Monday, June 11, 2012

The varnas of frameworks

In one of the Samskritam classes, I threw a few words to the students and asked them to tell what the word means:

# Solution
Answers: a final result to a math problem; some kind of liquid; an answer to a puzzle;

# Angle
Answers: a math number in geometry; point of view; projection of a building;

# Direction
Answers: north, south etc; a guideline

If meaning of single word can change within a few years, think about works that separate the modern reader by thousands of years. For eg the word "awful" originally meant "full of awe", now it means exactly the opposite. "Nice" originally meant "ignorant", now its about being pretty. Without a context or without a domain knowledge, one cannot interpret a word correctly. If a single word could mean many things without a proper context, think about complete works. This is especially true of scientific works like yoga sutras, nyayas, tarka shastra etc.

Say when we are studying a thousand year old work, it is imperative to realize what we are not readily exposed to: cultural context, language, intended meaning of words or sentences, idioms prevelant in those times, technical terms peculiar to that domain and finally the thought process itself. Given already the gap, translation only makes it worse. Any translation passes through the bias faculty of the translator, however objective it be. The difference between truly understanding a translated work versus the original is like "you breathing" vs "some one else breathing for you".

Language translation, unfortunately is not a mathematical equation, where x = f-inverse(f(x))

Many words from Samskritam has been translated to English and accepted, yet when they are translated back to Samskritam, they yield a different result. For eg, chitta is translated to mind. manas also is translated to mind. But how will you translate "mind" back to Samskritam -> chitta or manas? Yoga has been translated to union, but is union translated back to Samskritam as Yoga?

One of the most misunderstood concepts of Hinduism is "caste". Obviously it has had a long history and there has been so many interpretations. Now what are the words used for caste in Samskritam? In Bhagavad-gita there is a reference, caaturvarNyam mayaa sRuShTam (The four *varNa*-s are created by me). There is also another word "jAti". Both of these words are translated to "caste" which immediately gives the context of societal caste hierarchy. In puruSha sUktam also we find the four categories mentioned, without mentioning the word varNa or jAti. But what is the context?

varNa is a concept of functioning of any non-homogenous group: data, control, presentation and implementation.

Computers: PC, Laptop, iPad: OS (Brahman), CPU (Kshatriya), Screen (Vaishya), Software (Shudra).
Operating System: Boot (Brahman), Kernel (Kshatriya), I/O (Vaishya), Services (Shudra)
Ethernet network: Data (Brahman), DNS controller (Kshatriya), Protocols (Vaishya), Mechanism to transfer data or Endpoints (Shudra).
Corporation: Advisory committee (Brahman), Executive committe (Kshatriya), Marketing (Vaishya), Employees (Shudra).
Government: Ministers (Brahman), Ruler/PM/President (Kshatriya), Departments (Vaisya), Employees (Shudra)
Even Socialism/communism, where all are perceived equal: Manifesto (Brahman), Politburo (Kshatriya), Propaganda (Vaishya), People (Shudra).

In a sense its like a fractal. You zoom in, as long as its non-homogenous the four core function groups are reflected.

And as you write your next web application using Model View Controller framework, remember it directly reflects the principles of the four varNa-s.

Model (Brahman), Controller (Kshatriya), View (Vaishya), Service (Shudra)

All the four should function per its own rules for the whole application to work. If one throws an exception, the user is angry.

So next time you write a controller code in model, or use controller in the service layer, remember: your code reviewer is waiting to reject it with the reason "Separation of Concerns principle is not followed". Now, now, don't you accuse her of casteism.
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