Indian philosophy

“Philosophical thought in India in the sixth century B.C. had become quite mature. It had reached a stage which could have been arrived at only after long and arduous philosophical quest. Jainism and Buddhism, the latter enormously influential in Indian and neighboring cultures, had emerged by this time. But even before their advent, the philosophical reflections of the early Upanishads (900-600 B.C.) had set forth the fundamental concepts of Hindu thought which have continued to dominate the Indian mind.

It is perhaps necessary to point out that there has often been a wide divergence between Indian and Western interpretations of Indian thought. Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy once even declared that a true account to Hinduism may be given in a categorical denial of most of the interpretation that have been made by Westerners or Western-trained Indians.”

“…in the search for some reality behind the external world, various methods have been restored to, ranging from experimental to the purely speculative. It is the oldest philosophical tradition in the world to be traced in the ancient Vedas. Although the religious and philosophical spirit of India emerges distinctly in the Rig Veda, the Upanishads are its most brilliant exposition, for the Vedic civilization was naturalistic and utilitarian, although it did not exclude the cosmological and religious speculation.

Older than Plato or Confucius, the Upanishads are the most ancient philosophical works and contain the mature wisdom of India’s intellectual and spiritual attainment. They have inspired not only the orthodox system of Indian thought but also the so-called heterodox schools such as Buddhism. In profundity of thought and beauty of style, they have rarely been surpassed not only in Indian thought but in the Western and Chinese philosophical traditions as well.”

Indian Inspiration of Pythagoras
“The similarity between the theory of Thales, that water is the material cause of all things, and the Vedic idea of primeval waters as the origin of the universe, was first pointed out by Richard Garbe. The resemblances, too, between the teachings of Pythagoras (ca. 582-506 B.C.) and Indian philosophy are striking.

It was Sir William Jones, the founder of comparative philology, who first pointed out the pointed out the similarities between Indian and Pythagorean beliefs. Later, other scholars such as Colebrooke, Garbe, and Winternitz also testified to the Indian inspiration of Pythagoras.

Professor H. G. Rawlinson writes: ” It is more likely that Pythagoras was influenced by India than by Egypt. Almost all the theories, religions, philosophical and mathematical taught by the Pythagoreans, were known in India in the sixth century B.C., and the Pythagoreans, like the Jains and the Buddhists, refrained from the destruction of life and eating meat and regarded certain vegetables such as beans as taboo” “It seems that the so-called Pythagorean theorem of the quadrature of the hypotenuse was already known to the Indians in the older Vedic times, and thus before Pythagoras (ibid). (Legacy of India 1937, p. 5).

Professor Maurice Winternitz is of the same opinion: “As regards Pythagoras, it seems to me very probable that he became acquainted with Indian doctrines in Persia.” (Visvabharati Quarterly Feb. 1937, p. 8).

It is also the view of Sir William Jones (Works, iii. 236), Colebrooke (Miscellaneous Essays, i. 436 ff.). Schroeder (Pythagoras und die Inder), Garbe (Philosophy of Ancient India, pp. 39 ff), Hopkins (Religions of India, p. 559 and 560) and Macdonell (Sanskrit Literature, p. 422). (source: Eastern Religions and Western Thought – By Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan p. 143).

Ludwig von Schröder German philosopher, author of the book Pythagoras und die Inder (Pythagoras and the Indians), published in 1884, he argued that Pythagoras had been influenced by the Samkhya school of thought, the most prominent branch of the Indic philosophy next to Vedanta.

(source: In Search of The Cradle of Civilization: : New Light on Ancient India – By Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley p. 252). Refer to The Passion of the Greeks: Christianity and the Rape of the Hellenes – By Evaggelos G. Vallianatos – Reviewed by Christos C. Evangeliou –
(Source: Indian Wisdom)





The Alexander mythos (2)

“Indian civilization is distinctive for its antiquity and continuity. Apart from its own vitality, the continuity of Indian civilization is largely due to its ability to adapt to alien ideas, harmonize contradictions and mould new thought patterns. Her constant contacts with the outside world also gave India the opportunity to contribute to other civilizations.

Whilst other ancient civilizations have long ceased to exist, Indian civilization has continued to grow despite revolutionary changes. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia have not survived. But in India today, Hindus seek inspiration from concepts similar to those originally advanced by their ancestors.

Jawaharlal Nehru says in his book The Discovery of IndiaTill recently many European thinkers imagined that everything that was worthwhile had its origins in Greece or Rome. Sir Henry Maine has said somewhere that except the blind forces of nature, nothing moves in this world which is not originally Greek.”
However, Indian contacts with the Western world date back to prehistoric times. Trade relations, preceded by the migration of peoples, inevitably developed into cultural relations. This view is not only amply supported by both philological and archaeological evidence, but by a vast body of corroborative literary evidence as well: Vedic literature and the Jatakas, Jewish chronicles, and the accounts of Greek historians all suggest contact between India and the West. Taxila was a great center of commerce and learning. “Crowds of eager scholars flowed to it for instruction in the three Vedas and in the eighteen branches of knowledge.” Tradition affirms that the great epic, the Mahabharata, was first recited in the city.” (An Advance History of India, R. C. Majumdar, H. C. Raychanduri p.64) Buddha is reputed to have studied in Taxila. Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy owe their origin to Indian thought and spirituality.

