Hinduism and Buddhism in Greek Philosophy

A. N. Marlow
Philosophy East and West 4, no. 1, APRIL 1954.
(c) by The University Press of Hawaii
p.35-45


. p.35 THE PARALLELS between Greek and Indian literature, mythology, and philosophy have been stressed often since the days of Sir William Jones,who drew an elaborate and forced comparison between the Hindu philosophical systems and their supposed counterparts in the Greek schools(1) and the days of Colebrooke, who also had some concise remarks to make on the subject(2). Recent scholars have restated some of the evidence, notably S. Radhakrishnan (3) and attention is being increasingly directed to the channels by which Indian influence reached Greece. The purpose of this paper is merely to cite a few of the parallels between the two literatures, and paricularly between Hinduism and much of the thought of Plato, so as to, indicate their affinity of type more than their identity of origin. Radhakrishnan, as his subject demands, is naturally more concerned with the religious aspects of the question. There seems to have been an early and common stock of primitive beliefs about the heavenly bodies and the face of Nature generally. For example, in the Aitareya Braahma.na there is a passage describing the nocturnal journey of the Sun back to its starring point,(4) which may contain in primitive form the legend which appears in Stesichorus(5) and Mimnermus of the Sun's traveling over the ocean in a cup. Mimnermus says: "For a delightful hollow couch bears him over the wave, a couch forged by the hand of Hephaistus, made of precious gold, winged, which bears him sleeping over the water's surface, hurrying him back from the land of the Hesperides to the land of the Ethiopians."(6) Here Athenaeus says that by "couch" Mimnermus meant cup.(7) _____________________________________________________ (1) Sir William Jones, Works, Vol I (London: for John Stockdale, 1807) , pp.360-361. Jones compares Gautama with Aristotle, Ka.naada with Thales, Jaimini with Socrates, Vyaasa with Plato, Kapila with Pythagoras, and Pata~njali with Zeno. (2) H.T. Colebrook, Miscellaneous Essays, Vol. I (London: Williams and Norgate, 1837), pp.436 ff. (3) Eastern Religious and Western Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939), especially Chaps. V-VII. (4) III.44. (5) See C. M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp.86-88. (6) Fr.10 Diehl, Anthologia Lyrica Graeca (3d ed; Leipzig: 1949). See also Stesichorus Fr. 6 Diehl. (7) II. 470a. p.36 The Hindu pantheon, of course, shows great affinities with that of the early Greeks, since both are derived from a common source,and the Vedas contain the earliest expression of that worship of the heavenly bodies which persists right down to the time of the Stoics.(8) The legend of Earth and Heaven as the patents of the gods, the earliest Greek form of which is in Hesiod,(9) is common in the .Rg Veda. In .Rg Veda X.190 and X.168 water is the primary principle, which develops into the world through time, sa^mvatsara (year) , kaama(desire) , puru.sa (intelligence), and tapas (warmth); and in X.190 water is pictured or assumed as the first principle. Similar confused atttempts to picture the first principle an found in Iliad XIV.2O1 and 246, when Oceanus is the "origin of the gods" and the "origin of all the gods"; and in the Orphic poems, where night is the most ancient goddess, a bird with black wings.(10) Hesiod inclines more to the Orphic view,(11) but there is a similar confusion in the Greek and Vedic accounts of the beginnings, and the confusion lies between the same claimants to the title of first god. Many of the gods are the same: Dyaus is Zeus, Varuna becomes Ouranos, U.sas becomes Eos,and Agni is the primitive god of fire, who does not emerge in Greek but has a shadowy personification as the Latin Ignis. The A'svins, "horsemen," inseparable twins, bright lords of brilliance and lustre, protectors of mankind, who are referred to in many hymns, are the Dioscuri, whose principal later function was that of protecting gods, theoi soteves, mighty helpers of man, delighters in steeds, princes, Anakes or Anaktes.