Summary of OIT debate

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:36 pm

Here is a good summary of the OIT from Wikipedia: Out of India theory


Posted in Uncategorized at 3:18 pm

Comment on ‘Keep on trucking’

James said,
29.04.09 at 3:32 pm
Personally, I’m not convinced by either side. I don’t really think there is any strong evidence that the IVC was IA, Dravidian, or Munda. In the final analysis, it seems like it is anybody’s guess what happened in NW India in the 3rd Millenium BC.

Konraad Elst

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:16 pm

Links referenced by James in comment:

James said,
30.04.09 at 1:17 am ·
Sorry, here is the complete paper from the google link:

page 1: http://koenraadelst.voi.org/articles/aid/keaitlin1.html

page 2: http://koenraadelst.voi.org/articles/aid/keaitlin2.html


The fate of meditation

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:07 pm

Comment on Buddhism in decline

James said,
29.04.09 at 4:36 pm ·
“You get up and meditate in the same posture, at the same time, everyday, day after day.”
Actually, I think the problem is that 98% of the Sangha is made up of scholarly monks who just read the sutras without actually understanding what any of it means in terms of meditation practice. The practice of samadhi fell out of favor centuries ago (as a result of the commentaries) and “dry insight” vipassana became the established method (even though the Buddha said that the path wouldn’t work unless you can attain a strong state of absorption and samadhi/vipassana are considered to be unified practice). I think the Thais did well in the early 20th century because they purged everything and went back to the early texts, but then again they lucked out with Ajahn Mun:



Buddhism in decline?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:45 pm

Comment, The endgame of Tibet

James said,
28.04.09 at 2:47 pm ·I don’t really want to give the impression that any of the mainstream forms of Buddhism are operating at a high level these days. Even in the Sangha, skilled meditators are exceedingly rare. It seems strange given that meditation is so intimately connected with Buddhism, but they were complaining back in the 15th century that few could attain any level of samadhi:


It is quite common to meet monks that don’t even know their own scriptures that well or even how to meditate properly:

At this time, I had the opportunity to meet many Sri Lankan monks and, after long conversations with them, I realized that many of the writings I had been studying in Burma were actually commentaries on the Pali texts, rather than the original texts themselves. The monks said that , upon close examination, some of the ideas conveyed in these commentaries are somewhat different from those contained in the original suttas. Surprisingly, one monk even suggested that I disregard the commentaries and go straight to the Pali texts for the best teachings. Another teacher showed me how to meditate as described in the suttas-a method remarkably different from the forms I had learned.


One issue is the habit-forming nature of many spiritual traditions that become stylized, repetious and prone to inducing mechanized consciousness rather than meditation.
Also, Tibet is a mystery, with a hidden something/who. I have always smelled a rat here, but the disinfo is impenetrable. I think there is perhaps no rat, just a hidden something. Still I have had moments of suspecting occult villainy at work.
I think we can guess in general what it is: the Buddhists were defeated in India and took refuge in Tibet, where a kind of dance of the Boddhissatwas preserved a tradition in cold storage, with only occassional actual realizations of that. Rajneesh once complained loudly that the last Buddha in Tibet was Milerepa, that after him it became a spiritual desert!

There’s the catch in Buddhism: you get shunted into a Boddhissatwas path, which means you are in a kind of meditation treadmill, producing an endless number of formalized spiritual states, none of them the real thing. ??? Is this unfair?
The fate of Tibet may be right under our noses: the last generation has seen the migration of the outer, and perhaps some inner, culture of (Tibetan) Buddhism, in the process provoking its globalization, and ultimately its renewal in some new form, some new religion, or something else.

