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A Brief Introduction to the Scriptures of the Orient
Dr. William S. Sadler
circa 1964



I. THE SACRED BOOKS OF THE HINDUS

The sacred books of the Hindu peoples are the oldest and largest collection of scriptural writings extant. They were unknown to the Occident until they were brought to light in 1787 AD. by an official of the East India Company. These voluminous writings are conventionally subdivided into six groups:

It is not always possible to make this segregation, as, for example, the Forest Books (which close the Bramanas) in part, form the introductory books of the Upanishads.

 

THE VEDAS

l. The Vedas. (1000 BC. or prior) Devotional. The word Veda is derived from Sanskrit VID--to know. The four Vedas are fundamentally devotional.

THE BRAMANAS

2. The Bramanas. (1000 600 BC.) ceremonial

These prose treatises deal with the ritual of sacrifice and its philosophical implications. Much as the Talmud is a rabbinical exposition of the Pentateuch, so the Bramanas are a priestly exposition of the preceding Vedas.

The Aranyakas--the Forest Books--close the Bramanas. Designed to be read in the solitude of the forest by religious isolationists, these books are meditational in character. They contain much priestly philosophy and are the transition-link between the ceremonial Bramanas and the philosophical Upanishads.

THE UPANISHADS

3. The Upanishads. (600-300 BC.) Philosophical

In the course of -the profound metaphysical speculations regarding the nature of reality, embraced in the 108 Upanishads, several concepts are developed:

The Upanishads conclude that reality is a monism. They negate the reality of all things excepting the indefinable all-encompassing and unknowable Absolute.

See Selected Quotes from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

THE MAHABHARATA

4. The Mahabharata. (500 BC.) An epic poem.

This is an epic poem of great length containing much of the mythology of the Aryan invaders of India.

The Bhagavad-Gita, of origin perhaps in the first century BC., was sometime thereafter, inserted in the Mahabharata. It is one of the most appealing of all the Hindu scriptures, being written in such a manner as to be comprehensible to the average man. It stresses religious activity and devotion. Some scholars have considered the possibility of its indebtedness to the earlier Christian writings, but this hypothesis has been generally rejected.

THE LAWS OF MANU

5. Laws of Manu. (200 BC.) Legal--ethical

This collection is legal and ethical in nature, dealing with the following problems.

THE PURANAS

6. The Puranas. (100-1000 AD.)

This collection of poetry deals with cosmology, mythology, and imparts a vast miscellany of social and religious instruction.

See also: An Introduction to Hinduism by Dr. Meredith Sprunger


II. THE TAOIST SCRIPTURES

1. The Tao-Teh-King. 6th Century BC.

Supposed to have been written by Lao Tze.

"Part I - Tao: Deals with nature and functions of the "ultimate cause," the "cosmic essence," the "trend of the universe."

Part II - Teh: Portrays that kind of ethical living which allegiance to Tao brings forth.

2. Works of Chuang Tze. 3rd-4th Century BC.

Chuang Tze is the Paul of Taoism. His works are directed primarily against the factualism and worldliness of Confucianism.

See also: An Introduction to Taoism by Dr. Meredith Sprunger


III. THE KORAN

This is dated in the 7th century AD.

Written by Mohammed and purporting to be a transcription of the revelations of the Angel Gabriel

Arrangement: 114 Chapters (Suras) about one-fourth the length of the Old Testament.

Content: Shows Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian influences.

A collection of myths, legends, narratives, legal statutes, ethical precepts, and ceremonial injunctions.

Not new, but a new adaptation of extant teachings to Arabia.

See Selected Quotes from the Koran
See also: An Introduction to Islam by Dr. Meredith Sprunger


IV. SCRIPTURES OF THE SIKHS

Sikhism -- a blend of Islam and Hinduism, was founded in the 15th century AD. by Nanak. In northwestern India he gathered followers from among both faiths and became their "guru" or master. An apostolic line of succession was maintained for some time. The fifth guru after Nanak collected his writings, added to them, and produced the Holy Bible of the Sikhs--the Granth Sahib.

Teachings of the Granth Sahib

See also: An Introduction to Sikhism by Dr. Meredith Sprunger


CONFUCIANISM

Total sacred writings consist of nine books--five canonical and four uncanonical.

1. The Canonical "Kings"

The first four books were edited by Confucius; the fifth is largely his own work.

These are the "Annals of LU" (700--550 BC.), the principality in which Confucius was born, and are, in the main, original with Confucius. His eight fundamental conceptions of peace are here portrayed as:

2. The Uncanonical [Four Books]

Though uncanonical, they have the same standing as the "Kings." They were written after the death of Confucius by his disciples--immediate and remote.

Lived 372-289 BC. Greatest of disciples. Expounded Confucian teachings by use of dialogue form. Continues the exposition of the Doctrine of the Mean with especial emphasis on its relation to government.

3. Teachings of Confucianism

See also: An Introduction to Confucianism by Dr. Meredith Sprunger


A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship