An ancient Indian Buddhist monk buried in Athens
Buddhist philosophy is practical and seems some what out of sync with the Hindu thought at that time. Buddha lived around the same time as Socrates. I can't help but wonder if some of the ideas were not cross-pollinated. Don't get me wrong. There are many similarities between the cultures, even 1000 years ago. Al-Biruni, an arabic scholar, well versed in Greek thought, said as much. He thought Indians were on par with Greeks in Math and Science, but didn't advance as much because the language(Sanskrit) depends on analogies and metaphors a tad too much ie, not being quantitive and exact. I feel even today, Indian culture relies heavily on analogy.
The facts are spot on. The conclusions are a bit off though. Ancient Indian civilization was pretty advanced in theoretical mathematics and was able to calculate the expansion of sines and cosines before Taylor’s theorems. It also had an understanding of sines cosines etc. The main area where it fell behind was the engineering aspect of theorems. Other than few civil engineering marvels, Indians never discovered things like antikythera mechanism or aqueducts like ancient romans. This could partially be blamed on education being limited to few people as a direct side effect of caste system. The few who worked as smiths were not versed in theorems. Those who worked on theorems were never versed in engineering. They also did not cross pollinate that well. All owing to failure of education system of country. A curse it still suffers from tbh.
As for Sanskrit it was never the language of masses. Pali or Prakrit would have been the language of masses during time of Al biruni. Sanskrit is an elegant language but was again limited in access to few by the caste system.
A couple of observations
1. Indian advances in Mathematics are several centuries in the future from the period under discussion. And they owe quite a bit to interaction with the Greeks though patriots might not want to admit it.
2. Pali wasn’t a “language of masses” either. It was a trade language of Western India that became the literary language of the sthaviravadi Buddhists. Other sects used Sanskrit or other Prakrits. Shakyamunis mother tongue was Magadhi yet another Prakrit.
3. Sanskrit was the most prestigious language though at this point it didn’t have the monopoly it would later have. No it wasn’t a mass language either but more people had access to it than you might think.
An observation: Europeans owe quite a bit to interaction with the Indians though patriots might not want to admit it.
The Indian numeric system (often called Arabic in Europe) and the consept of zero (invented in India) enabled both the science revolution and the establishment of modern banks and corporations first in Italy and then in the rest of Europe.
I'm interested in the inventing of zero, so I searched it:
> The first evidence we have of zero is from the Sumerian culture in Mesopotamia, some 5,000 years ago.
> The symbol changed over time as positional notation (for which zero was crucial), made its way to the Babylonian empire and from there to India, via the Greeks.
> Arab merchants brought the zero they found in India to the West.
So the real inventor is Sumerian. Greek spread that to India, and later Arabs take that back to Europe from India.
Although Indian isn't it's inventor, they did their job spreading it.
The Taylor series comes from Madhava around 13th century. This was rediscovered in the 1970s. There is no feasible mechanism for Greek influence here.
1. What is the period under discussion? It seems to jump around. From 12 century BC to Al Biruni's time.
2. > And they owe quite a bit to interaction with the Greeks though patriots might not want to admit it.
Yes, it is hand wavy statement without specifying the period of interaction. This is as bad as the "patriots" (who are non existent except as bogeymen in this thread, lol. Maybe this makes sense if you are a Greek patriot. )
I always assumed it is not rude to ask for academic references. (I am even scared to ask for references here lol.)
Eurocentrism is a real thing but I did try to search for any refs.
The period I am referring to is from Alexander’s invasion of India to the height of the Roman Empire.
That the siddhantas are influenced by Greek is obvious to anyone who has examined them. E.g. one is called Romaka Siddhanta. Another, Paulisha Siddhanta is a literal translation of Paulus of Alexandrias’ commentary on the Syntaxis of Ptolemy.
The considerable advances Indians made in mathematics in e.g. Ganesh Daivajna or Nilakantha Somayaji etc. are comparatively later say 13th to 16th century.
There’s an unfortunate tendency amongst some people to get all defensive about the idea that things may not have been invented in India but why? Yes we borrowed from the Greeks but we took their system and made it better. That’s reason enough for pride.
Nowadays I read Sanskrit original sources only so I’m not entirely up to date with the academic literature I’m afraid.
There was no invasion of India by Alexander. He barely crossed modern day Pakistan and parts of Punjab before heading back. Magadha was still untouched and so where all southern kingdoms. India is not Delhi and adjacent areas of Delhi which speak Hindi.
As for rest of your comment, I don’t know enough to comment on it. On cursory reading it seems you are right and thank you for this information.
>There was no invasion of India by Alexander. He barely crossed modern day Pakistan and parts of Punjab before heading back.
Modern day Pakistan was then-day Indian civilization. And he had established several cities there.
>India is not Delhi and adjacent areas of Delhi which speak Hindi.
Don't have to be the whole of India. Just to be part of it. That's like saying someone who went to a tour of New England didn't visited the United States, because "New England is not the US".
This could partially be blamed on education being limited to few people as a direct side effect of caste system -> But the data seems to indicate otherwise at least from surveys around 1800.
From Dharampal "Beautiful Tree"
> It is, however, the Madras Presidency and Bengal-Bihar data which presents a kind of revelation. The data reveals the background of the teachers and the taught. It presents a picture which is in sharp contrast to the various scholarly pronounce- ments of the past 100 years or more, in which it had been assumed that education of any sort in India, till very recent decades, was mostly limited to the twice-born amongst the Hindoos, and amongst the Muslims to those from the ruling elite. The actual situation which is revealed was different, if not quite contrary, for at least amongst the Hindoos, in the districts of the Madras Presidency (and dramatically so in the Tamil- speaking areas) as well as the two districts of Bihar. It was the groups termed Soodras, and the castes considered below them who predominated in the thousands of the then still-existing schools in practically each of these areas.
> In most areas, the Brahmin scholars formed a very small proportion of those studying in schools. Higher learning, however, being more in the nature of professional specialisation, seems in the main to have been limited to the Brahmins. This was especially true regarding the disciplines of Theology, Metaphysics, Ethics, and to a large extent of the study of Law. But the disciplines of Astronomy and Medical Science seem to have been studied by scholars from a variety of backgrounds and castes. This is very evident from the Malabar data: out of 808 studying Astronomy, only 78 were Brahmins; and of the 194 studying Medicine, only 31 were Brahmins. Incidentally, in Rajahmundry, five of the scholars in the institution of higher learning were Soodras. According to other Madras Presidency surveys, of those practising Medicine and Surgery, it was found that such persons belonged to a variety of castes. Amongst them, the barbers, according to British medical men, were the best in Surgery.
Both your comment and the parent comment seems biased and in a way parallels jingoistic comments overhyping Indian achievements (but in the opposite direction).
Was there any objective metric by which ancient Indian engineering was behind others?
There are other Indian achievements that have no parallels elsewhere in a similar time. But you can't overgeneralize from them in the other direction either:
These far post-date the engineering constructions in Rome and Greece--not to mention Egypt and other bronze age civilization, including the Indus River Valley civilization itself. Its clear from ancient texts and stories like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Bhagavata Purana that the Aryans were a nomadic, tribal cow-herding people who didn't tend to live in fixed structures. At some point people starting creating permanent structures, and they are architectural marvels of course, but those achievements do not seem to co-ordinate with the vedic mathematics in the same way that Greek, Egyptian, and Roman mathematics co-ordinate with Greek, Egyptian, and Roman engineering marvels.
