Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/31

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xxii
SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST.

books, and particularly in religious books, frequent allusions to the sexual aspects of nature, which, though perfectly harmless and innocent in themselves, cannot be rendered in modern language without the appearance of coarseness. We may regret that it should be so, but tradition is too strong on this point, and I have therefore felt obliged to leave certain passages untranslated, and to give the original, when necessary, in a note. But this has been done in extreme cases only, and many things which we should feel inclined to suppress have been left in all their outspoken simplicity, because those who want to study ancient man, must learn to study him as he really was, an animal, with all the strength and weaknesses of an animal, though an animal that was to rise above himself, and in the end discover his true self, after many struggles and many defeats.

 After this first caution, which I thought was due to those who might expect to find in these volumes nothing but gems, I feel I owe another to those who may approach these translations under the impression that they have only to read them in order to gain an insight into the nature and character of the religions of mankind. There are philosophers who have accustomed themselves to look upon religions as things that can be studied as they study the manners and customs of savage tribes, by glancing at the entertaining accounts of travellers or missionaries, and then classing each religion under such wide categories as fetishism, polytheism, monotheism, and the rest. That is not the case. Translations can do much, but they can never take the place of the originals, and if the originals require not only to be