Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/246

This page has been validated.

of sin, of imperfection in the sight of divine beings, has been developed, and is often confessed. But on the whole, the religion of the Rishis is practical—it might almost be said, is magical. They desire temporal blessings, rain, sunshine, long life, power, wealth in flocks and herds. The whole purpose of the sacrifices which occupy so much of their time and thought is to obtain these good things. The sacrifice and the sacrificer come between gods and men. On the man's side is faith, munificence, a compelling force of prayer, and of intentness of will. The sacrifice invigorates the gods to do the will of the sacrificer; it is supposed to be mystically celebrated in heaven as well as on earth—the gods are always sacrificing. Often (as when rain is wanted) the sacrifice imitates the end which it is desirable to gain.[1] In all these matters a minute ritual is already observed. The mystic word brahma, in the sense of hymn or prayer of a compelling and magical efficacy, has already come into use. The brahma answers almost to the Maori karakia or incantation and charm. "This brahma of Visvamitra protects the tribe of Bharata." "Atri with the fourth prayer discovered the sun concealed by unholy darkness."[2] The complicated ritual, in which prayer and sacrifice were supposed to exert a constraining influence on the supernatural powers, already existed, Haug thinks, in the time of the chief Rishis or hymnists of the Rig-Veda.[3]

  1. Compare "The Prayers of Savages" in J. A. Farrer's Primitive Manners, and Ludwig, iii. 262–296, and see Bergaigne, La Religion Védique, vol. i. p. 121.
  2. See texts in Muir, i. 242.
  3. Preface to translation of Aitareya Brahmana, p. 36.