(12) The Hindu conception of .Rta, the law of Nature, or "course of things," has the same scope as the Greek dike,(13) and a saying of Heraclitus,'The sun shall not transgress its bounds,"(14) might have been written with .Rg Veda I.24.8 and I.160.1 in mind. The Hindus have their Prometheus in Matari'svan(15) who stole fire from the sky and entrusted it to the keeping of the Bhrigus, a warlike clan. Their god, Soma,upon whom Whittier wrote a poem ('"The Brewing of Soma"), part of which has become a popular hymn ("Dear Lord and Father of man- _____________________________________________________ (8) Cf. Chrysippus Fr. 1076 (Arnim): "He thinks the sun and moon other stars to be gods. (9) Thegony 126 ff. (10) Otto Kern, Orphicorum Fragmenta, 2470 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1922). (11) Theogony 116 ff. (12) Plutarch, Thesens 33; Strabo V. 232; Aelian, V.H. I. 30; IV. 5; Aristophanes, Lysistrata 1301; Pausanias I 31.1, VIII. 21 fin. (13) Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Vol. I (London: George Allen and Unwin. Ltd. 1923) pp 78-80: F. R. Earp the way of the Greeks (London: Oxford University Press, 1930), passim. (14) B94 Diels-Kranz, Die Fragments der Vorsokratiker (Berlin: Weidmannsche Verlagbuchhandlung, 1951). (15) .Rg Veda I. 60. p.37 kind, Forgive our foolish ways..."), has the same characteristics as Dionysus. In both Greek and Hindu poetry rivers ate constantly personified as gods, and the form of sacrifice prescribed in the .Rg Veda is very similar to the simple ritual of Homer-prayer, sprinkling of grain, burnt offering, tasting of flesh, and dedication to the gods. 'These agreements," writes Radhakrishnan, "indicate that the two peoples must have been in contact at some early period, but neither possessed any recollection of those times and they met as strangers within the Persian Empire."(16) In dealing with pre-Socratic thought, we constantly find ourselves in an atmosphere more akin to that of the Orient than to that of the West. As the late professor F. H. Smith pointed out,(17) the apeiron of Anaximander is almost exactly the Hindu nirvikalpa, the nameless and formless, called Aditi, the unlimited, in the .Rg Veda. Moreover,this Aditi which is nirvi-kalpa, is ordered by the immanent .Rta or dharma,(18) just as in Anaximander an immanent dike ensures that all things shall eventually return to the apeirron whence they came: "From which all things take their rise, and by necessity they are destroyed into these; for all things render just atonement to one another for their injustice according to the due ordering of time."(19) In the more imaginative view of the Upani.sads,we find that a personal god, Prajaapati ("lord of creatures"), draws forth from himself all existing things, or, in mother passage, (20) divides himself into male and female and producer all creatures by this self-division. One might adduce here the similar Chinese doctrine of yang and yin, the principles of expansion and contraction by which the world is formed from chaos. Empedocles stems to be expressing similar idea or, rather, combining it with the equally ancient doctrine of primordial strife, also found in the Upani.sads: "I will tell you a twofold truth: at one time it increased so as to be one out of many and at another it parted so as to produce many from one. For twofold is the creation of mortals and twofold their decline. The union of all things causes the birth and destruction of the one, and the other is nurtured and flies asunder as the elements grow apart. And then elements never cease to be continually exchanged coming together at times under the influence of love so as to become one, and being separated at other times through the force of strife."(21) Heraclitus shares two fundamental doctrines with 'the early schools of Buddhism-that fire is the primary element and that all things are momen- _____________________________________________________ (16) Indian Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 118. (17) Religion, Sept. 1950, p.81. (18) RRg Veda IV.23.9. (19) Diels, B 1. (20) Brrhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad I. ii.4; I. iv. 3-4. (21) Diels, B 17. p.38 tary and pass away. It seems almost too great a coincidence to imagine that two such striking and radical doctrines should have arisen independently in two places at about the same time. Here the confusion of Indian chronology and the obscurity surrounding the life of Heraclitus are great obstacles, but it is quite certain that the floruit of the Buddha was in the latter part of the sixth century, and that he adopted many ideas from earlier schools. Traces of the belief in fire as the primordial element occur as early as the .Rg Veda, (22) and are treated philosophically in the Upani.sads. The Buddha, like Heraclitus, chooses fire as the most mutable of the elements to represent his metaphysical principle of becoming, and has a long discourse in which he compares the existence of beings to the candle flame that is renewed every instant.(23) Here one thinks of Empedocles, Fr. B62 (Diels): "Hear now how fire when separated sent up the night-produced shoots of men and lamenting women," and of Hetaclitus, Fr. B30 (Diels): "No god nor man ever created this world which is the same for all, but it was and is and ever will be everlasting fire." Again, the Buddha uses in the same discourse(24) the analogy of the river which is never the same for two moments but is sustained by ever-new waters, a sentiment echoed in Hetaclitus, Fr. B91 (Diels): "Ever different is the water for those who step into the same rivers," and by the famous saying quoted by Atistotle, "It is not possible to step into the same river twice."