> that the Aryans were a nomadic, tribal cow-herding people who didn't tend to live in fixed structures
What are you talking about? Almost the entirety of the Mahābhārata deals with politics, intrigue, war- and state-craft, amongst others. The Rāmāyaṇa discusses an equally complex civilisation. By around ~500 BCE, Northern India had coalesced into large, hierarchical, and complex civilisations and city-states, which conducted war, trade, and diplomacy both within and outside the Indian subcontinent. The Kalinga war was conducted in ~260 BCE, and Alexander the Great halted his advance in India about half a century prior.
There's something about Indian history that is deeply, deeply divisive like almost no other civilisation's history is. On one side, there's the full-on jingoistic and ultranationalistic stuff like the out-of-India theory, that ancient Indian mathematicians and scientists built a civilisation rivalling the 21st century, that Sanskrit is the 'mother of all languages', and that it is a 'programming language' (yes, it has a highly regular, formal, and almost context-free grammar that allows it to be easily parsed like few other natural languages can, but that's it).
On the other hand, there's dismissive, 'Orientalist', and sometimes outright racist views. Yours is a good example of the dismissiveness and Christo-centric/Western-exceptionalism thought process that was the zeitgeist amongst many Western scholars until well into the 20th century. I daresay it is precisely in reaction to this sort of paternalistic dismissiveness that the above-mentioned jingoism sprouted in the first place.
> Its clear from ancient texts and stories like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Bhagavata Purana that the Aryans were a nomadic, tribal cow-herding people who didn't tend to live in fixed structures.
Do you have examples of stories to support this point? I ask because the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, at least, are deeply concerned with cities, city life, and the politics of cities, and nomadic life within them is a salient point only insofar as its main characters are in exile from the cities they wish to return to.
> These far post-date the engineering constructions in Rome and Greece--not to mention Egypt and other bronze age civilization, including
That has zero relevance to the statement about Al Biruni unless he magically travelled back in time and was stuck in some x-00 BC and couldn't see newer developments in India.
Also strange is the fact that around Al Biruni's time Hindu numerals were adopted by Arabs (and that we all use now). Maybe he did go back in time!
> Its clear from ancient texts and stories like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Bhagavata Purana that the Aryans were a nomadic, tribal cow-herding people who didn't tend to live in fixed structures
What? No, the Mahabharata has elaborate descriptions of palaces, cities. Even Ramayana mentions palace. And nomads, usually, don't have palaces or cities lol.
Lets leave all that aside and come back to this question:
Was there any objective metric by which ancient Indian engineering was behind others?
> Its clear from ancient texts and stories like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Bhagavata Purana that the Aryans were a nomadic, tribal cow-herding people
As others have pointed out they really don't. The Rig Veda does seem to describe a society somewhat closer to what you're talking about, but that's from a much earlier date
Whether or not you accept “Aryan migration” it would have occurred at least 1000 years or more before the period under discussion so I don’t see the relevance.
> vedic mathematics
The comment is almost entirely wrong but this is especially deranged.
> Indians never discovered things like antikythera mechanism
As a point of conjecture few/nobody would have thought the Greeks made something as complex as the Antikytheria mechanism unless it was discovered and studied extensively for a century. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if something of similar quality from Asia would be discovered or is in the study process already.
> As a point of conjecture few/nobody would have thought the Greeks made something as complex as the Antikytheria mechanism unless it was discovered and studied extensively for a century.
Well.. nobody except those who were willing to believe Cicero wasn't spinning a science fiction yarn when he described a very similar device and attributed it to Archimedes. But to your point, it seems like people didn't take it seriously until one was found. It makes you wonder what other things have been written of but not taken seriously because they sound too fantastic.
What we know about history is inevitably constrained by the evidence we find.
As for fantastic descriptions, what would future archaeologists think of scifi novels? Should they accept them as factual?
When I browse used bookstores, I often find novels stuffed into the history section. They aren't there maliciously, it's just that the titles on the books sound like plausible history books. Sometimes it's even harder to distinguish a novel from an actual account, though modern fiction seems to put "a novel" somewhere on the cover in small print.
Much of what we think we know from history is known to us only because somebody claimed it in writing, and it seems plausible enough so we have no particular reason to believe they made it up. As far as I'm aware we haven't dug up any ancient Greek polybolos ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polybolos) But they were described in ancient writings and the premise seems plausible, so we believe such polybolos existed and put it into our modern history books. The Antikythera mechanism evidently failed the implicit plausibility test, so we didn't believe it until we found one. Or maybe the written mentions of it simply failed to attract much notice so the plausibility was never given much thought in the first place.
Perhaps context and interpretation constrain more than artifactual concordance.
Comment was deleted :(
> was able to calculate the expansion of sines and cosines before Taylor’s theorems. It also had an understanding of sines cosines
We need a source
Here are pointers to some sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuktibhāṣā with digital open access at https://books.sayahna.org/ml/pdf/yukthibhasha.pdf (I'm afraid I cannot read it)
Even the facts are wrong.
Caste system itself was introduced in India by Portuguese in the 15th century.
You can generally blame a bulk of India’s historical lapses on the caste system, including its repeated conquests by invaders.
The worst part is that instead of dying out, it seems to be coming back.
I’ll always be bearish on India as long as we still have this awful institution around.
>> it seems to be coming back
Curious about that - do the founders of big indian IT companies, like Infosys or Zoho, belong to a specific cast?
Almost all founders are upper castes. Upper castes completely dominate most positions of power, from bureaucracy and judiciary to politics and entrepreneurship.
See this, for example: Last 5 years, 79% of new HC judges upper caste, SC and minority 2% each  https://indianexpress.com/article/india/last-5-years-79-of-n...
Indians will defend this by pointing out how Modi belongs to an "other backward castes" (OBC) category, conveniently skipping over the fact that this category was created as a political tool to gather votes and most OBCs face none of the discrimination the truly backward, lowest castes face (I also belong to OBC category fyi).
India's minorities, lower castes, and tribes - more than a third of the population - is heavily underrepresented in any position of power. In rural areas, caste discrimination is prevalent enough that lower caste people regularly get lynched for marrying someone from the upper caste.
I'm generally baffled and frustrated by the Indian unwillingness to acknowledge their privilege. It's turned into a meme at this point where everyone calls themselves middle class, from the finance minister, to Satya Nadella (whose father was the most powerful bureaucrat in his state of birth).
Anyhow, my ranting won't change things.
The president of India belongs to a Scheduled Tribe. If optics is what you are concerned about.
Some occupations like Law employ such a tiny percentage of the population, that Caste becomes too coarse grained to be the only dimension of analysis for the basis of privilege.
You probably will have a better chance of breaking into the top echelons of this industry by living in the right gated society in Delhi that puts you into contact with these entrenched folks rather than being the right caste in some remote Indian Village.
To look at a broader scale of occupational distribution, SC/ST folks have 23% affirmative action Quotas in Govt/State universities like IITs, IIMs and Medical Colleges. Is the issue that they are unable to compete in the Industry post college?
Caste based affirmative action quota is 52% with overall affirmative action quota at 63%.
Do you think more affirmative action is necessary to fix the problem?
At this point it just looks like " The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves".
You could also say no matter how large a portion you cut out of a pizza, you will never feed a hundred people if one pizza is all you have.
A huge % of reserved seats go empty, simply because there aren't enough candidates.
That should tell you where the problem is: most don't even make it all the way to higher education.
You have to first fix primary and secondary education. But to fix that, you have to first fix rural society where caste hierarchies are still dominant.
Do you think incidents like these are conducive to pushing scheduled castes to higher education? https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/16-year-...
> A huge % of reserved seats go empty, simply because there aren't enough candidates.
This is an interesting point. A huge focus of Indian politics is lobbying groups from various lower caste communities asking for _more_ reservation. The fact that this point never reaches discussion, that the Indian schooling system is failing its students never makes airwaves gives me the feeling that Lower caste community leaders and politicians are _not_ interested in fixing the problem if it loses them their captive vote banks.
