Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/65

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THE B RAHMANS. 6 1 life, as a householder. He married, and commenced a course of family duties. When he had reared a family, and gained a practical knowledge of the world, he retired into the forest as a recluse, for the third period of his life ; feeding on roots or fruits, practising his religious duties with increased devotion. The fourth stage was that of the ascetic or religious mendicant, wholly withdrawn from earthly affairs, and striving to attain a condition of mind which, heedless of the joys, or pains, or wants of the body, is intent only on its final absorption into the deity. The Brahman, in this fourth stage of his life, ate nothing but what was given to him unasked, and abode not more than one day in any village, lest the vanities of the world should find entrance into his heart. This was the ideal life prescribed for a Brahman, and ancient Indian literature shows that it was to a large extent practically carried out. Throughout his whole existence the true Brahman practised a strict temperance ; drinking no wine, using a simple diet, curbing the desires ; shut off from the tumults of war, as his business was to pray, not to fight, and having his thoughts ever fixed on study and contem- plation. 'What is this world?' says a Brahman sage. 'It is even as the bough of a tree, on which a bird rests for a night, and in the morning flies away.' The Modern Brahmans. — The Brahmans, therefore, were a body of men who, in an early stage of this world's history, bound themselves by a rule of life the essential precepts of which were self-culture and self-restraint. The Brahmans of the present India are the result of 3000 years of hereditary education and temperance ; and they have evolved a type of mankind quite distinct from the surrounding population. Even the passing traveller in India marks them out, alike from the bronze- cheeked, large-limbed, leisure-loving Rajput or Kshattriya, the warrior caste of Aryan descent ; and from the dark-skinned, flat- nosed, thick-lipped low castes of non-Aryan origin, with their short bodies and bullet heads. The Brahman stands apart from both, tall and slim, with finely -modelled lips and nose, fair complexion, high forehead, and slightly cocoa-nut shaped skull — the man of self-centred refinement. He is an example of a class becoming the ruling power in a country, not by force of