PLACE OF BUDDHISM IN INDIAN THOUGHT
by Ananda W. P. Guruge
Nagarasutta in the Samyutta Nikaya, (SN p.74) the Buddha states,
a person discovers an ancient path to a lost city. I have discovered
this ancient path leading to Nibbanna.
Thus the Buddha assumed the role of a re-discoverer
rather than that of an original path-finder. What he meant by
this statement is subject to interpretation and has given rise
to a controversy among students of Buddhism and Indian philosophy.
The Buddhists, who
believe that Gotama, the Buddha of the sixth century before
Christ, was the twenty-fifth in a line of Buddhas commencing
from Dipankara (or the 29th, commencing from Tanhankara), have
no difficulty in explaining that the Buddha's reference was
to the doctrines of the earlier Buddhas. The Buddhist commentators
from very early times accepted this explanation. In fact, one
of them, Buddhaghosa, the most illustrious translator of Sinhala
commentaries in the fifth century CE, went further and suggested
that the Vedas themselves were only a degenerated version of
the teachings of Buddha Kassapa, the immediate predecessor of
Gotama, the Buddha. But in the absence of reliable historical
data, one does not readily accept this Buddhist tradition. So
there has been an attempt to review the statement of the Buddha
in the light of what is known for certain of Indian philosophy.
or Theories of Early Scholars
There are a number
of generalised statements by scholars whose genuine quest for
the truth is not disputed. They are -
(I) that the Buddha restated what was already current among
the Brahmanical thinkers of the Indian subcontinent;
(2) that the Buddha based his teachings on the teachings of
(3) that the Buddha was a follower of the Yoga system of Patañjali;
(4) that the Buddha's doctrine derives its inspiration from
the Snkhya Philosophy.
Each of these statements has been made presumably after
careful examination of whatever data were available and, therefore,
should be examined with due care.
or Otherwise of Buddhism
It was Professor
T. W. Rhys Davids who stated most emphatically that the Buddha
was in every respect a product of the Brahmanical environment.
"Gautama was born and brought up and lived and died
a Hindu. Such originality as Gautama possessed lay in the way
in which he adopted, enlarged, ennobled and systematised that
which had already been well-said by others; in the way in which
he carried out to their logical conclusion, principles of equity
and justice already acknowledged by some of the most prominent
Hindu thinkers. The difference between him and other teachers
lay chiefly in his deep earnestness and in his broad public
spirit of philanthropy." (Davids 1896 p. 33)
Professor Herman Oldenberg in his pioneering work, Buddha,
too, was of the same opinion when he said,
"It is certain that Buddhism has acquired as an inheritance
from Brahmanism not merely a series of its most important dogmas
but what is not less significant to the historian, the bent
of its religious thought and feeling, which is more easily comprehended
than expressed in words." (p. 53)
Much later, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan had been the most ardent
supporter of these views. In a foreword written in 1956 to the
Government of India publication, "2500 years of Buddhism"
(ed. P. V. Bapat), he says,
"The Buddha did not feel that he was announcing a new
religion. He was born, grew up and died a Hindu.
was an offshoot of the more ancient faith of Hindus, perhaps
a schism or a heresy."(pp. ix and xii)
Dr. Radhakrishnan's assessment of the relationship between Buddhism
and Brahmanism has undergone a gradual change. In his magnificent
work Indian Philosophy in two volumes published in London
in 1927 he began the chapter on Buddhism with the statement,
"There is no question that the system of early Buddhism
is one of the most original which the history of philosophy
presents." (Vol. 1 p. 342)
This is followed by the comment,
"Early Buddhism is not an absolutely original doctrine.
It is not a freak in the evolution of Indian thought. Buddha
did not break away completely from the spiritual ideas of his
age and country. To be in open revolt against the conventional
and legalistic religion of the time is one thing; to abandon
the living spirit behind it is another." (Vol. I p.
There are a number
of points, which should be clarified before we proceed to discuss
1. CHRONOLGY: The foremost among them is the question of chronology.
As far as Buddhism is concerned, chronology presents little
difficulty. According to the tradition preserved in Southern
Buddhist countries, the demise of the Buddha took place in 544-43
BCE and this date has been fairly satisfactorily established
with historical evidence. (Paranavitana EZ V, p. 86 ff) Even
otherwise, the date as accepted by most modern scholars on the
basis of Chinese records and Greek and Latin sources is 483
BCE. In a country where events have to be dated vaguely as falling
within centuries or even millennia, a difference of sixty years
While the date of Buddhism is known with a greater degree of
certainty even after considering the recent dates suggested
by Western scholars like Heinz Bechert and Richard Gombrich,
(Guruge 1990 pp. 3-4), other philosophical systems have
to be dated purely on speculation. But the antiquity of Brahmanism
is not disputed even though the actual dates are in dispute.
(I have excluded from this discussion the dates as proposed
by the publications of Akhil Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalan like
Rajendra Singh Kushwahas Glimpses of Bharatiya History
or the prolific writings of David Frawley which call for
in-depth scrutiny. In refuting the theory of an Aryan Invasion,
these works place the Vedas in the fifth millennium BCE and
the Buddha in 1800 BCE).
The Rgveda, which on linguistic and cultural evidence is dated
not later than 1500 BCE, is, no doubt, the oldest document of
the Aryans, which reflects the growth as well as the consolidation
of those religious and philosophical views, that ultimately
formed the basis of Brahmanism. It is also agreed that the later
Samhits, namely the Smaveda and the Yajurveda, came into existence
in their present form at a date not later than 1000 BCE, while
the development of the Brhmaa literature on sacrificial
rites and ceremonies is assumed to have taken place between
1000 BCE and 800 BCE. By this time, two of the fundamental aspects
of Brahmanism were well established: namely, the concept and
technique of sacrifice and the caste system. Thus, if the Buddha,
who lived in the sixth century BCE, was really a follower of
the Brahmanical way of life, he should have subscribed to the
doctrines relating to these matters even during the earlier
phase of his life.
II. GEOGRAPHY: The second problem, which has to
be settled as a preliminary step in our discussion is the question
of geography. Whether as invaders or as peaceful migrants, the
Rgvedic Aryans appear to have come to the Indian subcontinent
via the passes in the North-western Frontier Region. The early
hymns of the Rgveda refer to geographical features of this region.
The ancient settlement of the Aryans in the Indian subcontinent
was known as "Sapta-sindhava," that is, "the
land of seven rivers." (RV. VIII, 24, 27) Though there
had been several interpretations of this term by Max Muller,
Ludwig, Lassen and Whitney, the most reasonable view appears
to be that the seven rivers were the Indus, the five rivers
of Punjab and the Sarasvati. The gradual widening of the geographical
horizon is reflected in the Rgveda itself. Thus in a later hymn,
reference is made to such rivers as Gang and Yamun, which lay
further towards the East. (RV. X,75) In commenting on this hymn,
Max Muller said,
"It shows us the widest geographical horizon of the
Vedic poets, confined by the snowy mountains in the North, the
Indus or the sea, in the South and the valley of the Jumna and
Ganges in the East. Beyond that, the world, though open, was
unknown to the Vedic poets."(The Vedas pp. 95-96)
The geographical data in the later Samhits and the Brhmaas
merely reveal a drift to the east, but there is no definite
evidence either to indicate the route or to mark the eastern-most
boundary. If Revottaras in Satapatha-Brahmana is a variation
of Reva, the southern boundary of the areas known to Aryans
of the Brhmaas might have been the river Narmad. The names of
the two cities Kauambi and Kampila in the same Brhmaa
help to establish the eastern limit with a certain amount of
accuracy. But it is presumed that the Aryans had moved further
east at the time of the Brhmaas; however, the evidence on which
a definite conclusion can be drawn is somewhat vague.
The problem is related to the identification of the river Sadnra
mentioned in atapatha-Brhmaa as the boundary between the
Kosalas and the Videhas. The mention of Videha is of special
significance, as it occurs in a story, which deals with the
spread of Aryan culture. Videgha Mthava, with his priest Gotama
Rahugaa, is said to have carried the sacrificial fire from river
Sarasvati to the land across river Sadnra, where the kingdom
of Videha was established. This is clearly an indication of
the manner in which Brahmanism spread eastwards.
It was very unlikely that the Aryans as a hoard invaded or migrated
en masse into this region. Only a few adventurers could
have gone eastwards to seek their fortune and incidentally to
spread their culture. The accounts found in the epic Rmyana
about the Aryanization of the Southern parts of the Indian subcontinent
also give us an idea of the role which Ris and Brahmans might
have played. They might have spread into the eastern region,
too, in a similar manner and established hermitages, which might
have served as pockets of Brahmanical culture. This is an important
aspect to be borne in mind when the extent to which Brahmanism
was known in the east is to be gauged.
III. AUTHORSHIP OF CULTURES: There is a third problem,
which is closely related to that of the geographical horizon.
Were the Aryans the only people who contributed towards the
cultural evolution of ancient Indian subcontinent? Only a very
few scholars had so far devoted adequate attention to this question.
The majority were apparently satisfied with the theory that
Aryans, a branch of the Indo-European family, entered the Indian
subcontinent through the passes in the North-western Frontier
and moved steadily towards the east and the south widening their
range of settlements in the shape of a mighty wedge and that
their religious and philosophical views evolved gradually from
animism to polytheism, and from polytheism to pantheism and
monism, while their religious practices ranged from elaborate
sacrificial rites to asceticism and pure philosophical speculation.
This, indeed, is a very simple explanation of the cultural processes
of ancient Indian subcontinent; but its simplicity is the result
of two factors:
Firstly, the pioneering scholars were over-impressed
by the volume as well as the character of the ancient Indian
literature. Rgveda, the later Samhits, the Brhmaas, the rayakas
and the Upaniads, in addition to Vedngas and the later works
showed a development in Indian thought which appeared so logical,
regular, and sequential. It was, therefore, difficult for them
to visualize any other influences, which in their own way could
have been adequately formidable as to leave an indelible mark
in the cultural pattern of the Indian subcontinent.
Secondly, the real serious work in this field was undertaken
and completed long before the discovery of the Indus Valley
Civilization, which was a significant eye-opener. It was enough
evidence to refute the argument that Aryans met in the Indian
subcontinent only aboriginal tribes with no cultural attainments.
The Aryans, in fact, could have come in contact with a superior
civilization or mingled with an existing civilization to enrich
it further. To imagine that the Indus Valley people merely succumbed
to the Aryan invaders is idle. What was most likely
was a cultural synthesis.
What evidence is there to disprove that the culture reflected
in the Rgveda and the later Vedic works is not the result of
an admixture of the Aryan and Indus Valley cultures? To my mind,
the differences, which exist between the Avestan Aryans of Iran
and the Rgvedic Aryans of the Indian subcontinent, were brought
about by this synthesis. If this was possible, there is nothing
to prevent one from concluding that similar cultural contacts
were possible in other parts of the Indian subcontinent.
It should also be noted here that the general conception has
been that various peoples entered the Indian subcontinent through
her passes in the North-west. Were there no other migrations
to the Indian subcontinent? Could not some tribes find a way
by her passes in the North-east? In fact, the Aryan migrants
themselves could have moved into the North-eastern region of
the Indian subcontinent and settled down long before the Rgvedic
Aryans came. Who were the Vrtyas? There were also other possibilities.
The Chinese, too, were active in very early times. They had
evolved a highly developed culture and were in a position to
influence these parts of the Indian subcontinent culturally
and by physical presence. One would, however, call for evidence.
It should be admitted that there are no documents whatsoever
to support this contention. But there is one very important
piece of evidence. There are two references in Buddhist literature
and the Rmyana to kings of North-eastern Indian subcontinent,
who were playing a leading role in the agricultural life of
the people. In the Buddhist works, we meet King Suddhodana of
Kapilavatthu participating in ceremonial ploughing. The king
is said to have been at the head of the train of people who
ploughed their fields on this ceremonial occasion. Similarly,
the Rmyana narrates how King Janaka found Sta on the occasion
of ceremonial ploughing. This custom finds no reference in the
Vedic literature. The only parallel, which I am aware of, is
from Chinese culture. As far back as the Shang Period (1760
-1122 BCE) the Chinese had evolved the concept of the farmer-emperor
and had maintained the traditional rite of the emperor ploughing
a field at the Temple of Earth at the beginning of each year
until the fall of the Manchu dynasty two centuries ago.
- Buddhism and Brahmanism: The Pali Canon on Vedas and Vedic
I have discussed
these three problems in order to emphasize the need for an open
mind in analysing the question of Buddhism and its relationship
with other Indian systems. The issues are so complicated that
one cannot afford to be too confident, as both Professor Rhys
Davids and Dr. Radhakrishnan had been in summarily stating that
the Buddha was born, grew up and died a Hindu.
Let us take the data at our disposal. As the Vedic texts do
not give us any definite material to establish .the relationship
between Brahmanism and Buddhism, we should search for evidence
in Buddhist literature. From the Pali Canon, whose authenticity
is the least in dispute, we find that Buddhist circles of the
Indian subcontinent in the east were familiar with the Vedas
and the principles of Brahmanism. The early texts of the Buddhist
Canon speak of the Three Vedas (Sn. verse 594), the
Devayna (DN. I, p. 215), Rgvedic gods (Loc.
