Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/636

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

KING BOMBA'S PHILOSOPHICAL CATECHISM.
By Prof. E. P. EVANS.

THE proper education of a prince and heir to the throne has been regarded from time immemorial as one of the most perplexing problems of pedagogics. Especially in the past ages of absolutism, when the monarch was the source of all authority, it was a matter of immense importance that the man whose will was to be the law of the land, and upon whose merest whim the weal or woe of a whole people depended, should, as a child, be trained up in the way he should go, and, as an adult, should not be permitted to depart from it.

In the Orient, where the sovereign was revered as a demi-divine incarnation and plenipotentiary delegate from heaven for the administration of justice on earth, he was also supposed to be supernaturally endowed with wisdom from on high—a pleasing fiction, which still survives in the claims of kings to wear their crowns and wield their scepters "by the grace of God." As a natural sequence of this theory, scions of royal stock were confided to members of the sacerdotal order for their education. In India the Brahman claimed for his caste all posts of honor and emolument in the realm, and all positions of influence near the person of the ruler. Not only was it deemed essential to the power and permanence of the dynasty that he should perform the duties of court priest (purohita), but he also arrogated to himself the functions of court fool (vidúshaka); in his overweening ambition and insatiable greed of supremacy, he could bear no rival near the throne, even though the competitor were a man of motley.

It was likewise the privilege of the Brahman to be pedagogue in perpetuity to the royal family. His son or some member of his caste was as sure of succeeding to the ferule as the king's son or some prince of the blood was of inheriting the scepter; and, judging from what we know of the manuals of instruction, in which his teachings were embodied, he was eminently worthy of his high office. Thus the Hitopadesá was composed or rather compiled by Vishnu Sárman for several young princes who were his pupils; and it would be difficult to find in the whole vast range of didactic literature any work containing in the same compass a greater sum of homely wisdom and a larger number of prudential maxims and ethical rules for the conduct of life than are compressed into this little treatise on deportment, or nítividyá, a word which the modern masters of this science would translate by savoir vivre. This Kind Counsel, as the title Hitopadesá signifies, is illustrated and enforced by a series of fables and kindred