quarto edition of the "Rig-Veda Sanhita" and the "Commentary of Saganadranja." He visited England for this purpose to examine the manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and at the Indian House. At the recommendation of H. H. Wilson, the Orientalist, he was commissioned by the East India Company to publish his edition in England at their expense. The first volume appeared in 1849, and five others followed during the next few years.
In 1850 he delivered a course of "Lectures on Comparative Philology" at Oxford, and the next year was made member of Christ Church, curator, etc., and appointed Taylorian Professor of Modern European Languages and Literature. He received also numerous other marks of distinction from universities, and was made one of the eight foreign members of the Institute of France. The Volney prize was awarded him by the French Academy for his "Essay on the Comparative Philology of Indo-European Languages and its Bearing on the Early Civilization of Mankind."
His writings have been numerous. Besides editing the translations of the "Sacred Books of the Principal Religions," he has published a "Handbook for the Study of Sanskrit," a "Sanskrit-English Dictionary and Grammar," "Lectures upon the Science of Language," "An Introduction to the Science of Religion," "Essays on Mythology," "Chips from a German Workshop," etc. He seems to have no intermission, but penetrates where others would not have ventured, or have faltered from utter weariness. In the field of philology he has few peers, while in early Sanskrit learning he has virtually taken the part of an innovator. While reverently following after Sir William Jones, Colebrooke, Windischmann, Bopp, and others of equal distinction, he sets aside the received views in regard to chronology and historical occurrences. The era of Vikramaditya and the Golden Age of Sanskrit literature, bearing a date almost simultaneous with the Augustan period at the West, are postponed by him to a later century. It may be that he has overlooked some canon of interpretation that would have modified his results. Those, however, who hesitate to accept his conclusions freely acknowledge his scholarly enthusiasm, persistent energy, and great erudition.
Sanskrit in his judgment constitutes an essential element of a liberal education. While heartily admiring the employment of some of the best talent and noblest genius of our age in the study of development in the outward world, from the first growth of the earth and the beginning of organic life to the highest stages, he pleads earnestly that there is an inward and intellectual world also to be studied in its historical development in strict analogy with the other, leading up to the beginning of rational thought in its steady progress from the lowest to the highest stages. In that study of the history of the human mind, in that study of ourselves, our true selves, India occupies a place which is second to no other country. Whatever sphere of the human mind may be selected for special study, whether language, religion, mythology, or philosophy, whether laws, customs, primitive art or primitive science, we must go to India, because some of the most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up there, and there only. He inveighs most eloquently against the narrowing of our horizon to the history of Greeks and Romans, Saxons and Celts, with a dim background of Palestine, Egypt, and Babylon, leaving out of sight our nearest intellectual relatives, the Aryans of India, the framers of that most wonderful language the Sanskrit, the fellow-workers in the construction of our fundamental concepts, the fathers of the most natural of natural religions, the makers of the most transparent of mythologies, the inventors of the most subtle philosophy, and the givers of the most elaborate laws. It is the purpose of historical study to enable each generation to profit from the experience of those who came before, and advance toward higher aims, without being obliged to start anew from the same point as its ancestors after the manner of every race of brutes. He who knows little of those who preceded is very likely to care little for those coming after. "Life would be to him a chain of sand, while it ought to be a kind of electric chain that makes our hearts tremble and vibrate with the most ancient thoughts of the Past, as well as with the most distant hopes of the Future."
In no just sense is this an exaggeration. Deep as science and research have explored, extensive as is the field which genius and art have occupied, they have an Herculean labor yet to perform before India will have yielded up all her opulence of learning. The literature of the world in all ages has been richly furnished, if not actually inspired, from that fountain. The Wisdom of the Ancients, so much lauded in the earlier writings of Hebrews, Greeks, and Phoenicians, was abundantly represented in the lore of these Wise Men of the East.
The first Ionian sages lighted the torch of philosophy at the altar of Zoroaster. The conquest of Asia Minor by the Persians brought Thales, Anaximenes, and Herakleitos into contact with the Eranian dogmas. The leaven thus imparted had a potent influence upon the entire mass of Grecian thought. We find it easy to trace its action upon opinions in later periods and among the newer nations. Kant, Hegel, Stewart, and Hamilton, as well as Plato, Zeno, and Aristotle, had their prototypes in the world and antiquity beyond. Even the first Zarathustra was an exponent and not the originator of the Religion and Science of Light. We are thus carried by this route back to the ancient Aryan Home for the sources from which so many golden streams have issued. In the Sanskrit books and mantras we must look for the treasures that make human souls rich. Perhaps we have been too much disposed to regard that former world as a wonderland, a repertory of folk-lore, or a theatre of gross and revolting superstition. We are now required by candor and justice to revise such notions. These primeval peoples, in their way and in a language akin to ours, adored the Father in heaven, and contemplated the future of the soul with a sure and certain hope.
Nor did they, while observing the myriads of races intervening between man and the monad, regard the world beyond as waste and void. Intelligences of every grade were believed to people the region between mortals and the Infinite. The angels and archangels, and the spirits of the just made perfect—devas and pitris they called them—ministered about the throne of the Supreme Being, and abode in the various spheres of universal space. Much of the difference between our thought and theirs consists in the names and not in the substance of our beliefs.
We may thus be prepared to receive what India can teach us. In her classic dialect, the Sanskrit, we may read with what success the children of the men who journeyed from the ancient Aryan Home into the Punjab and Aryavartta have ventured "to look inward upon themselves, upward to something not themselves, and to see whether they could not understand a little of the true purport of that mystery which we call life upon earth." It was perfectly natural, as well as perfectly right, that as the beholder caught a glance of the Infinite Beyond, the image impressed itself upon his sensorium, as would be the case from looking at the sun, and he would as a result perceive that Infinite in all that he looked upon. Thus to the Sanskrit-speaking Aryan, as to the enlightened mind of to-day, not to see it was utter blindness. What we call science, law, morality, religion, was in his view pervaded alike throughout by this concept of Divine presence, or else it would have been less than a dream that had not come to the awaking. He was a follower of the light, not from the senses or the logical understanding, but from the eternal world. Let us not dwell on any darker shade of the picture. Clouds are dark to those who are beneath them; but on the upper side, where the sun shines, they glow with golden splendor. Let us be willing to contemplate India fraternally, and upon that side where the radiance of the Divine sheds a refulgent illumination.
NEWARK, N. J., May 14th, 1883.
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WHAT CAN INDIA TEACH US?
When I received from the Board of Historical Studies at Cambridge the invitation to deliver a course of lectures, specially intended for the candidates for the Indian Civil Service, I hesitated for some time, feeling extremely doubtful whether in a few public discourses I could say anything that would be of real use to them in passing their examinations. To enable young men to pass their examinations seems now to have become the chief, if not the only object of the universities; and to no class of students is it of greater importance to pass their examinations, and to pass them well, than to the candidates for the Indian Civil Service.
But although I was afraid that attendance on a few public lectures, such as I could give, would hardly benefit a candidate who was not already fully prepared to pass through the fiery ordeal of the three London examinations, I could not on the other hand shut my eyes completely to the fact that, after all, universities were not meant entirely, or even chiefly, as stepping-stones to an examination, but that there is something else which universities can teach and ought to teach—nay, which I feel quite sure they were originally meant to teach—something that may not have a marketable value before a Board of Examiners, but which has a permanent value for the whole of our life, and that is a real interest in our work, and, more than that, a love of our work, and, more than that, a true joy and happiness in our work. If a university can teach that, if it can engraft that one small living germ in the minds of the young men who come here to study and to prepare themselves for the battle of life, and, for what is still more difficult to encounter, the daily dull drudgery of life, then, I feel convinced, a university has done more, and conferred a more lasting benefit on its pupils than by helping them to pass the most difficult examinations, and to take the highest place among Senior Wranglers or First-Class men.
