Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/195

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


every detail being all-important. Its power is now so great that it not merely influences, but compels the gods to do the will of the officiating priest. By means of it the Brahmans may, in fact, be said to hold the gods in their hands.

The religion of the Yajurveda may be described as a kind of mechanical sacerdotalism. A crowd of priests conducts a vast and complicated system of external ceremonies, to which symbolical significance is attributed, and to the smallest minutiæ of which the greatest weight is attached. In this stifling atmosphere of perpetual sacrifice and ritual, the truly religious spirit of the Rigveda could not possibly survive. Adoration of the power and beneficence of the gods, as well as the consciousness of guilt, is entirely lacking, every prayer being coupled with some particular rite and aiming solely at securing material advantages. As a natural result, the formulas of the Yajurveda are full of dreary repetitions or variations of the same idea, and abound with half or wholly unintelligible interjections, particularly the syllable om. The following quotation from the Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā is a good example: Nidhāyo vā nidhāyo vā oṃ vā oṃ vā oṃ vā ē ai oṃ svarṇajyotiḥ. Here only the last word, which means "golden light," is translatable.

Thus the ritual could not fail to become more and more of a mystery to all who did not belong to the Brahman caste. To its formulas, no less than to the sacrifice itself, control over Nature as well as the supernatural powers is attributed. Thus there are certain formulas for the obtainment of victory; by means of these, it is said, Indra constantly vanquished the demons. Again, we learn that, if the priest pro-