Impact of Hindu thought on the modern West through Greek thought

Impact of Hindu thought on the modern West through Greek thought – By Khandavalli Satya Deva Prasad.

(Ref: Rajiv Malhotra, BEING DIFFERENT, an Indian challenge to Western Universalism, Harper Collins publishers India, 2011. ISBN:978-93-5029-190-0).

Thomas McEvilley has explained the likely Indian origins of some aspects of Indian thought. For instance, he says the western intellectuals’ cover-up of the likely Indian origins of Plotinus protects western identity and historicity. “The view of Plotinus as a kind of proto-christian theologian may express, atleast in part, a dread of finding possible Indian origins for the texts whose influence was to contribute to shaping the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Nicolas of Cusa, Meister Eckhart, and many later western thinkers. So it is not only that “to admit oriental influence on (Plotinus) was tantamount to besmirching his good name”, but even more, it would also besmirch that whole aspect of the western tradition that flowed from him. If Plotinus had passed massive Asian influence into the western tradition, there would be little point to calling it western tradition.”(McEvilly, T. The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, New York: Allworth Press, 2001:550).

St.Augustine and Aquinas, the conduits for Greek thought to christian theology:
Augustine Aurelius, Bishop of Hippo (354 cE- 430 cE), is considered the most influential early christian theologian after st.paul. He was one of the most prolific Church writers and dealt with a vast range of theological issues facing the Church in his day, and this had a big influence on the politics of Rome. He started out as a well-known orator who had studied the philosophy of Plato and was also heavily influenced by Plotinus. Augustine then became a Christian at age 32. Eight centuries later came the next big leap in theology from Aquinas. It is widely accepted that Aquinas used Aristotle to formulate his entire christian theology. Jewish scholars in Toledo, Spain under Islamic rule, had translated Aristotle’s works, and this triggered a need for a christian response. Aquinas’s theory of knowledge is not a vision of divine truth (contrary to what one expects from a rishi) but rather a christianized revision of Aristotle’s philosophy. It is ironic that christian Rome contributed to the destruction of the Greek libraries. These documents were preserved by islamic scholars , and it was these old Greek manuscripts that became available to Europe at the end of the crusades. Thus began the appropriation of Greek pagan intellectual works to construct what is now called christian theology. While scholars know all this and write about it, the common westerner (and the Hindu, whose philosophical heritage forms the ultimate and original source of Greek thought and through the latter, of christian thought, albeit in a much mutilated manner) is shielded from these facts and taught that christian theology is internally inspired.

The lessons for Hindus: Since long Christian scholars have been working on the huge project of appropriating Hindu wisdom and practices in the most heinous, dishonest manner by not acknowledging their debt to Hinduism and on top of it they are also working overtime to destroy the very Hindu identity so that they can flaunt the stolen Hindu intellectual property as their own without impunity. This they already did to the Greek intellectual property. A case in point is American author Ken Wilber who ‘is trying to formulate an integral philosophy that embraces (again, without acknowledgement) the Buddhist wisdom and Hindu inner sciences’(P.150 of Being Different). Elsewhere Swamy Vivekananda also mentioned this kind of unacknowledged appropriation of Indian wisdom by western christians to enrich their culture. This poses a double threat to Hindus. One they go on praise and mentally surrender to the christian west in the belief that what all it flaunts is its own. This strengthens the chains that bind the Hindu to the west with its consequent dependence and lack of self-confidence. This leads to slow death of Hindu culture and turns the society that once embodies Hindu culture into a mere christian clone. The more immediate danger is that with his silly unthinking ‘take the good from wherever it is’ fetish Hindus will renew their dependence and blind fascination of christian values by exchanging them for Hindu values. This brings the end of Hinduism faster. This is how Roman civilization was subdued and later obliterated by the christians.

To Do:

1) do not naively and lavishly praise the ‘other’ without making sure that the other really deserves praise. Even then cautiously word your appreciation. Do not develop undue fascination for things not Indian in the false sense of openness etc. etc.
2) Do some homework before forming positive opinion of the ‘other’. Because for too long the Hindu has became mentally ‘flabby’ and maudlin. He needs to build up mental vigor and masculinity. This is part of what Vamadeva Sastry calls intellectual kshatriyahood.
3) Those who are more equipped and interested may investigate the Hindu influence on Neo Platonism of which Plotinus is the stalwart. Because neo Platonism is the bed rock of which christian theology, christian mysticism and christian this and that are the pale imitations. Once you trace the source of christian legacy which ultimately ends up in Hindu wisdom as is shown above, much of the steam of christian aggression goes off.
4) Here again the typical Hindu naivety may take over and one may exclaim lo! Christianity has come from Hinduism. So what is wrong if we became christians or praise christianity as a true path to moksha! Far from being a path to moksha, christianity is not even a path to Iswara(god). It is a crude, violent, barbarous expansionist mafia movement. What christianity did to Greek thought is to suck the latter’s vitals and its prestige to expand christian asuric movement. So in the process Greece lost and christianity gained. Similar will be the fate of Hinduism if this nefarious game is allowed to continue. Let us give to and take from a positive source. Christianity and Christian west has never been a positive force. Whatever positive is in the west it is gained only after getting rid of its Christian baggage. We have no quarrel with that positive aspect. Let us have symbiotic relation with the positive, non-christian elements of the west. Let us not fall prey to a parasitic relationship with christian west. Because christianity has all along been a parasite. It sucked up Egypt, Greece, pagan Rome, Maya, Aztec, Inca and many other cultures. Now it is gunning for Hindu wealth- intellectual and otherwise. Let us beware.
5) To remedy this, the educated Hindus should make efforts to inform themselves of these intellectual wars and enlighten their brethren. It is no use saying I am a softwarewallah, or MBAwallah. All educated Hindus have to take up this task. Remember, men like Lokamanya Tilak were not indologists by training. But they exerted themselves because of their love for Hindu culture and produced path breaking works in indology (Orion etc) and Sanskrit classics (Gita Rahasya). Also remember that a legal fellow like William jones worked hard to subvert Hinduism by producing works in sanskrit studies.


More on platonic and neo-platonic influence on christianity:
Much in Plato that foreshadowed Christianity. Yes, he was not a Christian but his understanding of the Nous is a pre-Christian description of John’s Logos.
Likewise Plato’s Form the GOOD, from which all other Forms flow, is the Gnostic myth of the Heavenly Anthropos. The neo-Platonist, Plotinus, embellished on Plato’s work and Plotinus’ pupil Prophyry’s editing of the Enneads established a school of neo-Platonism that influenced all Christian theologians who came after him including the Scholastics and Thomas Aquinas until Aquinas successfully replaced Platonism with Aristotelianism as the philosophical base of Christianity.
The Christian understanding of the soul is deeply indebted to Plotinus.
Orthodox Christianity, to become credible outside Palestine in the greater Greco-Roman world, embraced Platonic philosophy and made much of it its own.
Subsequently, the neo-Platonism of Plotinus informed Christian theologians including Origin, Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, Basil, John Chrysostom, Ephrem, Ambrose, and Jerome.

The irony is that while the Pagans Plato and Plotinus were informing the theology of the Fathers of the Church, the Council of Ancyra in 314 published 20 canons that discriminated against Pagans, Jews, and Christian heretics. However, the Council went farther than simple discrimination in that it forbade any social interaction between Christians and Pagans, Jews, and Christian heretics by legitimizing the destruction of their houses of worship, personal property, and physical assault. Thus it is the Council of Ancyra that legitimized Christian destruction of Paganism including the Gnostic sects and codified anti-Semitism as Christian doctrine.

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