Page images

physician, is almost entirely lost, unfortunately perhaps for the curious European, but happily for the patient Hindu ; since a revealed science precludes improvement from experience, to which that of medicine ought, above all others, to be left perpetually open ; but I have myself met with curious fragments of that primeval work, and, in the Véda itself, I found with astonishment an entire Upanishad on the internal parts of the human body ; with an enumeration of nerves, veins, and arteries, a description of the heart, spleen, and liver, and various disquifitions on the formation and growth of the fetus : from the laws, indeed, of Menu, which have lately appeared in our own language, we may perceive, that the ancient Hindus were fond of reasoning in their way on the mysteries of animal generation, and on the comparative influence of the sexes in the production of perfect offspring; and we may collect from the authorities adduced in the learned Effay on Egypt and the Nile, that their physiological disputes led to violent schisms in religion, and even to bloody

On the whole, we cannot expect to acquire many valuable truths from an examination of eastern books on the science of medicine; but examine them we must, if we wish to complete the history of universal philosophy, and to sup


ply the scholars of Europe with authentick materials for an account of the opinions anciently formed on this head by the philosophers of Afia: to know, indeed, with certainty, that so much and no more can be known on any branch of science, would in itself be very important and useful knowledge, if it had no other effect than to check the boundless curiosity of mankind, and to fix them in the straight path of attainable science, especially of fuch as relates to their duties and


conduce to their happiness. II. We have an ample field in the next division, and a field almost wholly new ; since the mytaphyficks and logick of the Brábmens, comprised in their fix philosophical Sástras, and explained by numerous glofses or comments, have never yet been accessible to Europeans ; and, by the help of the Sanferit language, we now may read the works of the Saugatas, Bauddhas, Arbatas, Jainas, and other heterodox philosophers, whence we may gather the metaphysical tenets prevalent in China and Japan, in the eastern peninsula of India, and in many confiderable nations of Tartary : there are also some valuable tracts on these branches of science in Persian and Arabick, partly copied from the Greeks, and partly comprising the doctrines of the Súfís which anciently prevailed, and fill

prevail in great measure over this oriental world, and which the Greeks themselves condescended to borrow from eastern sages.

The little treatise in four chapters, ascribed to Vyása, is the only philosophical Sástra, the original text of which I have had leisure to peruse with a Brábmen of the Védánti school : it is extremely obscure, and, though composed in sentences elegantly modulated, has more resemblance to a table of contents, or an accurate summary, than to a regular systematical tract; but all its obscurity has been cleared by the labour of the very judicious and most learned SÁNCARA, whose commentary on the Védánta, which I read also with great attention, not only elucidates every word of the text, but exhibits a perspicuous account of all other Indian schools, from that of CAPILA to those of the more modern hereticks. It is not possible, indeed, to speak with too much applause of so excellent a work; and I am confident in afferting, that, until an accurate translation of it shall appear in fome European language, the general history of philosophy must remain incomplete; for I perfectly agree with those, who are of opinion, that one correct version of any celebrated Hindu book would be of greater value than all the dissertations or essays, that could be composed on the same subject ; you will not, however, ex

[merged small][ocr errors]

pect, that, in such a discourse as I am now delivering, I should expatiate on the diversity of Indian philosophical schools, on the several founders of them, on the doctrines, which they respectively taught, or on their many disciples, who difsented from their instructors in some particular points. On the present occasion, it will be fufficient to say, that the oldest head of a sect, whose entire work is preserved, was (according to some authors) CAPILA; not the divine personage, a reputed grandson of BRAHMA', to whom Crishna compares himself in the Gitá, but a fage of his name, who invented the Sánc'bya, or Numeral, philosophy, which Cri'shna himself appears to impugn in his conversation with ARJUNA, and which, as far as I can recollect it from a few original texts, resembled in part the metaphysicks of PYTHAGORAS, and in part the theology of Zeno: his doctrines were enforced and illustrated, with fome additions, by the venerable PATANJALI, who has also left us a fine comment on the grammatical rules of Pa'nini, which are more obscure, without a glofs, than the darkest oracle: and here by the way let me add, that I refer to metaphysicks the curious and important science of universal grammar, on which many subtil difquisitions may be found interspersed in the particular grammars of the ancient Hindus, and in those of the more modern Arabs. The next founder, I believe, of a philosophical school was GO'TAMA, if, indeed, he was not the most ancient of all; for his wife AHALY'A was, according to Indian legends, restored to a human shape by the great Ra'ma ; and a fage of his name, whom we have no reason to suppose a different personage, is frequently mentioned in the Veda itself; to his rational doctrines those of CaNA'DA were in general conformable; and the philosophy of them both is usually called Nyáya, or logical, a title aptly bestowed; for it seems to be a system of metaphyficks and logick better accommodated than any other anciently known in India, to the natural reason and common fense of mankind; admitting the actual existence of material substance in the popular acceptation of the word matter, and comprising not only a body of sublime dialecticks, but an artificial method of reasoning, with distinct names for the three parts of a proposition, and even for those of a regular fyllogism. Here I cannot refrain from introducing a singular tradition, which prevailed, according to the well-informed author of the Dabistán, in the Panjáb and in several Persian provinces, that, “among other Indian curiosities, which CALLISTHENES tranf“mitted to his uncle, was a technical System of " logick, which the Brábmens had communicated

« PreviousContinue »