Alexander’s raid, which was so significant to Western historians, seemed to have entirely escaped the attention of Sanskrit authors. From the Indian point of view, there was nothing to distinguish his raid in Indian history. Jawaharlal Nehru says, ” From a military point of view his invasion, was a minor affair. It was more of a raid across the border, and not a very successful raid at that.”

“The Europeans are apt to imagine that before the great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, there was a crude confusion of thought, a sort of chaos without form and void. Such a view becomes almost a provincialism when we realize that systems of thought which influenced countless millions of human beings had been elaborated by people who never heard the names of the Greek thinkers.”
(source: Eastern Religions and Western Thought – By Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(Source: ‘Ancient rishis’ pathway to Hinduism)


The Alexander mythos (1)

Alexander is supposed to have invaded the Punjab in 326 B.C. Every schoolboy is taught and is expected to know, that he invaded India’s Northwest. Strangely, this event, so significant to Western historians, seemed to have entirely escaped the attention of Sanskrit authors. (source: India Discovered – By John Keay p. 33).

British historian Vincent A. Smith, conservatively appraised the impact of Alexander’s invasion as follows:
“The Greek influence never penetrated deeply (into the Indic civilization)…On the other hand, the West learned something from India in consequence of the communications opened up by Alexander’s adventure. (source: In Search of The Cradle of Civilization: : New Light on Ancient India – By Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley p. 252-253).

British historians used to talk of Alexander as “the world conqueror” who “came and saw and conquered” every land he had visited.
However, the facts as recorded by Alexander’s own Greek historians tell a very different tale. And Marshal Zhukov, the famous Russian commander in World War II, said at the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, a few years back, that India had defeated Alexander.

Alexander fared badly enough with Porus in the Punjab. Indeed, Porus put him on the spot when he told him: “To what purpose should we make war upon one another. if the design of your coming to these parts be not to rob us of our water or our necessary food, which are the only things that wise men are indispensably obliged to fight for? As for other riches and possessions, as they are accounted in the eyes of the world, if I am better provided of them than you, I am ready to let you share with me; but if fortune has been more liberal to you than to me, I have no objection to be obliged to you.” Alexander had no reply to the questions posed by Porus.

Instead, with the obstinacy of a bully, he said: “I shall contend and do battle with you so far that, howsoever obliging you are, you shall not have the better of me.But Porus did have the better of Alexander. In the fighting that ensued, the Greeks were so terrified of Indian prowess that they refused to proceed farther, in spite of Alexander’s angry urgings and piteous lamentations. Writes Plutarch, the great Greek historian: “This last combat with Porus took off the edge of the Macedonians’ courage and stayed their further progress in India….

Alexander not only offered Porus to govern his own kingdom as satrap under himself but gave him also the additional territory of various independent tribes whom he had subdued.” Porus emerged from his war with Alexander with his territory doubled and his gold stock augmented. So much for Alexander’s “victory” over Porus. However, what was to befall him in Sindh, was even worse. In his wars in Iran. Afghanistan, and north-west India, Alexander had made so many enemies that he did not dare return home by the same route he had come. He had, therefore, decided to travel via Sindh. But in Multan the Mallas gave him hell.
(source: Alexander’s Waterloo in Sindh – By K R Malkhani).

(From Surya’s tapestry)



Aggrandising colonialism’s cultural ancestors

Was it not the Scottish Enlightenment (centred on Edinburgh University) which offered intellectual enlightenment to the English? Did that widened understanding of matters significant seep into the psyche of the buccaneers of the East India Company and, later, into the policies of the British rulers of India? Probably not! Were not the latter imbued with the objective of enabling their ‘natives’ to achieve a speedier access to Nirvana through being clutched to the bosom of Christ, while continuing with their own role as shopkeepers?

When scholastic writings by white supremacists did not convince subject peoples that the ‘white race’ was genetically (inherently) superior to all other ‘races,’ the British colonial mind seems to have sought appropriate intellectual and militaristic forebears in continental Europe.

Fortunately, there were the philosophers of Athens, who were not pre-occupied with the semantics of the Church; Macedonian Alexander (the Great), who allegedly introduced everything Greek to all the tribes on the way to the Indian sub-continent, was also available.

Two further developments aided the search for an appropriate cultural ancestor. European scholars of Indian philosophy were cleverly able to date Indic writings to no further back in time than about 1500BC. This allowed Abraham and his people to establish Judeo-Christianity as the religious ancestor of Europeans, with priority over Hinduism.