Cit. p. 244), the Svitr hymn of twenty-four syllables (Sn.
verse 568) some of the Vedic Skhs such as Addhariy, Tittiriy,
Chndoka, Chandav, and Brahmacariya (DN. I, p. 236), and
a list of Vedic seers which recurs a number of times as the
ancient Ris, composers of the Mantras. (DN I, p. 104,
Vin. I, p. 245, AN. III, p. 224 and IV, p. 6)
They were also quite conversant with the subject-matter of the
Brhmaas. The fire sacrifice and also Avamedha, Puruamedha
and Vjapeya are referred to. (Sn. verse 303) Analysing
the Brhmaadhammika Sutta of the Suttanipta, it
will be seen that the contemporary religious practices were
identical with those of the Brhmaas. (Sn. verses 284ff)
Sacrifices attended by bloodshed were the normal procedure and
the Buddha vehemently opposed them. The Brhmaadhammika Sutta
is an unambiguous exposition of the Buddha's attitude to both
Brahmans and their ritual; he traces a gradual degeneration
of the Brahmans from selfless seekers after truth to money-grabbing
sacrificers who kill cattle and persuade kings to perform sacrifices,
saying, "Much indeed is your wealth. Increase it by the
performance of sacrifice." The Buddha states that even
Indra and other deities discard these Brahmans.. Similar, and
even more severe, attacks on the ancient Brhmaa institution
of sacrifice are found in abundance in the Buddhist Canon.
Not only-were sacrificial rites the target of the. Buddha's
attacks; the caste system of the Brahmans too was severely criticised.
The standpoint of the Buddha is, however, too well known to
be discussed in detail. It will, nevertheless, suffice me to
state that the Buddha was opposed to the caste system from both
the spiritual and the social point of view. As a teacher of
a lofty code of ethics, he revolted against the unfair discrimination
against humans on grounds of birth. Further, as a Katriya he
treated the Brahmans with little respect. It is interesting
to note how the Buddha winds up an argument on caste in the
Ambahasutta of the Dighanikya by reciting an ancient
stanza to the effect that the Katriyas are the best of men.
There should be no doubt from these data that the Buddha was
not prepared to accept either of the two fundamental principles
of Brahmanism. Dr. Radhakrishnan, of course, is unable to refute
it. But he considers that the open revolt against these does
not constitute a complete breakaway from the spiritual ideas
of his age and country. This is no doubt true, provided it is
conceded that Brahmanism, alone, did not constitute the spiritual
ideas of the Buddha's age and the part of the country in which
he lived and taught. The need for such a proviso is based on
the fact that even the metaphysics and ethics, which the Buddha
preached, had developed with no direct connection with Brahmanism.
For instance, Brahmanism places very little emphasis on ethics.
It is impossible even to imagine that the inspiration for such
codes of ethics as one meets in Buddhism and Jainism came from
the Vedic literature. Buddhist ethics are closely related to
the ascetic ideal of life it upholds. But one does not find
that aspect of religious life in any Vedic texts of the pre-Buddhist
times. The evidence in both Buddhism and Jainism leads most
poignantly to a conclusion that the religious values of the
Northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent were more ethical
and that they were connected with the doctrines of Karma and
Rebirth, which were specifically non-Brahmanical in origin.
The ascetic ideal developed with the aid of such doctrines.
Dr. E. J. Thomas was correct when he said in A History of
Buddhist Thought, that "probably pre-Aryan influences
were at work" (p. 10); presumably what he meant by 'pre-Aryan'
is really the non-Brahmanical ramaa Cult, whose origins
seem to extend to the Indus Valley Civilization. The doctrines
of Karma and Rebirth are neither Vedic nor Brahmanical. They
find no reference in the early Vedic literature.
The Chndogya Upaniad, in fact, gives some valuable data to establish
the contention that Brahmans knew nothing about these doctrines.
As to what you have told me, O! Gautama, this knowledge
has never yet come to Brahmans before you and therefore in all
the world has the rule belonged to the Katriya only." (V,
In the seventh Chapter of Chndogya Upaniad, we come across
another interesting statement: Nrada, apparently the revered
Ri of the Brhmaas, comes to Sanatkumra, saying, 'Teach me, Sir."
Sanatkumra teaches him the doctrines of soul and karma. It is
not so much the doctrines, which draw our attention as the name,
Sanatkumra. We meet him so often in the Buddhist literature;
the Buddha himself refers to him as a Katriya teacher.
Even though I have not marshalled enough data to warrant a definite
conclusion, I may yet venture to hazard the opinion that even
the fundamental Upaniadic teachings arose in the East and their
propagation was particularly sponsored by the kings of Videha
and Ki among whom Janaka and Ajtaatru find specific
mention in the Bhadrayaka Upaniad. (BrU. II, I,
These data will no doubt show that Buddhism can in no way be
called a restatement of Brahmanical teachings.
- Buddhism and the Teachings of the Upaniads
Let us now examine
the second statement that the Buddha based his system on the
teachings of the Upaniads. The earlier scholars were not emphatic
in associating Buddhism with the Upaniads. For instance, Professor
Max Muller merely stated,
"In that fifth century B.C. took place the rise of Buddhism,
a religion built up on the ruins of the Vedic religion, and
founded, so to say, on the denial of the divine authority ascribed
to the Veda by all orthodox Brahmans."(The Vedas p. 128)
It was George Grimm, who in 1926 in his The Doctrine
of the Buddha, hinted at a possible connection between the
two systems. He said,
"Thus the Buddha has not become untrue to Indian thinking;
rather is his doctrine the flower of Indian thought. He is 'the
true Brahman,' who has completely realized the ideal
of the Upaniads. And precisely because this is so, India will
again greet him as her greatest son, as soon as she again shall
have recognized this." (p. 502)
The Indian subcontinent was not so late in recognizing this,
for in the very next year, Dr. Radhakrishnan in his Indian
Philosophy advanced the theory that the Buddha was not so
much creating a new dharma as rediscovering an old norm. It
was presented most cautiously as a conjecture. He said,
"Early Buddhism, we venture to hazard a conjecture,
is only a restatement of the thought of the Upaniads from a
new standpoint." (I p.361) (emphasis mine)
He also explained the manner in which the doctrines of the Upaniads
were adapted by the Buddha:
"To develop his theory Buddha had only to rid the Upaniads
of their inconsistent compromises with Vedic polytheism and
religion, set aside the transcendental aspect as being indemonstrable
to thought and unnecessary to morals and emphasize the ethical
universalism of the Upaniads." (ibid)
Further in his discussion of early Buddhism he admittedly
assumed that the spirit of the Upaniads is the life-spring of
Let us examine these views in the light of what is revealed
by the Buddhist Canon.
First and foremost, the absence of any reference to the Upaniads
should be noted. There is, however, a Pali word upanis which
some have attempted to explain as meaning the Upaniads. In verse
75 of the Dhammapada, this word occurs in the following form:
"Ann lbhpanis aññ nibbagmi". In
Majjhimanikya III, p. 7, it occurs in a compound as "Samdhi
saupanisa." In both contexts the only permissible meaning
is that of upaniraya (cause or means).
Atman and Brahmasahavyat
The two main terms
of the Upaniads, Brahman and tman are, however,
profusely used in the Suttas. At first sight the shades of meaning
and the philosophical import of these terms seem to reveal an
actual relationship between the Upaniads and Buddhism. But a
more careful examination reveals entirely different results.
The term Brahm, which is always used in the masculine
sense in Buddhist texts, refers to the personal God. The Upaniadic
notion of a neuter principle is not found in the Buddhist Canon.
Here Brahm is described in the Brahmajlasutta as the
great Brahm, the conqueror, the unconquered, the all-seeing,
the controller, the lord, the maker, the creator, the greatest,
the mover, the powerful and the father of all past and future
beings. (DN, I, p. 46) In the Kevaasutta he is not even
omniscient. (Ibid I, 221) The epithets used for Brahm
elsewhere in the Canon, too, have no relation to the Upaniadic
principle. Here the Brahm is said to be celibate, free of hatred,
malice and stain and very powerful, (Ibid I, p. 247)
while the Upaniadic Brahman can only be described in negative
terms as imperishable, infinite, unqualified and neti neti
(not this only, not that only),.
There is in the Tevijjsutta an important term. The Buddha, in
discussing the religious practices of Brahmans, states that
the goal of such rites is "Brahmasahavyat" (the
company of Brahm). Dr. I. G. Jennings believes that this reference
is to the neuter Brahma of the Vedanta and in his The Vedantic
Buddhism of the Buddha, interprets ".Sahavyat"
as complete absorption. (p. 556) It is rather difficult
to assume that the Upaniadic concept of a universal soul into
which individual souls were re-absorbed is what is expressed
in this Sutta. On the other hand, one can discern a more ancient
and primitive concept behind this term. "Brahmasahavyat"
appears in all likelihood to be a synonym of "Brahmasalokat";
that is, being in the same realm as the personal god Brahm.
The path for the attainment of this state is given in the Tevijjsutta.
It is plainly the Vedic karma-mrga - the path of sacrifice.
The preachers of this path are listed and we do not find the
names of Upaniadic teachers of repute such as Yajñavlkya,
Uddlaka, rui, Skalya or Grgi. Instead, we meet Ahaka, Vmaka,
Vmadeva, Vessmitta, Yamataggi, .Angrasa, Bhradvja, Vseha, Kassapa
and Bhagu. These were really the composers of Rgvedic hymns.
How was it that Buddhist literature shows no knowledge of the
great Upaniadic thinkers?
My contention, therefore, is that the fundamental doctrine of
a universal soul from which the individual souls emanated and
into which they should ultimately return was also unknown in
the Buddhist circles. The trends of Indian philosophy with which
they were familiar belonged to an earlier era than that of the
Let us examine the philosophical import of the other Upaniadic
term so frequently used in the Buddhist Canon. "tman"
occurs in the Suttas in both a positive form, Atta and
a negative formulation, Anatta. Atta, in addition to
being a reflexive pronoun, means the "soul." In this
sense it finds no place in Buddhist philosophy, but occurs always
in the criticisms and enunciations of rival teachings. Thus
we hear of sixteen ways how Atta is conscious after death,
eight ways how it is unconscious and not subject to decay and
seven ways how it is annihilated. (DN. I, p. 31) As
such, we have here an opportunity of investigating the traces,
if any, of the Upaniadic concept of tman in the theories
of Atta known to the Buddha.
.Atta as identical with the body was a concept well-known
in Buddhist circles. Pohapada speaks of a material (Olrika)
Atta, having a form composed of the four elements and enjoying
food (rpi, ctumahbhtika, Kabalinkhrabhakkha). (ibid I, p.
186) Also, the Buddha is reported to have said, "It
would be better if an uninstructed person should consider as
his Atta this body composed of the four elements, rather
than the mind." (SN. II, p. 94) There are a few
places in the Canon, where the Atta and the form (rpa)
are treated as identical: "My form is the Att"
(Rpa me att): (Ibid III, 219). Commentarial literature
explains it as "He looks upon the form and
Atta as indivisible." (Rpañ ca attañ
ca advaya samanupassati). (Atthaslini p. 300; Papancasdani p.
300) This conception of Atta evinces some resemblance
to certain views found in the old Upaniads. The Bhadrayaka Upaniad.
states, "His body (tman) indeed is his work,
for with his body he performs work." (I, 4, 17) Taittirya
II,4 further remarks "This indeed, is its bodily self.
(Tasyaisa eva arra atm)". But the tman as
arra marks only a very primitive stage of
the Upaniadic speculations and is turned down as an imperfect
understanding, which satisfies only the Asuras (Virocana
- cf. ChU. VIII). Furthermore, it can be questioned whether
a material Atta as described by Pohapda refers to the Upaniadic
or the Crvka materialistic teachings of tman.
A second Atta is mind-made (Manomaya), comprising
all major and minor limbs and not devoid of sense-organs (Sabbanga-paccangim
ahnindriya).'(DN. I, p. 186) The notion of tman as
the mind, the receptacle of sense-perceptions, no doubt, represents
also a stage, though a passing one, in the gradual development
of the Upaniadic Atman concept. If the rather ambiguous
statement in Anguttaranikya, "Att te purisa jnti sacca
v yadi v mus" ( AN. I, p. 57) can be
explained as "Your tman, 0 man, knows if it is true
or false," we can surmise that the tman as the subject
of sense perception was a notion familiar to the early Buddhists.
The third Atta, enunciated by Pohapada, is formless and
made of Sajñâ (consciousness).(DN.
I, p. 186) The old Upaniads, however, refer to a formless tman.
made of Sajñâ. But we may consider that
this notion has its prototype in the old Upanisadic prajñâmaya-tman.
A fourth theory postulates an tman, which is eternal
(Sassato) and having form and consciousness (rp Saññï).
