Audios & Videos

Socrates and Plato - Track 1001

So virtue is knowledge, knowledge is virtue both are unity and therefore he said: if you really know, if you really know totally, you are bound to act totally and act rightly. So if anybody makes a mistake it means he doesn’t really know that is why Christ said when he was being crucified: "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing". If they knew they would not do this. So if anybody is doing wrong it means he does not know therefore Socrates said it’s my duty to make people know that was his mission because if people are wrong it is because they don’t know or they believe they know even when they don’t know. So he used to expose everybody it was not for amusement. People sometimes thought that he was amusing; not at all, he was very serious. He thought if people believe they know when they don’t know they are very far from true knowledge. First they should become conscious that they don’t know then they will try to go to the path of knowledge that is why he took it as a mission of his life, he was very kind to the people therefor even when the people gave a verdict of death to him he said: I am not offended. To read his dialogue at the end he says: I have no grudge at all with those who have condemned me to death. So it is because he knows that they have done out of ignorance. If they knew everything he says towards the end of his dialogue that if I had enough time then I would have been able to convince you. He says in some countries they give many, many days for discussion before a verdict is passed. He says here you give me only one day, how can I argue everything in fullness but that s the law of your country here so what can I do? So he accepts, he knows that these people do not understand therefore they have given a wrong verdict which could have been prevented if they had sufficient time. So he has no grudge against anybody. He is exactly like Christ. He also says I have no grudge against my accusers and against my people they have not been able to understand, they are ignorant. So he is greatest doctrine is ‘virtue is knowledge’ and his greatest work in the world is to make people aware that they do not know, that they should not pretend that they know and therefore they should try to know and what is the process of knowing, – to examine the life, to examine life why are you here, what are you doing here in life, what should you do in life? If you inquire into this question then you will arrive at knowledge. Now this is the sum and substance of Socrates but it is incomplete as I said he answered the question what is knowledge by saying you examine life but so far we have not yet completed his doctrine which will come in Plato. When we study Plato, actually Socrates and Plato should be studied together, side by side because Socrates is one of the main characters in the dialogues of Plato and in one of his greatest dialogues called ‘Republic’; Socrates answers the question what is knowledge? There is a very beautiful description in one of the statements of the ‘Republic’, I have spoken of it earlier but very briefly he says: that we all are human beings like slaves. We are all living in a dark cave and there are many pillars in the cave and each one of us is tied to the pillar, we are chained to the pillar and we can only look in one direction because we are chained. So you are not free to look this way that way or around or at the back, you can only see a wall before you as it were in the cave and behind you is a big fire. Now if there is a fire behind you it will pass light upon the wall but since you are standing in the middle it will pass only shadows of yours on the wall, isn’t it? So what you will see will be only shadows and since you are not able to go behind you don’t even know that because of the light behind you are seeing the shadows, you’ve only been seeing shadows all the time, so you’ll think the world consists of shadows. Similarly he says there is light behind you actually, behind each one of us but each one of us is bound to his body, it’s like a pillar to which we are bound and with this bondage whatever you think you are seeing are only shadow, all your knowledge is nothing but a shadow. What you think you know is nothing but a shadow which has been cast because there is a light behind you and you are in the middle and a shadow is cast and this is what you call knowledge actually it’s not a knowledge. So, so long as you are what you are now he said it is impossible for you to know but if I put the question then sometime you will wonder whether what I am seeing is really right or wrong then one day you’ll make an effort to unchain yourself and if you succeed then you will turn around and you will find, my Lord! There is a big fire here, such a huge source of light then you will understand better but now that you are free you will also be able to go out of the cave, previously you thought this is the only existence, nothing but this. The cave was the only geographical knowledge you had earlier for even only a small part of the cave.

 Now when you turn out unchained you see behind than you find that there is a passage out of the cave then you can walk out and imagine your surprise when you go out you see the beautiful, splendid sun. Not only fire, a small fire burning behind, you see a huge ball of light, inextinguishable light. When you see that sun then that is called knowledge. Similarly, he says when you really see the totality of Reality, the luminous Reality, the Reality which is itself light; when you arrive at that that is called knowledge. Now this is the allegory he has given, kind of simile, it’s called The Simile of the Den. Den means a cave, simile of the cave. So through this simile he wants to teach everybody that we are at present in the state of ignorance, we are only seeing shadows, we are chained, we are bound, we are ignorant therefore you come out of it, turn upside down as it were for that you have to remove your chains that is why he said: ‘So long as you lead a life of senses you are bound’. But imagine there is something more than senses there is reason for example which is higher than senses and then there is higher than that which he called spiritual experience like his sensor in his heart which knew what was right and wrong, it’s a higher faculty. So there is sense which is cause of your bondage then there is reason which tries to liberate you and then you arrive at the real perception the real knowledge which is intuition. So when intuitively you see the whole, the totality then you have the real knowledge that is the Socratic view of knowledge. When we come to Plato we shall see this much more in detail because Plato describes this experience in his book called The Republic.  

