The Urban Dharma Newsletter... April 20, 2004


In This Issue: Hinduism and Buddhism

0. Humor/Quotes...
1. Hinduism and Buddhism
2. Hinduism & Buddhism Different Religions!
...By Nandakumar Chandran
3. Hinduism in Sri Lankha
4. Temple/Center/Website:
5. Book/CD/Movie: A Buddhist History of the West
...by David R. Loy


0. Humor/Quotes...

A neurosis is a secret that you don't know you are keeping. - Kenneth Tynan

In a mad world only the mad are sane. - Akira Kurosawa (1910 - )

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Sometimes the mind, for reasons we don't necessarily understand, just decides to go to the store for a quart of milk. - Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Three Doctors, 1993

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the fine line between sanity and madness gotten finer? - George Price

Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. - Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)

Truly great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence. - Henrik Tikkanen

1. Hinduism and Buddhism


Gautama was born and brought up and lived and died a Hindu...There was not much in the metaphysics and principles of Gautama which cannot be found in one or other of the orthodox systems, and a great deal of his morality could be matched from earlier or later Hindu books." (Rhys Davids)

"Buddhism, in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism." (S.Rahdhakrishnan)


1. Both emphasize the illusory nature of the world and the role of karma in keeping men bound to this world and the cycle of births and deaths.

2. Both believe in the transmigration of souls and the cycle of births and deaths for each soul.

3. Both emphasize compassion and non violence towards all living beings.

4. Both believe in the existence of several hells and heavens or higher and lower worlds.

5. Both believe in the existence of gods or deities on different planes.

6. Both believe in certain spiritual practices like meditation, concentration, cultivation of certain bhavas or states of mind.

7. Both believe in detachment, renunciation of worldly life as a precondition to enter to spiritual life. Both consider desire as the chief cause of suffering.

8. The Advaita philosophy of Hinduism is closer to Buddhism in many respects.

9. Buddhism and Hinduism have their own versions of Tantra.

10. Both originated and evolved on the Indian soil. The founder of Buddhism was a Hindu who became the Buddha. Buddhism is the greatest gift of India to mankind.


1. Hinduism is not founded by any particular prophet. Buddhism was founded by the Buddha.

2. Hinduism believes in the efficacy and supremacy of the Vedas. The Buddhist do no believe in the Vedas.

3. Buddhism does not believe in the existence of souls as well in the first cause, whom we generally call God. Hinduism believe in the existence of Atman , that is the individual soul and Brahman, the Supreme Creator.

4. Hinduism accepts the Buddha as an incarnation of Mahavishnu, one of the gods of Hindu trinity. The Buddhist do not accept this.

5. The original Buddhism as taught by the Buddha is known as Theravada Buddhism or Hinayana Buddhism. Followers of this do not worship images of the Buddha nor believe in the Bodhisattvas. The Mahayana sect considers the Buddha as the Supreme Soul or the Highest Being, akin to the Brahman of Hinduism and worship him in the form of images and icons.

6. The Buddhists consider the world to be full of sorrow and regard ending the sorrow as the chief aim of human life. The Hindus consider that there are four chief aims (arthas) in life which every being should pursue. They are dharma (religious duty), artha (wealth or material possessions), kama (desires and passions) and moksha (salvation.)

7. Hindus also believe in the four ashramas or stages in life. This is not followed in Buddhism. People can join the Order any time depending upon their spiritual preparedness.

8. Buddhists organize themselves into Order (Sangha) and the monks live in groups. Hinduism is basically a religion of the individual.

9. Buddhism believes in the concept of Bodhisattvas. Hinduism does not believe in it.

2. Hinduism & Buddhism Different Religions! ...By Nandakumar Chandran


In modern perception today Buddhism is regarded as a religion distinct and apart from Hinduism. It is our view that such an understanding lacks historical validity and is also logically flawed. In the enterprise of clarifying Buddhism's relationship with "Hinduism" we will in the essay below adopt the following strategy:

1. Show the inadequacy of the modern understanding of the word "religion" in representing Indian religious traditions.

2. Understand the historical context of the definition of "Hinduism".

3. Understand the inadequacy of the arguments, which distinguish Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism".