(Ibid III, p.137)
These four theories of tman can be connected only
with certain stages in the development of the Upaniadic tman
concept as observed by Betty Heimann in her Studien Zur
Eigenart Indischen Denkens. (p. 56 ff) But the fully developed
Upaniadic tman as the imperishable, unperceived all-functioner,
the inner controller, that is immanent in all beings and things
of the Universe and is identical with the super-personal creative,
underlying and re-absorbing principle of Brahman, is neither
here nor anywhere in the Buddhist Canon expounded.
On the other hand, the Atta which is denied in Buddhism
is more a psychological illusion of Ahakra (I-ness) and
Mamatva (My-ness). Hence the formulation of the Buddha's
refutation of Atta runs as "Na eta mama. Na eso
aha asmi. Na me eso att." (MN.I, p. 135) The Anattalakkhaasutta
emphatically states that there is no Atta or rather
room for Atta - for one cannot determine for one's self
how one's rpa, vedan. saññã, etc.,
should be. (cf. Avasavattatthena anatt, Anatta because
of the impossibility to control - Nettippakarana 6.21).
Physical change from growth to decay in bodily existence is
a natural law beyond human control. This teaching of Anatta,
as far as the Suttas go, compares only with the Njrmamatva
and the Nirtmakatvam of later Upaniads like the Maitryana
Upaniad, (cf. Mait. Up. VI, 20. 21), which had been strongly
influenced by the teachings of Yogic system and even quite likely
While the Buddha stresses man's incapacity to control the course
of natural evolution and stops at a negation, the Upaniads postulate
an inner controller (Antar-ymin) in the form of the tman,
who is identical with the Brahman or the Paramtman.
Brahman, again, it is taught, transcends the relativity,
the impermanence and the imperfection of the single tman.
Samsra and Nirva
We shall also consider,
now, the apparently common notions of Nmarpa, Sasra and
Nirva. Nmarpa in the Upaniads is a term suggesting two
concrete and empirical factors, viz., the name or designation
and the form. Every embodied tman has a Nma and
a Rpa (cf. ChU. VIII, 14; BrU. 1.4.7 and
1.6.4.). In Buddhism the term Nmarpa is given a new and
wider interpretation. The five aggregates or the component parts
(khandhas), which constitute a being, are divided into
the two categories of Nma and Rpa, where Nma
represents the four psychological phenomena of Vedan,
Saññâ, Sakhra and Viññâa.
The belief in Sasra was common to all sects of the
Indian subcontinent other than the Crvkas since the times
of the Brhmaas and hence it can be regarded as belonging
to the religious and philosophical public property of the Indian
subcontinent. The direct influence of the Upanisads, therefore,
is not necessarily to be surmised here.
With regard to the concept of Nirva, we have to apply
a slightly different method. It is true that the word "Nirva"
occurs, not in the old and the middle Upaniads, but only
in the Bhagavadgt and later Upaniads, such as
runeya Upaniad and Nirva Upanisad, which are later
than Buddhism. Even if we could assume that Buddhism here has
influenced Hindu thought, the contents of the Upaniadic Nirva
or the Brahma-nirva concept develop not on Buddhist
lines, but under the influence of pre-Buddhist Upaniadic notions.
In Buddhism, Nirva, whether it is complete cessation
of existence or a state of ending all suffering is a form of
liberation attained through psychological development. It is
a Yogic attainment. The Upaniadic Nirva or Brahmanirva,
on the other hand, is the re-absorption into the universal
source of Brahman, caused by the realization of the true knowledge
that the tman is essentially the same as Brahman.
With this survey we may arrive at the conclusion that the
Buddha and his disciples, whose speeches and discourses are
recorded in the Canon, knew for certain the Vedas and the Brhmaas;
they were quite conversant with the Brahmanic ritual. But their
knowledge of the Upaniads was not complete in so far as they
did not take into consideration the climax of Upaniadic teachings:
namely, the cosmic doctrines of Brahman and tman,
which are united in a primary and final, pre- and post-empirical,
stage. The Buddhist circles knew Brahman as a personal deity
- Brahm, and tman as a psychological and merely
individual factor. In the Tripitaka, as a whole, a characteristic
vagueness pervades all that is akin to the Upaniadic teachings.
It is very doubtful whether one can still hold the view
that the Upaniadic teachings were the life-spring of Buddhism.
The absurdity of the claim made by some writers that the Buddhas
contribution to Indian thought was made in the role of a popularizer
of Upaniadic doctrines should be abundantly clear from the fore-going
discussion of actual literary data. A comparison of the essential
doctrines of the two systems will throw further light.
and Nature of the Universe
The basic difference
between Buddhism and the Upaniadic philosophy relates to their
notions of the origin and the nature of the Universe. It is
true that the Buddha was not inclined to discuss the question
of the Universe seriously, simply because he pragmatically considered
that such knowledge, though of academic interest, did not contribute
towards the salvation of humankind. His attitude was vividly
expressed by means of the parable of the wounded man. "When
a man is shot at with an arrow and a doctor comes to attend
on him, the primary concern of the wounded man should be to
have the arrow removed and the wound attended to. Instead, if
he were to inquire as to who shot the arrow, what his caste
or complexion or stature was, he would, long before the answers
are found, succumb to the injury."
Thus from the Buddha's point of view, the search was meaningless
and hence to be abandoned in preference to the path that leads
one to complete deliverance. But, on the other hand, the Upaniadic
philosophy has no foundation if its teachings relating to the
origin of the universe are not there. The neuter principle of
Brahman, the active as well as the material cause of the Universe,
is an essential concept. The Universe comes into existence when
all phenomena including individual souls emanate from it and
the end of suffering (and hence the final bliss) lies in the
reabsorption into it. By its very nature, it has to be permanent
and static. Unborn, imperishable, immutable and eternal, the
Brahman is the very antithesis of change. Such a view is
repugnant to the Buddhist concept of the nature of the Universe.
According to the Buddha, impermanence is the very nature
of all existence. There is nothing that escapes this universal
law. An eternal phenomenon even as the first principle is unimaginable.
This doctrine of impermanence goes hand in hand with that of
Dependent Causation or Origination. There is no cause, which
is uncaused. Existence is the result of an ever-continuing chain
of actions and reactions; one thing leads to another and that
to a further thing. This doctrine of Dependent Causation or
Origination, called the Paicca-samuppda (Walpola Rahula p.
53ff) is the most salient contribution made by the
Buddha to Indian thought. With this the Buddha shattered the
very foundation of the Upaniadic philosophy. Neither the Brahman
nor the tmans can retain their Upaniadic character
when viewed from the point of view of Paicca-samuppda.
