The solution of the problem of the sacred books can lie only in the contents of the sacred books themselves. If what we have been taught to understand of them be all that they contain, then we must remain content with the estimate that is generally formed of these works, and cease to think of them as anything more than an exuberant flight of fancy of a primitive people.
Indeed, all that we can do in such a case is to sift the fine from the gross, and salvage what we can. And so there are not a few who, unable to find any connection between the story of the Mahabharata and the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, believe that the latter is but an interpolation, cleverly introduced into the epic to enable it to partake of its popularity. And also make it more current among the people with a separation from the main work.
But have we really understood the language of the text of the sacred books, and is it impossible to get some other meaning out of it?
This questions may well be asked, for these books were composed in the Sanskrit language long before modern nations learned the art of writing. The Vedas, are according to some, believed to have been written more than five thousand years ago. While few would place them later than 1200 to 1500 B.C.
Language is the record of human thought in relation to ideas, objects and actions. The history of a number of modern languages shows that a thousand years are enough to bring about such a change in the human mind, that few, if any, can understand what has been written in the earliest works. This is true of the English language, whose record is unbroken by any great invasion or cataclysm. And there are few, if any, among Englishmen today who can understand the earliest works composed in the old Anglo-Saxon. The same is equally true of a number of modern Indian languages, and it should not be a matter of surprise if a similar change has taken place in Sanskrit too.
The earliest of the sacred books, the Vedas, are more than three thousand five hundred years old. The difficulty of understanding the original sense of the language of the text can easily be grasped when we realize that the Sutras or the aphorisms of the six principal systems of philosophy, which are of a later date, are still unintelligible. If this is the case with the Sutras, the language of which appears to be simple and easy to grasp, there would be little wonder if the original meaning of the words used in the earlier works has been forgotten or lost. Specially as the country has been subjected to many invasions from time to time, and a number of ancient records must have been destroyed or defaced.
Indeed, if we could rediscover the original meaning of the text of the sacred books, we should be able to reveal their secret. Then it might well be that we find that the traditional view of their character is really true; and that the Vedas, even as the word literally signifies, are books of scientific knowledge, dealing with the laws of nature and the life of man. Then the idea of their revelation would be similar to that of modern discoveries when they are the result of accident or good fortune, rather than persistent human effort. The Upanishads may then appear to be a clearer exposition of these laws; the Vedangas as the real limbs or parts of the Vedas or the knowledge they contain. The six systems of philosophy as an expression of the same idea in a still clearer form; the Epics and the Puranas as an account of these systems in story form. And the great systems of religion, which form part of Hinduism, with all its array of architectural design, statuary and carving, painting, music and poetry, the essence of all the fine arts together with their gods, forms of worship, ritual and sacrifices. But as a magnificent attempt to live in the light of the teachings of the sacred books, or science refined into philosophy, and both sublimated into religion or the art of perfect life.
This may mean that the original idea of the sacred books and the different systems of philosophy and religion have been forgotten and lost. And what remains is very different from their ancient conception. But the question still remains, Can all this be proved?