Rural India has serious problem in class and caste. Depressing state of things overall.
But I would note that you could have chosen a better example. This incident does not have any caste slur or anything to indicate that this was rooted in caste. Government teachers and employees power-tripping in their little fiefdoms is a common story across caste boundaries. I personally know of examples of upper caste folks facing violence in schools. One had their front teeth smashed by their teacher by "accident", but you can guess the type of environment where these accidents happen. This will also never make headlines since there is no caste angle to push.
Caste is a problem in Rural and to a smaller extent in Urban India. But you will also have to admit that our media and related political interests are hell bent on fanning the flames. The caste angle is brought into every petty bit of violence. So much that it becomes hard to believe even what may be genuine cases.
The American version of this would be race being highlighted if the victim is Black/Indigenous/Hispanic. A common reddit trope is if the victim's race isn't mentioned then they're white. If the perpetrator's race isn't mentioned then they aren't White/White-adjacent.
Scholarships spanning the whole length of education rather than reservations may be a better mechanism for improving opportunity in my opinion. It would also let you know if your scheme is working since with reservation, you just let potentially unprepared students through without fixing other prior systemic issues.
> language(Sanskrit) depends on analogies and metaphors a tad too much ie, not being quantitive and exact
This is absolutely true.
You will find a bunch of modern keyboard warriors who have not studied Sanskrit literature vehemently disagreeing with this based on some misplaced sense of pride.
Sanskrit is --syntactically-- a very exact language with no room for debate. The flip side of this is that every dialect got labelled as an aberration (literally!) with no hope of mainstream adoption.
Now moving on from syntax, Sanskrit semantics is intentionally loosely defined. So much that you are discouraged from interpreting it yourself. The usual argument for that is that you would have a teacher who will teach you the correct interpretation. Obviously this did not scale, and caused knowledge to get lost wholesale over time.
A concrete example is the grammar rules of the language itself, which is supposed to be exact and well defined. Well, it turns out that these rules were only written down in terms of mnemonics (similar to remembering the first letter of trigonometric identities to recall it), and people have interpreted these mnemonics in different ways.
> Sanskrit semantics is intentionally loosely defined
I have studied Sanskrit literature extensively and do not know what this means.
> people have interpreted these mnemonics in different ways
Your implication is that people interpreted these mnemonics differently due to misunderstanding these rules. The mainstream scholarly response is rather some version of प्रयोगशरणा वैयाकरणाः ("grammarians take refuge in usage"), i.e. that different grammarians working in different eras and time periods were forced to reconcile the Ashtadhyayi as a fixed document with the slight divergence in contemporary usage -- that is, that they followed usage and intentionally reinterpreted rules to fit usage.
For an example of how this accounts for Patanjali's readings in particular, see .
>I have studied Sanskrit literature extensively and do not know what this means.
This means a sentence can often have many different meaning, not just the literal one suggested by the words.
The idea is you either accept multiple meanings or settle it through debate.
I am not criticizing this, this is fundamentally what makes literature and poetry interesting.
But this makes it really difficult to draw a line between philosophy and science.
Yes, it was disappointing to me to learn at some point that you can't actually read much of the great classical and vedic compositions without assistance of a commentary. Although the commentaries themselves are fairly exact.
It reminds me a lot of Greek drama, except there even if the grammar is funky, you can usually deduce how the language is being stretched and why, even if its very difficult and technical. In Sanskrit that isn't always an option, you just have to know from context why and how certain words are being used after having already studied the language for decades.
Sure you can. The parts of Veda I’ve learned were in the traditional with rigour in recitation but no attempt at understanding the meaning. But because I went on to study vyakarana and Kayvas etc. where meaning is emphasized I can understand most of the mantras without the commentaries.
But a good commentary does help and more importantly it is the accepted academic style just as footnotes, APA formatting etc. are Western academic conventions.
You always have to know context because language can always be stretched. People write poetry in Perl for goodness sake!
Interestingly Rigveda is comparatively easy to understand compared to the newer texts.
Perhaps because it’s written in more flowery, loose Sanskrit with words and idioms made up when the situation called for it.
Compared to that everything newer is a bit weird to interpret because some random phrase would be taken from some other contemporary text, the reader is assumed to understand and appreciate the cryptic reference.
Funnily enough this reminds me of Rick and Morty/South Park kind of media nowadays, where the inner joke is usually a pop culture reference.
> Interestingly Rigveda is comparatively easy to understand compared to the newer texts.
I've found this to be the case also, despite the free-wheeling and less regular grammatical style - because the Rigvedic hymns usually have pretty concrete subject matter - like getting motivated to steal (or perhaps "free") some cows held by an adversary.
Of course any number of other more abstract or esoteric interpretations can be read into the hymns, but I prefer the simpler and more earthly interpretation.
do you find mandala 10 easier than other mandalas?
The opposite, actually.
The last one feels like it was tacked on later and contains contemporary creation myths and practical philosophy.
That is things which someone presumably got tired of answering again and again and just added as an appendix.
Also the language is provable to have been a later iteration of Sanskrit.
>Although the commentaries themselves are fairly exact.
Now the problem is that these descriptions are colored by the philosophy and opinion of the person writing it, often heavily because of the lack of cross pollination of ideas.
For example, the ISKCON descriptions of the verses of Gita are often completely orthogonal to the main philosophy of Gita, but the interpretation is technically as valid as the literal interpretation.
>Now the problem is that these descriptions are colored by the philosophy and opinion of the person writing it, often heavily because of the lack of cross pollination of ideas.
Yes but you can always read multiple commentaries, and its usually good to be critical of whichever one you are looking at.
>For example, the ISKCON descriptions of the verses of Gita are often completely orthogonal to the main philosophy of Gita, but the interpretation is technically as valid as the literal interpretation.
Yea, my first Sanskrit teacher was not ISKCON but ISKCON-adjacent, a very well-meaning guy, but I think recently we're beginning to break because I'm rejecting his interpretations of the Gita and the Sankhya philosophy. I've never read the ISKCON materials directly but I get the feeling that they emphasize a kind of personal monasticism and asceticism, which seems not exactly antithetical to what the Gita propounds, but is certainly a very restricted reading.
> I get the feeling that they emphasize a kind of personal monasticism and asceticism, which seems not exactly antithetical to what the Gita propounds, but is certainly a very restricted reading.
Their interpretation is heavily filtered through the 15th century devotional movement of Chaitanya, himself a member of the devotional/dualist lineage started by Madhvacharya. Their beliefs stem from the medieval sectarian Puranic literature, and have the goals of moralization and idealization of Indian rural, pastoral, doctrinally vegetarian lifestyles, which is a perspective very far removed from the martial culture that produced the Mahabharata. Hence the strained interpretation they use.
I'd also argue that there is nothing particularly monastic or ascetic about the Gita, which propounds that conquest and the fruits thereof are not only acceptable, but are expected as a matter of the prince's duty.
Perhaps this was intentional, or supported by having teachers and a stronger oral history/tradition? Just as with Buddhism, I always felt there wasn't as much of a clear divide between philosophy and science as you find in western thought. You seem more well versed than I in this topic, so thought I would throw this out there in case you have any insight into this (or I easily could be misinterpreting).
That is exactly right.
The claim from the Greek historian is that this is what caused eastern science and engineering to stagnate compared to Greek/Roman efforts.
I am inclined to agree, of course it is not really possible to prove any causality here.
> The claim from the Greek historian is that this is what caused eastern science and engineering to stagnate compared to Greek/Roman efforts.