Unfortunately, that kind of work which is now required for passing one examination after another, that process of cramming and crowding which has of late been brought to the highest pitch of perfection, has often the very opposite effect, and instead of exciting an appetite for work, it is apt to produce an indifference, if not a kind of intellectual nausea, that may last for life.
And nowhere is this so much to be feared as in the case of candidates for the Indian Civil Service. After they have passed their first examination for admission to the Indian Civil Service, and given proof that they have received the benefits of a liberal education, and acquired that general information in classics, history, and mathematics, which is provided at our public schools, and forms no doubt the best and surest foundation for all more special and professional studies in later life, they suddenly find themselves torn away from their old studies and their old friends, and compelled to take up new subjects which to many of them seem strange, outlandish, if not repulsive. Strange alphabets, strange languages, strange names, strange literatures and laws have to be faced, "to be got up" as it is called, not from choice, but from dire necessity. The whole course of study during two years is determined for them, the subjects fixed, the books prescribed, the examinations regulated, and there is no time to look either right or left, if a candidate wishes to make sure of taking each successive fence in good style, and without an accident.
I know quite well that this cannot be helped. I am not speaking against the system of examinations in general, if only they are intelligently conducted; nay, as an old examiner myself, I feel bound to say that the amount of knowledge produced ready-made at these examinations is to my mind perfectly astounding. But while the answers are there on paper, strings of dates, lists of royal names and battles, irregular verbs, statistical figures and whatever else you like, how seldom do we find that the heart of the candidates is in the work which they have to do. The results produced are certainly most ample and voluminous, but they rarely contain a spark of original thought, or even a clever mistake. It is work done from necessity, or, let us be just, from a sense of duty, but it is seldom, or hardly ever, a labor of love.
Now why should that be? Why should a study of Greek or Latin—of the poetry, the philosophy, the laws and the art of Greece and Italy—seem congenial to us, why should it excite even a certain enthusiasm, and command general respect, while a study of Sanskrit, and of the ancient poetry, the philosophy, the laws, and the art of India is looked upon, in the best case, as curious, but is considered by most people as useless, tedious, if not absurd?
And, strange to say, this feeling exists in England more than in any other country. In France, Germany, and Italy, even in Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, there is a vague charm connected with the name of India. One of the most beautiful poems in the German language is the Weisheit der Brahmanen, the "Wisdom of the Brahmans," by Rueckert, to my mind more rich in thought and more perfect in form than even Goethe's West-oestlicher Divan. A scholar who studies Sanskrit in Germany is supposed to be initiated in the deep and dark mysteries of ancient wisdom, and a man who has travelled in India, even if he has only discovered Calcutta, or Bombay, or Madras, is listened to like another Marco Polo. In England a student of Sanskrit is generally considered a bore, and an old Indian civil servant, if he begins to describe the marvels of Elephanta or the Towers of Silence, runs the risk of producing a count-out.
There are indeed a few Oriental scholars whose works are read, and who have acquired a certain celebrity in England, because they were really men of uncommon genius, and would have ranked among the great glories of the country, but for the misfortune that their energies were devoted to Indian literature—I mean Sir William Jones, "one of the most enlightened of the sons of men," as Dr. Johnson called him, and Thomas Colebrooke. But the names of others who have done good work in their day also, men such as Ballantyne, Buchanan, Carey, Crawfurd, Davis, Elliot, Ellis, Houghton, Leyden, Mackenzie, Marsden, Muir, Prinsep, Rennell, Turnour, Upham, Wallich, Warren, Wilkins, Wilson, and many others, are hardly known beyond the small circle of Oriental scholars; and their works are looked for in vain in libraries which profess to represent with a certain completeness the principal branches of scholarship and science in England.
How many times, when I advised young men, candidates for the Indian Civil Service, to devote themselves before all things to a study of Sanskrit, have I been told, "What is the use of our studying Sanskrit? There are translations of Sakuntala, Manu, and the Hitopadesa, and what else is there in that literature that is worth reading? Kalidasa may be very pretty, and the Laws of Manu are very curious, and the fables of the Hitopadesa are very quaint; but you would not compare Sanskrit literature with Greek, or recommend us to waste our time in copying and editing Sanskrit texts which either teach us nothing that we do not know already, or teach us something which we do not care to know?"
This seems to me a most unhappy misconception, and it will be the chief object of my lectures to try to remove it, or at all events to modify it, as much as possible. I shall not attempt to prove that Sanskrit literature is as good as Greek literature. Why should we always compare? A study of Greek literature has its own purpose, and a study of Sanskrit literature has its own purpose; but what I feel convinced of, and hope to convince you of, is that Sanskrit literature, if studied only in a right spirit, is full of human interests, full of lessons which even Greek could never teach us, a subject worthy to occupy the leisure, and more than the leisure, of every Indian civil servant; and certainly the best means of making any young man who has to spend five-and-twenty years of his life in India, feel at home among the Indians, as a fellow-worker among fellow-workers, and not as an alien among aliens. There will be abundance of useful and most interesting work for him to do, if only he cares to do it, work such as he would look for in vain, whether in Italy or in Greece, or even among the pyramids of Egypt or the palaces of Babylon.
You will now understand why I have chosen as the title of my lectures, "What can India teach us?" True, there are many things which India has to learn from us; but there are other things, and, in one sense, very important things, which we too may learn from India.
If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power, and beauty that nature can bestow—in some parts a very paradise on earth—I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most full developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life—again I should point to India.
I know you will be surprised to hear me say this. I know that more particularly those who have spent many years of active life in Calcutta, or Bombay, or Madras, will be horror-struck at the idea that the humanity they meet with there, whether in the bazaars or in the courts of justice, or in so-called native society, should be able to teach us any lessons.
Let me therefore explain at once to my friends who may have lived in India for years, as civil servants, or officers, or missionaries, or merchants, and who ought to know a great deal more of that country than one who has never set foot on the soil of Aryavarta, that we are speaking of two very different Indias. I am thinking chiefly of India such as it was a thousand, two thousand, it may be three thousand years ago; they think of the India of to-day. And again, when thinking of the India of to-day, they remember chiefly the India of Calcutta, Bombay, or Madras, the India of the towns. I look to the India of the village communities, the true India of the Indians.
What I wish to show to you, I mean more especially the candidates for the Indian Civil Service, is that this India of a thousand, or two thousand, or three thousand years ago, ay the India of to-day also, if only you know where to look for it, is full of problems, the solution of which concerns all of us, even us in this Europe of the nineteenth century.
If you have acquired any special tastes here in England, you will find plenty to satisfy them in India; and whoever has learned to take an interest in any of the great problems that occupy the best thinkers and workers at home, need certainly not be afraid of India proving to him an intellectual exile.
If you care for geology, there is work for you from the Himalayas to Ceylon.
If you are fond of botany, there is a flora rich enough for many Hookers.
If you are a zoologist, think of Haeckel, who is just now rushing through Indian forests and dredging in Indian seas, and to whom his stay in India is like the realization of the brightest dream of his life.
If you are interested in ethnology, why India is like a living ethnological museum.
If you are fond of archaeology, if you have ever assisted at the opening of a barrow in England, and know the delight of finding a fibula, or a knife, or a flint in a heap of rubbish, read only General Cunningham's "Annual Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India," and you will be impatient for the time when you can take your spade and bring to light the ancient Viharas or colleges built by the Buddhist monarchs of India.
If ever you amused yourselves with collecting coins, why the soil of India teems with coins, Persian, Carian, Thracian, Parthian, Greek, Macedonian, Scythian, Roman, and Mohammedan. When Warren Hastings was Governor-General, an earthen pot was found on the bank of a river in the province of Benares, containing one hundred and seventy-two gold darics. Warren Hastings considered himself as making the most munificent present to his masters that he might ever have it in his power to send them, by presenting those ancient coins to the Court of Directors. The story is that they were sent to the melting-pot. At all events they had disappeared when Warren Hastings returned to England. It rests with you to prevent the revival of such vandalism.