Therefore, can one continue to recognize in the Buddha's
mission a direct or even an indirect attempt to propagate or
popularise Upaniadic teachings?
- Buddhism and Patañjali Yoga
Let us now
examine the third statement, namely, that the Buddha was a follower
of the Yoga system of Patañjali. On purely chronological
grounds this contention stands disproved. Though the orthodox
Hindus claim a hoary antiquity for Patañjali, there is
no evidence to date him earlier than 300 BCE. In fact the general
consensus of opinion is that the date of Patanjali's Yoga Stra
falls between 300 and.100 BCE. (Macdonell p. 396; Radhakrishnan
II p. 341) But the Yoga system is very old; perhaps, it
is even older than Rgveda.
In several seals discovered in the Indus Valley, there is a
figure seated in a conventional yogic posture. Yoga, however,
is not referred to in any early Vedic texts. The earliest references
are in the later Upanisads such as the Kaha, Taittirya and the
Maitryani. (Radhakrishnan p. II p. 339) These works are
more or less contemporaneous with the Buddha, if not later.
But they do not give us any definite or detailed information
of the Yogic system. On the other hand, the Buddhist texts evince
a greater familiarity with Yogic practices. The Buddha was not
only conversant with this system but also ready to adapt it
to his path of deliverance. From the accounts of the Buddha's
quest for deliverance, it is clear that the teachers, lra Klma
and Uddaka Rmaputta, (MN. I, 163ff; 240ff) to whom he
went for instruction, were masters of Yoga, and the spiritual
attainments which he experienced under their guidance, were
Yogic in character.
The term "Yoga" occurs in the Pali Canon, though not
in the sense of a particular system of spiritual training. In
most contexts, it means
( i ) application, endeavour, undertaking, effort
(ii) magic power or spells and
(iii) bondage, tie, attachment. (PTS-PD sv)
The term "Yogi" occurs in older verses and
here it is used as a synonym for "muni. (TG. I,
947) A Bhikkhu, devoted to meditation and spiritual exercises
is called a "Yogvacara" which need not strictly
mean "one who is at home in Yoga" because the first
part of the compound can also mean simply 'endeavour'. Thus
"Yogvacara" can mean a bhikkhu who is dedicated
to spiritual endeavour. Similarly the frequent epithet to Nibba,
"Yogakkhema" does not necessarily mean "safety
gained through Yoga", as the general interpretation as
"peace from bondage" appears justifiable. Again, in
a statement like "savna khayya yogo karayo" in
the Dutiyasamdhisutta of Anguttaranikya, the term "Yoga"
is used more as a common noun meaning "endeavour or effort"
than as a proper noun denoting a philosophical system. Likewise,
the two Buddhist texts, which are called Yogasuttas in the Samyutta
and Anguttaranikya, refer to fourfold bonds of sensual
desire, becoming, wrong view and ignorance. While a doubt thus
exists as to the term "Yoga," the terminology of the
Yogic system is frequently confronted in the Buddhist Canon.
Samdhi, Jhna (Dhyna), Sampatti, Sayama etc. occur in
identical meanings in both Buddhist and Yogic systems.
Besides the terminological similarities, which are not unusual
as all religious and philosophical systems of the Indian subcontinent
used a common vocabulary, there are many resemblances in practices,
which establish the dependence of Buddhism on early Yogic teachings.
With the paramount importance assigned by the Buddha to the
purification of the mind as an essential part of a person's
spiritual training, meditation and the control of the mind are
fundamental to the Buddhist path of deliverance. The mind, which
according to Buddhism is the sixth sense organ, is fickle and
subject to constant change; it has to be brought under ones
control. For this purpose, many forms of mental culture are
recommended by the Buddha. The development of mindfulness by
pondering over subjects of meditation is stated to be the
surest way to control one's mind and thereby attain the goal
of spiritual pursuit.
In a very early text, the Mahsatipahnasutta of both Dighanikya
and Majjhimanikya, embodying a sermon which the Buddha
had preached on his own accord, four subjects of meditation,
namely, the human body, sensations, thoughts and mind-objects
were described as the "Foundations of Mindfulness."
The preparation for meditation outlined in this text is not
only reminiscent of Yoga but also adumbrates a system, which
the Yoga Stras had subsequently elaborated. Here the "Yogvacara"
is enjoined to find a quiet place, free from disturbances,
such as a forest, the foot of a tree or an empty house. He should
sit cross-legged with his body erect. Then he should proceed
to mindful breathing (npnasati), by which he is expected
to breathe in and out consciously and with awareness. The subjects
of meditation are taken up when the mind is calmed and brought
to a point of concentration through this meditation. This process,
though only briefly presented in the Buddhist text, includes
the salient elements of the eight-fold method of Yoga advocated
by the Yoga Stras, (Radhakrishnan II p. 352)
which is as follows:-
Yama -abstension (equivalent to sla or moral purity
Niyama -observance of internal and external purification
(also included in Buddhist sla).
Sana -posture, which has to be easy, comfortable and steady
(which corresponds to the requirement in Buddhism that the meditator
should sit cross-legged with the body erect).
Pryma - regulation of breath (comparable to the Buddhist
concept of "Mindfulness in regard to breathing" though
not quite correctly. The Buddhist npnasati calls for
only awareness or mindfulness of the process of breathing e.g.
whether the breathing is brisk or slow etc. But the Yogic Pryma
is a deliberate regulation of the breath according to set
patterns which should be mastered with conscious effort, guidance
Pratyhara- withdrawal of the senses.
Dhyana -fixed attention or trance.
Dhraa -contemplation, and
The similarity which exists between the four dhynas of Buddhism
and four states of conscious concentration in Yoga as well as
their common emphasis on faith, energy, thought, concentration
and wisdom are also noteworthy. (Vajiranana pp. 35ff)
The striking point of divergence between the Buddhist concept
and the Yogic system is the importance attached to the state
of Samdhi. In the Yoga Stras, Samdhi is the ultimate
goal and from it proceed other attainments such as suspended
animation, levitation, knowledge of past births and others'
minds and also the mastery over the first cause which results
in absolute independence (kaivalya). But in Buddhism,
Samdhi is only an intermediary step in spiritual training,
Sla or moral purity being the first and Paññâ
or insight (i.e. the realization of the true nature
of life as embodied in the Four Noble Truths etc.) being the
final stages. Such an extension of the Yogic concept of the
ultimate goal is understandable in Buddhism because the Buddha
reportedly rejected the teachings of his Yogic teachers on the
ground that they did not go far enough.