I am not an historian, but is this really true? Scientists/mathematicians then were philosophers or "natural philosophers" and it seems like most of the famous ones also worked on things like metaphysics.
It’s definitely true that European, Arabic, and Chinese engineering overtook Indians at some point in ancient history.
If I had to put a timestamp on it, it would be the fall of the Maurya empire around 200BC when the Roman War Machine was getting more and more organized and industrialized.
Can't speak of engineering but science, maths and art all continued to flourish and peaked in Gupta period 500 years later.
Could you mention the significant scientific progresses and discoveries made in those 500 years?
This is one of those topics where we can only dream of where we could currently be, had these traditions been allowed to continue and the knowledge shared.
Being from the western world, with a deep curiosity in eastern thought and practice, these types of thought experiments are very interesting to me, but also depressing when you look closely at the reality of how things played out.
Did knowledge stop being freely shared? Or rich families stopped hiring teachers?
I'm not sure this ever happened on a worldwide scale.
This was strictly in regards to the oral tradition of passing down knowledge in India.
Oh, ok. I understood something completely different.
Not true. Unless you learn Sanskrit, you cannot understand that the language can communicate multi[le dimensions of meanings. Ofcourse, it is not needed rudimentary things like physics, chemistry etc.
Ofcourse, Sanskrit can be used like English too. That is like using a super computer as a calculator.
That’s exactly the point being made.
Even if you try to describe precise and scientific facts in Sanskrit, the nature of the language would enable multiple interpretations of it.
That is amazing if you want to have intellectual debates, but useless if you are trying to follow directions to build ..say.. a bridge.
> Even if you try to describe precise and scientific facts in Sanskrit, the nature of the language would enable multiple interpretations of it.
Sanskrit's high polysemy is restricted to a rather bounded set of words (see the नानार्थवर्गः in the अमरकोशः).
Stepping back, this claim and the others you have made in this thread are strange and at odds with my experience reading and speaking and teaching the language, specfically the claims that:
- "Sanskrit semantics is intentionally loosely defined"
- the Rigveda contains "words and idioms made up when the situation called for it" in some way that is different from the ordinary suffixation that is a standard part of Sanskrit grammar;
- the ISKCON interpretation of the Gita is "technically as valid as the literal interpretation" in some manner that is unique to Sanskrit.
I consider these claims extraordinary and request evidence that any of these problems are (a) real and (b) unique to Sanskrit.
> That is amazing if you want to have intellectual debates, but useless if you are trying to follow directions to build ..say.. a bridge.
We have the various Shilpa Shastras  as a clear example of this kind of instruction, so I eagerly await a concrete example of what you mean.
> "Sanskrit semantics is intentionally loosely defined".
I'm not sure what evidence for this would satisfy you but here is an article with examples. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-subtleties-of...
> in some way that is different from the ordinary suffixation
This is fairly well studied, rigvedic sanskrit differs from modern sanskrit in the sense that vedic sanskrit is similar to all other languages.
Panini codified Sanskrit because he felt the language was evolving too rapidly and knowledge and wisdom might be getting lost in translation.
> the ISKCON interpretation [...] unique to Sanskrit.
I concede that this problem is not unique to Sanskrit. It is unique to classical (and not vedic) Sanskrit literature though. My hypothesis is that it is a natural side effect of codifying a language strictly and trying to prevent change. Other languages can (and has been) used to produce literature where interpretation is the key to understanding, but for Sanskrit it is the vast majority of the available literature, not a few oddballs here and there.
> We have the various Shilpa Shastras
Do you notice that these are heavily focused on art and crafts? And the number of these is astonishingly low for a ~7000 year old civilization.
> here is an article with examples
It's not surprising that a spiritual community highly invested in a fixed text can find new interpretations for it, see all of Christiany for illustration or  for a specific Christian example. The "kshetre kshetre dharma kuru" example, though, is especially naive -- sure, I guess you can make a new meaning if you totally ignore Sanskrit grammar. The author is clearly quite early on in their study.
> rigvedic sanskrit differs from modern sanskrit in the sense that vedic sanskrit is similar to all other languages
Sure, I agree that Vedic and Classical Sanskrit differ, largely in the same way that Homeric and Attic Greek differ. But this isn't the claim you made -- you said that the Rigveda contains "words and idioms made up when the situation called for it," which I reject.
> Panini codified Sanskrit because he felt the language was evolving too rapidly
Panini's intent is an open question, though your view is a reasonable one. The Ashtadhyayi is more descriptive than people give it credit for: it generally focuses on the भाषा, i.e. the contemporaneous usage of experts (शिष्ट), with a lesser emphasis on Vedic usage, and it further takes extensive notice of regional variation and different preferences among other grammarians of the time. Another possible interpretation is that just as the other parts of the ritual had been fully worked over and polished, it was thought that the language itself should be perfected (संस्कृत).
> for Sanskrit it is the vast majority of the available literature, not a few oddballs here and there.
This is an interesting observation that has other explanations -- see below.
> It is unique to classical (and not vedic) Sanskrit literature though
Again, I see no support for this.
> And the number of these is astonishingly low
Sure, I agree with this. But this isn't the claim you made -- you said that the nature of Sanskrit makes it useless for tasks like describing how to build a bridge, which I reject.
I'd like to conclude with two thoughts.
First, you are raising interesting questions. Why is it the case that so much of Sanskrit literature is commentary? Why does the number of Shilpa Shastras seem relatively low? Why does Sanskrit literature tend to have a culture of reinterpretation?
Assuming these observations are true, I believe that the answer is some combination of: India's oral memory culture and a concomitant deference to authority and preference for the spoken over the written; consequently, a preference for text forms that can be easily memorized (sutra and verse), which can be harder to parse and change; material constraints on manuscript preservation in the hot and humid Indian climate; strong deference to realized spiritual teachers, and by extension to all teachers; and extensive competition with local languages for intellectual territory.
But that's an armchair answer that needs further investigation. Note that none of these points have anything to do with Sanskrit as a language.
Second, Sanskrit and the tradition are far more exacting and precise than you give them credit for, and I encourage you to look into the matter more deeply before making extremely strong statements about it that have little basis in fact.
I have been reading and teaching Sanskrit for a long time, and in that time I have learned that while Sanskrit is special in many ways, it is still a language that can be used and learned like any other. Even so, I have seen extraordinary claims, both positive and negative, from people confidently asserting what Sanskrit is like without looking deeply into the matter. And while they are well-intentioned, they are -- to use your phrase -- "modern keyboard warriors who have not studied Sanskrit literature."
My intention was not to be negative, I apologize.
I have studied Sanskrit literature much more (15+ years with two mentors and on my own) than I have studied Sanskrit formally (3 years in high school). I love Sanskrit literature but not the modern culture of putting Sanskrit on a pedestal.
There is a reason the language has vanished from use and to a large extent not been used for passing on practical knowledge. These are potentially fixable issues, but to fix an issue a community should be able to admit that there exist issues.
>that they followed usage and intentionally reinterpreted rules to fit usage.
What I was touching upon was the culture of leaving things up to interpretation though, not just this particular issue.
I think the people who settled both regions, bringing the wheel, a language family, and other cultural structures probably left a common foundation that perhaps lead to further parallel development and/or facilitated cross fertilization.
India had wide trade and cultural interchange between Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and even the eastern Mediterranean at least as far back back as Harrapan times.
This is an ignorant generalization. Not sure if it is worth writing a rebuttal to a generalization that relies on one guy from 1000+ years ago.
Indian philosophy discarded physical well-being and the so called 'living standard' thing. Instead efforts were to optimize inner well-being. They realized pointless material pleasure will lead you nowhere and the craving for better environment only grow exponentially ad infinitum.