Then came the acolytes of these scholars, who claimed with great certitude that no ‘black peoples’ had contributed in any substantive manner to human civilisation. These black people were presumably the Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians and Indians, and anyone else with a nicer skin colour than (coppery) white. Strangely, the Mediterranean cultural ancestor and the Levantine religious ancestor could not have possessed that superior white colour!

I now ask these two questions. Who taught Heraclitus that ‘It is all fire up there’ (or words to that effect)? An unknown Indian whose name is not recorded in a text book allegedly reached that conclusion thousands of years before.

Second question: Did not the Bible draw liberally upon Sumerian writings, while the Vedas of the Indic people have been dated, through known planetary configurations, back to about 7,000 BC?

After the modern Western neo-colonials have self-destroyed themselves, or hopefully matured morally, could we recognise that we human beings are all one species? Could we also accept that each one of us will probably have different religio-cultural ancestors in each life on Earth?

Inter-cultural transfers of values and practices

Revelation from On-High (Heaven, that is) has apparently been known to occur. However, it surely is a rare event; and may be unreliable (while unverifiable).

The transfer of learning and of new ideas, or new cultural practices and their underlying belief-rationale, occurs through enduring exposure. For example, the diverse peoples of Southeast Asia became acclimatised to Hindu religious practices and their associated belief systems through ongoing contact with Indian traders; later, the latter’s priests (who, unlike Christian priests, do not seek to proselytise and convert) would also have had an impact through the observed display of their rituals.

Emperors and other militarists are, by their very roles and actions, not known to be effective transmitters of durable new cultural practices and associated values. Their ambassadors have a political role, including reporting to head office their observations on their new temporary environment.

Traders move on their own trajectories, unless paid to be spies. Together with settlers from other cultures, they have a pervasive effect on the people they encounter, but without intending to change anything. In this context, I am reminded of Megasthenes, the ambassador to (Indian) Chandrangupta’s Empire from Seleucus, the successor in the Middle East to Alexander the Great. He made some very interesting observations.

Ironically, Alexander reportedly sought to adopt, without success, certain court practices of Persian royalty. Perhaps the priestess in Siwa (Egypt) had confirmed his alleged belief that he had been sired by a god. The adoption by officials of the British East India Company of the traditions of their predecessors, the Mughals, was however so successful that they were criticised by England’s class-riven rulers as ‘going native.’

When a tribe changes religion by fiat, by the ruler’s decision (for example, the Khazars of the Caucasus and the Singhalese of (modern-day) Sri Lanka), would the cultural changes have involved more than a change of religious belief? The conversion by British evangelists of some Indians and Ceylonese did not appear to have altered their behavioural values and practices in the Asian communities I observed; only religious observance was amended.

Naturally, in time, for a variety of reasons, cultural practices will change. My extended family is an excellent exemplar. I recall a visiting academic from Greece in Melbourne in the early 1980s who was criticised for saying that. He had pointed out that Athenian cultural practices had changed over time; and that island culture, which was not the same as Athenian culture, had also changed. Somewhat unwisely, he had wondered (as I understood him) whether one could really talk of Greek culture.

In truth, is any culture uniform across a people? There are classes, castes, and sub-cultures in countries which are familiar to us, eg. Australia, Britain, Japan, Malaysia, India.

Culture is indeed a moveable feast. In modern times, a degree of fusion between hitherto separate cultures can also be expected. What value is there in cultural competition or aggrandisement?

The push of a past life (3)

There has to be a Cosmic reason for the existence of the past-life (reincarnation) process. It has to involve moral progress through experiencing a sequence of Earthly lives.

In a long chain of Earth-life experiences over time, each past-life lesson should have a role to play; to contribute to progressive learning. In this life, I have learnt to forgive, a significant change for a former fighter. I do not seek the sound of someone’s family jewels hitting the ground, with a little sliced help from me.

While it is probably beyond the competence of a normal human mind to obtain an understanding of the place of mankind in the Cosmos (not just on Earth), it is the reincarnation process which suggests that there is an underlying pattern.

Perhaps it is best that we keep trekking on our individual paths of destiny (using our free will), and let the Cosmos lead us individually and collectively to where it will. We should find joy in the journey, without worrying about our destination.

The push of a past life (2)

That a past life can penetrate a current life is my own experience. My wife repeatedly noted that I was attracted to the scimitar. It has a lovely curved blade. Eventually, I admitted to her and to myself that I experience a demanding instinctive need to wield a scimitar when the discrimination I experienced (especially at work) got under my skin.

Consciously, I was not initially angry (a wasteful emotion). That was because, in the White Australia era, my cultural heritage gave me enough strength to ignore the ignorant. However, my subconscious sought revenge when, at the end of my career, I experienced tribal and religious discrimination. But I had to keep my head down.

My intuited past life – that of a Muslim warrior – could explain this itch in my palm. My past life was subsequently confirmed by a clairvoyant in relatively recent times. If that is the truth, I must obviously accept it. And I obviously have to amend some of my emotional reactions, no matter how subconscious; as well as adjust some of my thought processes.

Life is for learning, is it not?