Another significant factor, which should be noticed in comparing
Buddhism with Yoga, is the acceptance by the Buddha of
higher mental attainments of Yoga as not only possible and desirable
but also as conducive to one's spiritual perfection. But these,
in Buddhist texts, are not claimed to be intrinsically Buddhist
for many an ascetic is said to have possessed Yogic powers
even before the appearance of the Buddha. Besides, the use of
Yogic powers of levitation, knowledge of others' thoughts etc.
for purposes of worldly gain and renown has been strongly criticized
by the Buddha.(Vin. II, 110f)
The above facts very clearly show that the Buddha, besides knowing
the Yoga as an ancient system of spiritual training, accepted
its fundamental doctrines and, in evolving his system of mental
culture, went beyond what the Yoga laid down. The elaborate
system of meditation, which the Buddha formulated with as many
as forty subjects of meditation, thirteen vows of physical restraint,
and many aids for concentration, (Vajiranana p. 71; VM.
Dhtanga and Kammahna niddesas) had an effect on the development
of classical Yoga, while the developed Yoga techniques subsequently
influenced the evolution of the Yogcra Buddhist school. (Bapat
- Buddhism and Snkhya Philosophy
The last of the statements,
which I propose to discuss, necessitates a reference to Dr.
Radhakrishnan. He says in his Indian Philosophy,
"The relation of Snkhya to early Buddhism has given
rise to much speculation as to mutual borrowing. Though Snkhya
works, which have come down to us, are later than the origin
of Buddhism, and may have been influenced by Buddhist theories,
the Snkhya ideas themselves preceded Buddha and it is impossible
to regard Buddhism as the source of the Snkhya If the Buddhist
chain of causation resembles in some respects, the Snkhya theory
of evolution, it is because both of them have for their common
source the Upaniads." (II, p. 251)
Further on, he says,
"It seems to be very probable that the earliest form
of the Snkhya was a sort of realistic theism, approaching the
Viiadvaita view of the Upaniads. While this type of Snkhya
may be regarded as a legitimate development of the teaching
of Upanads, the dualistic Snkhya, which insists on the plurality
of Puruas and the independence of Prakti and drops all account
of the Absolute can hardly be said to be in line with the teachings
of the Upaniads. The question is how did it happen that the
Snkhya rejected the idea of the Absolute, which alone could
make the system satisfactory? The Snkhya did not become a well-co-ordinated
system until after the rise of Buddhism. When Buddhism offered
a challenge to realism, the Snkhya accepted the challenge and
argued on strictly rational grounds for the reality of selves
and objects. When it developed on a purely rationalistic soil,
it was obliged to concede that there was no proof for the existence
of God." (ibid p, 253 emphasis mine)
The relationship between the Snkhya system and Buddhism cannot
be traced with any degree of certainty. The dissimilarities
between them are as strong as the similarities. If Dr. Radhakrishnan
is correct in his view that the Snkhya was theistic at the beginning
and that its theory of God was abandoned as a result of Buddhist
influence, it is the Snkhya system that is indebted to Buddhism.
If the Snkhya did drop one of its fundamental principles in
deference to Buddhism, it is most likely that other aspects
of the system were also influenced by Buddhism.
The non-acceptance of the theistic principle, which characterizes
both Buddhism and the Snkhya system, is the most conspicuous
similarity between the two systems and has naturally raised
the question of possible borrowings and influence in either
direction. Dr. Arthur Berridale Keith in A History of Snkhya
Philosophy, dismissed the possibility of the development
of the Snkhya system out of Buddhism. He says,
"It is true that Snkhya abandons the idea of existence
of the Absolute, but it is, on the other hand, careful to retain
the idea of spirit and nature; the doctrine of Buddhism, on
the other hand, has in effect abandoned these two conceptions,
and has left itself with only the fleeting series of mental
states as a quasi reality, from which the development of the
doctrine of the void is a natural enough step. It is impossible
to prove, and certainly not plausible to believe, that from
so developed a doctrine as that of Buddhism there could have
grown the Snkhya, which is indeed not a believer in the Absolute,
but as little a believer in the view that the only existing
principle is the law of movement, which in essence is the view
of Buddhism." (pp. 24 & 33 emphasis mine)
With regard to the view that Buddhism could have been influenced
by Snkhya concepts, Dr. Keith, like most other scholars who
attempted to examine this issue, confronted the difficulty caused
by the fact that the works on classical Snkhya were of a much
later origin than Buddhism. He felt that the Snkhya as found
in the Epics might be compared with Buddhism. Here, too, his
conclusion was speculative:
"It seems best, therefore, to draw the conclusion that
Buddhism did not draw its inspiration from the Snkhya in the
form in which it appears even in the epic, for there the doctrine
of the isolation of spirit and nature and of the three Guas
is fully and completely evolved." (ibid p. 251 n.)
But no less than twelve points of similarity are traceable
between the two systems, viz.
(i) negation of or indifference to theism.
(ii) the belief in constant evolution (parinmanityatva.)
(iii) the denunciation of Vedic sacrifices and ascetic extravagances
as well as the open hostility to caste system or the laxity
with regard to Brahmanical restrictions.
(iv) the acceptance of suffering or misery as the nature of
(v) the role played by saskra (impressions) and vsans
(tendencies) of past lives in determining the conditions
of present and future lives.
(vi) the renunciation of the concept of self, expressed in Buddhism
as "Ne'ta mama; N'eso'ham asmi; Na m'eso att ' (This
does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Self) and
in the Snkhya as "Nsmi, na me, nham" (I am
not; naught is mine; the ego exists not), as fundamental to
(vii) the stress on the concept of causality or the law of cause
(viii) the correspondence between the four noble truths of
Buddhism with the Snkhya view of the disease (that from
which release is to be sought), health (final release),
the cause of disease (the cause of that from which release
is to be sought) and healing (the means of attaining
(ix) the adoption of yogic approach of meditation, (dhyna)
as the path of release in both systems.
(x) the emphasis laid on ignorance as the cause of bondage and
(xi) the postulation of deliverance as the end of existence
through knowledge by the elimination of avijj in Buddhism
and aviveka in Sankhya and;
(xii) the correspondence between the Buddhist doctrine of Sopadisesa
and Anupadisesa Nibba with the Snkhya concept of
Jivanmukta and Videhakaivalya.
