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Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 25.djvu/17

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INTRODUCTION.

I.

Difficult as the historical problems are which the Dharma-sûtras translated in vols. ii and xiv of this Series offer, they are infinitely less complicated than those connected with the metrical law-books and especially with the Manu-smriti, or, to speak more exactly, with Bhrigu's version of the Institutes of the Sacred Law proclaimed by Manu. Though mostly the materials available for the inquiry into the history of the Dharma-sûtras are scanty, and in part at least belong to the floating traditions which are generally current among the learned, but of uncertain origin, they not only exhibit no extravagancies, but agree fully with the facts known from strictly historical sources. Moreover, and this is the most important point, though the text of the Dharma-sûtras has not always been preserved with perfect purity, they have evidently retained their original character. They do not pretend to be anything more than the compositions of ordinary mortals, based on the teaching of the Yedas, on the decisions of those who are acquainted with the law, and on the customs of virtuous Âryas. In some cases their authors say as much in plain words. Thus Âpastamba repeatedly laments the sinfulness and the weakness of 'the men of later times,' and Gautama warns against an imitation of the irregular conduct of the ancients whose great 'lustre' preserved them from falling. It is, further, still possible to recognise, even on a superficial examination, for what purpose the Dharma-sûtras were originally composed. Nobody can doubt for a moment that they are manuals written by the teachers of the Vedic schools for the guidance of their pupils, that at first they were held to be authoritative in restricted circles, and that they were later only acknowledged as sources of