Friday, May 23, 2014


Two Thousand Five Hundred years ago, a man was born in the Himalayan Valley. A man who challenged God.

We may not get enough hang of the Sub-Himalayan subcontinent of that time. That was much similar to the current civilization, minus our technology. Almost all the major janapadas were run on oligarchy, and sometimes had some type of primitive parliaments, with representations from a wide range of citizens.                                                                                                                                        

At that time, the Aryan conquest was complete. The battle between the Indra clan and the Agni clan on the possession of soma was settled too. The earlier inhabitants of this land, the dasyus moved downsouth. Others mixed with the newcomers. Vedic codes of conduct were standardized. With settlements, ritualistic dogma could set in. Religion begun.

Kings, Chieftains and Lords started totemic worship. Notable chiefs of the clan, founder of major bloodlines, were also worshipped. As cows were used as money, any kind of wealth became known as Go or Gow - गो, गौ, गाव: A population was bound to maintain gotra, for marital, business and religious relationships.

With time and settlement, the power hierarchy became rigid, as a formal caste system. Druids monopolized the acquisition and use of knowledge among themselves. Even Kings were not normally allowed to interpret the knowledge of the system without professional help.

They called the total system of knowledge by its Vedic name, Veda. And the knowledge flashed through intuitions and/or meditation, as wisdom, to the minds of certain knowledge-seekers (similar to Sophists in ancient Greece). They saw the truth, they uttered the truth in metred words. Truth was ṛta and the verse was ṛk.

Unfortunately, knowledge became dogma in few centuries. Nothing unusual. We have seen, how, in modern times, Marxism, structuralilsm, Bakhtin's dialogism, other forms of post-structuralism including Derrida's approach to Texts have become dogma. All types of formats and structures to knowing and interpretation become dogma in a generation.

In ancient times,  just like today, dogmas were firmly fed by the power pyramid. In turn, such dogmas gave a validity to the power. Such feedback loop was clear, even in those pre-historic days, to some ṛṣis. Some of them, like Kapil, secluded himself. Some, like Viswamitra, challenged the leaders of the system to get a pie from the system itself.

There were challenges within the system. Continuous immigration from the agnijaji Persians, and the other middle-Asian tribes, introduced new clan-leaders and gods, in every generation. To maintain the system, in a settlement, standardization was necessary.

To keep things in order, a rigid code of conduct and a set of overseers were born.

Interesting. Isn't it? That is exactly what today's Indian constitution and the judicial system do. And you cannot challenge the Indian constitution, other Laws and the judicial system in the Court. You can challenge the application of certain Laws and certain interpretations through appeals in the higher court of Law.

Direct challenge and denial of the Judiciary would result in the Contempt of the Court.

It was exactly the same, three thousand years ago.

That is why Charvaks were to be hanged in most Kingdoms. That is why Rama, the Great King, cut off the head of Shambuka, a Shudra ascetic practicing Vedic ritual (does not matter if the shambuka story is an extrapolation. It reflects the rigid power hierarchy of this land.)

In a nutshell, Knowledge was not for all.

In a nutshell, majority were to follow the dictum of the extreme minority as the god's voice. No dissonant tone was allowed. Plutarchy and Monarchy ruled together.

The whole population was treated as child. Don't we see the same attitude today when leaders say, "They don't have voice. We have to give them voice."

Didn't we see the same thing when even leaders like Rabindranath, Gandhi and Nehru advocated in favor of civilizing the savage. Today, the savage has another name - the subaltern. Leaders could never put up with a dissonance in history. It was a curse for them that certain people could be outside the grab of the history.

This mentality did not let Gandhi allow the abolition of caste system.

However, we, participants and witness to this large play of history, meekly ask, "Who is Gandhi to allow? Is he god?"

Similar questions were raised two thousand five hundred years ago. That period was more difficult than today. Counter-cultures were part of dogma, just like today.

Yet, rebels appeared. They appeared with a long history.

Jains trace their root back to the beginning of the Iksvaku clan, to the first Tirthankar Parsvanath. Interestingly this clan gave birth to  Rama, the great King. All Jain Tirthankars were Royal Princes. All of them except two were from the Iksvaku clan. 

Surely, this looks like some kind of validation.

Bṛhaspati was another rebel from the time of the Vedas. His sutras are perished (or annihilated?), however.

Thre are allusions to such rebels in the Vedic literature itself. Some of these rebels were assimilated. Others, like Viswamitra, wanted to be assimilated on their own terms.

That time was more like today's Hindu Bharat. It was similar to the golden calf worship of the orgiastic Jews, when Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

People in power wanted the rigid social order to remain as it were. Kings wanted more wealth and power. Brahmins wanted more power in the society and eternal glory. Everyone believed in the ritual of sacrifice to gods to get more of everything.

The idea of indulgence, penance and payment, exactly like the Chrisitian Catholic Church, raised its heads through all these. One could commit any crime - genocide, rape, incest, theft, robbery and almost any other sacrilege. One just needed to pay the correct amount, or in the correct kind, as penance, to the head of the Priest class, or to the King, or both.

The goal of human life was to appease gods, and gods' representatives, so that one could have eternal bliss in the heaven, after death.

The idea of the cycle of births and the impermanence of heaven was there. But, nobody would actively think about impermanence. Materialist philosophers such as Brihaspati were marginal. People called them Nastik. They could not give any long hope. They refused any reality other than the one obtained through physical senses. They believed in the existence of the body, and the material existence of the soul attached to the body, in case a soul exists.

This is when Prince Siddhartha was born somewhere in the Himalayan valley, five centuries before Christ. 

We all know how he was predicted at birth by the ascetic Asita that he would be a King of Kings, like the one the world had never seen before. We also know how he was brought up within the confines of the palace, just like the Happy Prince. And then we also know what happened next.