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Socrates and Plato - Track 203

Answer: these are sets of facts. Actually Vivekananda himself has said you cannot preach Vedanta to a hungry man that is his solution. The same thing like Tagore saying to the hungry man if you show the beauty of the moon it doesn’t have much meaning. So at different stages this is where now a wise man should come, a philosopher should come and say: there is a hierarchy of needs, – physical, intellectual, spiritual. So there are three needs so your dialectic has  pointed out that there are three needs, the physical need, the intellectual need and the spiritual need and then the wisdom tells us that this hierarchy is such that you cannot lift yourself to the second level as long as your first need is not satisfied. So satisfy first the first need then his intellectual need will demand its satisfaction, then satisfy that one, then satisfy the third one. In India therefore it is said: artha and kama, the physical and the vital needs are first to be satisfied then comes dharma. When dharma is to be satisfied that is the intellectual and moral need and then you rise to the higher – spiritual, moksha is the last need. But even there the dialectic doesn’t stop here because it is found that if you satisfy the lower needs, your lower needs begin to increase, this is another set of facts. It is true that the basic need has to be satisfied. but when you go to satisfy the basic need a further problem arises, the individual remains stuck there and every time says: Oh! My need is this, my need is this and you go on, one does not rise at all. Therefore a more synthetic proposition is made in India. Even when you satisfy the physical needs, you satisfy them within legitimate bounds, within certain limitation. Don’t satisfy his needs in such a way that he'll become slave to his physical needs therefore it is said that artha and kama, right from the beginning should be satisfied under the guidance of dharma. So dharma is something that is more important, right from the beginning. You must realise that normally human being gets enslaved to the physical; so long physical goes on becoming satisfied. The idle becomes idler, much more idle. Somebody wants to sleep for one hour more, you allow him; the next day he wants to sleep even more. You allow him, third day he wants to sleep even more, therefore a wise teacher he knows, you should allow the child to sleep but you should also know how to keep him awake at the right moment and don’t allow him to fall again and again. At a certain time you should say: no, now I will not allow you to sleep any more, have control, get up: right? So dharma is very important. So the dialectic is satisfied now, your dilemma is satisfied, if the idea of self–control is given to everybody and everybody is told that physical needs are to be satisfied within limits and you should explain to the child, why limits? Because you say that if I allow you to satisfy your physical needs you will never grow upwards. So if you want to grow upwards, I give you the satisfaction of your needs, every good mother knows it very well, every good mother gives a sweetmeat to the child but in such a way that the child does not go on and on and on asking for it; also there is a limit. If you do this I will give you a lollipop, not otherwise, so it’s a dharma, a higher thing you do then I will give you this lower thing. So the dialectic will take you to this solution of dilemma that always you move upwards, until you move upward right up to the moksha and even there you don’t stop, you give the ideal of perfection. After liberation you come again back, liberated action in which all action whether you do or not makes no difference to you and yet you do it, out of what? Lokasangraha out of love for the people so anything that is inspired by love, universal love. Bertrand Russell has given a very good definition of good life, – a good life is guided by knowledge and inspired by love. If you combine these two together, you’ll get a good definition of good life. It is Platonic definition. You arrive at the dialectical process, arrive at the widest vision that is knowledge and then be inspired by love philos, not only Sophia but philos also. So combine love for wisdom both the elements should be present, it is what we have in a larger way, you combine knowledge with Bhakti, gyana with Bhakti and allowed these to flow into action, into karma. So you combine knowledge, love and action that is the highest that you can conceive of. Alright, that is how the dilemma can be overcome.

We can now return to our reading of Socrates. Now Socrates used to use his method of dialectic and this is now we are reading. On page no. 2 (in the middle of the paragraph.)

Socrates used to go to market and ask questions to the passers–by. But his questions were so deep that many young people found in him a great teacher. He had therefore gathered round him a band of young people who used to go to him for learning. One of these young men was Plato, his chief disciple and one of the greatest philosophers of the world.

Socrates had a friend whose name was Archibiadis. Once he went to the oracle of Delphi whom he asked if there were any one wiser than Socrates. Now what is oracle of Delphi? There was a temple in Delphi, where there used to be priests and they had certain powers, powers of wisdom. So it was believed that the priest in a certain state of consciousness, if he answered a question, the answer would be correct. So many people used to go to Delphi and put questions and used to get answers and the answers used to be so correct every time that people had come to accept that whatever Delphi oracle said would be correct. So one day Archibiadis went to the Oracle and said: is there anybody who is wiser than Socrates? And Oracle said: no. and when he came back he reported to Socrates. Let us read.

The oracle said that there was none. On hearing this, Archibiadis was very pleased and told Socrates what the oracle had spoken to him. But when Socrates heard this he was greatly puzzled. (He was not flattered, he was greatly puzzled) He thought that he knew nothing and yet he could not believe that the god Apollo could be wrong. He therefore went about among those people who were famous for their wisdom. First he went to a politician who was thought wise by many and regarded himself as still wiser. But Socrates found out that he had no wisdom. He then went to poets and asked them to explain their poems. But they could not. Then he knew that poets do not write by wisdom but only by genius and inspiration. Then he went to the artisans, but found that they too were not wise. Finally he concluded: “God alone is wise; the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing. I am called the wisest among men; but that is not because I have wisdom. Others too have no wisdom and yet think they have it, whereas I have no wisdom but know that I do not have it. This is the truth of the oracle.”

You found his answer. Why was Socrates wisest? He found actually neither he nor others are wise. What is the difference between the two, him and the others? Others were not wise but they did not know that they were not wise. As far as he is concerned he knows that he is not wise and he believes also that he is not wise, therefore he is wiser than others. Therefore the Oracle was correct that was his conclusion.

But during this inquiry, Socrates showed the people whom he interviewed their ignorance and this embittered many. Already many elderly philosophers and politicians of Athens were afraid of the great influence that Socrates wielded over the young people. They therefore brought a charge against him. They said: “Socrates is an evil–doer and a curious person, searching into things under the earth and above the heaven; and making the worse appear the better, and teaching all this to others”. I repeat because this is the charge against Socrates. Socrates is an evil doer and a curious person searching for the things under the earth and above the heaven and making the worse appear the better and teaching all this to others.

They held that Socrates was guilty of not worshipping the gods of the State and inventing new gods. They further said that he was guilty of corrupting the young by teaching them wrong things.

In his dialogue, Apology, Plato has described the trial of Socrates. Socrates defended himself. But his accusers were not open to reason. They had not been trained in dialectic they could not arrive at the right conclusion.

He was therefore sentenced to death. In those times, it was a custom that the wife and children of the accused would come before the court; they would cry and beg of the judges to lessen the punishment. But Socrates was not afraid of death and he was sure within himself that he was not guilty. He therefore prevented his wife and children from coming to the court for pleading. On the contrary, he said, “Those of us who think that death is an evil are in error... for death is either a dreamless sleep or the soul migrates to another world. In the next world, I will converse with Hesiod and Homer; and in that world they do not put men to death for asking questions”.

And then he added: “The hour of departure has come, and we go our ways – I to die and you to live. Which is better God alone knows.”

Socrates was cheerful up to the last minute of his life. When he was given hemlock to drink, he took it without any complaint or sorrow. Within a few minutes, his limbs became cold and thus ended the great life of Socrates.


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