Gymnosophists - Encyclopedia




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GYMNOSOPHISTS (Lat. gymnosophistae, from Gr. 7v,uvos, aoOLUTY/s, "naked philosophers"), the name given by the Greeks to certain ancient Hindu philosophers who pursued asceticism to the point of regarding food and clothing as detrimental to purity of thought. From the fact that they often of gymnasia not designed for specifically medical purposes. The simplest, and in many respects the most generally useful, of all gymnastic apparatus is the dumb-bell. It was in use in England as early as the time of Elizabeth, and it has the advantage that it admits of being exactly proportioned to the individual strength of each learner, and can be adjusted in weight as his strength increases. The exercises that may be performed with the dumb-bell, combined with a few simple drill-like movements, give employment to all parts of the body and to both sides equally. Dumb-bell exercises, therefore, when lived as hermits in forests, the Greeks also called them Hylobioi (cf. the Vana-prasthas in Sanskrit writings). Diogenes Laertius (ix. 61 and 63) refers to them, and asserts that Pyrrho of Elis, the founder of pure scepticism, came under their influence, and on his return to Elis imitated their habits of life, to what extent does not appear. Strabo (xv. 711, 714) divides them into Brahmans and Sarmans (or Shamans). See JAINs.

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