Philosophy – upon hearing the word, most of us are overwhelmed by metaphysical questions which further gives birth to an unquenchable sense of curiosity. The aforementioned branch of science has played a crucial role in the development of mankind as a race to become what we are today. Modern Philosophy, as we know of it in the present age, owes its creation to two major contributors – India and Greece. Majority of the individuals would certainly be aware of what Greek Philosophy stands for and its associated contributions. However, Indian Philosophy is generally overlooked and is classified as something that was derived from the Greek ideas. However, the truth might contradict the same and prove the exact opposite. The following article is created with the sole intention of enlightening you about the significance of Indian Philosophy and its lesser-known influence on the Greeks.
Comparison of the Ancient.
To fairly compare the contributions of Indians and Greeks within the field of philosophy, we will be majorly focusing on the Pre-Socratic Era. During the Pre-Socratic Era, philosophical ideas were still developing. Philosophers were still seeking truth for their existence.
Pythagoras, an ancient Greek philosopher reputed as the founder of Pythagoreanism, is a renowned figure in Greek Philosophy. His works and ideas introduced the populace with concepts that answered metaphysical questions that were long overdue. The aforementioned Greek philosopher is majorly known for developing the theory of metempsychosis – a concept which states that our inner soul is an immortal being and merely enters a new body upon death.
Pythagoras was born in 570 BC in Samos and had introduced various revolutionary philosophical ideas before his death in 495 BC. He is also widely regarded to have inspired several Indian philosophers to develop their unique ideas through derivations of his concepts. However, the largely-overlooked fact stands as something else.
The Lesser-Known Extreme.
When it comes to Indian Philosophy associating with the concept of reincarnation and inner immortality, one might initially think of the Bhagavad Gita – an epic that talks about our relationship with the divine. However, the Bhagavad Gita was penned around 300 BCE which fails to predate Pythagoras’ concepts. Fortunately, physical evidence proves that the emerging field of Indian Philosophy had been introduced to similar concepts talking about reincarnation even before the realization of Philosophy as a field.
Indian Philosophy is largely built around the Vedas – ancient scriptures that are estimated to be introduced in the 15th century BCE. They are generally overlooked in this debate of influence mainly due to the fact that our current generation lacks the mental prowess to understand the meaning of the same. Fortunately, the Vedas were written in Sanskrit and have been roughly translated for the audience of today. Although the aforementioned scriptures don’t directly refer to the concept of reincarnation, they are known clearly hint on the same to inspire the Indian Philosophers of that time. The following states the priorly-mentioned references in the Vedas.
Om ah ta etu mana punah kratve dakshaaya jiivase, Jyok ca suuryam drishe. – Rig Veda 10.4.57.4
The above hymn translates to the following.
“May your spirit return again to the world in order to perform pure acts of strength and live long enough to witness the sun.”
However, some might argue that the above reference is too vague to be accepted as evidence. To further support the same, the Shukla Yajur Veda also references to this cycle of rebirth but in a direct sense.
savitā te shridebhyah prthivyām lokamicchatu, tasmai yujyant amustriyāh. – Shukla Yajur Veda 35.2
The aforementioned describes a ritual mantra that was performed while sacrificing elements within the Agni (Fire) and translates to the following.
“The Sun God shall provide you with different births in different worlds with happy/unhappy setting, depending on your previous deeds.”
The aforementioned scriptures were preached by several Indian Vedic sages who were involved within the concept much before the birth of Pythagoras. Uddalaka Aruni, born in 8th-century BC, and Yajnavalkya, born in the 7th-century, were two of such philosophers who have also been mentioned within the Upanishads.
Added to the metaphysical philosophies, Pythagoras was also inspired and influenced by the Indian Philosophers for developing the renowned Pythagoras’ Theorem of Triangles. Before even the birth of the Greek Philosopher, what is known today as the Pythagorean Triples was already stated and proven algebraically within the Baudhayana Sutras – an ancient scripture written in the 8th-century BCE.
Baudhayana, an Indian Vedic Mathematician and the author of the Baudhayana Sutras, was also the first to ever use and calculate the accurate value of π (pi). The aforementioned is yet another example of a development that is credited to another Greek Philosopher, Archimedes.
The knowledge within the Upanishads has garnered the attention of many in the past. This also includes the Persians who requested that the Upanishads be translated to the Persian language from Sanskrit so that it can become accessible to the major parts of Europe at that time. During that time, Persia was known to educate the Greeks with the knowledge gained from the translated Upanishads which also played a major role in inspiring and influencing the Greek Philosophers.
According to the above-presented evidence and facts, it can be concluded that India was a major influencer when it came to developing Greek Philosophy.