You read once again his Apology as I told you it is one of the best passages of literature in the world history. So you study this passage very well. So for the moment however we shall turn to Plato. Now in the first paragraph which I have given here I have as it were from above seeing the whole history of thought. If you are above, if you have studied very well the Indian thought, the Western thought and so on and then if you want to describe, how will you describe, very briefly. So this I have written in one paragraph so that you look from above the entire history of thought from the beginning to the present day. So I am making a few remarks.

The history of thought may in a sense be regarded The history of thought may, in a sense, be regarded as an account of the cyclical movement of the modes of knowledge: sensation, perception, reason, intuition and still higher modes of cognition. At different periods one or another of these predominates and asserts its own truth and standards of truth. Thus we have the age of intuition such as that of the Veda and the Upanishad, the age of mixed intuition and reason such as that of the Darshanas in the East and that of Socrates and Plato in the West, the age of Pure Reason as that of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz and Kant, and the age of the senses as that of Locke and Hume and the present Logical Positivism.

Now this is a difficult paragraph for the beginners but it covers the history of thought right from the beginning to the present. So let me take some time to explain this. There are sources of knowledge what I have called cognition. Cognition is a process to know. You have seen the word in English recognise, recognise means you cognise again. When I have seen you before and now I see you again then I say that now I am now recognising you. So cognition is the process ‘to know’. Now this cognition takes place at many levels. First of all is senses, the five senses of knowledge are the senses by which we come to know the physical things of the world then there is reason, then there is process of intuition and then there are higher processes of knowledge such as that of the Supermind.

If you study the history of thought, history of philosophy in particular, you will find that there is cyclical movement, a kind of a cyclical movement. Sometimes the thinkers give a great value to senses, sometimes they give a great value to reason, sometimes they give a great value to intuition. Now if we make enough improvement we shall engage when we shall give great value to Supermind.

Now in the beginning however we find a very peculiar movement the earliest age we find in the history of the world was the age of intuition both in the East and in the West. It may seem surprising; actually logically we should have first age of senses then of reason, then of intuition, then of Supermind but history does not follow the logical path. Psychologically we make a big zigzag movement actually speaking all the elements are present at every time. Even in our consciousness at present we have got senses, reason, intuition, supermind all are present in our consciousness but developed differently. Some people have got senses very developed, some have intuition very well developed, they may even have rays of supermind coming into them they may not recognise the supermind but supermind may also be present behind and may emerge suddenly. Even a child may sometimes give you some knowledge which is supramental. The child may not know, you may not know but there are rays of light as it were passing that’s why good teachers always look forward to see where is the intuition in the child, where is the supermind in the child. The good teachers always look forward to that kind of consciousness; the child may be babbling and yet his pointing may be something very tremendous the child has come from very well developed planes of consciousness. A very great thinker might be reborn as a small child therefore he might have perception which you do not have so a good teacher thinks always of this as not to neglect children that’s why it is said good teacher always look forward to small children so that they may be in the company of wisdom because they might be in the past birth very great wise sages. So in us at any time if you examine you’ll find that at any time we have many senses at work, intuition at work, reason at work, supermind at work, everything is at work simultaneously.

Now it so happened that in the world there was a very early period maybe there was other period also earlier than that or maybe there were many earlier periods also before that but the earliest record that we have is Veda. This is the one record of which we are sure it is the earliest composition available to us that’s why we had started with the Veda because that is the first record of mankind about which we are sure what they thought, how they felt, what they aspired for, what they achieved all that is written in the Veda and this was the age of intuition. They arrived at knowledge not by reason, not by senses but they arrived at knowledge by intuition.

So in the history of thought the earliest period was the period of intuition. Now similarly in the West the earliest period was the period of Orphism. Orpheus was supposed to be the originator, one of the first seers you might say, one of the first thinkers of the West. He spoke of immortality of the soul, just as the Veda spoke of immortality of the soul Orpheus also in the West spoke of the same thing, – immortality of the soul. Orpheus spoke as to how to develop the knowledge of the immortality of the soul, just as the Veda and the Upanishad also spoke of the same thing. Then as you go down you come to Pythagoras in the West then you come to Heraclitus and then you come to Socrates and then to Plato, I am only giving a few names – Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Socrates and Plato.

Now when you go to the East, in India we have first Veda and then Upanishad and then we had Darshana. (Darshana means visions) In India philosophy was called Darshana because it was a perception, a vision and as a result they developed Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vedanta; again I am giving a few names. So if you examine from the point of view of the faculties you will say that the history began in the early time with the age of intuition both in the East and the West then there came a mixed period intuition combined with reason. Socrates and Plato belonged to that age, mixture of intuition and reason. In India mixture of intuition and reason was Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vedanta and so on, mixture of intuition and reason. Then in the West there came a period of pure reason, intuition was put behind as it were, pure reason.


+