Monday, 5 November 2012

Dharma: etymology and a brief account of its evolution



Dharma is undisputed as the most central and pivotal concept in Indian, particularly Hindu culture. Etymologically, it  derives from the root √dh meaning to bear, to support, to uphold. From the same root we get dharti, dhāri, dhruva, dhart, and dhāraā, dhīra and dhairya. It is notoriously difficult to translate into English, and it takes a range of words to convey its meaning as understood within Indian culture context: righteousness, religion, law, morals, ethics, correctness, duty, upholding faith etc.

So it may come as a surprise, that for the first 1,200 years (apprx) of textual history, from the earliest strata of the gveda to the Brāhmaas (2000 BCE to 800 BCE) it was not a central term, in fact one could say it was even marginal. In the RV it appears as a neuter noun, dharman and occurs merely 67 times; in the Atharvaveda 13 times; in the corpus of the Yajurveda brāhmaas (the three main ones being Aitareya,Taittirīya, and Śatapatha) it occurs 11 times; In the corresponding Arayakas only three times.. And in the earliest upaniads that are written in prose (Bhadarayaka, Chāndogya, Aitareya and Taittirīya) it occurs in only 9 passages.

In the early Vedic  period dharman is associated with Mitra-Varua operated in the ritual and ethical sphere, carrying the meaning of a command, rule or law. It’s application in sacrifices related to royal consecration is significant – especially the rājasūya. The connection with Varua, and the duties of a king in maintaining social order based on a divine law are evident.

Moving on to  the period when the earliest Dharmasūtras are written (6th to 2nd century BCE), dharma has moved from the periphery to become the central concept in the Brāhminical religious vocabulary. How this change came about, the socio-political causes behind this transformation are complex  and of tremendous interest to historians of Hinduism. 

Sufficeth to say that from about the 2nd cen BCE, when pivotal Hindu texts were being crystallised  especially the epics and the dharmaśāstras, dharma was indeed centre stage, and included all aspects of proper individual and social behaviour as demanded by one’s role in society and in keeping with one’s social identity according to age, gender, caste, marital status and order of life – best exemplified by the sva-dharma the Bhadvad Gita expounds in the instruction of Arjuna.

Today the ‘dharma’ we understand is an amalgamation of 4000 years of a rich and variant religious tradition. It is not merely about caste laws, civil & criminal law, or the duty of a king, a prince or a householder. It has sensitivity at its core; deep and significant moral-ethical tones about how we conduct ourselves and treat our fellow beings, brought to the forefront by pivotal ancient śramaa movements, by the yoga tradition (yama-niyama) and very importantly the Bhakti movement.

Hinduism has grappled with dharma for centuries, most richly depicted in the Mahabharata. For a modern perspective, I recommend “The Difficulty of Being Good”, By Gurcharan Das.  0670083496 | ISBN-13: 978-0670083497

Bibliography:

Material for this blog post has been taken from the following sources:



“Between the Empires: Society in India 300BCE to 400CE,” Oxford University Press, 2006

“Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India,” trans, Olivelle, Oxford University Press, 1999

31 comments:

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Can I add- "larger well being"-action performed with larger wellbeing as d core Intention. Post has words only.

Being is the key word here.

Being is the state of expansion of the consciousness. Dharma requires that action that leads to more expansion or maintaining the existing state.
For example a Nations leader has to have the consciousness of the nation. His consciousness cannot shrink to that of the State , society or family
Swa-Dharma therefore means Action performed so as to mean Larger well being. That which leads to more expansion or maintaining the existing consciousness
This is correct path with evolution. Dharmic laws override karmic laws. In Mahabharath this is classically defined by a court case
Duriyodhan and Yudhistir are asked to give verdicts to same theft by 4 people Brahmin,Kshtriya,vasihya ,Sudra
Brahmin faces death penalty when Shudra faces some minor penalty according to Yudhisthra alias Dharman.
Durioydhan gives same penalty of all. He is adjudged not to understand concept of Dharma at all

Rohini Bakshi said...