In one of the last numbers of the Asiatic Journal of Bengal you may read of the discovery of a treasure as rich in gold almost as some of the tombs opened by Dr. Schliemann at Mykenae, nay, I should add, perhaps, not quite unconnected with some of the treasures found at Mykenae; yet hardly any one has taken notice of it in England!
The study of Mythology has assumed an entirely new character, chiefly owing to the light that has been thrown on it by the ancient Vedic Mythology of India. But though the foundation of a true Science of Mythology has been laid, all the detail has still to be worked out, and could be worked out nowhere better than in India.
Even the study of fables owes its new life to India, from whence the various migrations of fables have been traced at various times and through various channels from East to West. Buddhism is now known to have been the principal source of our legends and parables. But here, too, many problems still wait for their solution. Think, for instance, of the allusion to the fable of the donkey in the lion's skin, which occurs in Plato's Cratylus. Was that borrowed from the East? Or take the fable of the weasel changed by Aphrodite into a woman who, when she saw a mouse, could not refrain from making a spring at it. This, too, is very like a Sanskrit fable; but how then could it have been brought into Greece early enough to appear in one of the comedies of Strattis, about 400 B.C.? Here, too, there is still plenty of work to do.
We may go back even farther into antiquity, and still find strange coincidences between the legends of India and the legends of the West, without as yet being able to say how they travelled, whether from East to West, or from West to East. That at the time of Solomon there was a channel of communication open between India and Syria and Palestine is established beyond doubt, I believe, by certain Sanskrit words which occur in the Bible as names of articles of export from Ophir, articles such as ivory, apes, peacocks, and sandalwood, which, taken together, could not have been exported from any country but India. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the commercial intercourse between India, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean was ever completely interrupted, even at the time when the Book of Kings is supposed to have been written.
Now you remember the judgment of Solomon, which has always been admired as a proof of great legal wisdom among the Jews. I must confess that, not having a legal mind, I never could suppress a certain shudder when reading the decision of Solomon: "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other."
Let me now tell you the same story as it is told by the Buddhists, whose sacred Canon is full of such legends and parables. In the Kanjur, which is the Tibetan translation of the Buddhist Tripitaka, we likewise read of two women who claimed each to be the mother of the same child. The king, after listening to their quarrels for a long time, gave it up as hopeless to settle who was the real mother. Upon this Visakha stepped forward and said: "What is the use of examining and cross-examining these women? Let them take the boy and settle it among themselves." Thereupon both women fell on the child, and when the fight became violent the child was hurt and began to cry. Then one of them let him go, because she could not bear to hear the child cry.
That settled the question. The king gave the child to the true mother, and had the other beaten with a rod.
This seems to me, if not the more primitive, yet the more natural form of the story—showing a deeper knowledge of human nature and more wisdom than even the wisdom of Solomon.
Many of you may have studied not only languages, but also the Science of Language, and is there any country in which some of the most important problems of that science, say only the growth and decay of dialects, or the possible mixture of languages, with regard not only to words, but to grammatical elements also, can be studied to greater advantage than among the Aryan, the Dravidian, and the Munda inhabitants of India, when brought in contact with their various invaders and conquerors, the Greeks, the Yue-tchi, the Arabs, the Persians, the Moguls, and lastly the English?
Again, if you are a student of Jurisprudence, there is a history of law to be explored in India, very different from what is known of the history of law in Greece, in Rome, and in Germany, yet both by its contrasts and by its similarities full of suggestions to the student of Comparative Jurisprudence. New materials are being discovered every year, as, for instance, the so-called Dharma or Samayakarika Sutras, which have supplied the materials for the later metrical law-books, such as the famous Laws of Manu. What was once called "The Code of Laws of Manu," and confidently referred to 1200, or at least 500 B.C., is now hesitatingly referred to perhaps the fourth century A.D., and called neither a Code, nor a Code of Laws, least of all, the Code of Laws of Manu.
If you have learned to appreciate the value of recent researches into the antecedents of all law, namely the foundation and growth of the simplest political communities—and nowhere could you have had better opportunities for it than here at Cambridge—you will find a field of observation opened before you in the still-existing village estates in India that will amply repay careful research.
And take that which, after all, whether we confess or deny it, we care for more in this life than for anything else—nay, which is often far more cared for by those who deny than by those who confess—take that which supports, pervades, and directs all our acts and thoughts and hopes—without which there can be neither village-community nor empire, neither custom nor law, neither right nor wrong—take that which, next to language, has most firmly fixed the specific and permanent barrier between man and beast—which alone has made life possible and bearable, and which, as it is the deepest, though often-hidden spring of individual life, is also the foundation of all national life—the history of all histories, and yet the mystery of all mysteries—take religion, and where can you study its true origin, its natural growth, and its inevitable decay better than in India, the home of Brahmanism, the birthplace of Buddhism, and the refuge of Zoroastrianism, even now the mother of new superstitions—and why not, in the future, the regenerate child of the purest faith, if only purified from the dust of nineteen centuries?
You will find yourselves everywhere in India between an immense past and an immense future, with opportunities such as the old world could but seldom, if ever, offer you. Take any of the burning questions of the day—popular education, higher education, parliamentary representation, codification of laws, finance, emigration, poor-law; and whether you have anything to teach and to try, or anything to observe and to learn, India will supply you with a laboratory such as exists nowhere else. That very Sanskrit, the study of which may at first seem so tedious to you and so useless, if only you will carry it on, as you may carry it on here at Cambridge better than anywhere else, will open before you large layers of literature, as yet almost unknown and unexplored, and allow you an insight into strata of thought deeper than any you have known before, and rich in lessons that appeal to the deepest sympathies of the human heart.
Depend upon it, if only you can make leisure, you will find plenty of work in India for your leisure hours.
India is not, as you may imagine, a distant, strange, or, at the very utmost, a curious country. India for the future belongs to Europe, it has its place in the Indo-European world, it has its place in our own history, and in what is the very life of history, the history of the human mind.
You know how some of the best talent and the noblest genius of our age has been devoted to the study of the development of the outward or material world, the growth of the earth, the first appearance of living cells, their combination and differentiation, leading up to the beginning of organic life, and its steady progress from the lowest to the highest stages. Is there not an inward and intellectual world also which has to be studied in its historical development, from the first appearance of predicative and demonstrative roots, their combination and differentiation, leading up to the beginning of rational thought in its steady progress from the lowest to the highest stages? And in that study of the history of the human mind, in that study of ourselves, of our true selves, India occupies a place second to no other country. Whatever sphere of the human mind you may select for your special study, whether it be language, or religion, or mythology, or philosophy, whether it be laws or customs, primitive art or primitive science, everywhere, you have to go to India, whether you like it or not, because some of the most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India, and in India only.
And while thus trying to explain to those whose lot will soon be cast in India the true position which that wonderful country holds or ought to hold in universal history, I may perhaps be able at the same time to appeal to the sympathies of other members of this University, by showing them how imperfect our knowledge of universal history, our insight into the development of the human intellect, must always remain, if we narrow our horizon to the history of Greeks and Romans, Saxons and Celts, with a dim background of Palestine, Egypt, and Babylon, and leave out of sight our nearest intellectual relatives, the Aryans of India, the framers of the most wonderful language, the Sanskrit, the fellow-workers in the construction of our fundamental concepts, the fathers of the most natural of natural religions, the makers of the most transparent of mythologies, the inventors of the most subtle philosophy, and the givers of the most elaborate laws.
There are many things which we think essential in a liberal education, whole chapters of history which we teach in our schools and universities, that cannot for one moment compare with the chapter relating to India, if only properly understood and freely interpreted.