We can’t figure it out, but armed with the eonic effect we can be sure that the ‘tank of gas’ given Buddhism in the Axial interval of the eonic sequence is running on empty, and the form altogether is suffering chaotification.
Buddhists themselves said as much, but they didn’t anticipate that they would be cast into such a negating secularism that would, as with the Chinese in Tibet, seek only its destruction. Small wonder the Buddhists took time out from meditation to fight back.
But we need to see that form can conquer substance and that this can be fatal to a meditative tradition. You get up and meditate in the same posture, at the same time, everyday, day after day.
Consider what sufis do: they change their physical habits at regular intervals, over and over. They don’t bother to meditate. They just change the motions of the body.
(or steal baraka from others who do meditate).
Try breaking a habit, changing physical routines. It causes momentary fluctuations of consciousness almost at once.

But the ‘new age’ theme is the key here, in the sense of the eonic effect which shows the alterantion of religions, and their renewal in each successive period. The problem is that people can’t solve the case of the ‘new’. They simply wish to repeat the old.

We keep on trucking

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:34 pm

I hope we can dialectically zigzag a bit further on this AIT/OIT debate. One thing is clear, noone understands the linguistics. Everyone has a few tidbits of this and that, amounting to nothing.
Rereading Elst I fail to find his thinking as convincing as before. Exactly what is his case?
But I remain open.
It is my feeling that there is a confusion between the idea of the continuity of an ‘Hindu’ tradition, and the Indo-Aryan linguistic question.

And I have always been suspicious of the Vedic origin of the dharma traditions we see later in the Upanishads onwards.
It seems sometimes as if the Sanskritization of those dharmas was a later phenomenon applied to an outstanding Indian spiritual tradition.
As a greek scholar I am very hardpressed to see Vedic Sanskrit as much older that Homeric Greek. They are clear distant cousins. To say that the Vedas were written in this language several thousand years earlier is an absurdity.
That’s why alarm bells go off here. Perhaps this is misleading me. I don’t know.
In any case the more typical view, as in Empires of the Silk Road (Beckwith), isn’t the crackpot unproven thesis that the critics of AIT claim it is. That doesn’t make it correct.

We have clear evidence that IE speakers moved into (not invaded) Europe, Italy, Greece, Middle East, Iran, China (Tocharian, et al.), Yet the Indian history is to be an exception.
We see the IE’s moving from Eurasia into the general locus of civilization and invigorating the emerging system. Then we see several cases of flowering in the Axial period, from Italy to India. This symmetry is general evidence almost as convincing as the linguistic.

Whatever the case, the Beckwith book makes clear that there was, whatever its source, a characteristic Eurasian culture complex, with its own complicated cultural dynamic and PIE language, and we see the traces of this in the various cultures into which the IE’s moved. A good example is the comitatus, the servitors of a leader who swore an oath of fealty, and died when the chief died. etc,….
This Eurasian complex can’t just be dismissed by irate Indologists fuming over British colonialism.
And of course there remains the issue of the chariot, and the way in which the chariot-riding Indo-Europeans upset the balance of warfare in the major centers of civilization. The chariot technology was a very devastating invention for its time, and all in all it makes sense of the facts to see this as associated with the later phase of the Eurasian Culture Complex.
Beckwith’s view is that the IE’s did not invade, but moved into areas as hired mercenaries, who intermarried and produced creoles.
Thus he suggests that there is little evidence of differentiation of IE languages along the routes of their spread, remaining close to PIE until they reach their new homes, which occurred rather quickly. A somewhat startling claim.

I couldn’t find the passage mentioned on Vedic and OIT as the Google system denied access after a few pages.
In any case, we need to proceed with caution, especially on linguistic issues. Few of these scholars are competent in the linguistics. Beckwith’s summary of the issue of consonantal stops and their differentiation, as in yesterday’s post, is telling evidence.

I am delayed due to the expense of these books. But let’s keep going, and see if we can find a good case for the OIT. Otherwise…

Sumer/Indus links?

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:18 pm

Comment on Scholars At Odds….

Gyan Swarup Gupta said,
27.04.09 at 11:03 pm ·
In the 28th century BCE there was a common script in Sumer and Indus Valley which can be seen in the sumerian script of that period and can be seen in waebsites. Similarly if we look into the sumerian language we will find a lot of words spoken in North India. There are no Dravidian or Sanskrit words.
If somebody is interested I can give him the details.