4. Understand why Buddhism is regarded as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" today.

5. Attempt to understand the true relationship between Buddhism and "Hinduism".

Some fundamental problems with regards defining "religion" in India

A religion in the modern sense is generally understood in the Semitic mould as a faith distinguished by its belief in a historical prophet and a holy book. Thus the combination of Jesus and the Bible or Mohammed and the Quran establish the distinct identity of Christianity and Islam. According to these religions salvation or access to God is possible only if you accept the authority of their prophet and holy book. So each of these religions hold that theirs is the only true path and the claims of all other religions are false and invalid. At a secondary level apart from theological distinctions the adherents of these religions also distinguish themselves by their distinct cultural traits - like naming themselves after the holy men of their religions, dressing in a distinct way or observing cultural practices particular to their own religion. So it is in these factors - primarily the exclusive belief in prophet and holy book and secondarily in theological beliefs and distinct cultural practices - that the individual identity of a religion and its adherents rests.

But if we look at India the concept of a prophet is totally lacking - no saint has ever claimed that "he is the only way". With regards the scriptures, a few streams of the Miimaamsaa consider the Vedas to be infallible and the sole authority on matters spiritual - but even here they're careful to stress on the importance of reason in interpreting the scriptures. Simply put: even the Vedas cannot make fire cold. But the majority of the religious streams were agreed about the relative value of their scriptures and accepted the authority of other sources too - logic, the views of enlightened men etc. So no religious stream in India has ever claimed that they and only they represent the sole way to God based on their prophet and holy book and all others are false. Simply put the argument is that God/reality is not validated by a prophet or a holy book and is open to anybody with the right inclination. So each religious stream at best claims to be a better and more effective path to access God/reality.

With regards theological views, all religious streams of India consider man to be caught in an endless cycle of rebirths, where each life is inevitably sunk in suffering due to the transient nature of the world. Salvation is escape from the cycle of rebirths. Knowledge of the true nature of ones own self is what brings about salvation (even for Buddhism the "I" is without substance and it is on understanding its true nature that the root of the bonds which tie a human being to samsaara - "I" and "mine" - are erased and thus liberation effected). This saving knowledge can arise either by intuition or by the grace of God. But it is imperative that one must lead a life of control of the psycho/physical faculties and practice compassion and charity. This is fundamental dharma and no religious stream has ever disputed it.

Where the various spiritual streams differ is in their metaphysical worldviews (whether there is one or many souls, where there's a primal matter or infinite atoms etc) and their own particular path to effect liberation - but this path is not anything totally new but an emphasis on a particular set of spiritual practices of the fundamental dharma. For e.g. Advaita might lay greater emphasis on self-introspection, while Mahaayaana Buddhism might give more importance to ethics and meditation or Yoga, which teaches mind control.

With regards cultural practices, it is to be noted that only serious practitioners of the Indian spiritual streams, who in most cases were monks, did anything significant to distinguish themselves from the adherents of other spiritual streams. For example the Saamkhya ascetics wore red robes and the Buddhist and Jainaa monks named themselves in a particular way. But the laity of the various streams existed together with little to distinguish between themselves. For a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite or a Nyaaya logician to become a Buddhist only meant abandoning a few of his existing views and practices on spirituality and adopting new ones as taught by Buddhism. To embrace a new path only meant adopting a slightly different way of life more conducive to one's own spiritual inclinations. Sometimes those who converted to a new path, not satisfied with their current path, went back to their original fold - the great Purva Miimaamsaa philosopher Kumaarilla Bhatta being a notable example. But this seldom involved any change in existing cultural practices as they were all born/married/died the same way, ate similar food, dressed similarly, enjoyed similar past times and upheld similar ideals about the purpose of life. It was not unusual for an orthodox Brahmin family to have a son who was a Buddhist, married to a woman who believed in the teachings of the Mahaaveera. They all belonged to the same civilization and lived as one people under the shade of the dharma.

So considering all these it is a flawed theory that considers Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" based on modern notions of religion.

Understanding "Hinduism"

If we see in the four thousand years worth of religious literature in India we cannot find a single reference to the word "Hinduism" anywhere! "Hinduism" is a word concocted by Europeans to refer to the myriad streams of religious faiths in the land of Hindustan. "Hindu" only means an inhabitant of the sub-continent east of the river Sindhu. The Persians pronounced "Sindu" as "Hindu" which the Greeks in turn pronounced as "Indu" - thus the word to refer to the denizens of the sub-continent. Even "India" is but a Greek word for Hindustan.

