Thursday, April 30, 2015

About the Wall Street Journal editorial page

Prof. Brad DeLong writes:
The point of the Wall Street Journal editorial page is to pander to the prejudices of its core readers. It is not as malevolent and destructive as Fox News, which takes its mission to be to scare its core readers so that they keep their eyeballs glued to the screen so that those eyeballs can be sold to advertisers. But its mission of reinforcing evidence-free right-wing epistemic closure against any incursion of empirical reality is a malevolent and destructive one.
As to why he writes the above, you'll have to read the article.

Monday, April 27, 2015

To Evangelists anywhere, and in Delhi in particular.

The new ArchBishop of Delhi, per the Wall Street Journal.

The next ArchBishop of Delhi says that "the religious and cultural pluralism within which the Christian community finds itself" is a problem for the Church, and it only gets better from there on.

WSJ: What do you think will be the main challenges you will face as the Archbishop of a diocese which includes a mega city?

Rt. Rev. Couto: The cosmopolitan nature of the Church in Delhi and the consequent multicultural situation of the people I am called to serve will certainly be one of the main challenges.
WSJ: Do you think Catholics are called to evangelize and convert others to Catholicism?

Rt. Rev. Couto: The Church exists to evangelize. She can never run away from the mandate Christ has given to her to proclaim the Good News in season and out of season and to place before all nations the truth of the Kingdom of God.
I also pray that God may give numerous new members to the Church through the sacrament of baptism.

So this is my statement to such people:

We Hindus welcome the news of Jesus as another of the infinite manifestations of the Divine. We think it mistaken to consider Jesus as the only or the most important manifestation of the Divine. As long as they do not fall into this error, there is no objection to Hindus to choose or not choose Jesus as their Ishta-Devata. We Hindus can love Jesus and Jesus can love us Hindus with no intermediaries. We are human, not sheep, and we do not see any value of being the flock of some pastor or church. We think the Church, with its officialdom and bureaucracy is what keeps Christians separate from the Divine, and while recognizing the Church's right to exist as long as some Christians mistakenly think they need it, we consider the Church to be a major error made in ignorance and impediment in the spiritual evolution of Christians in particular and humankind in general. As to missionaries and evangelists, we decry the egotism in their belief that they are instruments to bring God to us Hindus, or that they are doing some kind of good work or doing us a favor. We Hindus visit the Divine every day in our puja and meditations, and He/She/It/That replies to each of us individually and appropriately based on our abilities to receive and understand. We think Jesus will speak to us directly if He thinks it necessary, and so we reject all self-styled messengers, alleged carriers of the Good News, and such, who think that our Hindu relationship with the Divine is inadequate, or false, unless mediated through their good offices, unless we have membership in some Church. We pray that they are led from this Tamasic arrogance into the Light.

Asatomasatgamaya, tamasoma jyothirgamaya, mrityormaamritam gamaya!

I will add Pulikeshi's statement too:

Have you heard the Hindu Good News? – Live mindfully, cherish your land, its flora and fauna, and be kind, seek true knowledge and most of all be free.

The divine manifests itself in infinite ways - Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Mani, Shukracharya, Bharadwaja, Vasistha, and so many were special in their own right. As a Hindu, you have the freedom to really choose any, all, any other or none of these sages to help in your journey of self-realization. Further, as a Hindu, no matter where you live, it is imperative that you stay connected to the land, its flora and fauna in your journey. All of Earth and her creatures are sacred, so give back more than you take from her. This means anyone arguing for exclusion or special status for any land, people or Religion should be viewed with suspicion.

The Church is man made and has often lost its way, every Hindu believes that they are the Temple, Church, Mosque or Gurdwara. Every waking hour is a prayer and every dreamy night is being one with the divine. Hindus do not need devices other than those they freely choose. Hindus detest organized Religion and embrace true knowledge, come rejoice in the quest for it. Spread the word of this Hindu Good News to others. Live free or not at all. May this Hindu Good News spread through you.