The longest stage of a typical man's life is spent as a Grihastha in persuit of worldly and material success. Two of the four aspects of Purusartha are about physiological well being.
I have no idea what you're talking about.
Nowhere except modern medicine, technology, etc.
My impression is that Buddhism could hardly be more different than Ancient Greek philosophy. If there's a parallel between Buddhism and some Western tradition, it's to Gnosticism. Or perhaps various Judeo-Christian traditions that encouraged ascetism.
Plato's allegories are very similar to Buddhist metaphysics. I recommend Vervaeke's meaning crisis series which draws connections between Buddhism, ancient Greek philosophy, Gnosticism, neoplatonism, etc.
>Buddha lived around the same time as Socrates. I can't help but wonder if some of the ideas were not cross-pollinated.
Well, at the (later, circa 330 B.C) time of Alexander the Great, some areas of India and modern-day Pakistan had established Greek cities, living behind them some considerable influence. That's a well known historical meeting between the two:
From my understanding, before being influenced by Hellenistic culture the Buddha was never represented in human form.
Greek statuary apparently had tremendous influence in Eurasia generally, including as far as Japan. The Greek wind god, Boreas, seems to have become (or at least been the source for depictions of) the Japanese wind god, Fūjin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C5%ABjin
Regarding your point specifically: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhist_art
Thank you for posting these Wikipedia articles. I honestly had no idea that there was this combination of ideas between Greek and Buddhist thought and art, but looking at some of the art, it's much easier to see the influences while having this in mind.
Greek and Buddhism had lot of interaction and exchange. Though, independently also Buddhism was a disruptive religion in India. It gained lot of prominence because of these differences and Hinduism required a major refactoring to gain back its position.
Note that Sanskrit wasn't the only ancient language of the Indian subcontinent; There were various languages & civilizations then as it is now.
The article itself mentions about the debate on whether the monk was sent from Tamil kingdom or Punjabi kingdom.
Al-Biruni was Central Asian/Khwarizmian (related to Persian), not Arab.
Colonial eurocentric thought inform history studies.
Greeks were at the fringes of the ancient civilization. The Romans and the Germans were considered barbarians in contrast.
India on the other hand was the center of the ancient world, both by sea trade as well as its huge population.
The Chinese as well as the SE Asians sent their best scholars as well as royalty to study in India.
It is very much more likely that the Greeks themselves benefited from their contact with India, as did many other ancient civilizations of that time.
Phyrro supposedly travelled to India, but he was later than Socrates I think
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There is a huge, unquestioned strain in the West that started with German Indology, that it has been as the original 'Aryans', that it was the inventor of all civilizations. This has been going on for 200 years, and formed the basis for the ruthless and savage colonization and India, but was quietly pushed out of view after the horrors of Nazism.
You are merely replaying this template.
The West has destroyed all its own traditions, and continues to want to not only appropriate and reform it in the mold of 'western rationality', but also to destroy the original tradition. We see this with Buddhism, Yoga, Ayurveda, Indology and what not, where the authority has been usurped by the West, not out of merit, but by politicking and economic cunning.
The sad part is that nothing changes in the occident either. Greco-Egyptian philosophy was appropriated by Europeans for the simple reason that it was bat to beat the papacy with, but then when it posed a real threat, it was again derailed by the continental philosophers and excreted out.
The role of continental philosophy on the study of India is an amazing one that is yet to be told.
Here's a great presentation from a recent conference,
> There is a huge, unquestioned strain in the West that started with German Indology, that it has been as the original 'Aryans', that it was the inventor of all civilizations
This was very much questioned even when it was somewhat mainstream, which was many many decades ago. Since the second world war it is unquestionably considered racist garbage by all reputable mainstream historians, archeologists and linguists.
The historians, archeologists and linguists might well question it, but the feeling is still there, see the recent comments made by an European Union high official comparing the "garden" of Europe to the "jungle" of what's just outside of it.
You said "There is... a strain in the West... that it was the inventor of all civilizations"
Academics do more than just "question" this, they consider it racist junk, unworthy of any consideration whatsoever.
An EU official talking about a "jungle", while reprehensible, is not representative of the thinking of most people, and, to keep you from wandering off-topic, is not claiming the West invented civilization.
The individual named in the article was a shramana of some type but more likely to have been a Jain than a Buddhist IMO. Customs such as going about naked and ritual suicide are more established amongst Jains (though not completely unknown amongst Buddhists.) The area around Baruch is a stronghold of Jainism to this day.
Very rarely jain monks would fast unto death (sallekhana), but not set themselves on fire, as that would be considered a form of violence. And ahimsa (non-violence) is absolutely fundamental to Jainism. Sallekhana would be somewhat akin to maha-samadhi in Hinduism (where the person leaves their body after attaining samadhi). The Śramana (श्रमण) tradition is more common in Jains but can also be in Buddhists.
For people that didn't make the connection, the inscription says "Zarmanochegas, of Barygaza" which is the greek name for Baruch. (an ancient port city in Western India)
Reminded of this Wikipedia entry:
This passage from Peter Brown's "The Rise of Western Christendom" describes cultural exchanges between Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean a few centuries later:
By the year 700 Christian communities were scattered throughout the known world, from Ireland to Central Asia. Archaeologists have discovered fragments of Christian texts which speak of basic Christian activities pursued in the same manner from the Atlantic to the edge of China.
Both in County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, and in Panjikent, east of Samarkand, fragmentary copybooks from around A.D. 700 – wax on wood for Ireland, broken potsherds for Central Asia – contain lines copied from the Psalms of David.
In both milieux, something very similar was happening. Schoolboys, whose native languages were Irish in Antrim and Soghdian in Panjikent, tried to make their own, by this laborious method, the Latin and the Syriac versions, respectively, of what had become a truly international, sacred text – the “Holy Scriptures” of the Christians.
I stumbled on this article by accident some time ago, and I can't recommend it enough.
I'd be interested to hear it appraised by someone whose knowledge of the subject didn't come (primarily) from Wikipedia.
Their influence feels notable in Pseudo-Dionysius, especially his Mystical Theology.
I do not think that there is a direct connection here. There are some vague similarities to some Buddhist doctrins, but that is only very much on the surface. The whole train of thought of Pseudo-Dionysius is Neoplatonic. Pseudo-Dionysius is primarily exploring the limits of theological speech and doctrin with the toolset of "classical" European philosophy and his contemporary theology. Much is just a "Christianed" paraphrase of Proclos.
It's a stretch. But remember that Plotinus only signed up to march against the Sassanids to learn Kushan philosophy better! And their ideas on apophatic theology already show up in the Enneads, eg. in his negative treatment of material beings.
What would I read to better understand what you're discussing here?
If you're the kind of person who likes reading original sources, you're in luck!
> The surviving writings are four treatises and ten letters. The four treatises are: 1) On the divine names (DN) (Peri theion onomaton, in Greek; De Divinis Nominibus, in Latin), the longest work of thirteen chapters that deals with affirmative or kataphatic theology, namely, the names attributed to God the creator in scripture and also in pagan texts, but also exploring the limits of language and therefore also involving negative or apophatic theology. 2) On the celestial hierarchy (CH) (Peri tes ouranias hierarchias, in Greek; De coelesti hierarchia, in Latin), a work that examines how the nine choirs of angels (in scripture) are to be understood in lifting us up to God. 3) On the ecclesiastical hierarchy (EH) (Peri tes ekklestiastikes hierarchias, in Greek; De ecclesiastica hierarchia, in Latin) that examines the various orders and liturgy of the church as relating us to God through a divinely appointed but human hierarchy. And 4) On Mystical theology (MT) (Peri mustikes theologias, in Greek; De mystica theologia, in Latin), a brief but powerful work that deals with negative or apophatic theology and in which theology becomes explicitly “mystical” for the first time in history (By mystical here we do not mean an extraordinary or private experience of transcending one’s self in the modern sense of the term, but simply “hidden”. On this see Bouyer, 1949; Vanneste, 1959; McGinn 1994). There follow ten letters that provide helpful comments upon topics in the above four treatises, especially letter 9 on what Dionysius calls symbolic theology of which works 2) and 3) above (CH; EH) form a substantial part. The ten letters appear to be arranged in a roughly hierarchical order, letters 1–4 being addressed to a monk (a certain Gaius, also the name of one or more of St. Paul’s companions), letter 5 to a deacon, letter 6 to a priest, and letters 7 and 9 to hierarchs or bishops. Letter 8 disrupts this order since it is addressed to a monk charged with disrupting the hierarchical order itself!
