Śrīkānta Kṛṣṇamācārya Profile picture
Writes on Politics, Economics, Religion, Classics and Intellectual History
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28 Jun 20
Prejudice is central to maintaining public morality

If you take out prejudice, with "pure reason", it will get very hard for norms to develop in society

There will be too much unpredictability in people's behavior. Too heavy a reliance on law and order. A more fragile society
Take prejudices as basic as -

"Avoid relationships outside marriage"
"Don't have kids before marriage"

These prejudices can go such a long way in ensuring better public health, lower crime, greater familial stability
Then we have social conventions / prejudices that have evolved in a culture.

E.g. The bride goes to the husband's place after marriage
(at least in a ritual sense)

These rituals reduce our choices, and can greatly simplify decision making in the early months of marriage
Read 9 tweets
21 Jun 20
As @AudreyTruschke recently triggered a discussion on Mahabharata, a thread on the same

Key questions

1. Is there a historical kernel to Mahabharata?
2. If yes, which epoch's events does it describe?
3. How old is the text itself as opposed to the events
4. Who are its authors?
Now the common issue in public discourse is -

We tend to mix up 2 and 3

Mahabharata's social milieu is definitely pre-Buddhist by a very long margin.

Possibly belonging to the middle-Vedic period (possibly contemporaneous with the composition of the Brahmana texts)
But this does not mean that all 100K verses in the vulgate versions that exist today also date back to the middle-Vedic period

That would be a stretch. And even many traditionally rooted scholars have not taken that view, if one examines the historiography of the epic
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21 Jun 20
On toppling of statues of great men from two centuries ago who owned slaves

Two POVs

1. Why on earth do you expect someone in 18th cen to share all the morals and ethics that you possess? Stupid

2. We should strive for a time-invariant moral code. What's happening is admirable
Most Indians are wired to think in terms of 1.

At least traditional India.

Because ours is a society very sceptical of "natural right"
We are a "historicist" society in many ways...We like to think ways of living vary from one yuga to the next
That's the reason certain modes of life become "kalivarjya" in the Kali age, thought they were OK in earlier ages

E.g. 3000+ years ago, it is likely there were no strong impulses towards vegetarianism in Indian society. But 1500 years later (circa 500 CE), vegetarianism was big!
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18 Jun 20
How do canons emerge? How do pilgrimage lists come about?

It arises from the investment of devotees- from their ability to imaginatively interpret certain canonical works

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the emergence of 108 Divya-Desam canon in SriVaishnava tradition
Today the conventional understanding is

Sri-Vaishnavas have this list of 108 Divya-desams - Vaishnavite temples concentrated in Tamil country

These are "Divya Desams" as they have been "eulogized" by Alwar saints in nAlAyira Divyaprabandham - 4000 Tamil verses from 6-9th cen
There are distinguished temples that are visited by Vaishnavites in tens of thousands, but are not a part of 108 DDs, because they are not eulogized by the Alwars

E.g. The kRSNa temple at Mannargudi, which is an "Abhimana sthalam" but not a Divya desam.
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14 Jun 20
Urdu is Khariboli with generous persian/arabic vocabulary

The persianate dressing has one function - to provide the Muslims of South Asia with a "high culture"

So they feel connected to Islam's glory days b/w 9th-12th cen, as opposed to feeling like disconnected local converts
So the language has Indian bricks. Indian grammar. Indian edifice.

But the dressing is "phoren".

Exactly as the Muslims of S Asia are also Indian for the most part in their genetic make-up and even habits, but with a foreign religious ideology
I don't necessarily view that with contempt or anything.

The Muslim population is huge in South Asia - about 500MM people.

They seek a stamp. A connection to the head-quarters of Muslim high culture. The glory days of Baghdad, Samarkhand, Isfahan.
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10 Jun 20
There is a great deal of contempt for "Trads" among a section of "Raita" crowd (term used with no disrespect)

But Trads perform a useful function of reminding us of possibilities that repel our modern minds otherwise

We shouldn't let modernity constrain our imagination
The idea of progress coupled with Liberalism has turned certain political and cultural states into axiomatic truths / certainties for eternities

E.g. The best form of govt is where each man has one vote

But that's modern conceit
Why not more than one vote?

E.g. If I own a house in three towns - Blore, Delhi, Mumbai, should I not have three votes in the three constituencies?

In early 20th cen Britain this was indeed the case!
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6 Jun 20
Tweet below highlights ostensible inconsistency b/w

Sanskritization vs
Preserving diversity

No conflict

High-culture emulation exists everywhere
Usually imposed with force/violence

Sanskritization a milder process of cultural emulation, rendered mild by the realities of caste
In early medieval Europe, the culture of Christianity that radiated from Rome was the "high culture" of the day.