Om Shanti, Shanthi, Shanthi!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

S is for Sanskrit

A note on Sisupala-Vadha by Paul M. M. Cooper.


Magha was a manipulator of the Sanskrit language who knew no equal. This can perhaps best be demonstrated by the following verse, in the 19th chapter of the poem:
रसाहवा वाहसार-
rasāhavā vāhasāra-
Now, if you reverse the lines as though placing a mirror beneath them, this forms a palindrome in four directions: the most complex poetic device ever created.
sa ra ra sa
ya da da ya
ra ha ha ra
da da da da
(and the lines reversed)
da da da da
ra ha ha ra
ya da da ya
sa ra ra sa
 “[That army], which relished battle (rasāhavā) contained allies who brought low the bodes and gaits of their various striving enemies (sakāranānārakāsakāyasādadasāyakā), and in it the cries of the best of mounts contended with musical instruments (vāhasāranādavādadavādanā).” (Trans. George L. Hart)

Bonus - via the same site - the wonder that is Sanskrit (PDF)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Sanskrit Poetry

This article provides an introduction.

Among other fascinating things:

5.3. There are too many Slesha-kavyas where each of its lines gives forth more than one meaning. For instance, the Rama-pala –charita   by the court poet Nandin depicts at once two stories (dwi-sandhana—kavya), one of the Sri Rama and the other of King Rama Plala of Bengal (1104-1130). Another is the ‘Raghava-yadava- Pandavveya’ by Chidambara Sumati (16th century) a court poet of Vijayanagara which narrates simultaneously three stories (Tri-sandhana kavya’) those of Rama, Krishna and Arjuna. Such Slesha-kavyas, by laborious splitting compound words; by repetition of sounds (srutyanusara), of vowels (varna-anusara) and of words (pada –anusara);    and by interpreting the words depending on the context, can yield five or even seven stories.
5.4. There is also a Viloma-kavya where the first half of the verse is repeated backwards (viloma) in the second half; and they together form an entire line (pada). When the method is extended in a certain order the verse becomes all-moving (sarvathobhadra) or half-moving (ardha-bhrama). A 16th century poet Daivajna Suryadasa Kavi from Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh wrote a Chitrakavya in the Viloma (reverse)style narrating the story of Rama and Krishna (Rama-Krishna-Viloma-Kavya) in 38 slokas. Each sloka has four lines, of which the first two lines relate to Rama-story while   the next two lines to Krishna story. The specialty of this Kavya is that the third line is composed by reversing the order of letters in the second line, while the fourth line is a reversal of the order of letters in the first line.
There is also a Viloma kavya by Venkatadvari titled Yadava-raghaveeyam. The Yadava-raghaveeyam a poem with two meanings (anuloma-viloma-kavya ) comprises 30 verses and deals with the story of Rama and Krishna together by adopting the style of anuloma and prathiloma, that is, reading each stanza as such and in reverse order, the former telling the story of Rama while the latter narrating the story of Krishna. Hence this work actually consists of 60 slokas in all.


Here is an amazing sloka of 32 syllables using only one consonant (Ya) and one vowel (Aa):
The Paduka (footwear) which adorn the Lord , which help in attaining all that is good and auspicious, which removes all ills, which gives knowledge, which inspires desire to be in presence of the Lord, by which all places of the world can be reached, these padukas are of the Lord.(This verse is taken from Sri Vedanta Desika’s Padukasahasram).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eastern Migration Into India?

Am able to only see the title of this National Geographic story:

DNA Reveals Unknown Ancient Migration Into India
As the Genographic Project celebrates its 10th anniversary, team scientists announce intriguing results from a study of more than 10,000 men from southern Asia.

Was able to find more in Google Cache:
"The findings, published in the Journal of Systematics and Evolution, showed that in the last 8,000 years humans expanded west from Southeast Asia back to India."