Thank you. I invite further comment on this. Please quote where in the Mahabharata this story occurs, so that those who are not familiar can read it themselves. Your interpretation of 'sva-dharma' is relevant for today, but not consistent with the dharmasutras. But the beauty of Hinduism is that we constantly evolve and transmute. We don't reject the old, but conduct ourselves according to what is socially, spiritually and morally acceptable today.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

punishment for Murder committed by 4 people , Duryodhan gives same punishment for all 4.
Dharman wants to know the varna and jati before giving .
Shudra - 4 years
Vaishya - 8 years sentence
Kshatriya - 16 years sentence
Brahmin - Highest punishment and hence Kulguru Krupacharya will give it

His explanation goes like this
Shudra is agnyani therefore only 4 years , vaishya knows better therefore 8 years
Kshatriya is the protector of country and he must be punished double.
Brahmin is a Gnani, therefore Highest possible

To adjudicate the punishment for a Brahmin whose punishment should be higher than all the 3
Brahmin wants AgniPravesh as the punishment.
Dharman says "Its is injustice that men with different scales of Knowledge be punished in same manner"

Hindi Version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hp44iEsFjY&feature=player_detailpage#t=765s

Tamil version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNuduIE4_9I&feature=player_detailpage#t=823s

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Rohini >> Your interpretation of 'sva-dharma' is relevant for today, but not consistent with the dharmasutras

Vijay >> Please let know which Dharma Sutra ?

The thumb rule of dharmaSutras is in its practicality to adapt.Krishna had multiple wives and was still a Naistiga Brahmachari where as Rama was a Eka Patnivrathan. Both are dharmic through the Eye of the gnani. Ramayana and Mahabharatha are where dharma is played out in circumstances.

Rohini Bakshi said...

Thank you for bringing this up. I normally avoid all 'negative' (by modern standards) references to the Dharmasutras. But I will respond to this in detail tomorrow. Keep the comments coming! Debate and discussion is what we are about.

shivoham said...

thanks for research and the discussion! 'Dharma' as its etymology presented above is tied beautifully to its use and misuse that makes so much more sense to me:

1. Every major Indian thought system - Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism operate with 'Dharma' as their fulcrum / foundation / basis, and are thus called Dharmic thought systems. In fact, the world's thought systems / religions can be divided into those based on (sva)Dharma, and those not and this turns out be a fundamental, *irreconcilable* difference.

2. Based on its etymology and usage, it is apparent that the principle of Dharma is universally valid and independent of race, birth, geography, gender,etc, and is applicable not just to humans, but also plants, animals, living, and non-living things. Everything has its own sva-Dharma, including Bosons :)

3. The west interprets 'Dharma' as law or code, which is incorrect. Neither is it is a religious edict/fatwa/etc. Its etymology clearly transcends religion and legalese.

4. when Indira Gandhi took advantage of the emergency in 1975 to modify the constitution to make India "secular", it seems the phrase "Dharma Nirpeksh" was initially used to represent this, which of course would have been really, really silly thing to do given the above etymology of 'Dharma'. Thankfully, i believe this was corrected to 'Panth Nirpeksh' (i think). One can safely accept/reject religion, but to reject Dharma and embrace Adharma is dangerous :). In fact, many suggest (and i now agree) that 'Dharma Sapeksh" would be far better than "secularism", another western import that leads to error-filled discussions, which leads me to a final comment.

5. The word 'caste' used in the post above is fraught with risk. Caste is NOT an Indian word or a system. There was no 'caste' in India until relatively recently! etymology => word originated from Portuguese (Casta) and employed by colonizing Europeans as a misguided, erroneous merging of the twin Indian social & economic dimensions of Jati and Varna. Consequently, a big chunk of the ongoing "caste" discourse is riddled with error, often leading to silly recommendations and conclusions that are then exploited by vested interests. The etymology of 'Jati' and 'Varna' would be interesting to know.

Rohini Bakshi said...

