Vanity thought #1092. Of mice and rice

It turns out that I’ve touched on some very big topics in the past couple of days and so there are some loose ends left.

Rice, for example, is a kind of mystery – when did Indians start to cultivate it? Was there a time when it wasn’t grown? What do Vedas say?

Official version by modern science is that rice was first domesticated in China long before Kṛṣṇa’s appearance, ie long before Kali Yuga started. What can we say about it? That we don’t trust this kind of “scientific” information? Okay, but then we should justify our rejection, we can’t just say that science uses imperfect methods, this argument only opens the door for the possibility of science being wrong, we need to demonstrate how exactly it could have gone wrong in each particular case.

Science might reject authority of the Vedas but when it predicts precipitation and then it rains, it apparently works, so there must be something going for it, too. Sometimes it obviously doesn’t work but usually we can easily find faulty links in the chain – not enough data, not enough processing power, limits of the currently held theory, perfectly acceptable margins of error etc.

What can we say about rice?

I can think of two-three approaches here – we don’t know how reliable samples used in genetic studies that put birth of rice in China are. Do we have enough of them? Is it possible that one random discovery can overturn this theory completely? What are the chances of discovering strains of rice grown many thousand years ago? Or rather – what are the chances of these strains being preserved when we don’t have enough evidence for much large events, like the battle of Kurukṣetra?

Another line of questioning is that rice alternatives, wheat and barley, are believed to be first cultivated much later than rice and in areas that are traditionally believed to be cradles of western civilization – between Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Generally, we argue that those ancient civilizations were offshoots of Vedic culture. We do not accept that Vedic culture started after Indus Valley civilization was overrun by Aryans. If we can defend that proposition we can dismiss wheat and barley as original “Vedic” food and claim that it has always been rice.

Koreans have done their own research in rice origins and, surprise surprise, discovered that it was their ancestors who first cultivated rice, long before the Chinese. Well, it wasn’t much of a research, they simply found very old grains of rice, genetics be damned. Scientific world reaction was predictable and these findings were dismissed and written off as nationalistic propaganda.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the oldest rice was found in Korea, maybe Koreans were wrong. Who knows? Once there is evidence that doesn’t fit into the prevailing theory the issue becomes political, not scientific. If North Koreans find even older rice no one would even listen to them, scientific method doesn’t do well when politics are involved.

Current, genetics based dating of rice is also very very vogue – domestication happened between 8,200 and 13,500 years ago. That is a very big range, bigger than the number of years passed since Kṛṣṇa’s appearance. A lot of stuff can happen in 5,300 years, it’s enough time for our modern world to evolve practically from nothing. What were Aryans eating before then?

This goes so far back in time that we can afford to be very skeptical about any claims made by science there. They can say there were no Aryans yet, for example. We can say that there were so few of them and they were so advanced that they didn’t leave enough evidence. We just need to remember that “advanced” means different things for us and for scientists.

This goes back to the origin of civilization question I mentioned earlier. If we can deal with that, we can deal with rice.

Indian scholars also question the allegation that rice was not mentioned in the earliest Ṛg Veda. Traditionally it’s thought that Ṛg Veda only talks about barley but Sanskrit scholars challenge that view and insist that rice was the staple food then and it was used for sacrifices ahead of barley, which was in the “and other grains” category.

One such article I read argued that rice was called dhana in the Vedas. Usually, it’s translated as wealth (na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ kavitāṁ) but Sanskrit is a tricky language that way – it does not just label things, it describes their purpose and function so rice could have been a word for wealth in that society just like gold has become a symbol of wealth later or money is a word for wealth now.

Anyway, the point behind this is that rice based agriculture suits varṇāśrama perfectly while growing wheat leads to development of demoniac qualities, as I argued yesterday. Today I just want to say that Vedic culture could have always been rice based. I’m not touching on importance of cows yet, that’s a whole different topic.

Another point that came up yesterday was that we might not have as personal relationships with Kṛṣṇa as we first imagine we would from our books.

Just think of it – there’s one Kṛṣṇa, there’s one Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, one Mother Yaśodā, and that’s it. Occasionally Kṛṣṇa invites other girls to join rasa dance but, generally, He doesn’t spend much time with anyone but Śrī Rādhikā. He just doesn’t have time.

Well, this argument assumes that life in the spiritual world has the same limitations as life down here, that Kṛṣṇa does things in sequence there and so if He is with someone He cannot be in at another place at the same time. However, spiritual reality, as we’ve been told, is that rasa dance is a never ending pastime, for example. One does not have to wait to engage in it, it happens as soon as Kṛṣṇa and His devotees want it.

Still, daily life in Vṛndāvana as we saw it does not allow many opportunities for everyone to have Kṛṣṇa’s attention all the time. Same is true for Lord Caitanya’s pastimes, too.

We have writings of the Six Gosvāmīs that might tell us differently but I can raise what I think a very reasonable argument here – Gosvāmīs were describing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes from the point of view of His most confidential servants. I have no doubt that it looks exactly as they say but only in their small circle but it doesn’t mean our experience would be exactly the same.

Think of any famous person – they always look differently to those who are close to them while outsiders mostly deal with their public persona. Why should it be different with us? We aren’t Kṛṣṇa’s confidantes, we aren’t confidantes of His closest servants either. We are nameless faces in the crowd. We are mice.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though – we do want to be servants of the servants of the servants, after all. We value this position higher than trying to get closer to Kṛṣṇa than He wants us to be. We know that our masters please Him better than us so we can increase His pleasure much more by serving others. This is our whole Gauḍīyā mentality – we prefer to be mice if that gives Kṛṣṇa more time with those who really matter to Him.

This position isn’t inferior even from the standpoint of rasa – we don’t need to be directly engaged in service to experience it. Think of some male celebrity and thousands if not millions of his female fans. Justin Bieber, perhaps? All those girls long for his association but I’m pretty sure they would loathe him if they actually get to know him up close. For their rasa, it tastes better from a distance. Why can’t it work with us and Kṛṣṇa?

I mean we ARE being prepped for serving Him from relatively far away, it’s the ideal for rūpanugas. Even if we happen to prefer some other rasas the principle still holds.

When it comes to serving Kṛṣṇa – mice is nice.


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