Only after the advent of Islam and later Christianity in India, the natives of the sub-continent who did not belong to either of these religions, used the word "Hindu" to distinguish between themselves and the adherents of these alien religions. Though the definition is strictly geographical in nature but interpreted in the religious sense a "Hindu" can be a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite or an Advaita Vedaanti or a follower of one of the numerous such sects - each with their own set of Gods and Goddesses, their own holy book(s), their own spiritual founder/teachers and their own specific way of effecting liberation. And historically we do not see even heterodox streams like Buddhism or Jainsim being excluded from such a definition. Neither in the works of the aastika nor naastikaa schools do we find any distinction like "Hindu and Bauddha" or "Hindu and Jainaa". Within themselves it is always "Vedaanti and Bauddha" or "Naiyaayika and Jainaa". Only when there's a reference to Christianity or Islam does the word "Hindu" come into play. So to both the adherents of the alien and native religions "Hindu" meant a follower of one of the native religions of India, including Buddhism and Jainism.

But even then before the advent of Europeans into the sub-continent nobody is known to have clubbed together the myriad spiritual streams of India under a single definition of "Hinduism". Under this definition all the adherents of the aastika and assorted miscellaneous sects excluding the Jains and Buddhists, were classified under "Hinduism". Though there's is no problem with regards what constitutes "Hinduism" itself, still if you look at the reasons why Buddhism and Jainism are identified as separate religions distinct from "Hinduism", then we find that the definition of "Hinduism" itself becomes untenable.

Problems in distinguishing between Buddhism and "Hinduism"

There're seven main factors, which are normally used to distinguish Buddhism as an entity apart from the various sects that make up "Hinduism":

1. Repudiation of the authority of the Vedas: It is generally held that the Buddha repudiated the authority of the Vedas. But it is very important to understand level this "repudiation" extended to. Nowhere do we find the Buddha saying that the teachings of the Vedas are false. He only questioned whether those who revered the Vedas had experienced/seen the reality which they claimed that the Vedas talked about - so he was not disputing the validity of the Vedas per se, but only those who claimed to know the reality that the Vedas talked about.

The Vedas have traditionally been divided into the karma kaanda and the jnaana kaanda - the ritualistic and the knowledge sections. By the time of the Buddha the ritualistic section had gained prominence with Brahmins performing elaborate rituals and sacrificing animals in the name of Vedic karma. The Buddha was not opposed to rituals per se as we find in the Nikhaayas that he has no problem in participating in a Vedic ritual with a Brahmin - he only opposed the prominence given to the Vedic rituals in the scheme of spiritual liberation and the sacrifice of animals in this process.

As has been noted by a lot of scholars, both ancient and modern, the Buddha's teachings compare very favorably the to jnaana kaanda of the Vedas - the Upanishads. In contrast to the orthodoxy who tried to present the whole Vedas as absolutely valid, the Buddha only shifted the emphasis on the knowledge section. In this he considered the teachings of anybody who had "crossed the further shore", including himself, to be as authoritative as the Vedas.

The "relativity" in the Buddha's approach to the Vedas is not unique to him. All the orthodox schools except the two Mimaamsaas too pay only lip service to the Vedas - where their doctrines agree with the Vedas they are eager to show it off - but where it doesn't they ignore such contradictions. For each school, only the Sutras of the founder truly play the part of the scripture. The Naiyaayikas dilute the validity of the scripture by accepting anything that's proved by logic.

Even with respect to the two Miimaamsaas, it is only the Purva Miimaamsaa, which can be said to accept scriptural injunctions as absolute. In contrast the schools of the Uttara Miimaamsaa exhibit various positions regarding the scripture: Advaita accepts the relativity of the Vedas and asserts that scriptural teachings are only to "instruct" - also from the ultimate standpoint Advaitins consider even the Vedas to be in the realm of ignorance. The Visishtadvaita school considers the Divya Prabandham to be on par with the Vedas. The Saiva Siddhaanta school considers the Saiva Aagamaas to be more authoritative than the Vedas.

Regarding Vedic rituals with the exception of the Miimaamsaas, all the orthodox schools too are interested mainly in the jnaana kaanda and are indifferent to the karma kaanda. Even with the Mimaamsaas, it is only the Purva Miimaamsaa for which rituals form a very vital aspect of spirituality - the Vedaantic schools in contrast emphasize on the importance of the jnaana kaanda over the karma kaanda. Also historically the Saamkhya and Dvaita Vedaanta too were strong in their opposition to animal sacrifices in the name of religion.

Considering all these it is very difficult to establish Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" merely on the basis of the Buddha's "repudiation of the Vedas". It is also to be noted that historically Buddhist universities like Takshila and Nalanda didn't teach Buddhist philosophy alone - the Vedas and the philosophies of aastika schools were also taught in these institutes.

