Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Swadesi Indologist- 1

Consider the following shloka-
Now look at this translation-
'Act not in haste! A loss of sagacity (viveka) is the worst calamity. Fortune and prosperity comes to one who analyses and calculates.”
That's okay surely?
What great loss or guilt of misprision have we just incurred by accepting it? 
The answer, as evidenced by the subsequent trajectory of the translator, is that we have acted in haste. Ours is the sin of Epimetheus. In a moment of distraction (vikshepa) we have brought darkness and death into the world, for 'viveka' alone, as the Mahabharata teaches, is Illumination and Immortality.

Why, you might ask, have I brought Epimetheus into this? The answer is that that name has a 'dhvani'- a 'suggestiveness'- in English which most economically and accurately answers to that of the original.

Why? Well, the shloka is from Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya. Yuddhishtra is admonishing Bhima for his impetuous desire to attack the Kauravas immediately.

Since Bharavi lived long after Ved Vyasa and had mastered the Itihasasas, we immediately grasp the irony here. We know that Yudhishtra's 'vishada' (mental depression or abulia) arose when Bhima said 'Look, I'd better go right now and kill off all our enemies myself. The sin of vow-breaking will fall wholly on me. The fact is, even if we fulfil the terms of our vow and then emerge victorious in battle, you will still gamble away the entire kingdom!' The notion here is that, since the head of the family lacks competency by reason of a particular addiction, a junior member has to impetuously step up to the plate, though incurring sin by doing so.

Thanks to Bhima's intervention, Yuddhishtra has to confront the seemingly insolvable problem of determining the correct dharma in relation to dependents. In Economics, this is studied under the rubric of agent-principal hazard. Whereas Arjuna, who is an agent, not a principal, can have his 'vishada' dispelled by, if not the text of the Bhagvad Gita, then at least the theophany that occurs within it, King Yuddhishtra has to audit both the 'Vyadha' or Butcher's Gita, as well as actually learn Statistical Game Theory in the 'nalophkyanam' episode. 

There is a further irony here similar to that whereby Epimetheus and Prometheus, impetuosity and foresight, balance each other out- one darkens the world with the shadow of death, the other steals fire from Heaven- because the doxastic commitment to 'cut down, with the axe of non-attachment, the hymn leaved banyan whose roots are in Heaven and branches down below' is actually inculcated by a mere agent, not a principal, Krishna having taken on the duty of a mere charioteer, to another, wholly heteronomous, agent to dispel the 'cognitive dissonance' and depression caused by an extraordinary situation where, as if by the Game Theoretic dilemma of Kavka's toxin, to do his duty to his eldest brother, Arjuna has to slay him in a fit of 'dark anger' (manyu) 

Like everything else in the Mahabharata this happens twice for a reason I have explained elsewhere.

Of course, there are people who have read the Mahabharata, even memorized portions of it, or- more impressively yet, who can spontaneously compose erudite, highly allusive poetry based upon recondite characters or episodes within it- who, nevertheless, say the stupidest and most false thing about it possible at the very outset of an essay meant for publication.

Such is the case with Shatavdhani Ganesh who, writing of Rajiv Malhotra's 'Battle for Sanskrit', begins his peroration thus-
'Before the Great War, Arjuna developed cold feet and Krishna counselled him to lift up his weapons and fight. But how would have Krishna reacted if Arjuna had been over-zealous to battle the sons of Dhritarashtra even before the Pandava side was fully prepared? Perhaps the way Yudhishthira reacted to Bhima’s impatience in Bharavi’s Kiratarjuniyam (Canto 2, Verse 30) – “Act not in haste! A loss of sagacity (viveka) is the worst calamity. Fortune and prosperity comes to one who analyses and calculates.”

At first blush, Ganesh appears to be asking an interesting question- the sort of thing you might set as a Prize Essay topic for High School students.
How would Krishna have reacted if Arjuna was eager to fight? Recall, Arjuna was suffering from Vishada only because he was able to foresee the outcome of the battle, in a manner regret minimizing to himself, thanks to a Gandharva's boon of chaksuchi vidya. Krishna Devakiputra had gained something similar in Chandogya. Thus, there was a symmetric situation- a balanced game. 