Subra! Thank you for making this a real debate, and I'd like to keep it off Twitter where I have encountered many a twit who cannot comprehend intellectual honesty. You are absolutely right about 'caste' as a word. More on that anon. Thank you again for starting a genuine debate rather than some pseudo-&^%$)(*&

shivoham said...

thx. i expect to learn, or unlearn something here - either way i will not go away empty-handed and consider it time well-spent :)

Rohini Bakshi said...

Jāti is from the root 'jan'meaning to be born, to give birth. It means a form of existence fixed by birth;a position assigned by birth;family;characteristic of a species and so on. Varṇa comes from the root vṛ meaning to cover, from which we also get Varuṇa (god of sky before he came to be associated with waters),varīyas,variṣṭha etc.Varṇa can mean cover, shape, form,class of men, colour,and kind (of thing. As you rightly say it seems both have been amalgamated into 'caste' because caste is given as a lexical possibility for both words. I'm using Apte, not some foreign dictionary (unduly maligned sometimes :-) the Skt-German ones are excellent.)

Rohini Bakshi said...

Hi, this is a fascinating case you have brought up. It is at complete variance with the early dharmasutras, and it interests me greatly to find out why. I'd like to explore which historical strata of the MBh this episode is from, which is why I was asking for the chapter.

The final redaction of the MBh in the form we have it today was about 400AD, while the DS were written between 600-200BC. If it was a post-Buddhist reaction, caste as a criteria would have been rejected, as Duryodhana seems to do, saying all get equal punishment. But Yudhishtira inverses the dharmasutra scale of measure. Worth a long term exploration. Meanwhile,let's look at the dharmasutras, which precede Manu by about 300 years.

Punishment as well as penance for sins committed are inversely proportionate (without exception) to caste. For the same crime, the brahmin will get the least punishment and the shudra the most. Similarly with penances: the most extreme are for the shudra and the least for the brahmin. Here are some examples. Not exhaustive, but indicative:

Gautama DS 12.8-13 If a Kshatriya hurls abusive words at a Brahmin, he shall be fined a hundred* A vaishya guilty of the same shall be fined one and a half times as much as kshatriya. A brahmin guilty of the same crime against the kshatriya shall be fined fifty* and half that amount if the crime is against a vaishya, and none at all if it is against a shudra.
Gautama 12.43-46 A thief (non brahmin)carrying a pestle should go to the king and proclaim his deed.He is cleansed by being killed or released, but if the king doesn't kill him, he takes the sin of the theft. There shall be no corporal punishment for Brahmins (for theft). They are extricated from the deed by publishing their crime and sending them into exile... etc
Gautama 22.2-16 A man (brahmin) who has killed a brahmin must emaciate his body and throw himself into the fire 3 times. Or he can live a life of chastity for 12 years. If he kills a Kshatriya he must live a life of chastity for 6 years, if he kills a vaishya for 3 years and if he kills a shudra for 1 year. (there are fines to be paid also, in decreasing order like the years of chastity)

There are variation of this in the dharmasutras of Āpastamba, Vasiṣṭha and Baudhāyana. But the principle remains the same. See Baudhāyana 2:1:1-12



Rohini Bakshi said...

Regarding the link you provided and the case you brought up, some further comment. As I'd mentioned I was surprised to find a case at complete variance with the dharmasutras. I chose to consult Bibek Debroy, who is a Sanskrit scholar and is currently translating the critical edition of the Mahabharata. Firstly let's remember that the epic grew from a few thousand verses to 100,000 by a process called accretion, and secondly that there are many versions of it - Tamil, Bengali, Jaina,etc etc. Learned authors added verses to suit the environment or a social agenda they wished to pursue. This episode could have been one such addition.

In light of this please see Bibek's reply via email, which I am posting here with his permission:

Dear Rohini, There is a problem with this, as with several other references to Mahabharata. As you know, there are regional variations, with differences in the text. I don't know those. I essentially know the Critical version and the Bengali one. To the best of my recollection, this reference is non-existent in either. I suspect this reference occurs in the Gita Press version, familiar all over north India. Best wishes and regards, Bibek Debroy

shivoham said...

thanks for posting the etymology of Jati and Varna. In your response to the interesting Mahabharata court example, you use 'caste criteria', which is quite confusing. Are the aforementioned penalties dependent on Jati of the person, his/her Varna, or both?