Gyan Swarup Gupta

OIT and Vedic

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:15 pm

James said,
27.04.09 at 7:04 pm ·
Good paragraph here that explains that OIT theory isn’t claiming that Vedic Sanskrit is PIE or even the mother of IA:


PIE linguistics

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:14 pm

James said,
27.04.09 at 6:53 pm ·
This is a really good book that delves into the technical aspects of PIE:


More on OIT

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:13 pm

Comment on OIT/AIT

James said,
27.04.09 at 6:44 pm ·
“While I remain open to the OIT hypothesis, it won’t work in its current form, and in fact doesn’t seem to work, at the moment.

The complexities of PIE linguistics make life difficult for the OIT claims.”

Personally, I’m not sure that we will ever resolve this issue because the same problems arise with the AIT. The issues are complex because scholars don’t really agree on the methodology to derive the etymology of IA words (Doniger’s examples aren’t as clear cut as she makes them sound). This also doesn’t take into account its relationship with Uralic and the fact that Bangani seems to show centum features. Elst also brings up the Lateral Theory:

“However, it would be erroneous to infer from this that the kentum area, i.e. Western and Southern Europe, was the homeland. On the contrary, it is altogether more likely that the Urheimat was in satem territory. The alternative from the angle of an Indian Urheimat theory (IUT) would be that India had originally had the kentum form, that the dialects which first emigrated (Hittite, Italo-Celtic, Germanic, Tokharic) retained the kentum form and took it to the geographical borderlands of the IE expanse (Europe, Anatolia, China), while the dialects which emigrated later (Baltic, Thracian, Phrygian) were at a halfway stage and the last-emigrated dialects (Slavic, Armenian, Iranian) plus the staybehind Indo-Aryan languages had adopted the satem form. This would satisfy the claim of the so-called Lateral Theory that the most conservative forms are to be found at the outskirts rather than in the metropolis.”



Empires of the Silk Road

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:52 pm

Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (Hardcover)

Relevant to all these discussions of the AIT/OIT is a new book on the history of Eurasia.
While I remain open to the OIT hypothesis, it won’t work in its current form, and in fact doesn’t seem to work, at the moment.

The complexities of PIE linguistics make life difficult for the OIT claims.

Beckwith reviews some of the evidence of the PIE reconstruction debate with its very complicated analysis of the consonental stops characteristic of early PIE and still very much present for example classical Greek, Indic, and many other early Indo-European languages. You hear these stops in Hindi speakers today, without realizing it, and is what makes the characteristic lilt which you can’t put your finger on if you don’t know what it is. This appears in aspirated/unasperated stop consonants like d, dh, t, th, b, bh, etc…
Vestigial versions of these exist in English, ‘thing’ with its ‘th’ which is no longer an aspirated t sound (at least I think ‘thing’ is an example). Another example would be ‘theistic’, deriving from Greek ‘theos’, which is not a ‘th’ sibiliant as in english, but an aspirated stop ‘t with an airpuff’.
The difference between aspirated ‘t’ and ‘th aspirated’ is no longer phonemic in modern English speakers, which means they can’t distinguish aspirated t when they hear it from any other kind of t. The reason the oddity of aspiration in Hindi (and Urdu) speakers strikes a funny bone, what is it the brain wonders??? But you make such sounds all the time, you just don’t take them as phonemic.
To make a long story short the study of the evolution of these stop systems suggests that PIE split into three groups. And this corresponds to complex shifts in these stop systems.
The problem here is that Vedic sanskrit can’t easily be seen as the source of these stop consonant shifts, but would seem to be locked in one of the splitting groups.

All this means, of course, is that as of ca. 4000 BCE the Indo-Europeans we know were on their way out of Eurasia. Their ultimate origin is, of course, still unclear.