In our time, when the study of history threatens to become almost an impossibility—such is the mass of details which historians collect in archives and pour out before us in monographs—it seems to me more than ever the duty of the true historian to find out the real proportion of things, to arrange his materials according to the strictest rules of artistic perspective, and to keep completely out of sight all that may be rightly ignored by us in our own passage across the historical stage of the world. It is this power of discovering what is really important that distinguishes the true historian from the mere chronicler, in whose eyes everything is important, particularly if he has discovered it himself. I think it was Frederick the Great who, when sighing for a true historian of his reign, complained bitterly that those who wrote the history of Prussia never forgot to describe the buttons on his uniform. And it is probably of such historical works that Carlyle was thinking when he said that he had waded through them all, but that nothing should ever induce him to hand even their names and titles down to posterity. And yet how much is there even in Carlyle's histories that might safely be consigned to oblivion!
Why do we want to know history? Why does history form a recognized part of our liberal education? Simply because all of us, and every one of us, ought to know how we have come to be what we are, so that each generation need not start again from the same point and toil over the same ground, but, profiting by the experience of those who came before, may advance toward higher points and nobler aims. As a child when growing up might ask his father or grandfather who had built the house they lived in, or who had cleared the field that yielded them their food, we ask the historian whence we came, and how we came into possession of what we call our own. History may tell us afterward many useful and amusing things, gossip, such as a child might like to hear from his mother or grandmother; but what history has to teach us before all and everything, is our own antecedents, our own ancestors, our own descent.
Now our principal intellectual ancestors are, no doubt, the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Saxons, and we, here in Europe, should not call a man educated or enlightened who was ignorant of the debt which he owes to his intellectual ancestors in Palestine, Greece, Rome, and Germany. The whole past history of the world would be darkness to him, and not knowing what those who came before him had done for him, he would probably care little to do anything for those who are to come after him. Life would be to him a chain of sand, while it ought to be a kind of electric chain that makes our hearts tremble and vibrate with the most ancient thoughts of the past, as well as with the most distant hopes of the future.
Let us begin with our religion. No one can understand even the historical possibility of the Christian religion without knowing something of the Jewish race, which must be studied chiefly in the pages of the Old Testament. And in order to appreciate the true relation of the Jews to the rest of the ancient world, and to understand what ideas were peculiarly their own, and what ideas they shared in common with the other members of the Semitic stock, or what moral and religious impulses they received from their historical contact with other nations of antiquity, it is absolutely necessary that we should pay some attention to the history of Babylon, Nineveh, Phoenicia, and Persia. These may seem distant countries and forgotten people, and many might feel inclined to say, "Let the dead bury their dead; what are those mummies to us?" Still, such is the marvellous continuity of history, that I could easily show you many things which we, even we who are here assembled, owe to Babylon, to Nineveh, to Egypt, Phoenicia, and Persia.
Every one who carries a watch owes to the Babylonians the division of the hour into sixty minutes. It may be a very bad division, yet such as it is, it has come to us from the Greeks and Romans, and it came to them from Babylon. The sexagesimal division is peculiarly Babylonian. Hipparchos, 150 B.C., adopted it from Babylon, Ptolemy, 150 A.D., gave it wider currency, and the French, when they decimated everything else, respected the dial-plates of our watches, and left them with their sixty Babylonian minutes.
Every one who writes a letter owes his alphabet to the Romans and Greeks; the Greeks owed their alphabet to the Phoenicians, and the Phoenicians learned it in Egypt. It may be a very imperfect alphabet—as all the students of phonetics will tell you—yet, such as it is and has been, we owe it to the old Phoenicians and Egyptians, and in every letter we trace, there lies imbedded the mummy of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic.
What do we owe to the Persians? It does not seem to be much, for they were not a very inventive race, and what they knew they had chiefly learned from their neighbors, the Babylonians and Assyrians. Still, we owe them something. First of all, we owe them a large debt of gratitude for having allowed themselves to be beaten by the Greeks; for think what the world would have been if the Persians had beaten the Greeks at Marathon, and had enslaved—that means, annihilated—the genius of ancient Greece. However, this may be called rather an involuntary contribution to the progress of humanity, and I mention it only in order to show how narrowly, not only Greeks and Romans, but Saxons and Anglo-Saxons too, escaped becoming Parsis or Fire-worshippers.
But I can mention at least one voluntary gift which came to us from Persia, and that is the relation of silver to gold in our bi-metallic currency. That relation was, no doubt, first determined in Babylonia, but it assumed its practical and historical importance in the Persian empire, and spread from there to the Greek colonies in Asia, and thence to Europe, where it has maintained itself with slight variation to the present day.
A talent was divided into sixty minae, a mina into sixty shekels. Here we have again the Babylonian sexagesimal system, a system which owes its origin and popularity, I believe, to the fact that sixty has the greatest number of divisors. Shekel was translated into Greek by Stater, and an Athenian gold stater, like the Persian gold stater, down to the times of Croesus, Darius, and Alexander, was the sixtieth part of a mina of gold, not very far therefore from our sovereign. The proportion of silver to gold was fixed as thirteen or thirteen and a third to one; and if the weight of a silver shekel was made as thirteen to ten, such a coin would correspond very nearly to our florin. Half a silver shekel was a drachma, and this was therefore the true ancestor of our shilling.
Again you may say that any attempt at fixing the relative value of silver and gold is, and always has been, a great mistake. Still it shows how closely the world is held together, and how, for good or for evil, we are what we are, not so much by ourselves as by the toil and moil of those who came before us, our true intellectual ancestors, whatever the blood may have been composed of that ran through their veins, or the bones which formed the rafters of their skulls.
And if it is true, with regard to religion, that no one could understand it and appreciate its full purport without knowing its origin and growth, that is, without knowing something of what the cuneiform inscriptions of Mesopotamia, the hieroglyphic and hieratic texts of Egypt, and the historical monuments of Phoenicia and Persia can alone reveal to us, it is equally true with regard to all the other elements that constitute the whole of our intellectual life. If we are Jewish or Semitic in our religion, we are Greek in our philosophy, Roman in our politics, and Saxon in our morality; and it follows that a knowledge of the history of the Greeks, Romans, and Saxons, or of the flow of civilization from Greece to Italy, and through Germany to these isles, forms an essential element in what is called a liberal, that is, an historical and rational education.
But then it might be said, Let this be enough. Let us know by all means all that deserves to be known about our real spiritual ancestors in the great historical kingdoms of the world; let us be grateful for all we have inherited from Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Jews, Greeks, Romans, and Saxons. But why bring in India? Why add a new burden to what every man has to bear already, before he can call himself fairly educated? What have we inherited from the dark dwellers on the Indus and the Ganges, that we should have to add their royal names and dates and deeds to the archives of our already overburdened memory?
There is some justice in this complaint. The ancient inhabitants of India are not our intellectual ancestors in the same direct way as Jews, Greeks, Romans, and Saxons are; but they represent, nevertheless, a collateral branch of that family to which we belong by language, that is, by thought, and their historical records extend in some respects so far beyond all other records and have been preserved to us in such perfect and such legible documents, that we can learn from them lessons which we can learn nowhere else, and supply missing links in our intellectual ancestry far more important than that missing link (which we can well afford to miss), the link between Ape and Man.
I am not speaking as yet of the literature of India as it is, but of something far more ancient, the language of India, or Sanskrit. No one supposes any longer that Sanskrit was the common source of Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon. This used to be said, but it has long been shown that Sanskrit is only a collateral branch of the same stem from which spring Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon; and not only these, but all the Teutonic, all the Celtic, all the Slavonic languages, nay, the languages of Persia and Armenia also.
What, then, is it that gives to Sanskrit its claim on our attention, and its supreme importance in the eyes of the historian?