Rohini Bakshi said...

I'm not an expert on jaati vs. varna. In the dharmasutras, only brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra are mentioned when deciding severity of punishment and penances. I have not read the later dharmashastras (post manu) or the nibandhas which are commentaries on them. Perhaps they have much more highly segmented description. Society got more and more segmented and complex as time passed. So I can only refer you to P.V Kane's monumental work "History of the Dharmashastras" which pretty much covers everything from the beginning to recent times. Sorry I couldn't answer the question better than that. Perhaps when I start working on my PhD :-)

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Part1..

Vijay >> I would comment Inline.May be my views are totally not in sync with yours.

Rohini >> Hi, this is a fascinating case you have brought up. It is at complete variance with the early dharmasutras, and it interests me greatly to find out why. I'd like to explore which historical strata of the MBh this episode is from, which is why I was asking for the chapter.
The final redaction of the MBh in the form we have it today was about 400AD, while the DS were written between 600-200BC. If it was a post-Buddhist reaction, caste as a criteria would have been rejected, as Duryodhana seems to do, saying all get equal punishment. But Yudhishtira inverses the dharmasutra scale of measure. Worth a long term exploration. Meanwhile,let's look at the dharmasutras, which precede Manu by about 300 years.

Vijay >> Dharma by its very word is attached with Sanatan that means its independent of time , race, etc...The idea that the Buddhist pre and post and its influences are something I dont agree with. I(and other sources of mine)have never heard of something called DharmaSutra , it is DharmaShastras.Manu dharma is actually a ManuSmriti. Smriti is localised for a certain time and certain region. To make everything validated against ManuSmriti was never the rule. Swami Vivekananda himself said in his complete works that Validation he would go to Upanishads and not to smritis

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Part 2...

Rohini >> Punishment as well as penance for sins committed are inversely proportionate (without exception) to caste.

Vijay >>This I completetly disagree. This is in sync with modern sources of Caste (as Varna) from british based projection of Evil Caste system
I present my understanding of how the Varna system comes also with examples which is required for answering other points you made below.
Varna by itself is never a fixed rule.If Krishna In BhagavadGita says "Arjuna you are Kshatriya and Kshtriyas duty is not be coward" , the SuperConscioun Incarnate Krishna authorises the Varna ??? Then it is for me clearly not man made. He goes on to say that "Sattwas-Rajo-Tamas" Guna makes one Br,Ks,Va,Sh.This comes from nature and this defines SvaDharma of the person.Whats the basis of this classification ?

A human being is composed of Body,Emotion(Manas),Intellect(Buddhi) and Soul (Atma).
I give a rough table, not exactly but only to present a idea of Gunas arising out of proportions of Sat-Raj-Tam

Predominance Instruments Class Chakras
Soul Conscious, Buddhi,Manas,Body Brahmin Brain
Buddhi Conscious Atma,Manas,Body Kshatriya Chest
Manas Conscious, Atma,Buddhi,Body Vaishya Stomach
Physical Conscious Atma,Manas,Buddhi Shudra Below
Stomach (feet)

This is also corroborated in Vishnu Purana where this is explained.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

So it applies equally irrespective of time and is Universal. It can also be extended to animals in special casesdharma is not man made law and is just a discovery of laws of creation its operation and dissolution.

The ancients understood existing laws and tried to map it to Social system to be as close as possible. Justice system also has to match with Karmic Laws as a result.

