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
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.
(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
(7) II. 470a.
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
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:
(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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
(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.
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
(43) Meno 80E.
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
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?
(44) Ibid., 471D.
(45) Protagoras 358C.
(46) Ibid, 357E.
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
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
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
(48) 424 C-E.
(49) De Composition Verborum, W.R.Roberts, ed.(London
: Macmillan 1910). Chap.14.
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
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) 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.