Thinking India

Read Greek philosophy and India comes to mind. Most obvious is reincarnation, allegorized by Plato in his Myth of Er. Always, there’s desire to escape this cycle of living, to journey from the alone to the alone.

And India was on their minds. Plotinus tried to get there by joining the army …

made such progress in philosophy that he became eager to investigate the Persian methods and the system adopted among the Indians. It happened that the Emperor Gordian was at that time preparing his campaign against Persia; Plotinus joined the army and went on the expedition

Apollonius claimed to have visited Indian Brahmans living upon the earth and yet not on it. He told them that your lore is profounder and much more divine than our own; and if I add nothing to my present stock of knowledge while I am with you, I shall at least have learned that I have nothing more to learn. Conversation over the following days compared Greek and Indian Heroes (including King Ganges) and creatures (the Phoenix and what was probably Vishnu’s golden Garuda) and ceremonies. The Brahmans told him that India was the source of knowledge which Pythagoras imparted to you, and which we imparted to the Egyptians.

Ah Pythagoras. He rose large in Philosophy’s last centuries. He was the first to give a name to philosophy, describing it as a desire for and love of wisdom. Plato just plagiarized, learned … from Pythagoras.

He taught abstaining from animal food and clothing, wear linen, not wool, told men to speak piously, and form suitable conceptions of divine, tutelary and heroic beings, and similarly of parents and benefactors. He was wise for he knew what his soul was, whence it came into the body, and also its former lives.

So Indian, this ideal of the last philosophers …


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