Ex : This is the very same varna System where ViswaMitra from being a Kshtriya became BrahmaRishi who gave Gayathri Mantra.Kshatriya given Gaythrimanthra is chanted by all Brahmins and is considered mother of Vedas.
According to this system, King Kaushika is a Kshatriya but the moment he went into Soul consciousness he became a Brahmin by Karma a Brahma Rishi accepted by none other than Vashista. This has to kept in mind.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Part 4 ...
Rohini >> For the same crime, the brahmin will get the least punishment and the shudra the most. Similarly with penances: the most extreme are for the shudra and the least for the brahmin. Here are some examples. Not exhaustive, but indicative:
Gautama DS 12.8-13 If a Kshatriya hurls abusive words at a Brahmin, he shall be fined a hundred* A vaishya guilty of the same shall be fined one and a half times as much as kshatriya. A brahmin guilty of the same crime against the kshatriya shall be fined fifty* and half that amount if the crime is against a vaishya, and none at all if it is against a shudra.
Gautama 12.43-46 A thief (non brahmin)carrying a pestle should go to the king and proclaim his deed.He is cleansed by being killed or released, but if the king doesn't kill him, he takes the sin of the theft. There shall be no corporal punishment for Brahmins (for theft). They are extricated from the deed by publishing their crime and sending them into exile... etc
Gautama 22.2-16 A man (brahmin) who has killed a brahmin must emaciate his body and throw himself into the fire 3 times. Or he can live a life of chastity for 12 years. If he kills a Kshatriya he must live a life of chastity for 6 years, if he kills a vaishya for 3 years and if he kills a shudra for 1 year. (there are fines to be paid also, in decreasing order like the years of chastity)
There are variation of this in the dharmasutras of Apastamba, Vasi??ha and Baudhayana. But the principle remains the same. See Baudhayana 2:1:1-12

Vijay >> All these are purely ManuSmriti. My understanding
1. Priniciple :As far as punishment is considered, karmically if someone commits a crime against a Brahmin(SoulCon) , then that is karmically more strong than lets say against Shudra (BodyCon) .
Ex: Rama a Kshatriya performed BrahmaHati Yagnya to remove the karma by Killing Ravana a Brahmin.

2. When a Brahmin commits a crime - Punishment is far higher than with Shudra.
If Soul Age be taken as parameter, then Shudra is Juvenile while Brahmin is like a Supreme Court Judge. Punishment has to be inversely proportional to AWARENESS / KNOWLEDGE

GautamaDS 12.8-13 is fulfilled partly as per my definition, but Numbers cannot be part of Dharma. Its specific and by its very nature subjected to change.
GautamaDS 12.43-46 Disagree.I have never found so much specifics built into a Dharmic System. Its more like Islamic Stone to death rigid punishments.
Gautama 22.2-16 I agree in priniciple not in specifics.The number of years is calculated per chakra. Our body has 7 chakras (2 body,2 mind,2 Buddhi,1 Soul) so 12 years for brahmin to cleanse 6 chakras- 3 bodies , 6 for Kshatriya is also ok, 3 years nd 1 year is Subjective number not necessarily linear.Again it cannot be classified Black and White in Dharma.

I think I am at complete variance with the ideas you present on the blog.
Principle - Higher the renunciation/restraint, More the discipline , More the Knowledge , more the respect, Higher the degree of Punishment for crimes committed by/against you. Hence a Saint has more standing in the Hindu Society than the King.

A Buddha is better Brahmin though he is born in a Kingly family because his soul aim in life was Truth and he renunciated everything for it. Today the Varna is based on Money and Not Guna

Elitist , Upper class, Middle class, Lower class. In ancient days it was Consciousness. hence the existing system of jati/Varna does not make sense.
it exists and will continue to exist. I would not buy the theory that Caste/Varna is evil for it is not Man made.

I rest my point here.Sorry if I have deviated away from the Subject.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Subra >> Are the aforementioned penalties dependent on Jati of the person, his/her Varna, or both?

Vijay>> Varna matters, Jati in my opinion not. please see big comment series against Punishment inversely proportionaly to Vara comment from Rohini.

Rohini Bakshi said...

Who can disagree with your point about Buddha is better than Brahmin ...today? if you said that in a 'Hindu' community in 500 BC, you would be considered a heretic and probably externed! And why should you apologise for deviating!? Free expression is what this blog is all about.

