3/08/2007

Questions of King Milinda

Nagasena: Well, O king, will sticks and clods and cudgels and clubs find a resting-place in the air, in the same way as they do on the ground ?
Milinda: No, Sir.
Nagasena: But what is the reason why they come to rest on the earth, when they will not stand in the air ?
Milinda: There is no cause in the air for their stability, and without a cause they will not stand.
The Questions of King Milinda

I just came across these verses mentioned at the beginning of a chapter on General Relativity in this book. The chapter continues:
Aristotle and Newton held that things fall because they are pulled to the earth; Nagasena the sage and Einstein, that they fall because nothing stops them from falling. The difference is a profound one.
Nagasena was a buddhist who lived around 150 BCE, whose answers to questions on Buddhism posed by the Indo-Greek king Menander I, a.k.a Milinda in Pali, are collected in Milinda Panha.


You can obtain a full copy of this beautiful text at sacred-texts.com. Ofcourse, Nagasena, more than 2000 years before Einstein was making a philosophical statement and not a quantifiable, verifiable, scientific law :) But that shouldn't make it less interesting.