I'd expect the Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast(SHWEP) to cover him at some point in the near future, but the host hasn't quiet reached that point in the timeline yet. When he does, expect a much more digestible source of information.
Also, posterior to Pseudo-Dionysius but very much influenced by him, I'd also recommend to anyone interested in this to also read about Hesychasm:
> Hesychasm is a contemplative monastic tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church in which stillness (hēsychia) is sought through uninterrupted Jesus prayer.[web 1] While rooted in early Christian monasticism, it took its definitive form in the 14th century at Mount Athos.
Gregory Palamas  is the most well-known theologian behind that movement.
Related to today's geo-political events, later on, in the 1700s, hesychasm made its way to some of the most important monasteries in Russia via Northern Moldova and via this Ukrainian monk, Paisius Velichkovsky :
> Saint Paisius Velichkovsky or Wieliczkowski (Paisie de la Neamţ in Romanian; Паисий Величковский in Russian; Паїсій Величковський in Ukrainian; 20 December 1722 – 15 November 1794) was an Eastern Orthodox monk and theologian who helped spread staretsdom or the concept of the spiritual elder to the Slavic world. He is a pivotal figure in Orthodox Church history.
Were there not Buddhist monks in Egypt too at some point?
These people, from whom we get the modern usage of the term "therapy": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapeutae
I'm writing a whole thesis right now on the connections between Ancient Indian Philosophy and Psychoanaylsis. It's almost done, maybe I'll post it here for you guys to read.
I'd be interested in that!
Yes. Romaka in Sanskrit literature is Egyptian Alexandria not Rome as one might think. It was the major port of trade between East and West during the Graeco-Roman era and an intellectual center thanks to the library. Indian philosophers were known to have been present there. (Though, again, we don’t precisely precisely know if they were Buddhists or some other sect.)
Alexander the Great started his conquest around 335 bce and made it all the way from Greece, across Persia, and into India. Trade increased, and new greek settlements were set up along the way. There was a big exchange of ideas and culture, including Buddhism being introduced to the West. I think that the exact lineage of a lot of the ideas introduced then has been lost, and it's no longer possible to trace them with great fidelity. But I also think that Indial religion, including Buddhism, has had a great impact on early Western civilization.
The later history of The British East India Company left me disappointed and angry and what was destroyed and lost in India.
I think it was the below book.
Key passage from the review “Company officials engaged in a systematic orgy of asset-stripping Bengal, contributing to one of Bengal’s worst famines, killing millions. Rather than organise effective tax or famine relief, as was common among Indian rulers, the Company maintained its tax harvesting to sustain a high share price.”
Ultimately their pillaging and destruction damaged the company.
At the start of British colonization in India, India's GDP was ~30% of the world's GDP.
This had dropped to 2% by Independence of India in 1947...
I think pillaging is an understatement. It was a systematic transfer of wealth, probably like no other.
i think the industrial revolution happening in the intervening period might have had a little something to do with that
(and don't give me the "bengal was about to industrialize!!!" crap)
Industrial revolution was funded by the colonies, both in providing resources and the market for the finished goods. For instance, the British starved the local textile industry in Bengal (which had accounted to 30% of global textile market) by exporting the raw cotton back home and dumping the products in India.
The industrial revolution by in large funded itself. It was the result of the discovery of synergies between several technologies, such as transporting massive amounts of coal using water pumped out of coal mines using pumps powered by that coal. The more coal you dig, the more coal you can dig. Cheap coal in cities means you can have bigger factories in cities and more people living in cities to work in those factories, which made cheap goods that in turn supported even more people living in cities. Cycles such as this generated an immense amount of wealth and it would have taken over the world whether or not Europe was also doing colonialism stuff at the same time. If Europe had been limited to buying cotton at fair market values without colonizing people at the same time, that would not have stopped the industrial revolution. Colonialism was not a necessary prerequisite for industrialization.
But due to the free market, anybody trying to generate and sell cotton who was NOT using colonialism to make it cheap, was a loser. The industrial revolution hyped up the exploitation machinery to a new fever pitch. It became necessary, to compete.
Industrial revolution increased the demand for raw materials and thereby increased the profitability of colonialism. But that's not the same as colonialism being a prerequisite for industrialization. Industrialization also made chattel slavery in America much more profitable, but it would be an error to claim that chattel slavery in America was a prerequisite for the industrial revolution. The demand for resources that industrialization created would have been met one way or another. It exploited both colonialism and slavery, but didn't specifically rely on one or the other. Even if there had been no other choice but to pay all the cotton workers fairly, the demand of industrialization was strong enough that it would have supported that. The distribution of wealth would have changed at least somewhat, but industrialization certainly would have occurred anyway.
Right. So we'll relabel colonialism and slavery as 'inevitabilities' of industrialization. And be in the same place.
> For instance, the British starved the local textile industry in Bengal (which had accounted to 30% of global textile market) by exporting the raw cotton back home and dumping the products in India.
I mean, don't forget literally destroying the textile industry in India through a combination of targeted maiming and outright genocide. For centuries, Indian textiles had been the most sought-after across Europe and Asia, to the point where even today many modern words for textiles are Indian toponyms.
The textile portion of the British industrial revolution is pretty simple: they used slave labor to produce their raw materials (imported from the US) and destroyed their competition through violence and force, ensuring they could sell at virtually any price for nearly pure profit.
> shut the fuck up with your blood libel.
There are a number of factual inaccuracies in your post, but if you're going to hurl literal anti-Semitic insults at me there's no point in me pointing them out, or engaging further at all for that matter.
Yes, that sentence was completely unacceptable in a Hacker News comment, but since the parent edited it out, we'll let it go.
The bengal (Mughals) were at par with the British, technology wise. From Wikipedia
>> Modern views on the decline Since the 1970s historians have taken multiple approaches to the decline, with little consensus on which factor was dominant. The psychological interpretations emphasise depravity in high places, excessive luxury, and increasingly narrow views that left the rulers unprepared for an external challenge. A Marxist school (led by Irfan Habib and based at Aligarh Muslim University) emphasises excessive exploitation of the peasantry by the rich, which stripped away the will and the means to support the regime. Karen Leonard has focused on the failure of the regime to work with Hindu bankers, whose financial support was increasingly needed; the bankers then helped the Maratha and the British. In a religious interpretation, some scholars argue that the Hindu powers revolted against the rule of a Muslim dynasty. Finally, other scholars argue that the very prosperity of the Empire inspired the provinces to achieve a high degree of independence, thus weakening the imperial court.
Jeffrey G. Williamson has argued that the Indian economy went through deindustrialization in the latter half of the 18th century as an indirect outcome of the collapse of the Mughal Empire, with British rule later causing further deindustrialization. According to Williamson, the decline of the Mughal Empire led to a decline in agricultural productivity, which drove up food prices, then nominal wages, and then textile prices, which led to India losing a share of the world textile market to Britain even before it had superior factory technology. Indian textiles, however, still maintained a competitive advantage over British textiles up until the 19th century.