If I had any objection, it would be to your phenomenological interpretation of the sutra texts. Their motivation, their goals, their path was not determined by yogic ideas, or by contemporary egalitarian liberal ideas.

Dharmasutras are pure,unadulterated Brahmanism, designed to protect orthodox Brahminical society of their day from disintegrating in the face of very powerful socio-economic and political flux. (Urbanisation,Buddhism, loss of patronage, schisms in the Brahmanical community - remember the upanishads were being written at exactly the same time as the early dharmasutras)

What they contain, 'modern' liberal Hindus are mostly ashamed of and want to deny. Only their 'bad' (by modern standards) content is highlighted in view of today's social realities - gender equality, caste system.

So, thank you for sharing your (what I think is a very well thought out and innovative) analysis of how punishment should be meted out. Perhaps I agree with a lot of what you say.

But OUR driving forces are not what determined the content of these texts. And I for one, like to study them for what they are, and try to fathom the minds of the authors in light of what was happening around them at that time.

Please don't think for a minute that I'm advocating what's written in them. I study them, with deep respect and affection - as historical texts. Nothing more.

Rohini Bakshi said...

Also, let's not lose sight of the original point of this discussion (so easy when the Dharmasutras come into the picture anywhere :-)) My intention was only to point out that the episode you have quoted does not exit in the critical edition of the Mahabharata. It has been taken from a rescension, and has been added by some learned authors in tune with something whic their society needed at that point in time. That is how the epics grew from day 1.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Rohini >> Dharmasutras are pure,unadulterated Brahmanism, designed to protect orthodox Brahminical society of their day from disintegrating in the face of very powerful socio-economic and political flux.

Vijay >> replace DharmaSutras with Bible and Brahmin with Christian --> Voila, you get a western system. by the way Are you talking about Manusmriti ? What DharmaSutra are we discussing here. There is only one SANATAN DHARMA and thats eternal

Rohini >> Their motivation, their goals, their path was not determined by yogic ideas, or by contemporary egalitarian liberal ideas.

Vijay >> Am sorry. wats source of Upanishads and Vedas ? Is it not the revelation to the Rishis through Tapas?

Rohini>> remember the upanishads were being written at exactly the same time as the early dharmasutras

Vijay >> Associating everything with time fixation on time dependency s what i cannot understand. Yugas are cycles. So krishna avatar happens cyclically in Dwapara Yuga. How do you calculate when it was written ?

Rohini >> What they contain, 'modern' liberal Hindus are mostly ashamed of and want to deny.

VIJAY >> Degeneration combined with Falsification of information cannot be held against original ever present Dharma. Who exactly is a Modern Liberal Hindu , a Hindu who shapes his Ideas from Western based democractical values ? Arjuna questioned Krishna knowing he is God in Bhagavad Gita. I thought that is modern and liberal than any system every existed ?

Rohini >> But OUR driving forces are not what determined the content of these texts

Vijay >> Exactly what texts are you reading ? Whats the scope ? Manusmriti is one script. upanishads are pinaccle. Experience precedes even Upanishads. Aurobindos work on Supramental for example called New Upanishads.

Rohini >> I study them, with deep respect and affection - as historical texts. Nothing more.

Vijay >> Hindhuism is defined by more than Historical texts

Rohini Bakshi said...

The only important point is that our ideas don't have to be in sync. We can disagree and still both be good and proud Hindus. And that is the real beauty of our religion in my mind. I do not wish to respond to your comment in a hurry - you have taken great care to write it, and I will respond with equal care and respect. But I did want to acknowledge that I have seen your comment, and will reply soon. Thanks!

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Thanks for acknowledgment.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Rohini >> My intention was only to point out that the episode you have quoted does not exit in the critical edition of the Mahabharata.

Vijay >> There is one more instance i did not wnt to quote where Dharma saves the lives of all pandavas bar Yudhistra. This is also example of Dharma discussion. I can highlight but the point is made reg Varna.

Rohini >> It has been taken from a rescension, and has been added by some learned authors in tune with something whic their society needed at that point in time. That is how the epics grew from day 1.