(25) Probably Fr. B6 (Diels) refers to the same belief in the momentariness of existence, "The sun... is new every day." For the Buddha, the fundamental principle of existence was the immutable dharma (law) which decreed that every smallest action and word earned its reward, not an ounce more or less. This principle obviously dates back to the Upani.sads or earliet, but the Buddha was the first to enthrone it as the ruling power in the universe, a universe completely free from the tyranny of gods. Heraclitus may be thinking of dharma in Fr. B2 (Diels): "So we must follow the common principle, for that is shared by all," for obviously this common principle must be a universal law. We meet it again in Fr. B41 (Diels): "For wisdom consists in one thing, to know the principle by which all things are steered through all things" (or "on alI occasions"). These opinions of Heraclitus are expressed in short, pithy, and difficult sayings which remind us very much of suutras. The epistemology of Empedocles presents several features which resemble those to be found in the Upani.sads or in the various Hindu systems. For instance, according to the Saa^mkhya doctrine, the world as the object of per- _____________________________________________________ (22) See e.g., i.67. (23) Mahavagga i. 121. (24) Ibid., i 123. (25) Diels, B91. p.39 ception has the five tanmatras (roughly, "subtle elements") , and each of these is perceived by something corresponding to it in ourselves,(24) which is Empedocles' own doctrine, he being in fact the first Greek to propound a thorough theory of sense perception: "For by earth we perceive earth, by water water, by air divine air and by fire destructive fire." (27) Anyone who studies the Hindu theories of perception and cognition as set forth in the Nyaaya, Vai'se.sika, and Saa^mkhya systems and then turns to the fragments of Empedocles cannot but be struck by the similarity of their theories. Empedocles is keenly conscious of a sort of "fall of man" and affects to remember past births as plant and animal, boy and girl.(28) The way by which the original bliss may be gained, from which he is now an exile,(29) is by asceticism, the Hindu method. He advises meditation, for by this means all truth shall be revealed and even supernormal powers attained.(30) In the end, the soul of the righteous ascetic regains its divinity--a counterpart of the Hindu belief in reincarnation and mok.sa. See, in particular, Empedocles, B.146 (Diels): "At the end they became seers and bards and chiefs and physicians among mortal men, and finally they blossom forth as gods highest in honor." There may even be an echo of the monism of the Upani.sads in Empedocles, which, like many other features of his philosophy, seems to have been mediated through Orphism. In the Maa.n.duukya Upani.sad I.7 we find a list of the qualities of the One, which has resemblances to Fr. B17 (Diels) of Empedocles as quoted above. A distinct tradition of mysticism runs through Orphism, Pythagoras, and Plato which is as unlike anything in Greek thought as it is like the Hindu mysticism of the Upani.sads. There is a distinct break with rationalist humanism and with the healthy unreflecting extraversion of the seventh and sixth centuries. Instead of Homer's "Themselves he made a prey to dogs,"(31) we have a complete shifting of emphasis from the physical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal. Reality is not now what is perceived by the senses but what lies beyond them. The soul lives an independent life and is in itself the only true reality. Orphism and Hinduism have much in common. Just as the Brahmins kept the belief of the shamans or medicine men of the Vedas that man could become a god, but attempted to achieve this union not by drinking the intoxi- _____________________________________________________ (26) A doctrine based on Pra'sna Uphi.sad, IV.8. (27) Diels, B109. (28) Diels, B117. (29) Ibid., B119. (30) Ibid., B110, B111. (31) II. i.4. p.40 cating soma but by abstinence and ascetic practices so Orpheus purified the old Dionysiac religion and substituted asceticism for drunkenness.(32) The aim of Orphism seems to be the liberation of the soul from the chains of the body, and this is to be achieved by asceticism but man must pass through many lives before he achieves final freedom. This is very far, indeed, from genuine Greek religion of any period,(33) but almost exactly the predominant view of the Upani.sads. Even the metaphors in which this conception is clothed are the stock Hindu and Buddhist metaphors-the wheel of life in the Upani.sads appears as the "sorrowful weary wheel" of Orpheus.