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John: Hi, my name is John Green. You're watching Crash Course World History. Today we're going to talk about India, which is hard because A, I only have ten minutes. Mr. Green, Mr. Green! I don't have time for you today me from the past. B, when we study history we tend to study unified polities, that we can label, like the Roman Empire, or China, or Beliebers. This emphasis on unity tends to C, lead to labels, that mask a lot of historical difference like, for instance, Europe, which is such a weird and nebulous word, that we don't even know what it means. Plus D, no offense Europe, but there are not many histories more complex than India. And E, a lot of what we know about Indian history, comes from British historians who both used, and embodied the phrase "historical bias." All of which F, makes it very unfortunate that we only have ten minutes. We will do our best. Okay, we're going to make this like Voldemort's soul, and split it up into eight parts. (fast lively music) Part one, the Vedas. As you no doubt remember, the Indus River Valley, was one of the earliest cradles of civilization. That original civilization basically disappeared, sometime after 1750 B.C.E. Then there was a long period of Aryan migration, and by Aryans, we do not mean, like, prehistoric Nazis. We mean people from the caucuses who migrated down to the Indo ... (stuttering) Stan, can you just spell it for me? Thank you. We know about these Aryans, primarily because they left behind religious texts, The earliest of which, is called the Vedas. The Vedas are also the earliest texts of what will come to be known as Hinduism, although it wasn't known as Hinduism then. They're responsible for tons of stuff, but we only have ten minutes, so let's just cut to part two, the caste system. The caste system is one of India's most enduring, and fascinating institutions. Let us read from one of the Vedas about Purusha, the universe pervading spirit. When they divided Purusha, in how many different portions did they arrange him? What became of his mouth? What of his two arms? What were his two thighs and his two feet called? His mouth became the Brahmin, his two arms were made into the Kshatriyas. His two thighs, the Vaishyas. From his two feet, the Shudra was born. This section gives a divine explanation for the caste system. Brahmins, who as Purusha's mouth speak to the gods, were at the top. Kshatriyas from Purusha's arm became the warriors, as you no doubt know, if you've ever attended my gun show. Vaishyas, the merchants and artisans who provide money, for the priests and the warriors, came from Purusha's thighs. Because everybody knows the thighs are the money makers. The Shudras are at the bottom. They're the feet. The laborers and the farmers, who are the foundation of the social order. Also, the rest of us stand on them. The caste system becomes much more complicated than this, but that basic division into four classes remains, throughout much of Indian history. In spite of the efforts of many reformers we'll be meeting, in future episodes of Crash Course. The caste system is the foundation, for another big concept in Hinduism. Part three, Dharma. Dharma is basically one's role in life and society. It is defined, primarily, by birth and by caste. The whole idea's explained nicely in this passage, from the Bhagavad-Gita, where Krishna is talking to the warrior, Arjuna. "Having regard to your own duty also, "you ought not to falter. For there is nothing better, "for a Kshatriya, than a righteous battle." The Bhagavad-Gita's a section of a much larger epic poem, called the Mahabharata, which basically tells the complicated, and long story of a war between two kingdoms. We can really see how important Dharma is in this passage, because Krishna is basically telling Arjuna, that because he is a warrior, a Kshatriya, he must fight. Even if he's bad at it. Like for instance, if he gets killed. It's still preferable to not living his Dharma. It's better to be a bad warrior, if you're a Kshatriya, then to be the world's best baker. Basically, you're better off fulfilling your own Dharma poorly, than doing someone else's well. That leads us to part four. Samsara, Moksha, and Karma. There are both personal and social reasons for doing your Dharma. The social reason is obvious. Dharma and caste combine for excellent social cohesion. You get the exact right number of bakers, and the exact right number of warriors. We could stand to implement this system in the United States, actually, where everyone knows we suffer from a shortage of electrical engineers, and a surplus of people who want to be on Reality TV shows. That would never happen in ancient India, but say that your Dharma is to scoop animal dung your entire life. Why do you keep doing that when you see other lives, that at least appear to be far more fulfilling? That leads us to the concept of Samsara, or the cycle of rebirth, often called reincarnation. The basic idea is that, when you die, your soul is transferred to another living thing as it is being born. If you fulfill your Dharma things improve, and you get reborn into a higher being. You don't have to scoop elephant dung anymore. The ultimate goal is not to be reborn as a Brahmin. The ultimate goal is to be released from the merry-go-round altogether. That release is called Moksha. The law that holds all this together is Karma, which is summarized really nicely in the Aryan Yaka Upanishad. "The doer of good becomes good. "The doer of evil becomes evil. "One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, "bad by bad action." The Upanishads, by the way, are later religious texts, that began as commentaries on the Vedas, but later became sacred writings in their own rite. This is a really great way to organize a social order from top to bottom. Everyone has a role, and because their role has a religious dimension, society stays in balance. But as a religion, Hinduism has a problem, at least if you want to start an empire. Everyone's path to salvation is individual. The original Brahmins tried to set themselves up as political leaders, but Hinduism doesn't really place a premium, on worshipers obeying their leaders. If you are a leader trying to make your subjects listen to you, that's kind of a bummer. Which brings us to part five, Buddhism. We can't establish this historically, but according to traditional biographies, our story beings in the 6th century B.C.E. Let's go to the thought bubble. There was this prince, Siddhartha Guatama, who's father kept him locked away in a palace, because a prophecy foretold, that the family would lose the kingdom if he ever left. As house arrests go, this was a good one. Siddhartha had great food, great entertainment, a hot cousin for a wife, etc., but he suspected that there was more to life. So he snuck out of the palace a few times. On these travels he encountered