Socrates’ Meeting with a Hindu Saint

big socrates

Compiled by London Swaminathan

Post No. 858 Date 22nd February 2014

My compilation below mentions several Greek scholars. Who are they?

Socrates (499- 399 BC) Greek Philosopher
Plato (427-347 BC) Philosopher and Student of Socrates
Glaucon (445- 400 BC) Plato’s older brother & Philosopher
Xenophon(430- 354 BC) Greek Historian
Eusubius (263-339 AD) Roman historian
Aristoxenus (Around 335 BC) Greek Philosopher

Socrates and superstition

Xenophon says that Socrates was frequently seen sacrificing at home and on the public altars of the city (memorabilia 1-1-2)
According to Plato, the last words of Socrates were: ‘Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?’ (Plato 118)
Source: Dr S Radhakrishnan’s Introduction to The Dhammapada.

Socrates Meeting with a Hindu Saint

A passage in Eusebius relates an encounter between Socrates and a Hindu Sage. The passage runs: Aristoxenus, the musician tells the following story about the Indians. One of these men met Socrates at Athens, and asked him what was the scope of his philosophy. ‘An inquiry into the human phenomena’ replied Socrates. At this the Indian burst out laughing. ‘How can a man inquire into the human phenomena’, he said, when he is ignorant of divine ones?”

The Greek ideal, echoed in western philosophies, is:”Man know thyself!”. A Hindu would say, “Man Know thyself”. The dictum Descartes: ‘I think therefore I am”, is not philosophically valid. The reasoning faculties cannot shed light on man’s ultimate Being. The human mind, like transitory world that it cognizes, is in perpetual flux and can yield no finalities in tellectual satisfaction is not the highest goal. The seeker of god is the real lover of Vidya, unchangeable truth; all else is avidya, relative knowledge.

Source: Page 367, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Socrates was a Vegetarian!

The quote, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields” penned by Leo Tolstoy, is reinforced by another great mind in human history. Socrates was a vegetarian who taught that virtue was based on knowledge. He was indicted for impiety, as well as the corruption of youth and was condemned to death. He refused to flee and died by drinking hemlock in 399 BC.

This excerpt from Plato’s “Republic”, who was a pupil of Socrates and one of the only 2 sources we can look to for his actual teachings, is in line with Tolstoy’s argument. It is simple dialogue between Socrates and Gloucon:

Socrates: Would this habit of eating animals not require that we slaughter animals that we knew as individuals, and in whose eyes we could gaze and see ourselves reflected, only a few hours before our meal?
Glaucon: This habit would require that of us.
Socrates: Wouldn’t this [knowledge of our role in turning a being into a thing] hinder us in achieving happiness?
Glaucon: It could so hinder us in our quest for happiness.
Socrates: And, if we pursue this way of living, will we not have need to visit the doctor more often?
Glaucon: We would have such need.

Socrates: If we pursue our habit of eating animals, and if our neighbor follows a similar path, will we not have need to go to war against our neighbor to secure greater pasturage, because ours will not be enough to sustain us, and our neighbor will have a similar need to wage war on us for the same reason?
Glaucon: We would be so compelled.
Socrates: Would not these facts prevent us from achieving happiness, and therefore the conditions necessary to the building of a just society, if we pursue a desire to eat animals?
Glaucon: Yes, they would so prevent us.

Source : AELLA Website for vegetarianism


I have already published seven articles in this blog emphasizing the strong connection between India and Greece. The articles are about Alexander’s encounter with naked Hindu saints, Delphi oracles and Tamil fortune tellers, Drinking poison: Shiva Socrates and Valluvar, Know thyself in Pyramids, Tirumular and Socrates, Greek – Tamil connection, Imaginary 60 second interview with Socrates etc.

Pictures are taken from different sources. Thanks.