‘Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:34 pm

Here is one of the links in the article (last post), The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis

Scholars at odds over mysterious Indus script

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:27 pm

Scholars at odds over mysterious Indus script
19:00 23 April 2009 by Ewen Callaway
For similar stories, visit the Human Evolution Topic Guide
An as yet undeciphered script found on relics from the Indus valley constitutes a genuine written language, a new mathematical analysis suggests.

The finding is the latest chapter in a bitter dispute over the interpretation of “Indus script”. This is the name given to a collection of symbols found on artefacts from the Indus valley civilisation, which flourished in what is now eastern Pakistan and western India between 2500 and 1900 BC.

In 2002, a team of linguists and historians argued that the script did not represent language at all, but religious or political imagery.

Ordered or random?
From an analysis of the frequency and distribution of the script’s characters, the team concluded that it showed few of the hallmarks of language. Most of the inscriptions contain fewer than five characters, few of the characters repeat, and many of the symbols occur very infrequently.

The new analysis by computer scientist Rajesh Rao and his team at the University of Washington in Seattle comes to the opposite conclusion.

Rao’s team assessed the script samples using what is called “conditional entropy”. When aimed at language, this statistical technique comes up with a measure for the “orderedness” of words, letters or characters – from totally ordered to utterly random.

“If you look at strings that contain words, then you should see that for any particular word in the string there is going to be some amount of flexibility in choosing the next word, but they’re not randomly ordered,” Rao says.

Which word next?
For instance, in English text, if you find the fragment “The boy went to the”, there is some flexibility in what follows. Nouns like “park” and “circus” make sense, but a verb such as “eat” does not.

Rao’s team applied this analysis to Indus script, Sanskrit, an ancient south Indian language called Old Tamil, and English. They also tested the conditional entropy of the Fortran computer programming language and non-languages, including DNA and protein sequences.

Indus script characters turned out to be about as randomly ordered as the other languages. Unsurprisingly, they proved less random than DNA or protein sequences and more random than the computer language, where unambiguity is essential.

Grammatical structure
“Now we can say, based on this evidence, that they probably were literate, so the big question becomes: Can you get at the underlying grammar?” Rao says. He hopes to refine his team’s technique to determine the grammatical structure of Indus script and, potentially, the language family it belongs to.

“I think we are going to need more archival data, and if we are lucky enough we might stumble on a Rosetta Stone-like artefact,” Rao says.

Rao’s paper has already drawn a strong response from the researchers who proposed that Indus script represents religious and political symbols, not language.

“There’s zero chance the Indus valley is literate. Zero,” says Steve Farmer, an independent scholar in Palo Alto, California who authored a 2004 paper with two academics with the goading title “The Collapse of the Indus Script Thesis: The myth of a literate Harappan civilization.”

Simulated language
As well as comparing the conditional entropy of Indus script to that of known languages, they compared it with two simulated character sets – one totally random, one totally ordered.

Farmer and colleagues Michael Witzel of Harvard University and Richard Sproat of Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland contend that the comparison with artificially created data sets is meaningless, as are the resulting conclusions. “As they say: garbage in, garbage out,” Witzel says.

Unlocking history
Farmer says that the debate over Indus script is more than academic chest thumping. If Indus script is not a language, a close analysis of its symbols could offer unique insight into the Indus Valley civilisation. Some symbols are more common in some geographical locations than others, and symbol usage seems to have changed over time.

“You suddenly have a new key for unlocking how that civilisation functioned and what its history was like,” he says.

J. Mark Kenoyer, a linguist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Rao’s paper is worth publishing, but time will tell if the technique sheds light on the nature of Indus script.

“At present they are lumping more than 700 years of writing into one data set,” he says. “I am actually going to be working with them on the revised analysis, and we will see how similar or different it is from the current results.”

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1170391 (in press)


New study on Indus script

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:22 pm

James said,
26.04.09 at 11:21 am ·
New study on the Indus script:


Kant, Swedenborg, and … Andrew Cohen

Posted in Kant at 4:30 pm