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Copyright 1901,






Photogravure. aft£-K\Jke'^nmtiH'g, by Girome
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Ki'll^L, O^LiViJU^f

Copyright 1901,



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The Call to Prayer — Frontispiece

Photogfravure after the painting by Gerome

The Taj Mahal at Agra 50

Arab Lady Boating 188

Photogravure after the painting by E. M. Brede



/ n Z.4

To SKK a people as they see themselves, if we may give
that turn to the familiar phrase, might apply to the
glimpse which this book gives us of Eastern thought,
religious beliefs, traditions, and mode of life, as viewed
by an Oriental eye in the early part of the seventeenth
century. It is a work by an Oriental and written for Ori-
entals, but we of the West may equally profit by its con-
tents. « School of Manners *> (in the old sense of morals) the
volume was termed in the first partial version of it that
appeared in English, and that title was afterward retained
when a complete translation was published. But « School
of Religious Doctrines, or Institutes, » would be a happier
designation, and that is the actual Persian title, Dabistd?t-
ul-Mazdhab, that graces the opening page of the two old
manuscripts of the Dabistdn which the favored visitor may
see among the treasures of the Mulla Firuz Library in In-
dia. A number of handwritten copies besides these exist,
but it is interesting to think that at least two are preserved
in this library which adjoins a Parsi temple in Bombay,
and a description of the life and philosophy of the Parsi
Prophet Zoroaster, and of the older Persian sects, so far
as the author Moshan F&nl could learn of them, forms a
large part of the Dabistdn. This fact of itself may attract
some readers to the subject.

With regard to the author, Moshan Fan!, we know that
the year of his birth can hardly be placed later than A. D,
1615. He was apparently of Iranian extraction, if we
rightly interpret one of his statements. When writing of
India he says that « inconstant fortune had torn him from
the shores of Persia and made him the associate of the be-
lievers in transmigration and those who addressed their
prayers to idols and images and worshiped demons." It
was for this reason, he adds, that he chose to describe the
tenets held by the subtle class of Hindu reasoners after



those of the Parsees. Although most of his life was passed
in India he was a man that had traveled widely. Every-
where he went he carried with him the keen appreciation
of a scholar and the thoughtful observation of one who
wished to learn and to understand the views of others.
His note book was in his hand and with laudable self-
criticism he was ever ready to correct his own impressions,
if he found them false, or as he quaintly says in his Ori-
ental fashion, ^* to draw with the pen of accuracy the line
of erasure over all that was doubtful.*' Herodotus could
have done no more. On every occasion he took the oppor-
tunity to talk with faithful believers of various creeds and
sects and to inquire into their religious ideas and manners
and customs. In this way he gives us some account of no
less than a dozen different religions or philosophies.

Although the Dabist4n presents a sketch of so many differ-
ent kinds of doctrines and religious tenets, in the author's
view there were only five great religions. These are Magism,
Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism. With
Magism, or the ancient religion of Persia, he begins. Much
that he says about the early history and religious views of
Iran has little interest except as a picture of Oriental views
and habits of thought, which the student, however, will
value ; the picture of Parsiism, moreover, is quite inadequate,
but his narrative of the life and legend of Zoroaster is sure
to be read by all who care to see what an Oriental has to
say about this remarkable figure in history. It may inter-
est others to know that a number of Moshan Fiini's strange
stories about Zoroaster can now be traced to older and bet-
ter sources, or agam be shown to have little or no authority
for their existence. The writer of the present introduction
has brought out a number of such points in a recent work
on ** Zoroaster the Prophet of Ancient Iran.'* For this par-
ticular reason it did not seem necessary to correct some of
the original translator's comments or footnotes on Zoroas-
ter's era and teachings, but to allow them to stand just as
they were reproduced in the plate proofs.

There is no question that with India and the specula-
tions, beliefs and religious rites of the Hindus our author
was well acquainted. His picture in general is a faithful


one. He finds a place to include the special as well as the
general. The theosophic views of the Vediintists ,and kin-
dred sects are not wanting, and his picture of the Indian
Yogis, Fakirs, and Mendicants, and of the Persian dervishes,
mystics and religious devotees is as good as can be found in
literature. These chapters are sure to be read with inter-
est. It may seem surprising to miss a detailed account of
Buddhism in a work like the present, for Moshan's short
chapter on Buddhism is rather a description of the Jain
religion of India, which was the rival creed in early times
to that of the great Enlightened One. But it must be re-
membered that in our author's day Buddhism was almost
extinct in India, the land that gave it birth, while Jainism
is still to be found there.

For the same reason that there was little occasion to dis-
cuss Buddhism in detail there was also no special call to
mention the beliefs and customs of ancient Egypt, as Egypt
played no religious role in Moshan F^nl's day, but he does
include Tibet, and readers of Kipling's ^' Kim ** mav be in-
terested in looking up what is said about the early pilgrim
L4mas and spiritual characters of Tibet. The Sikh religion,
founded by Nanak, is also not overlooked. To us of the
West, moreover, it may be interesting to see a glimpse of
Judaism and Christianity as observed by a native of the
Farther East, who includes passages from Genesis by way
of illustrating his description. His chapter on Mohammed-
anism is rather long and technical, as that was the religion
of Moshan's own people. For this reason the editor pre-
ferred not to reproduce the entire section from the previously
published translation of the Dabistdn, but rather to give its
principal features, drawing largely on Troyer's preliminary
discourse in the older volumes. The concluding chapters on
the theosophical and philosophical sects will have an attrac-
tion chiefly for those who care to draw nearer to the Ori-
ental habit of mind and thought, and they show us in spite
of certain vagaries how faithful a recorder and critic our
author strove to be.

Taken as a whole the Dabist^n seems worthy of the
praise bestowed upon it by that worthy pioneer in Orien-
tal studies. Sir William Jones. It was he who gave the



incentive to his fellow scholar Gladwin, to publish at least
a chapter of the work in English, and this lead was fol-
lowed by that faithful interpreter of Persia, David Shea.
The translation of Shea, however, was left incomplete, and
the last half was taken up and faithfully finished by An-
thony Troyer, who prefaced the work by a preliminary dis-
course of more than a hundred pages. The translation of
these two scholars was published in 1843, and is now ex-
tremely scarce. It is this rare work that is here reproduced,
and the publisher is to be congratulated on his praise-
worthy enterprise, which thus renders more accessible to
Western readers so rare and uncommon an Eastern book.
In issuing so diffuse a work, however, the editor was justi-
fied in making certain condensations and omissions, includ-
ing most of the footnotes of the earlier edition, as well as
in reducing the original preface considerably. In such
matters I have been relieved of responsibility as to choice
or method. On the other hand it has been my pleasant
privilege to read the plate proof-sheets, taking the oppor-
tunity to correct certain palpable errors found in the origi-
nal edition, while allowing numerous inconsistencies to
stand, especially in the matter of spelling proper names.
This has been done designedly to preserve the quaintness
of the original, and it may safely be said that all that is
really important in the original will be found in the pres-
ent edition.

With these words the volume is sent forth; and though
** East is East and West is West ** the twain seem certainly
to-day to be meeting more closely than ever in the past,
and perhaps a ray of light from the East may come also
through the Dabistin, the work of a little known Oriental
writer who could not have dreamed that his treatise on
the religious thought and institutions of his time would
ever appear in its present dress in this New World and


Online LibraryCharles Reed PeersUniversal classics library (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 37)