--- So the genetic record shows this migration, but not the famous Indo-European migration?

Life as a dhimmi - 15

News-item from Malaysia:

PETALING JAYA, April 22 — For years, two non-Muslim houses of worship in Taman Medan avoided the controversy that befell a neighbouring church that was forced by residents to remove its cross, by shunning open displays of their faith.

Instead, they go about their worship without the usual trappings of their respective religions, out of caution over how the overwhelmingly Muslim community may view these.
One local church, the Petaling Jaya Church of Christ (PJCC), said it does not display overt symbols of the faith or conduct open displays of its activities.

“It’s not about the symbol that matters, but how one wants to practise or follow their faith... our faith is strong and we are not concerned about our church not bearing a cross on its façade,” a representative of the church told Malay Mail Online yesterday.

At a Hindu temple a short distance away, priest N. Bala from India told Malay Mail Online that the need for non-Muslim religions to be discreet was a reality in Malaysia.
Like the representative of PJCC, Bala was similarly accepting of the necessity to keep a low-profile in order to avoid trouble, saying that the absence of religious symbols did not weaken his faith.

Still, he lamented how non-Muslims in Malaysia must be so wary about how they practised their faiths and how religion here was used to divide rather than unite.

“I myself feel my right is being infringed...there should be equality in matter of religion,” he said. “How are churches or temples lesser compared to mosques? All religion is good.”

Sunday, April 19, 2015

More on that Doniger review - NSFW

Of all the major world cultures, the Hindus have been, on the average, the least prudish about sex.   From temple carvings to sacred and secular literature, sex has its place, so much so that prudish Europeans have termed it oriental licentiousness.  But it is only one part of life.  Artha, Dharma, Kama, Moksha - these are the four purusharthas - if you like, the main goals of life.  Sex falls in the Kama bucket, though Kama is encompasses more than just sex.   Hindus also write about Artha, Dharma and Moksha; and the great epics and Puranas teach about all four buckets. To take an example from the Puranas, when things go out of balance, towards the end of this story, also on my blog, the preceptor to the Devas, Brihaspati has to take steps to restore the married life of Indra and Shachi.

The problem with a commentator on the Hindus like Wendy Doniger and her school is that they are out of balance - they find sex even where it isn't.   The review I've referred to previously goes into this a little bit.   It is a gross distortion that Doniger and co. consistently do; and their apologists constantly let them get away with it.  Anyway, now I have a witness that this is not something that only Internet Hindus are imagining, the obsession with sex is real.  The witness is Prof. C. Christine Fair, whose analyses of Pakistan have been featured on this blog.

Incidentally, you can listen to C.C. Fair on the subject of sexual harassment, and Pakistan here:

Below the fold, Not Safe for Work.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Project Euler
Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.
If you are looking for problems to help exercise your newly acquired skills in a programming language, then this is a place you could try.

To date, I've solved 47 of the 511 problems posted there, mostly the easy initial ones.  The hardest one, per their difficulty rating, that I've solved, is problem 259.   The next hardest problem, by their rating system, that I've solved is problem 110.  The rest that I've done are way easier.

I'm using mostly LISP.   I'm currently working on problem 201, I have an algorithm, I'm quite sure that it is correct; but it is slow (I estimate O(n^5) where n is the number of terms in the set)  so I need to put more thought into it.  

By the rules, I cannot say any more in public than what I have written.

I learned so much solving problem XXX so is it okay to publish my solution elsewhere?

It appears that you have answered your own question. There is nothing quite like that "Aha!" moment when you finally beat a problem which you have been working on for some time. It is often through the best of intentions in wishing to share our insights so that others can enjoy that moment too. Sadly, however, that will not be the case for your readers. Real learning is an active process and seeing how it is done is a long way from experiencing that epiphany of discovery. Please do not deny others what you have so richly valued yourself.
 PS: My slow solution to problem 201 gives the correct answer.  Further,  I now have a faster variant, that completes in 9 minutes instead of 9 hours!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

D. Abbott: The Reasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics

I have considerable sympathy for the point of view expressed by D. Abbott in his IEEE paper, The Reasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics (hattip a commenter on Peter Woit's blog).