2. The caste system: it is generally held that the Buddha rejected the caste system in contrast to the other schools, which accepted the varna system. This too is not really true.

* In the Ambatta Sutta we find the Buddha scorned as a lower caste Kshatriya by a Brahmin. The Buddha in response points out to the Brahmin that while the Brahmin was born of wedlock between a Brahmin and a lower caste woman, the Buddha's ancestors resorted even to incest to preserve the purity of the race of the Saakhyaas! Thus the Buddha declares himself to be superior to the Brahmin.

* The practical implication of the doctrine of karma itself is that one is born in a higher caste due to the virtues of past lives. The Buddha himself admits that to be born as a Brahmin in a spiritually conducive environment reflects a life of dharma lived in past lives.

* Nowhere in the dialogues of the Buddha do we find him declaring all castes to be equal - nor is it supposed to be so even after they join the Buddhist order. In the Nikhaayas we find Brahmin disciples of the Buddha addressed as Brahmins even after they have joined the sangha.

* Even after the Buddha, his followers in many instances have harped on his "royal" birth to assert the validity of their religion - quite like Jainism it is a regular practice in Buddhist literature to assert the superiority of the Kshatriya caste over the Brahmin caste.

* The Jaatakaas too assert that the Buddha in all his past and future existences will be born only as a Brahmin or a Kshatriya and never in a caste lower than these two. According to Buddhist prophecy even the future "Buddha-to-be" - Maitreya - is supposed to be born as a Brahmin.

Due to the reasons given above we find it hard to accept that the Buddha was against the caste system. The Vedic religion allowed only the dvijas (the top three castes) access to spiritual knowledge - the Buddha only opened up such knowledge for the lower castes and women. So this does not necessarily mean that the Buddha was opposed to the caste system per se, but only disputed the claims of spiritual supremacy of the Brahmins and asserted that anybody with the right inclination can take up spirituality. Also the Buddha was not particularly against Brahmins - for we find recurring instances in the Nikhaayas where the Buddha affirms that it is a virtue to give alms to Brahmins. So in reality the Buddha was only against the exaggerated claims of the spiritual prowess of Brahmins, but not against Brahmins or the caste system per se.

On a related note, we'd like to point out that this is the exact case with respect to the Bhakti saints too. If the bhakti saints can be accommodated within the ambit of Hinduism, then why not the Buddha?

It is also to be noted that even for the Saamkya and Yoga systems anybody who's enlightened is considered a guru irrespective of caste. The Visishtadvaita and the Saiva Siddhaanta reveres many non-Brahmin teachers as saints.

Considering all these it is very difficult to establish Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" merely on the basis of the Buddha's alleged "repudiation of the caste system".

3. Philosophical views: It cannot be said that just because of distinct metaphysical views Buddhism is a distinct religion - for the same can be said about all the schools which constitute "Hinduism" too. They all have distinct metaphysical views, which distinguish them from each other. Here it is sometimes pointed out that Buddhism does not accept a creator God - but the same applies to even orthodox schools like classical Saamkhya and the Purva Miimaamsaa.

4. Anatta: it is sometimes said that while the traditional view of "Hinduism" is based on the Atman (Self), the Buddha in contrast taught the anatta.

But here it is to be noted that anatta only meant that which is not the Self - the non-self. It doesn't mean "no self". Nowhere do we find the Buddha denying the reality of the Atman. He just maintained silence when questioned about the Atman.

The Buddha's attitude to philosophy was that it was more meaningful to understand the known than wasting time speculating about the unknown. Thus it is the non-self - the skandhas or aggregates -, which should be contemplated on and understood. But his stress on the non-self doesn't mean that the Buddha negated the self - Naagaarjuna puts anatta in the right perspective when he questions in his Mulamaadhyamaka Kaarikaa : without the self how can the non-self exist? The Buddha only taught the insubstantiality of the individual self, but not no-substance or no-soul.

It is also to be noted that the great Advaitin teacher Gaudapaada quite in line with Mahaayaana Buddhism asserts that it is only those who go beyond the notions of the existence or non-existence or both or neither of the Self, are truly omniscient.

So Buddhism cannot be distinguished from "Hinduism" based merely on simplistic notions of the concept of anatta.

5. Teachings: Even with regards his teachings there's nothing in what the Buddha taught that cannot be found in texts earlier to Buddhism. The four noble truths are unanimously accepted right across the Indian philosophical spectrum - right from the Upanishads to the darshanas these truths are accepted as fundamental reason for a life of the spirit.

