Good discussion

Probing questions from @raghman36

Trads argue on one front that present day notions should not be used to judge Dharmashastras. Fair. But the corollary of that would be Dharmashastras have little relevance today.

You can't have the cake and eat it too
Another intersting angle probed in the discussion

Academics of religion tend to examine texts with a historicist lens

E.g. Dharmasutras pre-date Dharmashastras.

What causes the tone used in Apastamba to deviate from those in the extant Manu Smrti?
Trads in contrast abhor historicism

They don't see these texts as an outcome of a historical process

When you see these texts as works for eternity independent of a certain time and place which gave rise to them, your attitude towards them is a lot more uncritical
For instance in our times the term "shudra" has a certain connotation. Referring to the "lower" castes/classes

But perhaps that was not the case at the time of Manu Smrti when Shudras were viewed as rivals / enemies of the Arya way of life. Not necessarily the laboring classes
Such changes in the meanings and connotations of words and labels can result in misreadings and gross misapplications of ancient guidelines

A non-historicist "natural law" kind of an approach to DS can cause us to fall trap to such misreadings
Whenever I discuss matters related to DS with conservatives there is always this inner conflict

1. Defensive instinct: We shoudn't judge them with today's moral assumptions

2. Aggressive instinct: It has much to teach us and instruct us on living today

1 and 2 are in conflict
A more genuine, and admirable "trad" position will be to shun the defensiveness

Try to have a non-historicist interpretation of the texts for "all times" and "all places"

You may fail at it. But at least it will be an intellectually honest effort
Today trads use historicism to defend the texts against criticism.

But don't like historicism when it is used to argue that texts have limited relevance / utility
I prefer a middle ground. Pick what is relevant, ignore rest

सत्यं ब्रूयात् प्रियं ब्रूयान्न ब्रूयात् सत्यमप्रियम्
प्रियं च नानृतं ब्रूयादेष धर्मः सनातनः

is a timeless verse from MS

लशुनं गृञ्जनं चैव पलाण्डुं कवकानि च
अभक्ष्याणि द्विजातीनाममेध्यप्रभवानि च

Not so timeless
So we use our judgment to distinguish between yuga dharma (guidelines for a certain time and place) and sanAtana dharma (guidelines that transcend time and place)

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More from @shrikanth_krish

22 Oct
When one discusses the pre-history of South India, the origins of Dravidian speakers invariably comes up

When did the Dravidian languages make their entry in India?

Were they pan-Indian at any point?

On this - the views of Nilakantha Sastri / Fuerer Haimendorf are interesting
This is somewhat dated as these individuals operated some 70 years ago in academia

But their theory is -

1. Dravidian languages were never quite pan-Indian or dominant in North India

2. They have always been spoken mostly in the region where they are spoken now (lower Deccan)
3. It is likely the Dravidian speakers have affinity to the Armenoid race-type, who colonized South India through sea travel from the west, leaving their original homeland in Central Asia (Anatolia, Armenia, Iran)
Read 13 tweets
22 Oct
One of the things that distinguishes Hinduism and the Vedic religion from other traditions is the importance ascribed to the shabda

Reciting texts in the original with correct pronunciation (ucchAraNa) and the right tonal modulations (svara-pATha)

The meaning takes a backseat
But does this have traditional sanction?

Is it OK to equate vedic study with mere chanting "pArAyaNa") as opposed to understanding the import of the works?

What's fascinating is that the tradition itself appears divided on this.
First of all learning through the oral tradition is clearly one of the obligatory duties of a brAhmaNa. There are no two ways about it.

Even Manu himself is explicit about this in his smRti -

Verse 1.88

अध्यापनमध्ययनं यजनं याजनं तथा
दानं प्रतिग्रहं चैव ब्राह्मणानामकल्पयत्
Read 14 tweets
20 Oct
Interesting piece, but it stereotypes the interaction of "brahminical thought" with the traditions of the hoi polloi

The paternalist attitude of the brAhmaNas is less evident in Southern India, where the give-and-take was more even…
This is most evident when one studies the history of the Alvar and Nayanar saints of Tamil country

Where the cultural interaction of the brAhmaNas with local vellAlars was definitely not characterized by a supercilious attitude of the brahmin towards local traditions
Two good examples are -

1. The relationship between Appar and Sambandhar in Nayanar lore

2. The very high status accorded to Nammalvar in Sri-Vaishnava lore
Read 8 tweets
20 Oct
Often encountered the question in discussions -

"Why are you not a libertarian/classical liberal"?

I was one, back in my 20s

Outgrew that for a few reasons

1. Classical liberalism is predicated on "reason". Tends to dismiss prejudice altogether

2. It ignores history/culture
Classical liberalism is fundamentally anti-politics

Because it is based on the universalizing notions of individual liberty, economic freedom

It does not acknowledge "groups", "special interests"
E.g libertarians insist on low tariffs

But then zero tariffs are always in general interest. They may reduce prices for everybody just a wee bit

But not in the special interest of any group.

So if the idea is to support domestic industry, zero tariffs may not be beneficial
Read 13 tweets
16 Oct
It is often said Indian states diverge a lot in terms of incomes

I view it differently

E.g. TN PCI : $11K in PPP Terms
UP PCI : $3K

That's a ratio of 3.7. But absolute difference is $8K

In China, Jiangsu is at $33K, Yunnan at $11K
Ratio of 3. But absolute difference is $22K
To my mind, it is the absolute difference in PPP-adjusted PCI across regions you should focus on

Not the ratio

When you move from a province with $11K income to $33K, you feel the difference a LOT more than when you move from a province with $3K income to $11K
Ratios don't make sense when the base is low.

E.g. UP is perhaps 2 times richer than Haiti

But it may not feel that much richer.

As opposed to say moving from Argentina to US
Read 5 tweets
14 Oct
I can sense a certain Trad anxiety here

To my mind, ICM is merely a manifestation of a deeper deracination in habits / lifestyle

When lifestyles and values converge, ICM is inevitable

If the cultures are indeed v distinct, ICM will also be marginal
So my gratuitous advice to Trads is -

Don't campaign against ICM. That's just a symptom

Instead reflect on the distinctiveness of castes, and whether the diversity is worth preserving

If people are rooted enough, they are less likely to marry out
Trads tend to think -

Endoogamy will conserve traditions

I reverse it -

If the traditions have value and hold attraction, there will be a natural resistance to ICM

As is the case in much of India even today
Read 4 tweets

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