It uprooted the various low cultures of Pagan Northern Europe. There was little give-and-take. Rather a fresh start. A blank slate
In India, "brahminical high culture" integrates with local cultures, engages in compromise, and the result of that compromise is what we call "Hinduism"

It is not a violent top-down imposition, but a subtler process of emulation

The reason it is not violent is because of caste
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5 Jun 20
Many yuppies in metro areas might be shocked at the results to this poll

Maybe they expected option 2 to win hands down!

But it is not winning by a big margin

Goes to show how a section of English speaking Indians live in denial of what India is really like
The reaction I heard in some comments was -

Language is a real barrier
Varna is an artificial one

"Proper" societies are divided by language. Maybe race. But not something as artificial as varNa which defies even a proper definition
Clearly the results suggest Indians speak something and practice something else

When you make the question pointed, what you really think about caste comes out.
Read 3 tweets
3 Jun 20
1. jAti preserves diversity

2. Birth-based social identities are more durable than money based statuses

Alternative to jAti is a system where money determines one's social worth

There will always be resistance to "pure materialism" as it is too fluid / impermanent
That's why there is resistance to "pure meritocracy" too

Because the culture of merit is closely linked to the culture of materialism.

People want their social identities to endure. Merit and money come in the way of that
That doesn't mean that all the social identities people are born with are desirable or worth preserving

That's why you see endogamy loosening, formation of new endogamous units, and an interplay of jAti vyavastha and materialist culture in society
Read 7 tweets
3 Jun 20
Disagree here...

What's likely is endogamous units will become larger.

30 years ago, marriages between sub-castes / sub-sets were rare

Today "sub-caste" criteria is seldom insisted upon in Urban or even semi-urban India

So the units will get larger
Fewer castes, larger ones
Also ironically caste endogamy may weaken more rapidly in smaller towns than it does in big cities

Especially among those upper caste males left behind in the moffussil regions and not doing well
Caste-endogamy will be up against Hypergamy

Women want to marry men better educated / more "well to do" than them

And this will make things tough for those males in "high caste" communities who are living in small town India and not doing too well
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30 May 20
Adi Śankara is arguably the greatest "historical" figure of religion India has produced, post Buddha

But despite his historicity, v few biographical details about him are known definitely

Including details as rudimentary as his "time period", his final resting place etc
What has survived however are his works - which have a distinctive stamp, and are clearly the work of one person

The commentaries on -

Brahma Sūtras

and his non-commentarial work - Upadeśasāhasri)
This thread is an attempt to figure what we know about the "historical" Śankara.

When did he live?
Where was he born?
What institutions did he establish?
Where did he attain samAdhi

There is no consensus on any of these questions except perhaps Question 1
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30 May 20
People say short-term thinking is bad

But little drops make the mighty ocean

You build credibility by succeeding repeatedly on a thousand occasions solving the much ridiculed "short term" problems and fire-fighting

That's how "long term relationships" come into being
My issue with @naval -

He has some penetrating things to say

But many impressionable folks are likely to reach the wrong takeaways from his soundbytes.

"long term" thinking doesn't mean you stop bothering about pleasing your boss today at work

You can't get away from that
The likes of Taleb and Naval focus a great deal on jobs with "unbounded" upside risk

How to strike big

But there aren't that many jobs on earth of that kind

For most jobs, the upside risk is bounded, so is the downside risk
Read 6 tweets
28 May 20
I see that some people are angry at the tweets in this thread

My point is simple
If you want to bring people to your side, or proselytize, you gotta put yourself in your "target"'s shoes

You can't talk to him as though he is as invested in your tradition as you are
The retort will be

"Hey...ours is not a proselytizing religion"

Well....you better develop a proselytizing streak. It is not alien to H-tradition to propagate one's religion

If you dont want to, don't complain at headlines that talk of the conversion of all AP Dalits for e.g
Complete self-absorption is the bane of H

As a result, you always end up talking to insiders - preaching to the choir

You never learn the art of talking to the uninitiated
Read 3 tweets
28 May 20
Which Politician from the past does Modi resemble the most?

