An Outline of the Religious Literature of India

By J. N. Farquhar | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

THIS book has been written from an overwhelming sense of personal need. On every occasion when I have tried to think my way through the history of any one of the chief Hindu sects or philosophies, or to realize the origin and growth of some doctrine or discipline, I have found my way barred, because the religious literature is so imperfectly known. Numberless friends have expressed in conversation and correspondence the same feeling of helplessness. In order to deal with any one of these subjects it would be necessary for the student to undertake first of all a long and difficult investigation into the sources.

The Vedic literature has been studied with the utmost care by a company of brilliant scholars ; certain sections of the philosophical literature have been critically examined ; the classical Sanskrit literature is well known ; and portions of the literature of Buddhism and of Jainism have been carefully described ; but on the mass of the books produced by Hindu sects and on great sections of Buddhist and Jain literature very little labour has yet been expended ; while no attempt has ever been made to deal with the religious history as an undivided whole which must be seen as one long process of development before the meaning of the constituent sects or religions can be fully understood.

Consequently, the question arose whether it would not be possible to write a sketch of the whole religious literature of India. I was under no illusions as to the magnitude and the difficulty of the undertaking; and I was very painfully conscious of the slenderness of my own linguistic preparation for the task. On the other hand, I believed that, from the point of view of the study of religions, what was wanted was

-ix-

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