Page:History of India Vol 1.djvu/332

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CHAPTER XXVI

BUDDHIST SACRED LITERATURE

IN the sixth century before Christ, India witnessed the commencement of a great revolution. Her ancient religion, which the Hindu Aryans had practised and proclaimed for fourteen centuries, had degenerated into forms. The gods of the Rig-Veda, whom the ancient Rishis had invoked and worshipped, had come to be regarded as mere names; the libations of the Soma juice, and offerings of milk, grain, or flesh, which the Rishis of old had offered to their gods, had developed into cumbrous ceremonials, elaborate rites, unmeaning forms. The descendants or successors of those Rishis had now stepped forth as a powerful and hereditary caste, and claimed the right to perform elaborate religious rites and utter sacred prayers for the people. The people were taught to believe that they earned merit by having these rites performed and these prayers uttered by hired priests. The religious instinct which had inspired the composers of the Vedic hymns was dead, and vast ceremonials alone remained.

But a reaction had taken place. About the eleventh century before Christ, five centuries before the time of

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