These similarities, however, fail to establish any lines
of influence from Snkhya to Buddhism or vice versa because these
broad points of agreement lose their significance when fundamental
details are examined. While the approach to causality is common
to the two systems, the theory of causation of one system differs
from the other so vastly that each has to be stretched to its
utmost to admit a semblance of what the other teaches. This
is what Dr. Hermann Jacobi (ibid p. 26) did not realize
when he came to the conclusion that the mere correspondence
between the twelve principles of the Buddhist doctrine of Dependent
Causation (Paiccasamuppda) and the evolution series of
the Snkhya proved the dependence of the Buddha on the Snkhya
teachings. The significant difference, which existed in the
order of evolution and in the stress laid on the evolution were
glossed over by him altogether. Firstly, the Sankhya system
begins with the postulation of a permanent entity, Purua; secondly,
the Snkhya Chain of Causation explains the evolution of the
material aspect of the universe. In both respects the Buddhist
Paicca-samuppda is different. While no permanent entity
is recognised here, it explains the evolution of the individual.
An examination of the literary data may also prove useful. Dr.
Heinrich Zimmer in his Philosophies of India says
"Sankhya is referred to in the Buddhist Pali Canon and
Buddhist legends mention Kapila as one of the predecessors of
the Buddha." (p. 332)
Apparently Dr. Zimmer was depending on Dr. Rajendra Lal Mitra's
statement quoted in Dr. Radhakrishnan's Indian Philosophy
"There is abundant evidence, both in Hindu and Buddhist
works, of unquestionable antiquity and authenticity of the Snkhya
and Yoga systems having been current before the time of Buddha".
(p. 251 n)
Both Dr. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Zimmer refer to the Brahmajlasutta
of the Dghanikya, wherein, among the sixty-two heretical teachings
the Buddha describes a system of philosophy comparable to the
"There are, 0, Bhikkhus, some recluses and Brahmans
who are eternalists, and who on four grounds proclaim that both
the soul and the world are eternal. They are addicted to logic
and reasoning and give utterance to the following conclusions
of their own, beaten out by their argumentation and based on
their sophistry. 'Eternal is the soul; and the world is steadfast
as a mountain peak, as a pillar firmly fixed; and these living
creatures, though they pass from birth to birth, fall from one
existence and spring up in another; yet they are for ever and
ever'." (DN. I, p.30)
But the Snkhya system is not referred to by name in the Buddhist
Pali Canon. While several Brahmans by the name of Kapila are
mentioned in the Canon, only one, who may resemble the founder
of the Snkhya system, is referred to in the Udana Commentary
(p. 339 See also DPPN s.v. Kapila) as an ancient teacher
who taught that soul was limitless (na antav).
A very interesting word occurs often in the Pali Canon as
an epithet to the higher life of renunciation and religious
training: Sankha-likhhitam brahmacariyam. (DN.1 p. 63; Vin.
!. p. 181) The meaning of this expression is obscure and
the commentaries explain it as "likhitasankha-sadisa,
dhota-sankha-sappaibhga" - pure, bright or perfect
like the polished, inscribed or washed mother-of-pearl".
This interpretation is not only far-fetched but also too figurative
to be used in otherwise prosaic contexts as a frequent qualification
for the life of religious training. One may, therefore, wonder
whether the expression "Sankha-likhita" bears any
reference to a form of religious life, which had been associated
with the Snkhya system. Patrick Olivelles study of Yatidharmasamuccaya
in his Rules and Regulations of Brahmanical Asceticism
has thrown much light on the identification of Sankha and
Likhita as two ancient and duly recognized authorities on asceticism.
Amidst such authorities as aunaka, Yajnavlkya, Jbali,
Grgi and others, these two are referred to individually and,
quite frequently, jointly as exponents of certain specific aspects
of ascetic life. (Olivrelle pp 41, 43, 45, 51, 69, 79,
81, 83, 86,107, 111, 117, 119, 133, 134, 141). Whether Sankha
has anything to do with Snkhya is nowhere suggested.
Avaghoa, in circa 100 CE gave a clue which may be usefully
pursued in our attempt to trace the connection between Buddhism
and the Snkhya system. In his poem on the life of the Buddha,
Buddhacarita, Ara (i. e. lra Klma) is said
to have held Snkhya views in a theistic setting. To what extent
Avaghoa relied on a now-lost tradition, we cannot be sure;
but the association of Snkhya beliefs with a theistic element
therein is not altogether untenab1e. Yoga has been very closely
related to the Snkhya system from very early times and Yoga
was founded on a theistic footing. There is every reason to
believe that a teacher of the calibre of !ra Klma could
be an exponent of the combined teachings of Snkhya and Yoga.
Whatever similarities, which exist between Buddhism and the
Snkhya can be explained as a reflection of the Buddha's philosophical
training under !ra Klma. The Buddha and his disciples
were not only aware but familiar with the teachings of Snkhya.
Hence Dr. E. J. Thomas in A History of Buddhist Thought
asks the question, "Did Buddhism get its notions of Snkhya
through the Yoga philosophy? (p. 80)
The data so far presented seem to permit the conclusion that
the Buddha treated the Snkhya teachings in identically the same
manner as he dealt with the Yogic teachings. He used them in
the formulation of his system of philosophy but went beyond
their scope rejecting what was inapplicable. But the Snkhya,
he knew, was not the developed system of the classical age.
The classical Snkhya, on the other hand, can be shown to owe
much of its development to Buddhism.
This brief survey
of the place of Buddhism in Indian thought has brought to light
a number of significant facts:
Firstly, the inadequacy of the current theories about
the cultural evolution of the Indian subcontinent was strongly
felt. There is a need to re-examine the data available
with a view to assessing the pre-Aryan and other influences
on Indian thought.
Secondly, the question of the relationship between Upaniadic
philosophy and Buddhism is not so simple as to be dismissed
with the generalized statement that Buddhism is another version
of the Upaniads. The issues involved are so complicated that
one should go deeper into details; it is idle to talk
in terms of the spirit behind the Upaniads and general
impressions, which unfortunately tend to be highly subjective.
Literary data, alone, can give a full picture and with the evidence,
which could be collected from the Pali Texts, there was adequate
proof that the most popular theory on the subject is unacceptable.
And this applies not only to the Upaniadic problem but also
to that of the Snkhya system.
Lastly, the contributions to Indian thought made by the
Buddha should be carefully borne in mind. It was no doubt the
Buddha's admirable sense of humility, which led to his statement
that he was not an original thinker. His theory of Dependent
Causation or Origination was the most remarkable contribution
to Indian thought. It is unique in the history of philosophy.
AN - Anguttaranikya
BrU - Bhadrayaka Upaniad
ChU -Chndogya Upaniad
DN - Dghanikya
DPPN Dictionary of Pali Proper Names by Gunapala Malalsekera
EZ Epigraphia Zeilanica
MN - Majjhimanikya
PD Pali Dictionary
PTS - Pali Text Society of London
RV - Rgveda
SN - Sayuttanikya
TG - Theragth
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