(34) It has been remarked that the aim of Orphism, the realization by man of his identity with God,would have appeared blasphemous insolence to a sixth-century Athenian. In the details of Orphic abstinence we again come across familiar practice. The avoidance of flesh and fish is due to the doctrine of transmigration, and in the Orphic abstinence from animal sacrifice there seem to be traces of the primitive taboo which, according to the latest evidence,(35) gave rise to the caste system and to the doctrine of ahi^msaa (non-injury or reverence for life). Indeed, it is a striking feature of Orphism that it inculcates friendliness to all creatures and not man alone. Again, the Orphic cosmogony is different from that of Homer and Hesiod. Instead of having Ocean as the origin of all things, we have a world-egg an idea common in the Vedas;(36) we also have the soul's journey after death toward final purification. The evidence here is very tentative, since chronology often fails as a guide, but once again the parallels are highly suggestive. In Pythagoras,too, there are many parallels to Hinduism, but the evidence has been differently interpreted by different scholars. All I can attempt is a brief recapitulation of the evidence. A fundamental doctrine was that "we are strangers in this world and the body is the tomb of the soul, and yet that we are not to escape by self-murder; for we are the chattels of God who it our herdsman, and without his command we have no right to make our escape."(37) The belief in transmigration is mistakenly attributed by Herodotus to the Egyptians, and was apparently taken over by Pythagoras from an Oriental source; along with this came the prohibition of the slaughter _____________________________________________________ (32) Albert Schweitzer, Indian, Thought and its Development, Mrs. Charles E. B. Russell trans. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1936) , pp. 21-23. J. E. Harrison. Prolegomena to the Study Greek Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1903). p 477. (33) See on this W. K. C. Gutrie Orpheus and Greek Religion (London: Methuen, 1935), pp 236-237. (34) Kern, op. cit., Fr.36 (c) line 6. (35) See J. H. Hutton Caste in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946). pp 62-79. (36) E,g, .Rg. Veda X. 82.5-6. (37) J. Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (4th ed. London: A. & C. Black, 1930), p.98. p.41 of animals and the vegetarian diet. The doctrine of purification by ascetic practices and by theoria (contemplation) seems familiar. Even the secrecy of the doctrine and the refusal to commit it to writing reminds us of the very meaning of the word "Upani.sad, a "confidential communication" And the separation of the disciples into two grades, the matbematikoi (inner circle) and the akousmatikoi (outer ring of listeners),(38) reminds us of the two stages of instruction given by the Vedas Pad the Upani.sads, in the latter of which was found the esoteric doctrine of becoming one with the Supra-sensuous Being imparted by the Brabmin teacher to his pupil-not a sentence of this secret doctrine must be uttered before members of lower castes. Incidentally, bearing in mind these similarities between the Brabmin teaching, Orphism, and Pythagoreanism, one can hardly resist the speculation that in the Upani.sads and in the doctrines end practices based on them we may have a clue to the Greek mysteries. Did they originally inculcate simply the attainment of immortality by ecstasy in contemplation? It is interesting to find attributed to Pythagoras(39) the distinction of the three lives, the apolaustic, die practical, and the theoretic, used by Aristotle in his Ethics, and the attempt to base these three on the predominance of one or other element in human nature. This is the very core of Hindu speculation on the caste system which bases the pleas for its efficacy on the correspondence of the three castes to the three constituents of the human soul, sattva that which gives the highest bliss), rajas (that which impels to activity), and tamas (the earthly, represented by the appetites). No one can read any of Plato's dialogues without being struck by his frequent stress on the complete independence of soul and body and his equally significant insistence on the fact that the soul does not come into its own until the body is quiescent. His view of reality is not the ordinary Greek view; the philosopher has supersensual vision and recalls the beatific vision of former innocence when it was itself pure and nos enshrined in the empsychos taphos (living tomb) of the body, like an oyster in in shell.(40) The soul becomes truly itself only when it is troubled by no pain or pleasure bat is in so far as possible alone and takes leave of the body; for when it avoids contact with the body it can reach out toward reality and attain truth.