Pythagoras

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Will
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Pythagoras

Post by Will » Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:59 am

Let not your feeble eyes expect to sleep
Until you have rehearsed each of the day's deeds three times:
'Where have I transgressed? what have I done? what duty not fulfilled?'

Beginning from the first go through them in detail, and then
Rebuke yourself for the mean things you have done, but delight in the good.
Golden Verses of Pythagoras, HS Schibli trans. in his Hierocles of Alexandria, p. 267

This Schibli version has all of Hierocles commentary on these famous 70 lines of verses, plus much other good stuff. His notes are sprinkled with Greek, which some readers may understand. But the book is a real gem of ancient wisdom!
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Sat Jun 30, 2018 2:24 pm

Philosophy is a purification and perfection of human life: a purification
from our irrational, material nature and the mortal form of the
body, a perfection by the recovery of our proper happiness, leading
to divine likeness. Virtue and truth are most naturally suited to
accomplish these ends; the former banishes the immoderation of the
passions, the latter gains the divine form for those by nature well
capable [of receiving it]. Therefore to acquire this science that will
render us pure and perfect we need certain briefly defined rules,
technical aphorisms, as it were, so that we may attain in an orderly
and well-arranged fashion the perfection of our happiness. Of such
rules that are directed to the whole of philosophy I would with good
reason rank among the first the Pythagorean verses, the so-called
'golden' verses. For these encompass the universal doctrines of all
philosophy, both practical and contemplative, through which one
may acquire truth and virtue, regain one's purity, succeed in
obtaining likeness to god, and, as Plato's Timaeus, that keen teacher
of Pythagorean doctrines, says, having become 'healthy and whole,
arrive at the form of one's previous estate'.
From Hierocles Proem to his commentary, pp 170-1 of Schibli.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:57 pm

The precepts of practical virtue are provided first, for the first
requirement is to put in order the irrationality and carelessness that
exist within us; only in this way may we then pursue the knowledge
of more divine things. Just as the bleary, uncleansed eye cannot
behold exceeding brightness, so the soul that has not secured virtue
is incapable of reflecting the beauty of truth. For it is not lawful for
the impure to lay hold of the pure. Practical philosophy produces
virtue, contemplative produces truth. So also in the verses themselves
we find practical philosophy called a human virtue, and the
contemplative celebrated as a divine virtue; here the text [vv. 45-6],
concluding the precepts on civic conduct, says:

Work hard at these [precepts], put them to practice; you must desire them.
They shall set you on the path of divine virtue.

And so one must become a man first, and then a god. The civic
virtues make a man good, while the sciences leading up to divine
virtue make him a god.
Proem continues...
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Mon Jul 02, 2018 7:02 pm

Small matters precede in orderly sequence
great matters for those who make the ascent. Therefore in the
Pythagorean counsels, too, the text offers first the verses that
contain the precepts on the virtues, and it directs us to ascend
from the best use (of the virtues) concerning this life to likeness to
the divine. The aim and arrangement of the verses is precisely
this, to impress upon the students a philosophic character before the
other readings. They have received the byname 'golden' because,
thus expressed in verse, they are best and divine. Therefore we also
call the best age among the ages of mankind 'golden', using an
analogy from material elements to distinguish the differences in the
manners of life [i.e. from age to age]. Gold truly is something
unadulterated and not composed of earth, unlike the kindred metals
that come after gold, such as silver, bronze, and iron. It is the
natural property of gold to surpass these, since it alone does not rust,
while each of those others, depending upon its proportion of earth,
changes into rust. Now since earthly rust is taken to correspond, to
the evil residing in matter, the age that is holy and pure and the
manner of life that is completely purified of wickedness are appropriately
called 'golden'. So of course these verses, being thoroughly
beautiful, have been entitled 'golden' and 'divine'. It is not that they
are partly beautiful and partly not, as with some other poems, but
they are all alike in exhibiting the pure manner of life, in leading us to
a likeness to the divine, and in unveiling the most perfect aim of
Pythagorean philosophy; this will become clear from the interpretation
of each verse. And let us begin, taking our start from the
opening verses.
End of Proem.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:50 pm

For the sake of an overview I [Schibli, the translator] summarize here
Hierocles' Commentary chapter by chapter, indicating the main themes of each [of the 27]:

Proem. Definition of philosophy, divided into the practical and
contemplative. Introduction to the Golden Verses, which unveil the
aim of Pythagorean philosophy.
Chapter I. On piety. The creator-god and the three classes of
rational beings--immortal gods, glorious heroes, and humans--that
merit honour according to their substance. The creative law that
preserves the order and ranking of beings in the cosmos. Piety
manifested not in external sacrifices but in inner purity.
Chapter II. On reverence for the oath as guarantor of divine law
and cosmic order. The divine and human manifestations of the
oath. On the proper use of oaths.
Chapter III. On the honour towards glorious heroes. Definition
of glorious heroes as natural daemons who occupy the median rank
of rational beings .
Chapter IV. On earth-dwelling daemons, defined as knowledgeable
and virtuous human beings who are daemons by relation,
insofar as they resemble the daemonic class. We honour these
outstanding human beings by following their way of life.
Chapter V. On the honour towards parents and kin. On caring for
one's parents. Divine law takes precedence when parents are not virtuous.
Chapter VI. On voluntary friendship. Whereas parents are
honoured by reason of natural ties, friends are to be sought for
the sake of a partnership in the virtues.
Chapter VII. On behaviour towards friends. Friendship is to be
maintained with all forbearance as long as a partnership in virtue is
possible or a lost friend is able to be recalled to virtue. Human
kindness extended to all men, but friendship only to the good.
Chapter VIII. On controlling the irrational soul. On the conflicts
arising from its spirited and desiderative parts. The irrational and
affective faculties must be habituated to obey reason.
Chapter IX. On avoiding shameful deeds, both when alone and in
company. Self-knowledge (i.e. respect of oneself as a rational
substance) and conscience act as guardians against shameful practices.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:53 pm

Chapter X . On the four cardinal virtues, notably on practical wisdom as chief of the virtues. How practical wisdom and right reason are able to evaluate and bear misfortunes. On finding the cause of evils in ourselves and not blaming the superior beings.

