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.
the defects of tradition by their aid.  Burnouf, laying aside tradition as found in Anquetil’s translation, consulted it as found in a much older and purer form, in a Sanscrit translation of the Yasna made in the fifteenth century by the Parsi Neriosengh in accordance with the old Pahlavi version.  The information given by Neriosengh he tested, and either confirmed or corrected, by a comparison of parallel passages and by the help of comparative grammar, which had just been founded by Bopp, and applied by him successfully to the explanation of Zend forms.  Thus he succeeded in tracing the general outlines of the Zend lexicon and in fixing its grammatical forms, and founded the only correct method of interpreting the “Avesta.”  He also gave the first notions of a comparative mythology of the “Avesta” and the “Veda,” by showing the identity of the “Vedic Yama” with the “Avesta Yima,” and of Traitana with Thraetaona and Feridun.  Thus he made his “Commentaire sur le Yasna” a marvellous and unparalleled model of critical insight and steady good sense, equally opposed to the narrowness of mind which clings to matters of fact without rising to their cause and connecting them with the series of associated phenomena, and to the wild and uncontrolled spirit of comparison, which, by comparing everything, confounds everything.  Never sacrificing either tradition to comparison or comparison to tradition he knew how to pass from the one to the other, and was so enabled both to discover facts and to explain them.

At the same time the ancient Persian inscriptions at Persepolis and Behistun were deciphered by Burnouf in Paris, by Lassen in Bonn, and by Sir Henry Rawlinson in Persia.  Thus was revealed the existence, at the time of the first Achaemenian kings, of a language closely connected with that of the “Avesta,” and the last doubts as to the authenticity of the Zend books were at length removed.  It would have required more than an ordinary amount of scepticism to look still upon the Zend as an artificial language, of foreign importation, without root in the land where it was written, and in the conscience of the people for whom it was written, at the moment when a twin language, bearing a striking likeness to it in nearly every feature, was suddenly making itself heard from the mouth of Darius, and speaking from the very tomb of the first Achaemenian king.  That unexpected voice silenced all controversies, and the last echoes of the loud discussion which had been opened in 1771 died away unheeded.

[Footnote 9:  A century ago, it is said, they still numbered nearly 100,000 souls; but there now remain no more than 8,000 or 9,000, scattered in Yazd and the surrounding villages.  Houtum-Schindler gave 8,499 in 1879; of that number there were 6,483 in Yazd, 1,756 in Kirman, 150 in Teheran.]



Ahura Mazda spake unto Spitama Zarathustra, saying:—­

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