Sacred Books of the East eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 632 pages of information about Sacred Books of the East.

[Footnote 18:  The vital spirits are called the highest treasure, because a man surrenders everything to preserve his vital spirits or his life.]

[Footnote 19:  This is one of the earliest, if not the earliest mention of the yagnopavita, the sacred cord as worn over the left shoulder for sacrificial purposes.]

[Footnote 20:  Professor Cowell has translated a passage from the commentary which is interesting as showing that its author and the author of the Upanishads too had a clear conception of the correlative nature of knowledge.  “The organ of sense,” he says, “cannot exist without pragna (self-consciousness), nor the objects of sense be obtained without the organ, therefore—­on the principle, that when one thing cannot exist without another, that thing is said to be identical with the other—­as the cloth, for instance, being never perceived without the threads, is identical with them, or the (false perception of) silver being never found without the mother of pearl is identical with it, so the objects of sense being never found without the organs are identical with them, and the organs being never found without pragna (self-consciousness) are identical with it.”]


Translation by George Sale


The importance of the “Koran” lies in the fact that it is a religious book of the East, read and stored in the memory of a hundred millions of people of different races and civilizations, inhabiting countries extending from the western borders of China to the pillars of Hercules.  It is considered by the Mohammedan to contain all the knowledge and all the literature necessary for men.  When it was demanded of Mohammed to confirm the authority of his mission by some work of wonder, he pointed to the “Koran,” and exclaimed, “Behold the greatest miracle of all.”  The learned men of Alexandria asked the Caliph Omar to give to them the vast library at Alexandria.  “If those books,” he replied, “contain anything which is contrary to the ‘Koran’ they deserve to be destroyed.  If they contain what is written in the ‘Koran,’ they are unnecessary.”  He ordered them to be distributed among the baths of the city, to serve as fuel for their furnaces.

The composition of the “Koran” is all the work of Mohammed.  He himself claimed that he spoke merely as the oracle of God.  The commands and injunctions are in the first person, as if spoken by the Divine Being.  The passionate enthusiasm and religious earnestness of the prophet are plainly seen in these strange writings.  Sometimes, however, he sinks into the mere Arabian story-teller, whose object is the amusement of his people.  He is not a poet, but when he deals with the unity of God, with the beneficence of the Divine Being, with the wonders of Nature, with the beauty of resignation, he exhibits a glowing rhetoric, a power of gorgeous imagery, of pathos, and religious devotion, that make the “Koran” the first written work in the Arabian tongue.

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Sacred Books of the East from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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