Although other translations and criticisms of TIRUVACAGAM have come out in recent years, the University of Madras has great pleasure in publishing once again the reprint of Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope's edition of TIRUVACAGAM which will surely remain a valuable book of reference.
I hope and trust generations of Tamil scholars will continue to immense inspiration from the great qualities of diligent study, erudition, and thoroughness which this great savant of Tamil studies of a foreign land has brought to bear upon this unique publication. This crowing work of Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope at the age of eighty is symbolic of international interest in Tamil studies which is indeed a beacon-light for further efforts at home and abroad.
I am happy the University of Madras is privileged to continue its services in the cause of Tamil studies by such valuable publications.
It has been repeatedly asked, 'Of what possible use can the republication, translation, and editing to books like the Tiruvacagam be?' – and, 'Who can be expected to desire to make themselves acquainted with such works?' This consideration has delayed the publication for some time; and it is not at all to be anticipated that the circulation of the book, at least in Europe, will, for some time to come, be encouraging. Still, this is a work that ought to be done! If the Tamil people and the English are ever in any degree to understand one another, and to appreciate each other's thoughts and feelings regarding the highest matters; if any progress is to be made in the development of a real science of Hinduism, as it now is, our English people must have the means of obtaining some insight into the living system which exercises at the present day such a marvellous power over the minds of the great majority of the best Tamil people.
For, under some form or other, Caivism is the real religion of the South of India, and of North Ceylon; and the Caiva Siddhanta philosophy has, and deserves to have, far more influence than any other. The fifty-one poems which are here edited, translated, and annotated, are recited daily in all the great Caiva temples of South India, are on every one's lips, and are as dear to the hearts of vast multitudes of excellent people there, as the Psalms of David are to Jews and Christians. The sacred mystic poetry of a people reveals their character and aspirations more truly than even their secular legends and ballads; for sacred hymns are continually sung by the devout of all ages, and both sexes; and all classes of the classes of the community are saturated with their influence. The attentive consideration of the saturated with their influence. The attentive consideration of the system here developed must lead to a sympathetic appreciation of what the hopes, fears, aspirations, and yearnings of the devoutest Hindu minds in the South are, and have been from time immemorial. I have occasionally ventured in notes to go beyond the province of editor and translator and have criticized many things here and there; yet I feel quite sure that my kind and candid friends in South India will be in no danger of misunderstanding the spirit in which I have written. These are times when in regard to all religious systems thorough rational investigation, searching historical criticism, and a careful candid consideration of the meaning of the symbols by which doctrines are supposed to be expressed, are quite necessary everywhere. The result of this searching, yet reverent, analysis has been and is ,- ever more and more of the utmost value in the West. Whatever is true will bear the test of the severest scrutiny, thought men may feel obliged from time to time to modify the expressions of their belief, and to readjust their most cherished formulas. There is an evolution of religion. Meanwhile, True Divine Faith lives on, and grows more vigorously for the conflicts in which it is ever, of necessity, engaged.
It is much to be desired that our friends in south India should recognize this and consent to enter upon a thorough scientific investigation of the historical foundations of their popular beliefs the precise import of symbolical expression, and the practical bearing of every portion of their wonderful 'Siddhantam.'
In matters of religion the greatest hindrance – and the most truly irreligious thing is the spirit of ignorant, unreasoning, unsympathetic antagonism. Every system has its truths and profounder thoughts; and these lie deeper than full fathoms five in man's nature and must be fundamentally and essentially in large measure the same for all men and for all time. It is only by recognizing these common truths, and making them the basis of inquiry, as to further alleged Divine communications, that it is possible to gain a true religious development.
Very many things celebrated in these remarkable poems are doubtless without even the shadow of historic foundation, but it is yet possible to feel a lively interest in some, at least, of them as poetic fancies. What seems graceful and touching to one people often excites laughter or scorn or even detestation among others. So, in regard to symbols, it is quite certain that many expressions figures of speech and allegories, very clear to peoples in the West. Still, I think the time has really come when thoughtful and candid people may do much to remove the hindrances, that undoubtedly exist, to in East and West. I may add that nothing can be further from my purpose in this work, and more utterly distasteful to me than theological controversy; and if in this work any one word of mine should give pain to any of my valued Tamil friends, I ask forgiveness in advance.
It seems also most desirable that all Europeans whose lot it is to dwell in the Tamil lands, or who anywhere set themselves to benefit their Tamil fellow-subjects- and especially missionaries and teachers, - should take pains to know accurately the feelings and convictions of those for whom and in the midst of whom they work. For many years I have not ceased to say – there in India, and here in Oxford, - to successive classes of students, You must learn not only to think in Tamil, but also to feel in Tamil, if you are to be intelligible and useful among the Tamil people.
This publication (the fruit of much weary toil) may help, it is trusted, all who desire to be helped, along this certainly difficult road.
It must be confessed moreover, that I very earnestly wish also that my valued Tamil friends may be led to make the closer acquaintance of some of the magnificent collections of 'sacred poetry' existing in English and this not only for the benefit (which must be great) of the individual student, but of Tamil literature. For no literature can stand alone.
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