Post No. 11,030

Date uploaded in London – –    19 JUNE 2022         

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Lucius Apuleius (125-180 CE) was a Roman scholar who lived in Algeria in Africa; in the first and second centuries it was part of Roman empire; known as Numidia. Apuleius wrote the Latin novel The Golden Ass.  He commented on Hindu saints. For Latin and Greek writers, Hindu saints were called Gymnosophists. Here is his comment on Hindu saints:

“Among Indians, there is a superior class, the Gymnosophists. I admire them more than any other. They are not expert in growing vineyards, neither in grating trees, neither in ploughing fields. They do not know to till the soil, nor to purify gold, nor to break in horse, nor to tame a bull, not to shear a sheep, nor to graze goats.

What to say? In place of all that, they know only one thing.  They, old masters and younger disciples pursue knowledge and wisdom. And among their qualities I do not praise anyone more than their reluctance for laziness of mind and for idleness. When the food is ready, before the meals are served, all the young people assemble, each returning from his own occupations. The teachers ask them what good action they have done from sunrise up to the present moment.

One says, he was an arbitrator between quarrelling parties, and he stopped the quarrel, brought back good will, suppressed suspicions and changed enemies into good friends. Another one says he complied with an order of his parents. Another one says he learned something from his own reflections or through the explanations of somebody else. If one has nothing to bring to his credit to be admitted to the meal, he is turned away to work without eating (Florides 6.6-11; quoted in L’Inde vue de Rome- India seen from Rome; Les Belles Lettres, 1986)

For the ancient classical authors, a Gymnosophist is the generic word for all kinds of sages and wise people.

This rather ingenuous and naïve description of a class of professional sages, who knows nothing else than wisdom, calls to mind the more imposing description of  SISTAS given by Patanjali in his Maha bhasya.

“Who are the Sistas?

They are known as Sistas from their residence and from their conduct. And this conduct is seen only in Aryavarta. The Brahmins who live in this residence of Aryavarta, who have a measure of grains for two or three days only in their reserve, who have no greed, who are disinterested, who have gone up to the end of any science without any difficulty, are the honourable Sistas.

Patanjali used the word who have Kumbhidhanya.

What is Kumbhidhanya?

Kumbhi is a measure of capacity, i.e. of the quantity sufficient for two or three days (Narayaniya).

Patanjali himself explains,

A Srotria is told to be Kumbhidhanya.

Kumbhidhanya means ‘one who has grain only in a Kumbhi’. If one has more grain elsewhere he is not Kumbhidhanya.

It is opposite to Kusuuladhanya which refers to one who has a reserve in a large granary and is a denomination of rich individual.



ROMAN WRITER ,APULEIUS,  ON HINDU SAINTS, Kumbhidhanya, Sista, Patanjali

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