The eternality of the जीव (loose translation - "soul") is regarded as a central tenet of Hinduism

Agreed upon by वेदान्त आचार्य's of all hues

But this wasn't always the case
In the early days of वेदान्त, there were teachers like ब्रह्म दत्त who claimed जीव has an origin
We don't know much about ब्रह्म दत्त 's biography

But he definitely appears to have been a pre-शंकर figure, as he is alluded to by शंकर's disciple सुरेश्वर
He appears to have written a commentary on ब्रह्म सुत्र, as hinted at by the which has not survived

But we do know he wrote one because of an allusion to the same by the early श्री वैष्णव thinker - यामुनाचार्य in his सिद्धित्रय
So what we know about ब्रह्म दत्त is second hand knowledge

Derived from सुरेश्वर, यामुनाचार्य and also वेदान्त देशिक

But roughly here's a summary of his views -
1. The जीव both originates and perishes

2. The ultimate reality is ब्रह्म and जीव is derived from it

3. The महावाक्य's of उपनिषद्'s like तत् त्वम् असि are "injunctive" in nature. Merely an "enabler" for meditation

4. The goal is मोक्ष when the जीव loses itself in ब्रह्म
This is a sharp contrast to शंकर's doctrine where ब्रह्म == जीव, and where the knowledge of महावाक्य's is meant to pierce the veil of ignorance and make us aware of the unity of the two

Instead ब्रह्म दत्त is saying जीव originates from ब्रह्म and perishes upon reaching मोक्ष
This is an extremely radical position that goes against the principle of non-origination that वेदान्त सुत्र's of बादरायण are clear on

Sutra 2.3.17

नात्माऽश्रुतेर्नित्यत्वाच्च ताभ्यः

Where it states the soul is unborn and eternal because the उपनिषद्'s are unequivocal on this
Not just शंकर but all the other major वेदान्त schools agree w.r.t. the eternality of the जीव

ब्रह्म दत्त's views are critiqued not just by अद्वैत teachers like सुरेश्वर but also विशिष्टाद्वैत teachers like वेदान्त देशिक
वेदान्त देशिक in his सर्वार्थ सिद्धि categorizes those who think जीव is non-eternal

1. Those who think it can be momentarily renewed

2. The चार्वाक's who claim it ceases to exist at death

3. A section of पौराणिक's who think it survives the body but ceases to exist at प्रळय
4. Those mistaken वेदान्त adherents who think जीव survives only till मोक्ष

So ब्रह्म दत्त naturally falls in the fourth category, whom देशिक decries.

But ब्रह्म दत्त's arguments are not totally without basis.
E.g. in महानारायण उपनिषद् (1.4) it is stated

तोयेन जीवान् व्यचसर्ज भूम्याम्

Along with elements, the जीव's were "created" suggesting an origin for the जीव's

Which seems to support ब्रह्म दत्त's view and goes against the non-origination principle held by other वेदान्त teachers
Clearly ब्रह्म दत्त's doctrines are fascinating from whatever little we can gather about them from references elsewhere

It is a shame his commentary on ब्रह्म सुत्र has not survived

It does seem extremely radical relative to what we have today
Post-script : Much of the pointers for this thread are gleaned from Mysore Hiriyanna's fine essey on ब्रह्म दत्त

From his book - "Indian Philosophical Studies" - a collection of his essays posthumously published

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More from @shrikanth_krish

13 Sep
By tradition, I am referring to the orthopraxies that mark the social and religious life of an individual

The rites of passage from नामकरण to श्राद्ध
The food you eat
The deities you worship
Your नित्यकर्म's
Occupational predilections

Their relevance varies across individuals
As their centrality and relevance varies across geographies and even across individuals within a specific communal setting, the endogamous instinct will also vary

Which is how it should be.

To insist on endogamy once the orthopraxies have collapsed is v silly
You could argue that there can be "atavistic" revivals of traditions

So it makes sense to keep endogamy going even after all the orthopraxies have collapsed

Perhaps. But that's at best a musing in favor of endogamy. Cannot be the basis for a strong rhetoric against ICM
Read 4 tweets
13 Sep
With all due respect to the office, what I find odd is the ahistorical nature of this comment

Inter-वर्ण marriages have happened throughout Indian history, though not a norm

That's how the वैदिक religion spread across the country
Even post-Vedic classical-era texts like याज्ञवल्क्य स्मृति acknowledge the possibility of inter-वर्ण marriages without endorsing them

So it was likely present in society even then
On following स्मृति's - let's not harp on their opposition to inter-वर्ण marriage when you don't follow most other things they discuss

E.g याज्ञवल्क्य claims a द्विज should marry without delay upon the death of his wife

We don't follow that, do we? Society has moved on
Read 6 tweets
11 Sep
Markets may be as old as civilization

But the market-principle where every man strives to better his lot and make more money is a very modern thing

Barely 400 years old

Pre-modernity, work was an end in itself
Today it is a "means" to an end. The end being greater prosperity
If we think about it, this is fundamentally different from what tradition teaches us

The गीताचार्य instructs us -
कर्मण्येव अधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन

Thats the opposite of the market principle. Where gain is disregarded
Modernity's premises are totally centered on the market principle

Where every person is a profit maximizing creature

You engage in a profession that will maximize your profit/income. Provided you are up for it
Read 4 tweets
11 Sep
Hindutva is anything but H-traditionalism
But apparently it is, for these anti-H conference guys

The age of Nehru/Indira was a lot more "trad" than the current H-society

Modi's India is more "liberal" in every way
It is the political assertion of Hindu-ness that's irking people
I say this as a bit of a "trad" myself

The reality is - society has moved on

Whether we like it or not, we live in an India that is increasingly westernized and democratized in both good and bad ways

The political Hindu-ness is a veneer concealing the radical transformation
It's a bit like saying -

"The Conservative party was v dominant in Great Britain in the 1980s unlike the 1910s"

But hey - British society was a great deal more "liberal" in the 1980s than 1910s. No comparison at all

The benchmarks and points of reference are totally different
Read 7 tweets
10 Sep
Edmund Burke was among the first to think of Political parties as "respectable" and honor prejudice as central to politics

The same insight is also applied in corporate world where prejudice is honored

E.g. Different divisions are mandated to have different biases and lenses
So the "Sales" and "Marketing" teams may have a certain bias to invest money in short-term measures to boost sales

The Product R&D team may want to channel investment in longer term research

Finance may be conservative and take a dimmer view of ROIs
You may have modeling / analytics teams that may take a sanguine view of the models they build and position them favorably

Tech may be biased against complex solutions that are hard to implement, and push for simpler solutions which may disappoint the solution developers
Read 4 tweets
8 Sep
That's true for most media, including twitter

What marks out modernity from the ancient world is its tolerance of vulgarity and mistakes

You don't seek purity, perfection.
But by bringing millions of minds together, you generate "wisdom" amidst a lot of nonsense

Scale matters
The Ancient world was fundamentally different

Firstly there were fewer people. Second - it was not possible to operate at scale

So you had to police every bad habit lest it destroy the much too fragile civilization
With modernity, "purity" and "greatness" take a backseat

Bad habits, even bad people are tolerated

Because at scale, you generate extraordinary insight and wisdom by at the tail end of a large normal distribution
Read 5 tweets

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