Incidentally the boon of chaksuchi vidya means Krishna didn't rig the outcome of the Gita by a display of force majeure because the Gandharva's gift of clairvoyance was qualified by the condition that any supernatural vision received by Arjuna would be occur in such manner and answer to such ends as were most pleasing and helpful to him.

This also means that Arjuna's vision of the desolation caused by the war, which he knows he will win, was one that was helpful to him. It was 'regret minimizing'- i.e. with hindsight, from the terminus of the best of all compossible decision trees, he would say 'that's exactly the right vision I should have had'. On the other hand, it couldn't disclose that he would kill his eldest brother because that's not what Karna wanted and he, not Yuddhishtra, was the true Principal, not Agent, among the Pandavas.

However, the moment, we realise this- and, at some level, this is an 'unthought known' for Hindus- Ganesh's question looks puerile- like 'Was Hamlet really mad or was he pretending to be mad?' or 'which came first? The Chicken of the Egg?'

The fact is, since both Krishna and Arjuna are agents, not principals, and- like every other episode and its dual, what is happening is a balanced game- still the only substantive information which we can get out of this 'epoche' relates to Karna's preferences. He wants a 'vishodhana' such that a large class of warriors gains heaven and, largely by his own actions, that's what he gets. An older Thymotic Society is dying, something new, apoorva, or hysteresis free, is coming into the World.

Is there a way to make sense of it all? Can people still live an ethical life when a great Revolution in Mores and Modes of Production is occurring? Sure. The theory of repeated games explains what is going on just fine. There will always be a Revelation Principle such that a well defined, for Muth Rational, Ethic supervenes on whatever correlated asymmetries arise by reason of cheap talk. True, there has to be a more or less costly signal to ensure a robust 'separating equilibrium' but that's what mimetic Muth Rationality is for; that's why it is more or less hardwired for most of us, and that's why diversity is conserved by Evolution. As the MhB says 'Tigers and Forests are mutually dependent. One can't exist without the other. The same is true of the Kauravas and Pandavas.'

Actually, the moment Karna was raised to Kingship, a minimally costly signal could have created a robust separating equilibrium.  Thus the real subject matter of the 5th Veda is revealed as subsuming signalling theory under the rubric of Sacrifice.

Yuddhishtra has to learn Game Theory- not magic or sorcery or clairvoyance- and that is why he is a Just King even when he isn't actually the King at all, but merely the Hanann Consistent simulation of the Will of an occulted Crown.

Returning to Ganesh's article- and remembering that any well formed shloka is the dual of a canonical set of avadhanam constraints, does he really traduce, not translate, Bharavi?
Before deciding, first look at this passage-
'Sanatana dharma includes revelation of the seers (Vedas) as well as epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata). The Greek and Roman traditions have epics but no revealed scriptures. The Semitic traditions have revealed scriptures but no epics. Other traditions like the ancient Chinese, Mayan, Incan, etc. have neither.'

If you are stupid enough to believe this, or too lazy or lacking in access to Wikipedia, to verify that it is utterly false, then Ganesh's article benefits you because, if you ponder its message unceasingly, you will have less mental energy to devote to being a fucking asshole.

On the other hand, if- like me- you know Ganesh is saying something he can't possibly believe (coz the guy is a Tambram and knows the Sillapadikaram etc) then, suddenly, we will find some new apoorvata (novelty) making our Sanskrit kavya once again meaningful and a spur to creative thought and endeavour- or in my case saying no- like Kapila politely refuting the mimamsa of the cow which was beseeching him to eat it- to the shameless importunities of the bottle of Bacardi rolling around under my bed. I shall walk down to Waitrose to get that White Burgundy for under 6 quid everybody's talking about.

Or, fuck it, I'll just have a case delivered- and pour myself a little Ghadar era Ghalibian 'aab-e-hayyat' to be getting on with.
After all, Syumarashmi was right- Kapila's shite don't got no autopoietic Revelation Principle. It is a Yoga which, by itself, unites nothing on the basis of greater generality because no costly signal, or separating equilibrium, has been generated in a Hannan Consistent manner. Hence it can't be Muth Rational.

Anyway, this sweet Bacardi is being very wifely and affectionate, coyly darting its tongue into my mouth.
Second thoughts are best for of such is true 'Viveka'.



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