Chapter XI. On 'heaven-sent fortunes'. Providence, fate, and deliberate choice are the primary causes of man's fortunes, in which chance and accident play a subsidiary role. God is blameless of evils, but man puts himself in a position to require the corrections of providence. How to endure life's fortunes with virtue.

Chapter XII. On good and bad arguments. On finding the mean between a hatred and a love of speaking, and on the correct way to refute falsehoods.

Chapter XIII. On the steadfastness of the man of reason in the face of flattering or threatening words and deeds . Definition of the human self as the rational soul; body and externals are instruments for use of the soul. On guarding the soul with truth and virtue.

Chapter XIV. On good counsel and deliberate action profiting the soul. The value of corrective punishment to bring on repentance, 'the beginning of philosophy'. Counsel and right reason oppose thoughtlessness and procure the best way of life.

Chapter XV. On knowledge and the right evaluation of pleasures. True pleasure comes from a virtuous life.

Chapter XVI. On moderation in food, drink, and exercise. Health and moderation are worth while as far as they serve the soul's activity of contemplation.

Chapter XVII. On moderation (continued). On avoiding the extremes of luxury and squalor, profligacy and miserliness, by following the maxim 'nothing too much'.

Chapter XVIII. On reflecting before acting so as to avoid harm to the philosophical life.

Chapter XIX. On the daily, threefold examination of conscience. On self-admonition with the aid of memory.

********************************

Chapter XX. On the transition from human (civic) virtue and practical philosophy to divine virtue and contemplative philosophy. On the Pythagorean tetrad/tetractys, identified with the demiurge, and its properties.

Chapter XXI. On prayer. The effectiveness of prayer depends upon both man's work and zeal and the cooperation of the divine.

Chapter XXII. On the ordered relation, of the three classes of rational beings within the cosmos. On the division of the cosmos into an incorporeal order and the visible (physical) world.

Chapter XXIII. On nature and the visible cosmos. On man's amphibious nature between the incorporeal realm of intellect and the irrational, corporeal world. Man should respect the divine measures for creation and align his hopes according to the limits imposed upon him in virtue of his worth and substance.

Chapter XXIV. On man's fall and the descent of the soul. On the role of free will in both man's fall and delive rance. Miseries are self-imposed. On the evil and ignorance of the majority of men.

Chapter XXV. On the name and nature of god . On the deliverance from evils, limited to a minority who voluntarily turn to philosophy, while the majority fail to recognize their own substance. God remains blameless .

Chapter XXVI. On the purification of the luminous body, also called the vehicle of the soul. Its purification is intimated by the Pythagorean symbols on abstinence. On telestic philosophy (i.e. theurgy), which, as a branch of practical philosophy along with civic philosophy, is subordinate to contemplative philosophy.

Chapter XXVII. On the end of philosophy: -the soul's deification and its restoration, along with the congenital body, to the ethereal realm. Man's place in the cosmic hierarchy is ordained by divine providence. Epilogue.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Fri Aug 03, 2018 3:30 pm

Temperance was the next topic of Pythagoras' discourses. Since the desires are most flourishing during youth, this is the time when control must be effective. While temperance alone is universal in its application to all ages, boy, virgin, woman, or the aged, yet this special virtue is particularly applicable to youth. Moreover, this virtue alone applied universally to all goods, those of body and soul, preserving both the health, and studiousness
Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Aug 04, 2018 5:44 am

Greetings Will,
Will wrote:
Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:59 am
But the book is a real gem of ancient wisdom!
Please demonstrate a connection to Theravada, or we'll have to ask you to take it to its more logical home, Dharma Paths.

:thanks:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:47 pm

Will wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 3:30 pm
Temperance was the next topic of Pythagoras' discourses. Since the desires are most flourishing during youth, this is the time when control must be effective. While temperance alone is universal in its application to all ages, boy, virgin, woman, or the aged, yet this special virtue is particularly applicable to youth. Moreover, this virtue alone applied universally to all goods, those of body and soul, preserving both the health, and studiousness
Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras
Hard to believe that Theravadins here are that dense, but if you must have it spelled out.

Shila, the Buddhist foundation of ethics & virtue, is seen in civic virtue or divine virtue which pervades Pythagorean philosophy. Temperance or moderation or control of low desires is one example of a connection - perhaps an identity.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Pythagoras

Post by Will » Sat Aug 04, 2018 7:23 pm

Hopefully the nexus between the moral foundations of other Paths with each other, Theravada included, is what is being understood now.

For example, let liberty be taken with Hierocles' Proem and see the connection (allowing for differing motives etc.):
Buddhism is a purification and perfection of human life: a purification
from our irrational, material nature and the mortal form of the
body, a perfection by the recovery of our proper happiness, leading
to a likeness of Buddha. Virtue and Dhamma are most naturally suited to
accomplish these ends; the former banishes the immoderation of the
passions, the latter gains the Arahant's wisdom for those by nature well capable [of receiving it].
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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