The Food, Water, Air and Fire Doctrines in Ancient Indian and Greek Philosophies from a Comparative Perspective
Keywords:Vedic philosophy, Presocratics, food, air, water, fire, philosophy of nature, comparative philosophy
The main aim of this article lies in the comparison of ancient cosmico-natural elements from the Vedic period with their counterparts in the Presocratics, with a focus on food, air, water and fire. By way of an introduction to the ancient elemental world, we first present the concept of food (anna) as an idiosyncratic Vedic teaching of the ancient elements. This is followed by our first comparison—of Raikva’s natural philosophy of Vāyu/prāṇa with Anaximenes’s pneûma/aér teaching in the broader context of both the Vedic and Presocratic teachings on the role of air/breath. Secondly, water as brought to us in pañcāgnividyā teaching from Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad and Chāndogya Upaniṣad is compared to the teaching of the Greek natural philosopher Thales. Finally, the teaching on fire as heat being present in all beings (agni vaiśvānara) and in relation to cosmic teachings on fire in the ancient Vedic world are compared to Heraclitus’ philosophy of fire as an element. Additionally, this article also presents a survey and analysis of some of the key representatives of comparative and intercultural philosophy dealing with the elemental and natural philosophy of ancient India and Greece.
Alt, Karin. 1973. “Zum Satz des Anaximenes über die Seele.” Hermes 101 (2): 129–64.
Aristotle. 1995. “Metaphysics.” In The Complete Works of Aristotle, vol. II, edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Barnes, Jonathan. 1996. The Presocratic Philosophers. London: Routledge.
Bodewitz, Hendrik Wilhelm. 1986. “Prāṇa, Apāna and other Prāṇa-s in Vedic Literature.” Adyar Library Bulletin 50: 326–48.
Boland, Mechtilde, and Wessel, U. 1993. “Indische Spiritualität und griechischer Logos – Ein Gegensatz?” Jahrbuch für Religionswissenschaft und Theologie der Religionen 1: 90–117.
Boland, Mechtilde. 1997. Die Wind-Atem-Lehre in den älteren Upaniṣaden. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.
Brereton, Joel P., and Stephanie W. Jamison. 2020. The Rigveda: A Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Conger, George P. 1952. “Did India Influence Early Greek Philosophy?” Philosophy East and West 2: 102–28.
Deussen, Paul. 1915. Allgemeine Geschichte der Philosophie mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Religionen: Erster Band, Erste Abteilung: Allgemeine Einleitung und Philosophie des Veda bis auf die Upaniṣad’s. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.
——. 1938. Sechzig Upaniṣad’s des Veda. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus.
Diels, Hermann, and Walter Kranz. 1934. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. 1. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
Dietz, Günter. 2000. Menschenwürde bei Homer. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter.
Feuerbach, Ludwig. 1989. The Essence of Christianity. Translated by G. Eliot. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Frauwallner, Erich. 1953. Geschichte der indischen Philosophie, vol. 1. Salzburg: Otto Müller Verlag.
Geib, Ruprecht. 1976. “Food and Eater in Natual Philosophy of Early India.” Journal of Oriental Institute 25: 223–35.
Guthrie, W. K. C. 1992. A History of Greek Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ježić, Mislav. 1999. Ṛgvedske Upaniṣadi. Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska.
Karttunen, Klaus. 1989. India in Early Greek Literature. Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society.
Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven, and M. Schofield. 1999. The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Limaye, V. P., and R. D. Vadekar, eds. 1958. Eighteen Principal Upaniṣads. Poona: Vaidika Saṃśodhana Maṇḍala.
Macdonell, A. A. 1995. Vedic Mythology. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Olivelle, Patrick. 1996. “Introduction.” In Upanisads, edited by Patrick Olivelle, xxiii–lvi. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Pajin, Dušan. 1980. Filozofija upanišada. Beograd: Nolit.
Ranade, Ramachandra Dattatrya. 1986. A Contructive Survey of Upaniṣadic Philosophy. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Ruben, Walter. 1947. Die Philosophen der Upaniṣaden. Bern: A. Francke AG Verlag.
Scharfstein, Ben-Ami. 1998. A Comparative History of World Philosophies. New York: SUNY Press.
Schneider, Ulrich. 1961. “Die altindische Lehre vom Kreislauf des Wassers.” Saeculum 12: 1–11.
Sedlar, Jean. W. 1980. India and the Greek World. New Jersey: Rowman & Littlefield.
Škof, Lenart. 2014. “Food in Ancient Indian Philosophy.” In Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, edited by Paul. B. Thompson, and David M. Kaplan, 887–90. Dordrecht: Springer.
------------. 2015. Breath of Proximity: Intersubjectivity, Ethics and Peace. Dordrecht: Springer.
The Rigveda: The Earliest Religious Poetry of India, vol. III. 2014. Translated by Stephanie W. Jamison, and Joel P. Brereton. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. 1994. Translated by Julius Eggeling. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Thompson, Paul. B., and David M. Kaplan, eds. 2014. Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics. Dordrecht: Springer.
Upanisads. 1996. Translated by Patrick Olivelle. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Vlastos, Gregory. 1955. “On Heraclitus.” American Journal of Philology 76 (4): 337–68.
West, M. L. 1971. Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Wirzba, Norman. 2011. Food & Faith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zysk, Kenneth G. 1993. “The Science of Respiration and the Doctrine of the Bodily Winds in Ancient India.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 113: 198–213.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Lenart ŠKOF
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal Asian Studies by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.