First of all, its antiquity—for we know Sanskrit at an earlier period than Greek. But what is far more important than its merely chronological antiquity is the antique state of preservation in which that Aryan language has been handed down to us. The world had known Latin and Greek for centuries, and it was felt, no doubt, that there was some kind of similarity between the two. But how was that similarity to be explained? Sometimes Latin was supposed to give the key to the formation of a Greek word, sometimes Greek seemed to betray the secret of the origin of a Latin word. Afterward, when the ancient Teutonic languages, such as Gothic and Anglo-Saxon, and the ancient Celtic and Slavonic languages too, came to be studied, no one could help seeing a certain family likeness among them all. But how such a likeness between these languages came to be, and how, what is far more difficult to explain, such striking differences too between these languages came to be, remained a mystery, and gave rise to the most gratuitous theories, most of them, as you know, devoid of all scientific foundation. As soon, however, as Sanskrit stepped into the midst of these languages, there came light and warmth and mutual recognition. They all ceased to be strangers, and each fell of its own accord into its right place. Sanskrit was the eldest sister of them all, and could tell of many things which the other members of the family had quite forgotten. Still, the other languages too had each their own tale to tell; and it is out of all their tales together that a chapter in the human mind has been put together which, in some respects, is more important to us than any of the other chapters, the Jewish, the Greek, the Latin, or the Saxon.
The process by which that ancient chapter of history was recovered is very simple. Take the words which occur in the same form and with the same meaning in all the seven branches of the Aryan family, and you have in them the most genuine and trustworthy records in which to read the thoughts of our true ancestors, before they had become Hindus, or Persians, or Greeks, or Romans, or Celts, or Teutons, or Slaves. Of course, some of these ancient charters may have been lost in one or other of these seven branches of the Aryan family, but even then, if they are found in six, or five, or four, or three, or even two only of its original branches, the probability remains, unless we can prove a later historical contact between these languages, that these words existed before the great Aryan Separation. If we find agni, meaning fire, in Sanskrit, and ignis, meaning fire, in Latin, we may safely conclude that fire was known to the undivided Aryans, even if no trace of the same name of fire occurred anywhere else. And why? Because there is no indication that Latin remained longer united with Sanskrit than any of the other Aryan languages, or that Latin could have borrowed such a word from Sanskrit, after these two languages had once become distinct. We have, however, the Lithuanian ugnis, and the Scottish ingle, to show that the Slavonic and possibly the Teutonic languages also, knew the same word for fire, though they replaced it in time by other words. Words, like all other things, will die, and why they should live on in one soil and wither away and perish in another, is not always easy to say. What has become of ignis, for instance, in all the Romance languages? It has withered away and perished, probably because, after losing its final unaccentuated syllable, it became awkward to pronounce; and another word, focus, which in Latin meant fireplace, hearth, altar, has taken its place.
Suppose we wanted to know whether the ancient Aryans before their separation knew the mouse: we should only have to consult the principal Aryan dictionaries, and we should find in Sanskrit mush, in Greek [Greek: mus], in Latin mus, in Old Slavonic myse, in Old High German mus, enabling us to say that, at a time so distant from us that we feel inclined to measure it by Indian rather than by our own chronology, the mouse was known, that is, was named, was conceived and recognized as a species of its own, not to be confounded with any other vermin.
And if we were to ask whether the enemy of the mouse, the cat, was known at the same distant time, we should feel justified in saying decidedly, No. The cat is called in Sanskrit margara and vidala. In Greek and Latin the words usually given as names of the cat, [Greek: galee] and [Greek: ailouros], mustella and feles, did not originally signify the tame cat, but the weasel or marten. The name for the real cat in Greek was [Greek: katta], in Latin catus, and these words have supplied the names for cat in all the Teutonic, Slavonic, and Celtic languages. The animal itself, so far as we know at present, came to Europe from Egypt, where it had been worshipped for centuries and tamed; and as this arrival probably dates from the fourth century A.D., we can well understand that no common name for it could have existed when the Aryan nations separated.
In this way a more or lees complete picture of the state of civilization, previous to the Aryan Separation, can be and has been reconstructed, like a mosaic put together with the fragments of ancient stones; and I doubt whether, in tracing the history of the human mind, we shall ever reach to a lower stratum than that which is revealed to us by the converging rays of the different Aryan languages.
Nor is that all; for even that Proto-Aryan language, as it has been reconstructed from the ruins scattered about in India, Greece, Italy, and Germany, is clearly the result of a long, long process of thought. One shrinks from chronological limitations when looking into such distant periods of life. But if we find Sanskrit as a perfect literary language, totally different from Greek and Latin, 1500 B.C., where can those streams of Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin meet, as we trace them back to their common source? And then, when we have followed these mighty national streams back to their common meeting-point, even then that common language looks like a rock washed down and smoothed for ages by the ebb and flow of thought. We find in that language such a compound, for instance, as asmi, I am, Greek [Greek: esmi]. What would other languages give for such a pure concept as I am? They may say, I stand, or I live, or I grow, or I turn, but it is given to few languages only to be able to say I am. To us nothing seems more natural than the auxiliary verb I am; but, in reality, no work of art has required greater efforts than this little word I am. And all those efforts lie beneath the level of the common Proto-Aryan speech. Many different ways were open, were tried, too, in order to arrive at such a compound as asmi, and such a concept as I am. But all were given up, and this one alone remained, and was preserved forever in all the languages and all the dialects of the Aryan family. In as-mi, as is the root, and in the compound as-mi, the predicative root as, to be, is predicated of mi, I. But no language could ever produce at once so empty, or, if you like, so general a root as as, to be. As meant originally to breathe, and from it we have asu, breath, spirit, life, also as the mouth, Latin os, oris. By constant wear and tear this root as, to breathe, had first to lose all signs of its original material character, before it could convey that purely abstract meaning of existence, without any qualification, which has rendered to the higher operations of thought the same service which the nought, likewise the invention of Indian genius, has to render in arithmetic. Who will say how long the friction lasted which changed as, to breathe, into as, to be? And even a root as, to breathe, was an Aryan root, not Semitic, not Turanian. It possessed an historical individuality—it was the work of our forefathers, and represents a thread which unites us in our thoughts and words with those who first thought for us, with those who first spoke for us, and whose thoughts and words men are still thinking and speaking, though divided from them by thousands, it may be by hundreds of thousands of years.
This is what I call history in the true sense of the word, something really worth knowing, far more so than the scandals of courts, or the butcheries of nations, which fill so many pages of our Manuals of History. And all this work is only beginning, and whoever likes to labor in these the most ancient of historical archives will find plenty of discoveries to make—and yet people ask, What is the use of learning Sanskrit?
We get accustomed to everything, and cease to wonder at what would have startled our fathers and upset all their stratified notions, like a sudden earthquake. Every child now learns at school that English is an Aryan or Indo-European language, that it belongs to the Teutonic branch, and that this branch, together with the Italic, Greek, Celtic, Slavonic, Iranic, and Indic branches, all spring from the same stock, and form together the great Aryan or Indo-European family of speech.
But this, though it is taught now in our elementary schools, was really, but fifty years ago, like the opening of a new horizon of the world of the intellect, and the extension of a feeling of closest fraternity that made us feel at home where before we had been strangers, and changed millions of so-called barbarians into our own kith and kin. To speak the same language constitutes a closer union than to have drunk the same milk; and Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, is substantially the same language as Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon. This is a lesson which we should never have learned but from a study of Indian language and literature, and if India had taught us nothing else, it would have taught us more than almost any other language ever did.