My vote - Kamaraj

1. Embraces rhetoric of "Sacrifice" and austerity

2 Populist to some extent

3. Believer in "Efficient" Govt as force for good
Partial to big welfare schemes

4. Not much subaltern anti-UC rhetoric
Both came from humble backgrounds, and were more comfortable conversing in their mother tongue (in Modi's case Gujarati + Hindi) than in English

Both of them single men with no kids. Public valued their personal austerity the most, and "incorruptibility" was their biggest USP
Sure. Kamaraj was a secularist. Modi is not quite

But then Modi uses secular rhetoric a great deal after his ascent to national prominence

Except for their attitude on the "Other", I see striking similarities
Read 3 tweets
28 May 20
Public figures who were big in Indian consciousness 50 years ago

Totally irrelevant today

Jayaprakash Narayan (JP)
Acharya Vinoba Bhave
Ram Manohar Lohia

Who else?
To a greater or lesser extent, all these figures epitomized "Nativist" / "rooted" socialism

That type is irrelevant in our times

Yes, Modi is for welfare state, but not really a socialist. So we can't place him in that category
Another big leader from that age who is kind of irrelevant today -

Indira Gandhi

who was perceived as this "secular, but tough nationalist"

Again a type that is not so relevant in current Indian polity
Read 9 tweets
27 May 20
A paradox with respect to Religion

Religious people often tend to "oversell" religion
Overstate its merits

This ironically strengthens the arguments of atheists

If the case made is more modest, you will find more buyers
Especially in this age of "science" and "reason" which is so prone to scientism

If you make arguments like - "Chant this stotra everyday, it will keep your troubles away", you make a bad case
Rather if you just lead by example by chanting the stotra daily and position it as a source of cultural / ritual discipline, then it is more likely that more people will be drawn to it as a cultural marker / statement
Read 4 tweets
26 May 20
@vvaayu Not sure why you are presumptuous..

My point is not that V4 are not conservative...Far from it

But rather, articulation of "social conservatism" in a political context takes the form of defending varNa, social hierarchy, brahminical privileges- which doesn't work in a V4 nation
@vvaayu Of course V4 are culturally v conservative...Most OBC castes are.....True across India..

But social conservatism in India is not so much about defending "gender roles", or early marriage...

Rather it always boils down to varNa, its relationship with religion, etc
@vvaayu E.g. If you take the likes of Laloo, Mulayam (big Yadav leaders) -

Some of their stances are socially conservative (they oppose women's reservation )

But when it comes to caste, they will take anti-UC stances. And their constituency likes that
Read 3 tweets
26 May 20
I disagree with this practical equation of Raytas with liberals

I prefer to see Rayta as the "dominant" strain within Hindutva

Representatives include Modi, Swamy, Advani

None of these people would call themselves "paramparAvAdi"

They would call themselves "hindu rashtravAdi"
Trads are without a major representative in Indian polity today

The last truly "traditionalist" socially conservative party was perhaps Rama-Rajya Parishad, and to a lesser extent Swatantra party. Possibly Jana-Sangh too

But definitely not BJP in its post 1984 avatAr
BJP today comprises of two types of voices

1. Classic "Raytas" - HIndu nationalists, reformists, conservative but not "traditionalist". E.g. Swamy, Modi

2. Classical liberals - People with tenuous link to H, but still side with BJP. SM voices like @Iyervval or @ARanganathan72
Read 6 tweets
26 May 20
@arpitrage I think there is, but the lifestyle is so overwhelmingly conservative that it is not up for political debate

That's why I feel social conservatism is a non-starter in India as a political issue

And inevitably even when it raises its head, it will get linked to caste
@arpitrage E.g. Even in the US, if you go back to the 1950s, the lifestyle was so v conservative with women being homemakers, having lots of kids etc, social conservatism was a non-starter

It became a big issue only with the sexual revolution post late 60s
@arpitrage In the 1950s, everyone was liberal. Be it Nixon or Stevenson

The only distinction b/w Right and Left was I guess on the communist issue and the hardness of attitudes
Read 3 tweets
25 May 20
On Trad - Raita fights (summarizing conversation with @akshayalladi

You can't have the cake and eat it too

If you seek tradition, give up on Hindu-unity
If you seek Hindu unity, relax on traditions

Raita position is more politically "strategic"
Trad position more apolitical
Hindutva originally a "Raita" movement

But lately on twitter, we have seen Trads trying to worm their way in

But "social conservatism" in India won't succeed politically as V1-V3 constitute roughly 20% in North India and 5% in South
Trads are better off operating in the cultural and apolitical avenues

And leave H-politics to Raitas
Read 6 tweets
25 May 20
Endless debate on H-twitter today

Reminded me of this classic post by Robin Hanson stressing "Perception"

Politics isn't about policy
School isn't about Learning
Consulting isn't about Advice
Marriage isn't about Romance
Church isn't about God

The debate over Agniveer, Trads, SCs, Dalit acceptance emphasized Hanson's points for me

Trads think - "Hey....all the sacred texts are available for download. Why are the SCs complaining"

Fair. But it's not about whether you are fair. But whether you are perceived to be fair
In this "democratic world" we inhabit, everything becomes a function of "popular perception"

The rights and wrongs of things are secondary

What matters is - how you are perceived.

If you are perceived to be racist, you are racist

Perception is reality. Unfortunate but true
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