Socrates, the greatest of all oral communicators, was freaking out over “the very latest communications technology, written language based on an alphabet” though as Powers concedes, “writing wasn’t completely new”. Socrates believed that scrolls would erode thought by permitting people to forget what they had learned because they’d be able to look things up, that “they wouldn’t feel the need to ‘remember it from the inside, completely on their own.’ ” Worse, writing wouldn’t “allow ideas to flow freely and change in real time, the way they do in the mind during oral exchange.” (via Born to Check Mail By LAURIE WINER, Published: July 9, 2010, Book Review – Hamlet’s Blackberry – By William Powers – NYTimes.com).
Indian yogis in Athens
Socrates was a great believer in oral teaching. The shruti tradition in India was alive before Socrates was born. Was that a coincidence? After all, Valmiki committed to palm leaves pre-existing history. Similarly, Krishna Dwaipayan Vyasa wrote the pre-existing history of Mahabharata!
Mentioned by Aristoxenus and recalled by Eusebius, Socrates’ encounter with an Indian yogi however, is not well-known. Mentions of the Athenian encounter between the Indian yogi and Socrates are a rarity in modern history. Socrates was accused of
disrespect for the gods whom the state recognizes, of introducing new divinities and of corrupting the young
Socrates was condemned to death by poison. Compare this to Indian ethics which forbid violence against the intellectual class – the Indian brahmins, priests, and rishis.
What were the alien gods that Socrates was promoting? What was it that Socrates was teaching that ‘corrupted the Greek youth’. The alien gods and teachings that Socrates was accused of promoting – were these from India?
Why would the ancient Greeks be anti-Indian?
Pliny’s ‘moralizing verdict on the Roman trade with India,’ borders on being an anti-India polemic. Pliny’s India writing’s remain a significant academic memory even today.
Why the anti-Indian polemic?
Indic ideas that threatened the world
Indian teachers and intellectuals were sent to all corners of the world. The spread of Buddhism in Asia is well-chronicled. In 2nd century AD, Origen, a Christian pioneer, attributed the spread of Christianity “The island (Britain) has long been predisposed to it (Christianity) through the doctrines of the Druids and Buddhists, who had already inculcated the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead”
Mani, the Buddhist teacher, and his adherents, known to Christians as Manicheans were the nightmare for Christianity till the 15th century, feared by the Vatican for a 1200 years. Vatican killed, burnt and quartered all those who displayed any leaning towards Manichean-ism.
St.Augustine was canonised for his conversion from Manichean to Christianity. When Mani called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. Islamic invaders searched and destroyed statues or boet /buta (meaning statues of Buddha?).
The reason behind this ‘persecution’?
Indian economic system in 500 BC ensured property rights for all – something that Europe could achieve only in the 19th century. Property, wealth and power concentrations in Greece would be threatened by Indic thought.
Travelling salesmen stop travelling
From 5th century we increasingly see more stories of visits to India. Visits by Indian rishis begin to dry up. The last Indo-Buddhist seems to be Mani.
1000 years after Mani’s death, the Vatican was afraid of his his ‘hold’ over the European populations.
On a still summer afternoon in Haridwar, under the platform that was the gaddi office of Gangaram, Dhagdu, from Bihar, who uses just one name, crouched with his family. They waited for their turn, the moment when they would be noticed and the record keeper would write their names into the book. “We want our descendants to know that someone in their family had been here to Haridwar and attended a Mahakumbh,” said Dhagdu, rasping through betel nut stained teeth.
Minutes later, Ravindra Bharadwaj, an important-looking man with a walrus moustache, who sat surrounded by bahis—scrolls that house records of visiting families— summoned them.
Without looking at the family, Bharadwaj shot off questions—“What village? What caste? Your father’s name? Grandfather’s name?”—that left Dhagdu confused. Hasty consultations commenced as Bharadwaj tapped an impatient pen on thick, handmade paper: he was not idle, he had things to do.
When the answers were found, Bharadwaj began writing in Devnagari, slowly and deliberately—“Dhagdu, son of Ghela, grandson of Chuniya, hailing from Banka district of Bihar, visited Haridwar in April 2010, with his wife and two sons—Rohit and Ram. He was here to attend the Mahakumbh.” Asked to sign, Dhagdu pressed an ink-stained thumb on the paper. (via Modernization plan runs into ancient biases – Economy and Politics – livemint.com).
Keeping such traditions and records alive – without State patronage or support, is without parallel in the world. Indian brahmans have a great history – as indeed India itself has!
Alexander – an ethnic ‘cleanser’?
Some 23 centuries ago, Alexander massacred 8,000-10,000 Brahmins – most probably, from the Takshashila University. It was this massacre that possibly started the decline of Takshashila - and not some silly fiction of a Huna invasion.
The ‘provocation’ for this massacre was the active role of the Takshashila Brahmans in organizing Indian rulers to jointly face the Greek invasion.
Violence against intellectuals, (Brahmans) is taboo in India. Killing intellectuals, came easily to Alexander.
Remember, the execution of Socrates!
Those who learn from history
Upper-caste ‘Brahmans’ became exploiters. Indian kings ruled like oriental despots. Indian baniya, thou art an unscrupulous and unethical cheat! As for the ‘dispossessed’ peasant, or worker, he was a born liar and lazy shirker! Dirty Indians, all of us! The British Raj, was of course, enlightened, progressive, egalitarian.
And full of liberty.
Greek lessons in India
To puncture Indian campaign for self-rule, independence, the British propaganda machinery shot multiple arrows.
Against Lal-Bal-Pal, the British pitted Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Phule, Agarkar, Gokhale. Subhash Chandra Bose’s foil was Gandhiji. And the ‘evil’ caste system as the excuse for Indian ‘backwardness’! To cover up the daridra (poverty), dushkal (famine) and dravyashosha (drain), the British offered India ‘education’, ‘social reform.’
Patterned on the lines of a superior culture like Britain.
British legacy in India
Wonder why the Great British culture is taking them nowhere!
After they lost their slaves (in 1830), after the end of piracy (1860) and the end of colonies (1960). Even with a hybrid, mongrel polity, India has emerged as a significant economic force within 60 years of British departure.
Wonder what India missed by a doing this hybrid shindig – instead of a full Indic.