1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gymnosophists

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GYMNOSOPHISTS (Lat. gymnosophistae, from Gr. γυμνός, σοφιστής, “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 lived as hermits in forests, the Greeks also called them Hylobioi (cf. the Vāna-prasthās in Sanskrit writings). Diogenes Laërtius (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.