The Hindu and Greek civilisations were the greatest among the civilisations of men. But today there is an attempt to give precedence to Greek civilisation. It is claimed that the Hindu civilisation has borrowed much from the Greek.
I admire both civilisations. But I am partial to truth. But what is the truth? The truth is: Dharma (ethics) has been the guiding principle of Hindu life from times we know to this day. More so when there was no code of law. But the concept of Dharma was foreign to Greeks till Socrates (4th a BC) began to preach his moral philosophy in Greece. But his preaching had no impact on their tyrant rulers. Which explains why they condemned Socrates to death. Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of Europe, faced the same fate. He had to flee his country, although he was the teacher of Alexander, the Great. Hindus never produced tyrants. Why? Because violation of Dharma brought severe punishment on the violator.
A society without a sense of justice is barbarous. Greece was just that—a barbarous society, says Draper, author of the book Intellectual Development of Europe Vol II. The idea of law was foreign to Homer (8th c BC) the epic writer. There was no morality. “The heroes of Homer are not more moral than the giants of the fairy tales,” he says. There was little respect for the gods, who were made in the image of the Greeks. Thus, Hermes was a thief, Aphrodite, voluptuous, Zeus incestuous, Aris reckless. “Homer and Hesiod” says Xenophanes, “attribute to the gods all the acts which among men are culpable and shameful.”
It is true the concept of democracy was given by the Greeks. But there was no democracy in Greece. In an Aristophanes comedy, the Chrorus ridicules the rulers of Athens.
A new class of people arose at this time called the Sophists. They opposed the beliefs of the Greeks, said that as we cannot have a standard for truth, there can be no standard for good.” They proclaimed that might was right and that they had no faith in reasoning. They promoted rhetoric in order to win their arguments. India never produced such a class. Even the atheists of India were reasonable.
It was at this time that Greece produced its greatest moral philosopher—Socrates. He was the first Greek to bring ethics into Greece. Socrates raised the status of knowledge among the Greeks. He said that virtue lay in knowledge. His teachings are to be found in the writings of Plat, his chief disciple, and Aristotle. Plato established an Akademi in Athens. His disciples founded a new philosophical system called Neo-Platonism, which was heavily influenced by Hindu philosophies, especially Vedanta. Greede was even influenced by the mystic tradition of the Hindus (Orphic movement).
The Greeks were indifferent to history. In this they were like the Hindus. But with this difference that the Greeks remembered their heroes, while the Hindus did not. They could not remember even Ashoka.
The Greeks were great lovers of drama, but of tragedy. They believed that tragedy purged the soul of its passions. The Hindus too were great lovers of drama, but they preferred comedy, because they believed that the purpose of drama was to leave the audience in a happy frame of mind.
The Greeks thought of time in cycles. In this the Hindus contribution is clear.
No study of Greek civilisation can be complete without studying the role of Asia Minor. It was the meeting point of Asia and Europe. It was under the Persian empire which extended from Punjab (India) to Asia Minor Most of the Greek philosophers were born and brought up in Asia Minor. And one cannot forget that Alexander took with him a number of Hindu scholars on his return to his native land. Nor can we forget the influence of Indian story books like Panchatantra and Dhammapada, which carried considerable material on ethics.