an old man, a sick man, and finally a corpse. Having realized the ubiquity of suffering, Siddhartha left the palace, renounced the crown, and sought out the holiest men to try to find how it could be possible, that life would come to such a terrible end. Eventually Guatama became an ascetic, fasting and meditating for days at a time. Hoping to find enlightenment. Finally, after meditating for about a month under a tree, it came to him. Nirvana. No, not that one. Yes. That. He finally understood the meaning of life, and began teaching it to people who would become his disciples. He had become the Buddha, which means teacher. He taught the four noble truths, which are, one, all life is suffering. Two, the source of suffering is desire. Not just sexual desire but all wanting of stuff and prestige. Three, to stop suffering you must rid yourself of desire. This sounds simple enough, but if you've ever been dumped by someone, you know that it is not that easy to just stop desiring. Four, so how do you do it? By following the eightfold path which, as you may suspect, is a set of eight prescriptions on how to live, that we don't have time to talk about because ... Oh wait, look, thought bubble! You put some learning in our learning so we can learn while we learn. Thanks thought bubble. As a religion, Buddhism involves a lot of meditating, and moderation and there aren't that many fun rituals. If you're a Buddhist monk you don't get to have power, like most holy people do. You have to renounce everything, including your hair. And yes, some of them get to be Kung Fu monks, but only in China where Buddhism eventually migrated, and became a religion with fun rituals and all kinds of great stuff, that Siddhartha Guatama probably wouldn't have even recognized. But we're not talking about fun populist religion. We're talking about old school ascetic Buddhism. Sure, you might be happy and fulfilled if you followed the eightfold path, but from everything we've learned so far, it would appear that humans don't want to be happy and fulfilled, or else they never would have stopped foraging. But, Buddhism was very attractive if you were a low caste Hindu, because there was no caste system. In theory, anyone who follows the eightfold path, and renounces desire can be freed from suffering, and achieve Nirvana maybe even in this life. Instead of having to get reborn for maybe, millennia, and knowing that each time there is only a tiny chance, that you will end up something awesome, like a Honey Badger. By the way, totally tangential, part six. Did you know the game Shoots and Ladders has its origins in ancient India? They call it Snakes and Ladders. The ladders are steps forward on the path to Moksha, and the snakes take you away from it. Which reminds me, it's time for the open letter. (chair rolling sound) That is very close to my head. Wow. First, let's see what's is the secret compartment. Oh, look! It's a golf club. Must be so I can play disco golf. An open letter to Shoots and Ladders. Dear Shoots and Ladders, this is disco golf. It's a game of skill. (ball rolling sound) My success at disco golf is entirely dependent, on whether I am good at disco golf. Now listen, Shoots and Ladders. I remember your game being awesome when I was a kid, but I have a two year old son myself. I recently bought him Shoots and Ladders. You know what happened the first time we played? He beat me! Shoots and Ladders this is a child, who regularly refers to helicopters as heliflopters. I don't want to say that he's not my intellectual equal, but I'm potty trained. You know why he beat me? Because there is no skill involved in Shoots and Ladders at all, it is completely random and capricious and arbitrary and cold. Just like the universe! I don't want to play games that are like the universe! I want to play games so I can forget what the universe is like! Best wishes, John Green. Okay, part seven, Ashoka. Remember that, for most of Indian history, India was not one unified place. It was tons of different principalities and city states and everything else. India did experience indigenous political unity twice. First, under the Mauryan Dynasty in the 3rd century B.C.E. Then, again, in the Gupta Dynasty from the 300's to the 500's C.E. We're not going to talk about that because it bores me. Right now we're interested in one particular leader from the Mauryan Dynasty. Ashoka. Because Ashoka attempted to rule through quasi Buddhist principles. Ashoka was initially a warrior, who ended up expanding the empire that his grandfather started. Ashoka experienced this conversion to Buddhism, after he saw his own army devastate the Kingdom of Kalinga, something I bring up primarily so that I can say Kingdom of Kalinga. Stan, is there any way we can write a song about that? (piano music) (sings) Kingdom of Kalinga. (whispers) Sorry you got destroyed. (chuckles) So, Ashoka built stupas. Stupas? Hold on. Computer: Stupas. John: Could he have said that any more pretentiously? Stupas. So, Ashoka built stupas, these mound-like monuments to the Buddha, all over his kingdom to show his devotion. He also put up pillars all throughout his empire, that proclaimed his benevolent rule, and said he was going to rule through something he called Dhamma. Which, according to one of the pillars, went like this: "Proper behavior towards servants and employees. "Respect for mother and father. Generosity to friends, companions, "relations, Brahmins, and Ascetics. And not killing living beings." Those are not individualistic goals like we see in Hinduism. They're relational goals like we're going to see next week, when we study Confucianism. That's one of the reasons why Ashoka's empire wasn't actually very Buddhist. Ultimately, Buddhism isn't that concerned, with the order of the world. Buddhism argues that the fulfillment of the self, will lead to the order of the world. In the end, Ashoka's empire didn't outlast him by much. Soon enough, Buddhism declined in India almost to the point of extinction. Part eight, the big finish. As anyone who's ever practiced yoga knows, Hinduism is the most flexible of all the world religions. Which is part of the reason it's often described as polytheistic. The belief that gods can take many forms, makes it easy for Hinduism to assimilate other religious traditions. Which is exactly what happened with Buddhism. In time, the Buddha came to be worshiped as another incarnation, of the Hindu gods, and not as a mortal teacher. In the end, Hinduism, rather than purging the Buddha, enveloped him. All this means that while Hinduism has a tremendous amount, of variety and flexibility, it's core tenants of Samsara, Karma, and the caste system, have provided a remarkable amount of cultural and social unity, to the Indian subcontinent, for millennia. Fortunately for the Buddha, his teachings migrated East to China. We're going to make that same journey next week. I'll see you then.