It is quite amusing, though instructive also, to read what was written by scholars and philosophers when this new light first dawned on the world. They would not have it, they would not believe that there could be any community of origin between the people of Athens and Rome, and the so-called Niggers of India. The classical scholar scouted the idea, and I myself still remember the time, when I was a student at Leipzig, and began to study Sanskrit, with what contempt any remarks on Sanskrit or comparative grammar were treated by my teachers, men such as Gottfried Hermann, Haupt, Westermann, Stallbaum, and others. No one ever was for a time so completely laughed down as Professor Bopp, when he first published his Comparative Grammar of Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, and Gothic. All hands were against him; and if in comparing Greek and Latin with Sanskrit, Gothic, Celtic, Slavonic, or Persian, he happened to have placed one single accent wrong, the shouts of those who knew nothing but Greek and Latin, and probably looked in their Greek dictionaries to be quite sure of their accents, would never end. Dugald Stewart, rather than admit a relationship between Hindus and Scots, would rather believe that the whole Sanskrit language and the whole of Sanskrit literature—mind, a literature extending over three thousand years and larger than the ancient literature of either Greece or Rome—was a forgery of those wily priests, the Brahmans. I remember too how, when I was at school at Leipzig (and a very good school it was, with such masters as Nobbe, Forbiger, Funkhaenel, and Palm—an old school too, which could boast of Leibnitz among its former pupils) I remember, I say, one of our masters (Dr. Klee) telling us one afternoon, when it was too hot to do any serious work, that there was a language spoken in India, which was much the same as Greek and Latin, nay, as German and Russian. At first we thought it was a joke, but when one saw the parallel columns of numerals, pronouns, and verbs in Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin written on the blackboard, one felt in the presence of facts, before which one had to bow. All one's ideas of Adam and Eve, and the Paradise, and the tower of Babel, and Shem, Ham, and Japhet, with Homer and AEneas and Virgil too, seemed to be whirling round and round, till at last one picked up the fragments and tried to build up a new world, and to live with a new historical consciousness.
Here you will see why I consider a certain knowledge of India an essential portion of a liberal or an historical education. The concept of the European man has been changed and widely extended by our acquaintance with India, and we know now that we are something different from what we thought we were. Suppose the Americans, owing to some cataclysmal events, had forgotten their English origin, and after two or three thousand years found themselves in possession of a language and of ideas which they could trace back historically to a certain date, but which, at that date, seemed, as it were, fallen from the sky, without any explanation of their origin and previous growth, what would they say if suddenly the existence of an English language and literature were revealed to them, such as they existed in the eighteenth century—explaining all that seemed before almost miraculous, and solving almost every question that could be asked? Well, this is much the same as what the discovery of Sanskrit has done for us. It has added a new period to our historical consciousness, and revived the recollections of our childhood, which seemed to have vanished forever.
Whatever else we may have been, it is quite clear now that, many thousands of years ago, we were something that had not yet developed into an Englishman, or a Saxon, or a Greek, or a Hindu either, yet contained in itself the germs of all these characters. A strange being, you may say. Yes, but for all that a very real being, and an ancestor too of whom we must learn to be proud, far more than of any such modern ancestors, as Normans, Saxons, Celts, and all the rest.
And this is not all yet that a study of Sanskrit and the other Aryan languages has done for us. It has not only widened our views of man, and taught us to embrace millions of strangers and barbarians as members of one family, but it has imparted to the whole ancient history of man a reality which it never possessed before.
We speak and write a great deal about antiquities, and if we can lay hold of a Greek statue or an Egyptian Sphinx or a Babylonian Bull, our heart rejoices, and we build museums grander than any royal palaces to receive the treasures of the past. This is quite right. But are you aware that every one of us possesses what may be called the richest and most wonderful Museum of Antiquities, older than any statues, sphinxes, or bulls? And where? Why, in our own language. When I use such words as father or mother, heart or tear, one, two, three, here and there, I am handling coins or counters that were current before there was one single Greek statue, one single Babylonian Bull, one single Egyptian Sphinx. Yes, each of us carries about with him the richest and most wonderful Museum of Antiquities; and if he only knows how to treat those treasures, how to rub and polish them till they become translucent again, how to arrange them and read them, they will tell him marvels more marvellous than all hieroglyphics and cuneiform inscriptions put together. The stories they have told us are beginning to be old stories now. Many of you have heard them before. But do not let them cease to be marvels, like so many things which cease to be marvels because they happen every day. And do not think that there is nothing left for you to do. There are more marvels still to be discovered in language than have ever been revealed to us; nay, there is no word, however common, if only you know how to take it to pieces, like a cunningly contrived work of art, fitted together thousands of years ago by the most cunning of artists, the human mind, that will not make you listen and marvel more than any chapter of the Arabian Nights.
But I must not allow myself to be carried away from my proper subject. All I wish to impress on you by way of introduction is that the results of the Science of Language, which, without the aid of Sanskrit, would never have been obtained, form an essential element of what we call a liberal, that is an historical education—an education which will enable a man to do what the French call s'orienter, that is, "to find his East," "his true East," and thus to determine his real place in the world; to know, in fact, the port whence man started, the course he has followed, and the port toward which he has to steer.
We all come from the East—all that we value most has come to us from the East, and in going to the East, not only those who have received a special Oriental training, but everybody who has enjoyed the advantages of a liberal, that is, of a truly historical education, ought to feel that he is going to his "old home," full of memories, if only he can read them. Instead of feeling your hearts sink within you, when next year you approach the shores of India, I wish that every one of you could feel what Sir William Jones felt, when, just one hundred years ago, he came to the end of his long voyage from England, and saw the shores of India rising on the horizon. At that time, young men going to the wonderland of India were not ashamed of dreaming dreams and seeing visions; and this was the dream dreamed and the vision seen by Sir William Jones, then simple Mr. Jones:
"When I was at sea last August (that is in August, 1783), on my last voyage to this country (India) I had long and ardently desired to visit, I found one evening, on inspecting the observations of the day, that India lay before us, Persia on our left, while a breeze from Arabia blew nearly on our stern. A situation so pleasing in itself and to me so new, could not fail to awaken a train of reflections in a mind which had early been accustomed to contemplate with delight the eventful histories and agreeable fictions of this Eastern world. It gave me inexpressible pleasure to find myself in the midst of so noble an amphitheatre, almost encircled by the vast regions of Asia, which has ever been esteemed the nurse of sciences, the inventress of delightful and useful arts, the scene of glorious actions, fertile in the productions of human genius, and infinitely diversified in the forms of religion and government, in the laws, manners, customs, and languages, as well as in the features and complexions of men. I could not help remarking how important and extensive a field was yet unexplored, and how many solid advantages unimproved."
India wants more such dreamers as that young Mr. Jones, standing alone on the deck of his vessel and watching the sun diving into the sea—with the memories of England behind and the hopes of India before him, feeling the presence of Persia and its ancient monarchs, and breathing the breezes of Arabia and its glowing poetry. Such dreamers know how to make their dreams come true, and how to change their visions into realities.
And as it was a hundred years ago, so it is now; or at least, so it may be now. There are many bright dreams to be dreamed about India, and many bright deeds to be done in India, if only you will do them. Though many great and glorious conquests have been made in the history and literature of the East, since the days when Sir William Jones landed at Calcutta, depend upon it, no young Alexander here need despair because there are no kingdoms left for him to conquer on the ancient shores of the Indus and the Ganges.
[Footnote 1: Pliny (VI. 26) tells us that in his day the annual drain of bullion into India, in return for her valuable produce, reached the immense amount of "five hundred and fifty millions of sesterces." See E. Thomas, "The Indian Balhara," p. 13.]
[Footnote 2: Cunningham, in the "Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal," 1881, p. 184.]
[Footnote 3: General Cunningham describes this treasure in the "Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal" as having been found on the northern bank of the Oxus in 1877, and containing coins from Darius down to Antiochus the Great, and Euthydemus, King of Baktria. This would seem to indicate that it had been buried there in 208 B.C., when Baktria was invaded by Antiochus and Euthydemus defeated. The coins, figures, and ornaments, many of them, were manifestly Persian, and doubtless had been brought into that country and kept by the victorious generals of Alexander. Some of the works of art unearthed by Dr. Schliemann at Mykenae are either Persian or Assyrian in character, and are like those found on the Oxus. Professor Forchhammer very plausibly supposes that they were spoils from the Persian camp which had been awarded to Mykenae as her share after the overthrow of Mardonius.—A. W.]
[Footnote 4: See "Selected Essays," vol. i., p. 500, "The Migration of Fables."]