I wonder how long it will take for your comment to attract a Teddy K zealot to the replies.
Well yes and no, that 30% was during a high-point of the Mughal empire and before the widespread development of industrial capitalism. Its certainly the case that Indian society may have turned out differently if not for the British, but maybe not for the better, it was a society descending into factionalism and civil strife as that empire collapsed, the British simply stepped in and took over primarily to secure their trade interests, because they couldn't trust the local kings and warlords to do so anymore. In doing so, and then later establishing a government, they introduced modern medicine, education, roads, the rail network, and other critical infrastructure, as well as industrial capitalism.
This is not to excuse the British, but perhaps India would've been better off without them, perhaps not, the alternative, if there wasn't a single government, could've been a patchwork of dysfunctional extractavist states, like what you see in Africa. It may have been possible for a large south asian society to organize itself in an egalitarian fashion, but unless some miracle happened they would've been overrun by foreign capitalists, who had far more power than any other class in history, because South Asia is incredibly labor and resource rich, and at the time the only parts of the world that had even developed industrial capitalism were in the "west", Europe and the US, not to mention the only place that avoided that fate, Japan--the latter being moreso an exception that proves the rule (and which, after all, turned fascist during WW2).
> British simply stepped in and took over primarily to secure their trade interests
That skips over the rape, murder and utter destruction quite tidily. The British were not there to help and I don’t think that could be a valid argument at any stretch.
Nobody trying to exploit others is "there to help", I only pointed out that the British were not particularly worse than any other colonial power, and it would've only been by some miracle that a superior alternative could've occurred. Morality is only a thin veneer over power, I was only asking if all the Indians today who work and communicate on these computers would rather be living in underdeveloped agrarian societies, like what you see in much of Africa.
Diodorous stated that Alexander intended to inter-migrate the people of his conquered empire, to facilitate cultural exchange and unity between the Asian and European peoples who were by then his de facto subjects. 
Interesting to imagine what that counterfactual world might have looked like.
It's an interesting thought experiment to think of where we might be culturally and intellectually had there been an actual exchange of thought, without rulers taking advantage of people for profit. We can say the same thing even now, but back then it seems like those ideas are what built the foundation of our modern world. If that exchange had been allowed to flourish, we might be a much more civilized world.
I think there is a lot we can still learn, but the areas where the artifacts exist have succumbed to geo-political conflict between the great powers that surround them. Such as Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, etc.
Even in the current era we have groups such as the Taliban and ISIS destroying cultural artifacts and knowledge. One can only hope there is still knowledge contained somewhere safe that we might uncover and be able to share.
Why the ancient world seems mysterious and completely orthogonal to our modern ways?
At some point in history, "something" happened, I don't know what. Like Augustus a Roman emperor, was initiated into the mystery of two goddesses? What was that? The Sage caste of india could just decide to self-immolate? Why not other people of india and why certain caste did stuff? Why Marcus Aurelius was so wise and unique?
Why later kings and heads of states and general people were not like this?
> Like Augustus a Roman emperor, was initiated into the mystery of two goddesses? What was that?
Probably normal mystery-religion/club shit. We'll do the secret rituals, teach you our secret signs, impart some secret knowledge. Ta-da, now you're a 10th degree freemason, master-elect—er, I mean, are initiated into the mysteries of Juno or whatever. There are surviving fairly-old mystery religions (in addition to the alluded-to imitators of that sort of tradition, like the freemasons). They tend to be really shit at proselytizing and to not do great in a globalizing world in competition with bigger religions that are good at gaining converts, so it's a dying breed of religion, but hardly a mystery (ha, ha). Between that and limited ancient accounts, we can make a decent guess at the general kind of thing Roman mystery cults were up to.
> Why Marcus Aurelius was so wise and unique?
Eh, he wrote a pretty-good book on an existing philosophy that he'd been taught. Not nothing, but not exactly revolutionary. Epictetus, Seneca, and others preceded him. Anyway, a lot of that book doesn't get quoted in tweets, because it's not-so-wise-seeming stoic physics, metaphysics, and religion/cosmology. It's just the pithy bits of ethics and right-living that people really like. Meanwhile, in a few hundred years, Rome produced, what, two emperors whose writing we still care about at all, with IIRC 3ish volumes between them that are still read by ~anyone? Again, not nothing, but also not that out-there.
Did he merely learn what he was taught or did he start living what he was taught?
> Augustus a Roman emperor, was initiated into the mystery of two goddesses? What was that?
Yeah right? That is weird now. But I’m pretty sure the simplified version of what happened to that is is: christianity + germanic invasions..
> The Sage caste of india could just decide to self-immolate?
Fanatism has existed for a long time and “honorable suicide” too.. In that case it was about reincarnation.. I guess in modernity it’s less common because we have better options?
> Why Marcus Aurelius was so wise and unique?
I’m pretty sure he was not more wise and unique than lots of wise and unique people living today.. He just happened to be the literal emperor, and wrote a book. Also they had a Lot of really shitty emperors though..
> The Sage caste of india could just decide to self-immolate? Why not other people of india and why certain caste did stuff?
I think others did it too (or had it done to them?). I’m not expert and risk mangling a description of the ritual, but Sati/Suttee was where widows sat on their husbands funeral pyre or were buried alive.
The Greek authors naturally were not completely versed in the ins and outs of Indian traditions so they confused different social phenomena. There was no “Sage caste” but there were different orders of monks following different philosophies. They are loosely grouped together as Shramanas and they generally believed that this world was illusionary and full of suffering and the task of religion is to find a way out. Some of the more pessimistic ones thought that the only truly nonviolent way to do it is by suicide. This is an official dogma of Jainism to this day (though Darwin has moderated actual practice considerably.)
Sati is a different social custom from a much later time period.
> Why Marcus Aurelius was so wise and unique? Why later kings and heads of states and general people were not like this?
Seeing and sight are two different things and used to be taught as such.
> Why later kings and heads of states and general people were not like this?
Because we only remember the idealized propaganda of their self-images.
If you like this sort of thing, you may enjoy Gore Vidal's Creation book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_(novel)
The story follows the adventures of a fictional "Cyrus Spitama", an Achaemenid Persian diplomat of the 6th-5th century BCE who travels the known world comparing the political and religious beliefs of various empires, kingdoms and republics of the time. Over the course of his life, he meets many influential philosophical figures of his time, including Zoroaster, Socrates, Anaxagoras, the Buddha, Mahavira, Lao Tsu, and Confucius. Though vehemently identifying himself as a Persian and speaking disparagingly of the Greeks, he is half-Greek himself – having had a formidable Greek mother.
Funnily, few Athenians know about this, but if you ask them if they know about an "Indian Tomb", they will most probably know the nickname of Panathinaikos basketball indoor arena: https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/Κλειστό_Γυμναστήριο_Παύλος_Για...
> One of these tombs is that of an Indian Buddhist monk. On his tomb was placed this inscription: “Here lies Zarmanochegas, of Barygaza, who according to the ancestral custom of the Indians gave himself immortality.”
Why not show a picture of the inscription?
Personally, I find it beyond belief that any such details can be read off a tombstone left out in the weather - that they can be preserved for 2000 years. I have been to cemetaries, I have tried to read inscriptions carved in granite (very hard stone) - after 200 years (or possibly far less) it is almost impossible to read anything on the stone.
So a picture of the tomb + inscription should be a basic piece of information that is provided to support the story - so we are able to assess just how much reality there is to the claims.