"Mathematics is a product of the imagination that sometimes works on simplified models of reality."

Denial of the Platonist position does not mean that Mathematics becomes an arbitrary cultural construct.

An aside:
"A genius is merely one who has a great idea, but has the common sense to keep quiet about his other thousand insane thoughts."

PS: you may also like this comment on Peter Woit's blog.

Bangladesh's Struggle and America's continuing shame

Shashi Tharoor outlines the struggle between the secular and the Islamists in Bangladesh here.

The United States under Nixon and Kissinger ignored the genocide that accompanied Bangladesh's birth (see "The Blood Telegram" by Gary Bass).

And today, the United States essentially sides with the Islamists in Bangladesh.  E.g., when in 2013 the Bangladesh High Court deregistered the Islamic fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), thereby banning it from participating in future elections, the United States was officially unhappy.

Here is some background on JeI.

The historical fact is, apart from the Islamists who take up arms against the US, there is not an Islamist that the US does not love.  This is, incidentally, a long standing Anglo-US strategy.

As Gary Brecher wrote in this recent piece on Yemen, in the 1960s,

Arabs were getting very “modern” at that time. It’s important to remember that. You know why they stopped getting modern, and started getting interested in reactionary, Islamist repression?

Because the modernizing Arabs were all killed by the US, Britain, Israel, and the Saudis.
...the West put its weapons and its money in on the side of “Allah and the Emir” over and over again, against every single faction trying to make a modern, secular Arab world, whether on the Nasserite, Ba’athist, Socialist, Communist, or other model.
Arabs are reduced to choosing which Allah and which Emir to support because a half-century alliance between the worst oligarchies in the West and the most reactionary elements in their countries wiped out the alternative.

If you do bother to read Gary Brecher's article, you can place what is written above in context of his style of writing; but the truth is there beyond the poetic exaggeration.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Wendy Doniger's book

So much for an alternative history. Now, how about some mundane, regular history stuff? Let’s go back to the Mahabharata, an epic that Ms. Doniger brings up dozens of times in her book (she even calls the Mahabharata “100 times more interesting” than the Iliad and the Odyssey). Let’s ask two questions: When did the main events of Mahabharata occur? And exactly how long is the epic?
Ms. Doniger mentions the years as: between 1000 BCE and 400 BCE, most likely 950 BCE, or around 3012 BCE, or maybe 1400 BCE. That narrows down the chronology quite a bit, doesn't it? Really, there is more to writing history (particularly the alternative kind) than looking up the reference books and throwing in all the numbers one could find. But in Ms. Doniger’s defense, she is not a historian per se (and she clearly tells us so), so let’s let this one slide by. I’d even say she does deserve some credit here for at least bothering to look up things. On the next topic, she fails to do even that.

Ms. Doniger says the Mahabharata is about 75,000 verses long. Then she helpfully adds, “sometimes said to be a hundred thousand, perhaps just to round it off a bit." My goodness, 25,000 verses is some rounding error, don't you think? Most sources put it between 75,000 and 125,000. It took me all of two hours to find a very detailed account (not on the Internet though), compiled in the 11th century, putting the total at 100,500—and I’m not a researcher, not by a long shot. And yes, the exact number of verses is secondary to the big picture. What bothers me is the offhandedness with which Ms. Doniger brushes off 25,000 verses as a rounding issue. Why this half-baked research?

Oh well, maybe we expected too much from the bestselling book on Hinduism and it’s our fault. So, let’s try again, one last time. Where is India located?

Ms. Doniger states, very clearly, without any ambiguity, on page 11 (footnote): “Most of India… is in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Puranas, Mahakavyas and Modern Business