[Footnote 5: Cratylus, 411 A. "Still, as I have put on the lion's skin, I must not be faint-hearted." Possibly, however, this may refer to Hercules, and not to the fable of the donkey in the lion's or the tiger's skin. In the Hitopadesa, a donkey, being nearly starved, is sent by his master into a corn-field to feed. In order to shield him he puts a tiger's skin on him. All goes well till a watchman approaches, hiding himself under his gray coat, and trying to shoot the tiger. The donkey thinks it is a gray female donkey, begins to bray, and is killed. On a similar fable in AEsop, see Benfey, "Pantschatantra," vol. i., p. 463; M. M., "Selected Essays," vol. i., p. 513.]
[Footnote 6: See "Fragmenta Comic" (Didot), p. 302; Benfey, l. c. vol. i., p. 374.]
[Footnote 7: "Lectures on the Science of Language," vol. i., p. 231.
The names employed in the Hebrew text of the Bible are said to be Tamil.—A. W.]
[Footnote 8: 1 Kings 3:25.]
[Footnote 9: The Bible story is dramatic; the other is not. The "shudder" is a tribute to the dramatic power of the Bible narrative. The child was in no danger of being cut in twain. In the Buddhist version the child is injured. Why does not Prof. Mueller shudder when the child is hurt and cries? The Solomonic child is not hurt and does not cry. Is not the Bible story the more humane, the more dignified, the more dramatic? And no canon of criticism requires us to believe that a poor version of a story is the more primitive.—AM. PUBS.]
[Footnote 10: See some excellent remarks on this subject in Rhys Davids, "Buddhist Birth-Stories," vol. i., pp. xiii. and xliv. The learned scholar gives another version of the story from a Singhalese translation of the Gataka, dating from the fourteenth century, and he expresses a hope that Dr. Fausboell will soon publish the Pali original.]
[Footnote 11: This is true of what theologians call natural religion, which is assumed to be a growth out of human consciousness; but the Christian religion is not a natural religion.—AM. PUBS.]
[Footnote 12: There are traces of Aryan occupation at Babylon, Rawlinson assures us, about twenty centuries B.C. This would suggest a possible interchange of religious ideas between the earlier Aryan and Akkado-Chaldean peoples.—A. W.]
[Footnote 13: See Cunningham, "Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal," 1881, pp. 162-168.]
[Footnote 14: Sim, the Persian word for silver, has also the meaning of one thirteenth; see Cunningham, l. c. p. 165.]
[Footnote 15: The common domestic cat is first mentioned by Caesarius, the physician, brother of Gregory of Nazianus, about the middle of the fourth century. It came from Egypt, where it was regarded as sacred. Herodotus denominates it [Greek: ailouros], which was also the designation of the weasel and marten. Kallimachus employs the same title, which his commentator explains as [Greek: kattos]. In later times this name of uncertain etymology has superseded every other. The earlier Sanskrit writers appear to have had no knowledge of the animal; but the margara is named by Manu, and the vidala by Panini.—A. W.]
[Footnote 16: Sir William Jones was thirty-seven years of age when he sailed for India. He received the honor of knighthood in March, 1783, on his appointment as Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, at Bengal.—A. W.]
TRUTHFUL CHARACTER OF THE HINDUS.
In my first Lecture I endeavored to remove the prejudice that everything in India is strange, and so different from the intellectual life which we are accustomed to in England, that the twenty or twenty-five years which a civil servant has to spend in the East seem often to him a kind of exile that he must bear as well as he can, but that severs him completely from all those higher pursuits by which life is made enjoyable at home. This need not be so and ought not to be so, if only it is clearly seen how almost every one of the higher interests that make life worth living here in England, may find as ample scope in India as in England.
To-day I shall have to grapple with another prejudice which is even more mischievous, because it forms a kind of icy barrier between the Hindus and their rulers, and makes anything like a feeling of true fellowship between the two utterly impossible.
That prejudice consists in looking upon our stay in India as a kind of moral exile, and in regarding the Hindus as an inferior race, totally different from ourselves in their moral character, and, more particularly in what forms the very foundation of the English character, respect for truth.
I believe there is nothing more disheartening to any high-minded young man than the idea that he will have to spend his life among human beings whom he can never respect or love—natives, as they are called, not to use even more offensive names—men whom he is taught to consider as not amenable to the recognized principles of self-respect, uprightness, and veracity, and with whom therefore any community of interests and action, much more any real friendship, is supposed to be out of the question.
So often has that charge of untruthfulness been repeated, and so generally is it now accepted, that it seems almost Quixotic to try to fight against it.
Nor should I venture to fight this almost hopeless battle, if I were not convinced that such a charge, like all charges brought against a whole nation, rests on the most flimsy induction, and that it has done, is doing, and will continue to do more mischief than anything that even the bitterest enemy of English dominion in India could have invented. If a young man who goes to India as a civil servant or as a military officer, goes there fully convinced that the people whom he is to meet with are all liars, liars by nature or by national instinct, never restrained in their dealings by any regard for truth, never to be trusted on their word, need we wonder at the feelings of disgust with which he thinks of the Hindus, even before he has seen them; the feelings of distrust with which he approaches them, and the contemptuous way in which he treats them when brought into contact with them for the transaction of public or private business? When such tares have once been sown by the enemy, it will be difficult to gather them up. It has become almost an article of faith with every Indian civil servant that all Indians are liars; nay, I know I shall never be forgiven for my heresy in venturing to doubt it.
Now, quite apart from India, I feel most strongly that every one of these international condemnations is to be deprecated, not only for the sake of the self-conceited and uncharitable state of mind from which they spring, and which they serve to strengthen and confirm, but for purely logical reasons also, namely for the reckless and slovenly character of the induction on which such conclusions rest. Because a man has travelled in Greece and has been cheated by his dragoman, or been carried off by brigands, does it follow that all Greeks, ancient as well as modern, are cheats and robbers, or that they approve of cheating and robbery? And because in Calcutta, or Bombay, or Madras, Indians who are brought before judges, or who hang about the law-courts and the bazaars, are not distinguished by an unreasoning and uncompromising love of truth, is it not a very vicious induction to say, in these days of careful reasoning, that all Hindus are liars—particularly if you bear in mind that, according to the latest census, the number of inhabitants of that vast country amounts to two hundred and fifty-three millions. Are all these two hundred and fifty-three millions of human beings to be set down as liars, because some hundreds, say even some thousands of Indians, when they are brought to an English court of law, on suspicion of having committed a theft or a murder, do not speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Would an English sailor, if brought before a dark-skinned judge, who spoke English with a strange accent, bow down before him and confess at once any misdeed that he may have committed; and would all his mates rush forward and eagerly bear witness against him, when he had got himself into trouble?
The rules of induction are general, but they depend on the subjects to which they are applied. We may, to follow an Indian proverb, judge of a whole field of rice by tasting one or two grains only, but if we apply this rule to human beings, we are sure to fall into the same mistake as the English chaplain who had once, on board an English vessel, christened a French child, and who remained fully convinced for the rest of his life that all French babies had very long noses.
I can hardly think of anything that you could safely predicate of all the inhabitants of India, and I confess to a little nervous tremor whenever I see a sentence beginning with "The people of India," or even with "All the Brahmans," or "All the Buddhists." What follows is almost invariably wrong. There is a greater difference between an Afghan, a Sikh, a Hindustani, a Bengalese, and a Dravidian than between an Englishman, a Frenchman, a German, and a Russian—yet all are classed as Hindus, and all are supposed to fall under the same sweeping condemnation.
Let me read you what Sir John Malcolm says about the diversity of character to be observed by any one who has eyes to observe, among the different races whom we promiscuously call Hindus, and whom we promiscuously condemn as Hindus. After describing the people of Bengal as weak in body and timid in mind, and those below Calcutta as the lowest of our Hindu subjects, both in character and appearance, he continues: "But from the moment you enter the district of Behar, the Hindu inhabitants are a race of men, generally speaking, not more distinguished by their lofty stature and robust frame than they are for some of the finest qualities of the mind. They are brave, generous, humane, and their truth is as remarkable as their courage."