(41) Having attained this transcendent calm, it dwells immortal and changeless, _____________________________________________________ (38) Aristotle seems to treat these as opposing sects, and it may be that I have read too much into the Greek terms. (39) By Heraclitus see Burnet, op. cit, p.98 (though serious doubts are thrown by Jaeger on this reference to Pythagoras). (40) Phaedrus 250. Pbaedo 65-67, Cratylus 400C. (41) Pbaedo 65A. p.42 having ceased from its long cycle of wanderings; thus the truth is always in our soul, which is immortal and has been reborn many times.(42)So,concrete existence is a phantom of reality, and the ordinary man is not truly awake but is like a somnambulist in pursuit of phantoms.(43) Or,we have the tremendous simile of the cave in the Republic, which is a pictorial form of the Hindu doctrine of maayaa (illusion), though in a dualistic system such as Plato's the idea of maayaa is replaced by that of mere appearance. As in the Upanisads, we find in Plato the Absolute Principle, which appears as the Idea of the Good in the Republic, and as the Demiurgus the personal God and creator of soul of the universe, in the Timaeus, and these two ideas exist side by side. Again, in the Republic we find the principles of logistikon, thymos, epithymia, reason, spirit, and appetite, as the basis of the whole structure, and these are bodied forth in the clams of society which are worked out with a rigidity that cannot fail to remind oat of the Indian caste system There the Brahmins, or priest, were supreme, by virtue, curiously enough, of their possessing magic formulae which enabled them to achieve union with the Absolute, but originally their hid strict duties to other class. Being enlightened, more was asked of them and they were expected to give guidance in all ranches of life. Then came the k.satriyas (warriors), then the vai'syas (businessmen), and finally the 'suudras(artisans). Of course, Plato had no room for outcastes but he keeps the order of precedence of philosopher, warrior, and artisan. In the Republic, as in Hindu society, caste and class are rigid--it was difficult for the Greek and impossible for the Hindu to change from one to another. In the Republic the guardians perch uneasily on their pinnacles, fenced round by diverse prohibitions, and it would explain a good deal of the artificiality of the fourth book if Plato were trying to introduce a form of caste system about which he had heard or read. Probably the Hindu caste system originally came into being for the reasons which Plato professes, namely, stability and eugenics. Thus, it was natural that for Plato as for the Brabmins philosophy should be a mediation on death, and the trial of Socratts is, of course, ideal for the communication of this conviction. It is strongest in the Phaedo, as for example in 64A: "It seems to be that they who are the true votaries of knowledge have escaped the notice of the rest, namely, that they practice nothing else but how to die or meet death Again, in 66E,pure knowledge is held to be the exclusive tight of those who have passed beyond this life: "If pure _____________________________________________________ (42) Ibid,79D. (43) Meno 80E. p.43 knowledge is not possible in the body, then one of two things follows, either knowledge is not to be obtained at all, or, if at all, after death." The complete man for Plato must have behind him children's children to perpetuate the race, e.g, Laws 773E, where the striving for eternal life is most illuminatingly and naturally mentioned with the leaving of descendants. These two action are corollaries, as in the Upani.sads. There is no suggestion of scholastic or monastic celibacy in either. The resemblance of Plato's ideal to that of the Upani.sads is best brought out by contrasting both with the Buddhist ideal of the arhant, the truly enlightened man who, like Ibsen, sees the world as a colossal shipwreck and conceives his first duty to be the saving of his own soul. Immortality in the Upani.sads seems to have the same connotation as athanasia in the Symposium, 207D -208A, where physical birth and death are shown as inseparably connected, and the mortal puts on immortality just in so far as he dwells in the spiritual world and sees the value of true knowledge. Compare with this teaching Satapatba Braabma.na II.ii. 2, 14 and Bhagavad-giitaa II.27. The ideal every wise man puts before himself is a quiet tranquillity of soul,(44) a phrase which aptly sums up the ideal of the yogi. So, he must be above the infatuation which results from the "power of appearance" (like the Hindu ruupa, form), for it is this power which leads men astray.