Vijay >> Authors only capture what has happened. A friend heard verses of Bhagavad Gita in her meditation. She has never studied Sanskrit nor can even pronounce it. She captures certain verses with precision with Syllable accuracy. in my opinion Epics are not poems written by Shakespeare.

Read story of Yagnyavalkya from his Guru n make up your mind

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

Is the author of the book from which this is based "Dharmasutras - The Law Codes of Ancient India." - Olivelle, Patrick. trans. ???

If so am indeed puzzled that are we referring a foreign authors version for talking abt DharmaShastras. DharmaSutra i have never heard.

Dharma caannot be further from this description from Author


"The Dharmasutras are the four surviving works of the ancient Indian expert tradition on the subject of dharma, or the rules of behavior a community recognizes as binding on its members. Written in a pithy and aphoristic style and representing the culmination of a long tradition of scholarship, the Dharmasutras record intense disputes and divergent views on a wide variety of religious and social issues. These unique documents give us a glimpse of how people, especially Brahmin males, were ideally expected to live their lives within an ordered and hierarchically arranged society."

Rohini Bakshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rohini Bakshi said...

Rohini Bakshi9 November 2012 04:42
Thank you for your comment, and for reproducing the author's abstract - which is about the texts rather than the definition of dharma. His translations are based ALWAYS on a text critical approach, philology, comparative linguistics, cross referencing with Buddhist texts, and archaeology.

Patrick Olivelle is indeed who you say.

http://www.utexas.edu/opa/experts/profile.php?id=292

Considering how thoughtful your other posts have been, I'm taken aback by the reductionism implicit in this comment. You are 'puzzled' that we are referring to a 'foreign' author? Indian doyens like S.Dasgupta and S.Radhakrishna and M. Hiriyyana have no problem with 'foreign' scholars studying and commenting on our texts. In fact they quote them in their works. So why shouldn't I?

I could point out to you that Patrick Olivelle is of South Asian origin. But what would the point of that be, because the next logical puzzlement might be - that he must be Christian. So as the legitimacy of the scholar increases with how 'non-foreign' he (or she) might be, where will we draw the line? Only an Indian/Hindu can comment without us questioning the validity of his (or her) work?

Well I'm Shaiva, and by that logic I don't want to accept a work on Shaivism written by a Vaishnavite. Or an aghori could say a caste Brahmin has no knowledge of what his sect is about. Or an atheist mimaamsaka could well reject the validity of the writings of a Bhakti believer in a personal God.
Where you do draw the line?

I guess I'll draw my line where I want to. And it includes anyone who study our scriptures in the original, intensely and seriously, is an unimpeachable Sanskrit scholar, and writes about our texts in an erudite, objective, balanced, and analytical fashion.

As to the dharmasutra "you haven't heard of" - they are the early dharmasutras of Aashvalaayana,Gautama,Baudhaayana and Vasishtha - all of whom are bona fide masters of their Vedic schools and who have written shrauta, grihya and sulba sutras too.

They precede Manu by approximately 500 years. The Maanavadharmashaastra is written not in the sutra style, but the shloka style contemporary to it's later age, and reflects many socio-economic and political realities that the early dharmasutras do not. In fact the evolution of ancient society in the period 500BCE to 200AD can be and has been assessed by inter-textual comparisons of these masterpieces.

Vijay Radhakrishnan said...

http://duvijan-yoga.blogspot.de/2012/11/rohinis-blog-answers.html

shivoham said...

To conclude my comments on the 'caste' thread:
the use of 'caste' in the context of Dharma texts is silly in scholarly debates and journal papers. If a scholar wants to critique Hindu texts, valid lines of attack could either be "hegemony of rigid Jati system" or "hegemony of rigid Varna system" (neither of which, imho, based on the etymology above and its usage appear to have much logical leg to stand on, but are at least attempt-able). On the other hand, any scholarly paper critiquing Dharma texts using a phrase similar to 'rigid Brahminical "caste" system' cannot be taken seriously since it is a falsification.

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