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from the Author
THE RELIGIOUS, MORAL, AND POLITICAL STATE
BEFORE THE MAHOMEDAN INVASION,
CHIEFLY FOUNDED ON THE TRAVELS OF THE CHINESE
ON THE COMMENTARIES OF MESSRS. REMUSAT, KLAPROTH,
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL W. H. SYKES, F.R.S.
F. W. CALDER, 199, OXFORD STREET.
THE RELIGIOUS, MORAL, AND POLITICAL STATE
BEFORE THE MAHOMEDAN INVASION.
BY LIEUTENANT-COLONEL W. H. SYKES, F.R.S.
Notes on the Religious, Moral, and Political State of India before the Mahomedan Invasion, chiefly founded on the Travels of the Chinese Buddhist Priest Fai Han in India, A.D, 399, and on the Commentaries of Messrs. Remusat, Klaproth, Burnouf, and Landresse.
OUR Sanskrit scholars have sought, in the depths of Brahmanical literature, for the means of illustrating the political, the religious, the moral, and social condition of that ancient people, over whose minds it has hitherto been believed that Brahmans exercised from the earliest times unbounded sway. The inquirers sought for facts and they found fables; they looked for historic lights', and they found poetic coruscations, which served only to render the darkness in which truth was enveloped more impenetrable. An Orientalist, Mr. Wathen, has said, that on the Mussulman conquest of India the Brahmans destroyed all previous historical documents; they seem, nevertheless, to have carefully preserved, or invented, or adapted, such compositions in Sanskrit, as attested their own religious supremacy or established their cosmogony; and which have fettered the minds of Indians, as well as foreigners, to an unreserved admission of such pretensions as in their arrogance, caprice, or selfishness, they chose to advance.
In this state of hopelessness, with respect to the means of elucidating the ancient history of India, there break upon us lights from a most unexpected source-from the literature of that remarkable people, the Chinese-which will go far to dissipate the mists which have hitherto obscured our view, and which will give our judgments a wider scope of action, and our deductions a stabler basis than we have hitherto possessed. Of the value and character of these
1 Professor Wilson says, "The only Sanskrit composition yet discovered, to which the title of history can with any propriety be applied, is the Raja Taringini, a history of Cashmir.”—Introductory observations to the History. This history nevertheless has the proved anachronisms of 796 years [Mr. Turnour thinks 1177 years,] and 1048 years, and it is a comparatively modern work, having been compiled A.D. 1148.
Professor Wilson also, in his notes on the Mudra Rakshasa, says, It may not here be out of place to offer a few observations on the identification of Chandragupta and Sandracottus. It is the ONLY point on which we can rest with any thing like confidence in the history of the Hindus, and is therefore of vital importance in all our attempts to reduce the reigns of their kings to a rational and consistent chronology."
lights, I leave M. Landresse, one of the translators from the original Chinese into French, to speak for himself:
"If the most pure sources were for ever dried up; if there did not even remain a solitary sacred book, written in the idiom in which the Divinity had chosen to transmit his laws to men, or if these books had not yet for ages to come issued from the monasteries of China and Thibet, in which they are preserved; if the texts in the language of the Brahmans, written subsequently to the period at which they were at the head of religion in India, were absolutely rejected; if it be objected, that the Singhalese versions do not permit of the origin or etymology of the terms which constitute the language of religion being traced; if it were no longer possible to discover the roots of the names appertaining to gods, saints, or heroes, to understand their signification; if the books of the Thibetans were rejected in consequence of certain discrepancies in the classification of their cosmogony, and those of the Mongols, in consequence of their comparatively recent date, and the national legends which are introduced; in one word, if it were desired to recover the entire doctrine of Buddha, in its primitive purity, and almost its original language, without the mixture of formulas, or of the traditions of strangers; there still would remain these translations from the highest antiquity, transmitted to us by the Chinese, made directly from the holy books of the most authentic character, where the words, before being interpreted, are reproduced by analogous consonances always to be recognised, and where the grammatical forms are preserved."
Such is the character of these Chinese translations from Indian originals, illustrative of the principles and state of Buddhism in the seats of its origin, progress, glory, and extinction. But there are yet other sources of information of not less interest and value respecting the moral, political, and topographical state of India in the early centuries of the Christian era. These sources come from pious Chinese travellers, who, moved by the same feeling which carries Christians on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Mahomedans to the Kiblah, and Hindús to their Teerts, (Tirthas,) braved the dangers, the privations, and the sufferings in the route, through Tartary, and over the Himalaya mountains, from China to India, to visit the scenes endeared to them, by being associated with the lives and miracles of their Buddhas, but chiefly to collect the sacred texts of their religion; and who, subsequently to their return to their country, gave an account of their travels to their countrymen'. But M. Landresse so fully
The chief of these works, is that of Fa-Hian, on which are founded the notes I venture to lay before the Society, but others will also be quoted.