(45) To be overcome by pleasure is ignorance in the highest degree,(46) and self-control is true wisdom. So,we find the metaphor of the charioteer in the Phaedrus, which verbally and in detail resembles a metaphor in the Ka.tha Upani.sad (VPlli 3) , which may be translated thus: "Know the self or AAtman as the Lord who sits in the chariot called the body; buddhi (intelligence) is the charioteer; mind the reins, the senses are the horses, and the objects are the roads. The self is the controller and enjoyer. But he who has no understanding, but is weak in mind, his senses run riot like the vicious horses of a charioteer. He who has understanding and is strong-minded, his senses are well controlled like the good horses of a charioteer." Whole tracts of Indian thought are given to theories of knowledge. Their thinkers speculate endlessly on perception and cognition, on what happens when we see a rope and imagine it to be a snake, or a shell and imagine it to be silver. Is it something in the shell? Is our cognition of it erroneous? How can one cognition destroy another without infinite regress? Are all qualities of things imoginary? In short, what is error and what truth? Unlike _____________________________________________________ (44) Ibid., 471D. (45) Protagoras 358C. (46) Ibid, 357E. p.44 jesting Pilate, the Hindu pandits never depart, even though they wait a lifetime and are not answered. The Theaetetus is full of such speculations,cut short and purged of hair-splitting, but unmistakably reminiscent, The doctrine of relativity, for instance, to which all Hindu thinking tended, is them in 152D:'I will tell you a doctrine of no commonplace kind. Nothing exists singly and by itself, and you cannot call anything of itself by any name; but if you speak of it as great, it will seem under other conditions to be small; if heavy also light; and so with everything else, on the ground of there being no single existence either as a thing or as a quality." Again, 153E: "With respect to sight, that which you call white does not exist per se as something external to your eyes, nor is it in your eyes. Do not, therefore, anign any place to it at all." It is thinking of this kind which leads, on the one hand, to the nihilism of the Buddhists and, on the other, to the theory of relative states of reality, which Plato share with the loftiest Hindu thought. In common with Indian philosophers, he is unable to give any consistent account of how the universal is embodied in the particular. This very deficiency is one of the most striking resemblances between Plato and Hinduism. Hindu philosophy is absorbed in the relative reality of various states of consciousness. First comes dreamless sleep which approaches nearest to nirvaa.na, then sleep itself, and then the waking state, but the Upani.sads refuse to ascribe more than a relative reality even to waking consciousness, for who knows when it may be sublated into something which bean the same relation to it as it does to dreams? Hence, their important doctrine of maayaa (illusion). We find this in the Theaetetus:(47) "Nay, I go further, and say that if we are half of our lives asleep, and the other half awake, in each of these periods our minds are convinced that whatever opinions present themselves to us, these are really and certainly true; so we insist on the truth of both alike." In the Cratylus the theory of the origin of language presents many similarities to that of the Nyaaya system of logic. Briefly, Plato's theory is that the true etymology of a word goes back to the individual letters of which it is composed(48) and that we must take a word syllable by syllable, nay letter by letter" (this is Ruskin,who follows Plato in Sesame and Lilies). Primary names are constructed out of rudimentary sounds, which, by the actions of the organ producing them, are natunlly suitable for reproducing processes and states. Dionysius of Halicarnassus rationalizes this process, (49) but, as Plato expounds it, it is strange. The Hindus likewise reduce the meaning of a word _____________________________________________________ (47) 158D. (48) 424 C-E. (49) De Composition Verborum, W.R.Roberts, ed.(London : Macmillan 1910). Chap.14. p.45 to the significance of its lettres, which are pronounced and perish one after the other: c, o, w. They have a term called sphota, which is roughly the essential sound of a word as revealed in the sound of its letters pronounced one after the other. Although Plato has no word for this, be certainly employs the idea. These coincidences of thought and language, each small in itself, amount to quite a formidable total. As to the problem of the way by which Indian influence reached Greece I have no new solution to offer and fall back with others on Persia as the intermediary. Of course, after the time of Alexander the way lay so open to Oriental influence that parallels become more frequent and less remarkable. (50) _____________________________________________________ (50) I have drawn my examples largely from those Upani.sads which Hindu scholars agree in considering the earliest and which must have been in existence before the fifth century, as they are quoted in writing demonstrably of that date or earlier.