Date – 16.09.2002
The reason of doing Socrates and Plato with you was the following; you cannot understand western mentality, western mind, unless you are well grounded in Socrates and Plato. This was preceded by my talks on the Veda and Dharma. The reason was that you cannot understand the Indian mind or the eastern mind without understanding the Veda and the concept of Dharma. If you want to start the synthesis of the East and the West, which is one of the goals of Auroville itself, you should have a good grounding of the Veda and the concept of Dharma on one hand and Socrates and Plato on the other.
So, I might say that you have already been put on the train of the meeting of the East and the West. You’ve only been put on the train not that you have even started the journey or if started, you have just you have started the journey and it's a long way to go. Actually, these are the things that remain with you for your whole life. Mother once told me, what should be the duration of our education, so Mother said, ‘there are certain things, which you can study over a short period but there are certain things which are to be learnt for the whole life’.
How East and West can meet together is a great subject, which is to be learnt throughout your life. Even today after years of my studies, I must tell you that I'm still a student in this subject, how to bring East and West together. So, if you have been put on the train, it itself is a great fortune. There is no university in India, which has done this kind of the course that you are doing with me. I can tell you confidently because I'm quite aware of what is being done in the eastern universities and what is being done in the western universities. There is no course in which over a period of one or two years, and very briefly, without burdening the students they have been put on the train of Veda and Dharma, on one hand and Socrates and Plato on the other. There is no university in the country and the world where these four lessons are given almost side–by–side. So you might say that it is in Auroville only that has provided this great opportunity. And I'm very happy that we have gone through this exercise.
On the same train, I want to present to you Aristotle. All those who are new now, they may not have that benefit which you have already but it doesn't matter, one can start the train anywhere in this world. One can start even with Aristotle directly without understanding Socrates and Plato provided that you have the material. I've written this article in such a way that right from the beginning of Greek thought, Socrates and Plato up to Aristotle, are summarised very briefly in three pages, which is a very good exercise. I have spoken there of Parmenides, Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato in these three pages. I have introduced all that is to be learned basically of Greek thought as a kind of a preface to Aristotle.
The importance of Aristotle in western thought is so enormous that for 2000 years in the western history after Aristotle, he was considered the authority in every subject, whether it was science, or philosophy, or even theology. Many people do not know that a lot of Christian thought, Christian theology was based on Aristotle. What was his concept of God that concept of God has influenced the Catholic thought of Christianity.
Secondly, Aristotle was a great scientist. How do animals behave, how do animals grow, how do they develop, what are animals physiologically, in what way do the animals resemble human beings. These are very important questions scientifically and he had done a tremendous exercise in this field. Many of his students were given this special work, you go and live near the coast and see how the fish or the sea animals behave and give an account and scientific accounts were made by the disciples and students of Aristotle. And surprisingly, there is a dialogue on animals written by Aristotle. One day, I will deal with the dialogue on animals, how animals are much better than human beings that is to say how intelligent they are, it is just to show that intelligence is not the monopoly of human beings.
Now examples of this kind were multiplied by Aristotle. He had one very great advantage; Alexander the Great was this pupil, and as you know, Alexander made a big expedition starting from Macedonia right up to Persia and India. It's a big expedition, if you see the geographical map; sometime you should see the map only to understand the expedition of Alexander. And since he was a pupil of Aristotle he had given standing orders that soldiers whenever they found some good material, good observations, so you might say that he had an huge army to support his enquiry, very fortunate circumstance.