It seems we know of the inscription from other texts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zarmanochegas
In that link it reads: > ZARMANOCHEGAS, AN INDIAN, A NATIVE OF BARGOSA, HAVING IMMORTALIZED HIMSELF ACCORDING TO THE CUSTOM OF HIS COUNTRY, HERE LIES
not exactly the same text. If you then follow the reference, you get to this page:
Where we see the phrase discussed by Strabo. He himself says he is relaying the account of Nicolaüs Damascenus.
> But one might add to the accounts here given that of Nicolaüs Damascenus.
> 73 He says that at Antioch, near Daphnê, he chanced to meet the Indian ambassadors who had p127 been despatched to Caesar Augustus; that the letter plainly indicated more than three ambassadors, but that only three had survived (whom he says he saw), but the rest, mostly by reason of the long journeys, had died; and that the letter was written in Greek on a skin; and that it plainly showed that Porus was the writer, and that, although he was ruler of six hundred kings, still he was anxious to be a friend to Caesar, and was ready, not only to allow him a passage through his country, wherever he wished to go, but also to co-operate with him in anything that was honourable. Nicolaüs says that this was the content of the letter to Caesar, and that the gifts carried to Caesar were presented by eight naked servants, who were clad only in loin-cloths besprinkled with sweet-smelling odours; and that the gifts consisted of the Hermes, 115 a man who was born without arms, whom I myself have seen, and large vipers, and a serpent of ten cubits in length, and a river tortoise three cubits in length, and a partridge larger than a vulture; and they were accompanied also, according to him, by the man who burned himself up at Athens; 720 and that whereas some commit suicide when they suffer adversity, seeking release from the ills at hand, others do so when their lot is happy, as was the case with that man; for, he adds, although that man had fared as he wished up to that time, he thought it necessary then to depart this life, lest something untoward might happen to him if he tarried here; and that therefore he leaped upon the pyre with a laugh, his naked body anointed, wearing only a loin-cloth; and that the p129 following words were inscribed on his tomb: "Here lies Zarmanochegas, 116 an Indian from Bargosa, who immortalised himself in accordance with the ancestral customs of Indians."
So, even if we do trust that the account of Stabo's is not a forgery or some other concoction, this is several layers deep into hearsay - the purported event, purportedly witnessed by Nicolaüs Damascenus, that was then faithfully captured by Strabo, that was then faithfully preserved/transcribed etc over tens of hundreds of years.
And even then, it doesn't mention the Kerameikos cemetery!
Contrast what we see above with the claim in the original article:
> The 11-acre archaeological site is filled with tombstones and statues of astonishing design and quality. One of these tombs is that of an Indian Buddhist monk. On his tomb was placed this inscription: “Here lies Zarmanochegas, of Barygaza, who according to the ancestral custom of the Indians gave himself immortality.”
Can we really say that one of the tombs *is* that of Zarmanochegas? Is it really unambiguous, with no room for doubt?
In all honesty the threshold of evidence historians accept in order to make grand claims, is outrageous. They are simply unable to say they don't know, and can never know. They make up stories, that would never pass muster with anyone with a reasoning mind.
I suppose the story gets the tourists in, so there's that. I'm sure a few Indian and Buddhist folk will make a visit on account of this story, and spend a few Euros.
One of the frustrating things about cremation being prevalent in many Indians is that it constrains our ability to extract ancient DNA of Indians. In this case if we had a sequencable skeleton it would have been really easy to determine getter he was Punjabi or Tamil.
when I asked chatgpt. it said Sumerians had no concept of zero. i asked who is attributed to the invention of zero, it says that it's Ancient India in 5th Century. then formulation by Brahmagupta in 5th Century.
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Many Indians have folklore stories of Jesus visiting India and taking a mix of Buddhist literature, even early days Christianity believed in reincarnation until it was removed. And of course Buddhism took its roots from Hinduism
This is usually sourced to the notorious forgeries by Nicholas Notovitch and Holger Kersten, the latter of which especially overlooks the elementary fact about Rozabal (in Srinagar) that “Yuz Asaf” is a very believable gloss of “bodhisattva”, especially given medieval Arabic terminology. See Shahristani, al-Biruni, etc.
There are many springs and wells across the UK and Ireland that claim to have been visited by, blessed by, or used by Jesus to perform miracles There's Japanese folklore that Christ visited Japan, and is even buried there. And perhaps most notably, the Mormon church claims that Jesus visited the Americas after his resurrection.
Historically, there's no evidence that Jesus travelled more than 200 miles from his birthplace. Folklorically, he's been everywhere that believers have been. Given the supernatural nature of these claims, it seems likely that you should believe whatever you feel is right. It doesn't seem a stretch to his abilities that Jesus appeared to many peoples across many places given the magnitude of his power and purpose, from a christian perspective.
 https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8115  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-little-known-lege...  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2008/07/la...
I think i saw a youtube alt history docu once that postulated that Jesus might have been a buddhist monk.
Young Jewish man runs into a Buddhist or at least Buddhist ideas in his twenties, spends a while learning about them, comes back to the temple in his thirties and starts telling people how great it would be if they were just nice to each other and maybe focus less on rules and hypocrisy. Gets killed by a Roman state that’s worried about uprisings and local Jewish leaders who don’t like different ideas. His followers tell stories about him in the following decades focusing on it being better to be poor, repressed, the Roman state feels threatened by a powerful underclass religion so they coopt it, make it the state religion, and shape it to be useful to empire. Ultimately it kind of contributes to the already crumbling empire.
All conjecture but reasonable enough.
If you start with the premise that Jesus was a real person but not divine, I think the real story would look a lot like that.
I kinda always wonder about Romans doing the killing. Was it because there was something going on. Or was it the easy route out asked by local dignitaries. Hey please get rid of this guy for us. And they just obliged to do the deed. Whole washing hands of the thing points me to that direction.
Likely both. Rome had some control over the religious leadership as well. So this somewhat at least revolutionary annoyed ordinary Jews, the local Roman influenced religious leadership, and the local Roman authorities by being perceived as a kind of revolutionary at minimum in a religious sense but also in a actual sense regardless of the truth of these things.
The annoyed religious leadership referred him to the local Roman in charge of such things who had him executed.
Agree, reasonable this might be closer to the real story. 1)Answers: what happened to the 12 years; 2) Why the stories were written decades later; 3) the co-opt seems likely at the 325 Council of Nicea.
I can even imagine one story being about "my teacher once met this dude who said we should be nice to each-other" and "a cousin heard about this guy who said that poor people should be helped by neighbors" and those somehow merged and became one person one story.
It happens today, in an era where information is/appears much more precise, people and attribution is common. e.g. quotes being attributed to Einstein or some rock-star, or actors "cancelled" for stuff some other person did or said.
As far as 2) scribes were expensive then, and paper/skins even more so. The stories weren’t written down until it was clear they were ‘hot’ and worth it.
Same with Buddhism, near as anyone can tell. None of the scripture is contemporary with Buddha.
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> early days Christianity believed in reincarnation until it was removed.
I’ve never heard of this, do you have some further reading?
I admit I’m not too well versed in the literature but I think I learned in world civilization class that one of their gods came back to life (and opened its own tomb and walked out) after ritual execution by the Romans. That puts reincarnation at the center of the story.
Resurrection is different thing than reincarnation though.
Sorry, I am not well versed in the finer subtleties of the domain's jargon.
It's not really domain specific jargon, it's just the dictionary definitions of the words.
I'm interested in this too.
I've heard an account, that some Byzantine queen-consort was told by a soothsayer that she (the queen) in her pervious life, was a witch.
So the queen asked/persuaded the king to remove this from Christianity.
Lots of evidence early Christians believed in it just a sample:
Your earlier comment generalises a bit too far though. Some early christians is not the same as early Christianity. Interesting fact nonetheless.
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