India is not merely a land of mystery and wonder, but a land also of culture and of high thinking. Philosophy nourished there at least before the time of Homer; and the same problems which afterwards engaged the minds of Grecian philosophers, and which engage the minds of modern thinkers, had ages before occupied the attention of Indian sages. To this ancient philosophy of India the little volume before us forms a very good introduction. The treatise consists of three parts; the first being a brief outline of the history of Indian philosophy; the second treating of the connection between Greek and Indian Philosophy, and the third discussing Hindu Monism.
Six great systems of philosophy flourished in India during the millennium before Christ, in which the problems of existence are discussed with an acuteness and wealth of illustration that have never been excelled. And the influence of the mental life of the Hindus, in those far-off times, affected the thinking of the Greeks, and through them the thinking of the modern world. The Ionic doctrine of elements, the Eleatic idea of the unity of existence, the Heraclitic conception of becoming, and the Pythagorean theory of numbers as the principle of existence, according to our author, had their origin in the speculations of the Hindu philosophers. Not that the connection between India and Greece in the earliest times is supposed to have been direct. Our author rather suspects that the earliest Greek thinkers became acquainted with Hindu thought through Persian sources, and he suggests that the Pythagorean doctrine of numbers may have had its origin in a misunderstanding of a Hindu word. That word is Samkhya, number, which forms the name of a Hindu system of philosophy, because that system was believed to contain a complete enumeration, or number, of the principles of existence. Misunderstanding this application of the term, Pythagoras made number itself the principle of the universe; and countless philosophers have since wasted their energies in trying to understand what he could have meant. The doctrine of metempsychosis also came into Greece, not from Egypt, where it did not prevail, but from India, where it originated in the effort to explain the phenomenon of apparently innocent suffering. The Hindu believed that suffering must always be a punishment of sin; but he saw men suffering who seemed not to have been guilty of any sins in this life; hence he inferred that they must be suffering for the sins committed in another life. We mention but one more idea for which Professor Garbe supposes Greece to have been indebted to India, and that is the idea of the Logos, which was current in the Stoic philosophy as denoting the rational law and order of the universe, borrowed from this source by Philo and the Hellenists, and appropriated by the author of our fourth Gospel. The corresponding Hindu term is Vach, voice, word, which appears as the consort of Prajapati, the Creator, who, in union with it, or Tier, for the word is feminine, accomplishes his creation. We have reproduced these few ideas from the work before us merely in order to give the reader a taste of the interest attaching to it.
- The Reformed Church Review show more