Story of a Good Brahmin

Voltaire

Story of a Good Brahmin

translated by H. I. Woolf

 

For an introduction to Voltaire, check out one of the following:

 

On my travels I met an old Brahmin, a very wise man, of marked intellect and great learning.  Furthermore, he was rich and consequently, all the wiser, because, lacking nothing, he needed to deceive nobody.  His household was very well managed by three handsome women who set themselves out to please him.  When he was not amusing himself with his women, he passed the time in philosophizing.  Near his house, which was beautifully decorated and had charming gardens attached, there lived a narrow-minded old Indian woman:  she was a simpleton, and rather poor.

     Said the Brahmin to me one day:  “I wish I had never been born!”  On my asking why, he answered:  “I have been studying forty years, and that is forty years wasted.  I teach others and myself am ignorant of everything.  Such a state of affairs fills my soul with so much humiliation and disgust that my life is intolerable.  I was born in Time, I leve in Time, and uyet I do not know what Time is.  I am at a point between two eternities, as our wise men say, and I have no conception of eternity.  I am composed of matter:  I think, but I have never been able to learn what produces my thought.  I do not know whether or no my understanding is a simple faculty inside me, such as those of walking and digesting, and whether or no I think with my head as I grip with my hands.  Not only is the cause of my thought unknown to me:  the cause of my actions is equally a mystery.  I do not know why I exist, and yet every day people ask me questions on all these points.  I have to reply, and as I have nothing really worth saying I talk a great deal, and am ashamed of myself afterward for having talked.”

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