But because I feel bound to protest against the indiscriminating abuse that has been heaped on the people of India from the Himalaya to Ceylon, do not suppose that it is my wish or intention to draw an ideal picture of India, leaving out all the dark shades, and giving you nothing hut "sweetness and light." Having never been in India myself, I can only claim for myself the right and duty of every historian, namely, the right of collecting as much information as possible, and the duty to sift it according to the recognized rules of historical criticism. My chief sources of information with regard to the national character of the Indians in ancient times will be the works of Greek writers and the literature of the ancient Indians themselves. For later times we must depend on the statements of the various conquerors of India, who are not always the most lenient judges of those whom they may find it more difficult to rule than to conquer. For the last century to the present day, I shall have to appeal, partly to the authority of those who, after spending an active life in India and among the Indians, have given us the benefit of their experience in published works, partly to the testimony of a number of distinguished civil servants and of Indian gentlemen also, whose personal acquaintance I have enjoyed in England, in France, and in Germany.
As I have chiefly to address myself to those who will themselves be the rulers and administrators of India in the future, allow me to begin with the opinions which some of the most eminent, and, I believe, the most judicious among the Indian civil servants of the past have formed and deliberately expressed on the point which we are to-day discussing, namely, the veracity or want of veracity among the Hindus.
And here I must begin with a remark which has been made by others also, namely, that the civil servants who went to India in the beginning of this century, and under the auspices of the old East India Company, many of whom I had the honor and pleasure of knowing when I first came to England, seemed to have seen a great deal more of native life, native manners, and native character than those whom I had to examine five-and-twenty years ago, and who are now, after a distinguished career, coming back to England. India is no longer the distant island which it was, where each Crusoe had to make a home for himself as best he could. With the short and easy voyages from England to India and from India to England, with the frequent mails, and the telegrams, and the Anglo-Indian newspapers, official life in India has assumed the character of a temporary exile rather, which even English ladies are now more ready to share than fifty years ago. This is a difficulty which cannot be removed, but must be met, and which, I believe, can best be met by inspiring the new civil servants with new and higher interests during their stay in India.
I knew the late Professor Wilson, our Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford, for many years, and often listened with deep interest to his Indian reminiscences.
Let me read you what he, Professor Wilson, says of his native friends, associates, and servants:
"I lived, both from necessity and choice, very much among the Hindus, and had opportunities of becoming acquainted with them in a greater variety of situations than those in which they usually come under the observation of Europeans. In the Calcutta mint, for instance, I was in daily personal communication with a numerous body of artificers, mechanics, and laborers, and always found among them cheerful and unwearied industry, good-humored compliance with the will of their superiors, and a readiness to make whatever exertions were demanded from them; there was among them no drunkenness, no disorderly conduct, no insubordination. It would not be true to say that there was no dishonesty, but it was comparatively rare, invariably petty, and much less formidable than, I believe, it is necessary to guard against in other mints in other countries. There was considerable skill and ready docility. So far from there being any servility, there was extreme frankness, and I should say that where there is confidence without fear, frankness is one of the most universal features in the Indian character. Let the people feel sure of the temper and good-will of their superiors, and there is an end of reserve and timidity, without the slightest departure from respect...."
Then, speaking of the much-abused Indian Pandits, he says: "The studies which engaged my leisure brought me into connection with the men of learning, and in them I found the similar merits of industry, intelligence, cheerfulness, frankness, with others peculiar to their avocation. A very common characteristic of these men, and of the Hindus especially, was a simplicity truly childish, and a total unacquaintance with the business and manners of life. Where that feature was lost, it was chiefly by those who had been long familiar with Europeans. Among the Pandits or the learned Hindus there prevailed great ignorance and great dread of the European character. There is, indeed, very little intercourse between any class of Europeans and Hindu scholars, and it is not wonderful, therefore, that mutual misapprehension should prevail."
Speaking, lastly, of the higher classes in Calcutta and elsewhere, Professor Wilson says that he witnessed among them "polished manners, clearness and comprehensiveness of understanding, liberality of feeling, and independence of principle that would have stamped them gentlemen in any country in the world." "With some of this class," he adds, "I formed friendships which I trust to enjoy through life."
I have often heard Professor Wilson speak in the same, and in even stronger terms of his old friends in India, and his correspondence with Ram Comul Sen, the grandfather of Keshub Chunder Sen, a most orthodox, not to say bigoted, Hindu, which has lately been published, shows on what intimate terms Englishmen and Hindus may be, if only the advances are made on the English side.
There is another Professor of Sanskrit, of whom your University may well be proud, and who could speak on this subject with far greater authority than I can. He too will tell you, and I have no doubt has often told you, that if only you look out for friends among the Hindus, you will find them, and you may trust them.
There is one book which for many years I have been in the habit of recommending, and another against which I have always been warning those of the candidates for the Indian Civil Service whom I happened to see at Oxford; and I believe both the advice and the warning have in several cases borne the very best fruit. The book which I consider most mischievous, nay, which I hold responsible for some of the greatest misfortunes that have happened to India, is Mill's "History of British India," even with the antidote against its poison, which is supplied by Professor Wilson's notes. The book which I recommend, and which I wish might be published again in a cheaper form, so as to make it more generally accessible, is Colonel Sleeman's "Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official," published in 1844, but written originally in 1835-1836.
Mill's "History," no doubt, you all know, particularly the candidates for the Indian Civil Service, who, I am sorry to say, are recommended to read it, and are examined in it. Still, in order to substantiate my strong condemnation of the book, I shall have to give a few proofs:
Mill in his estimate of the Hindu character is chiefly guided by Dubois, a French missionary, and by Orme and Buchanan, Tennant, and Ward, all of them neither very competent nor very unprejudiced judges. Mill, however, picks out all that is most unfavorable from their works, and omits the qualifications which even these writers felt bound to give to their wholesale condemnation of the Hindus. He quotes as serious, for instance, what was said in joke, namely, that "a Brahman is an ant's nest of lies and impostures." Next to the charge of untruthfulness, Mill upbraids the Hindus for what he calls their litigiousness. He writes: "As often as courage fails them in seeking more daring gratification to their hatred and revenge, their malignity finds a vent in the channel of litigation." Without imputing dishonorable motives, as Mill does, the same fact might be stated in a different way, by saying, "As often as their conscience and respect of law keep them from seeking more daring gratification to their hatred and revenge, say by murder or poisoning, their trust in English justice leads them to appeal to our courts of law." Dr. Robertson, in his "Historical Disquisitions concerning India," seems to have considered the litigious subtlety of the Hindus as a sign of high civilization rather than of barbarism, but he is sharply corrected by Mr. Mill, who tells him that "nowhere is this subtlety carried higher than among the wildest of the Irish." That courts of justice, like the English, in which a verdict was not to be obtained, as formerly in Mohammedan courts, by bribes and corruption, should at first have proved very attractive to the Hindus, need not surprise us. But is it really true that the Hindus are more fond of litigation than other nations? If we consult Sir Thomas Munro, the eminent Governor of Madras, and the powerful advocate of the Ryotwar settlements, he tells us in so many words: "I have had ample opportunity of observing the Hindus in every situation, and I can affirm, that they are not litigious."
But Mill goes further still, and in one place he actually assures his readers that a "Brahman may put a man to death when he lists." In fact, he represents the Hindus as such a monstrous mass of all vices, that, as Colonel Vans Kennedy remarked, society could not have held together if it had really consisted of such reprobates only. Nor does he seem to see the full bearing of his remarks. Surely, if a Brahman might, as he says, put a man to death whenever he lists, it would be the strongest testimony in their favor that you hardly ever hear of their availing themselves of such a privilege, to say nothing of the fact—and a fact it is—that, according to statistics, the number of capital sentences was one in every 10,000 in England, but only one in every million in Bengal.
Colonel Sleeman's "Rambles" are less known than they deserve to be. To give you an idea of the man, I must read you some extracts from the book.