The origins of the theories of anatta, kshanikavaada (momentariness), pratitya samutpaada (dependant origination) can all be found in the Upanishads (this has been noted by as orthodox a thinker as Kumaarilla Bhatta in his Tantravaartikam). Schools generally picked out what they could relate to in the scriptures and expanded on them. The Buddha too only did the same thing.

Even with regards to later Buddhist philosophy it didn't develop in isolation and only developed in relation to other schools of philosophy. Naagaarjuna was primarily responding to Gautama's Nyaaya Sutras. Vaatsyaayana the classical commentator of the Nyaaya Sutras addresses many of Naagaarjuna's concerns. Likewise the Buddhist logician Dignaaga answers Vaatsyaayana; the Naiyaayika Udhyotakaara responds to Dignaaga; and Dignaaga's disciple Dharmakirti addresses the concerns of Udhyotakaara. This was the way Indian philosophy developed. So directly or indirectly each school influenced the philosophy of other schools. So Buddhism developed only in relation to its native cousins and thus its identity itself depends on its cousins to a great extent.

6. Aastika vs. Naastika: as noted above many of the so-called aastika schools stood for the same things that Buddhism did. So it is not easy to identify aastika schools with Hinduism either. Also historically even schools like Saamkhya and Advaita Vedanta have been branded "naastika" in certain quarters.

Further the hostility we observe in the texts of aastika schools against Buddhism itself cannot be used as a point to establish Buddhism as an independent entity apart from the aastika schools. Because even as the aastika schools were opposed to Buddhism, they were mutually antagonistic to each other too. Also we find many aastika scholars like Gaudapaada who are sympathetic to Buddhism and revere the Buddha. As traditional a scriptural text as the Devi Bhaagavatham considers the Buddha as the Lord descended in human form to prevent cruelty to animals in Vedic sacrifices.

So it is not possible to distinguish Buddhism with "Hinduism" based on simplistic notions of aastika and naastika.

7. Vihaara vs. Temple: Apart from these technical distinctions it is also pointed out that Buddhists have their own temples or vihaaraas. But the same applies to even traditional Shaivites, Vaishnavites, Shaaktaaists etc - each will go only to temples which house their deity and none other. Vaishnavites will not go to a Shiva temple nor will Shaivites go to a Vishnu temple.

In conclusion we find that it is not possible to distinguish Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" on the basis of the reasons given above. It is true that at the time of the Buddha, he did preach something quite distinct in the prevailing environment with regards caste, philosophy, spiritual practice etc. But it did not take long for the other spiritual streams to accept and reconcile the validity of these teachings with their own worldview. In some cases even Buddhism itself wasn't able to live up to the original world view of the Buddha: Departing from the original monastic tradition, Mahaayaana with the intent to increase the scope of the sangha in spreading the dharma tried to reconcile spirituality with worldly life - thus the introduction of the bodhisattva ideal in the model of the brahmin householder to spread the dharma. This naturally compromised Buddhism's traditional opposition to the Brahmins; in the religious sphere it embraced theism; philosophically it accepted reality to be pure consciousness. So as time passed the differences narrowed so drastically that Buddhism could no more sustain its individual identity in any meaningful sense and thus could no more be distinguished from other religious streams. The same is the case with the non-Miimaamsaa schools, which were all assimilated into one or the other form of the Vedanta. Jainism quite like Buddhism dominated certain parts of India at certain points in time - but it too met the same fate as Buddhism. Jainism has all but disappeared from its one-time strongholds and survives only in tiny pockets mainly near its historical birthplace in Northern India, where it is held together more by clannish loyalties rather than any meaningful religious distinction with the sects of Hinduism. But for all practical purpose most Jains today consider themselves as Hindus only.

So why is Buddhism regarded as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" today?

By the time modern Indologists started their enquiries into Indian culture, Buddhism was no more a living religion in India and so these scholars couldn't evaluate it as a living religion on its own in its native soil. Jainism too had lost its once dominant position in India and survives only in tiny pockets in North Western India. Influenced by their own exclusive Christian backgrounds western Indologists seem to have viewed Indian religious streams in the same mould - basing it on the validity of a single scriptural text - the Vedas, or a prophet - the Buddha or the Mahaaveera. The ancient distinction between aastika and naastika based on the acceptance or otherwise of the validity of the Vedas and the supremacy of the Brahmin in the chatur varna system seems to have strengthened their opinion on the validity of such distinctions between "Hinduism" and Buddhism/Jainism. Plus what they saw of Buddhism in practice in countries like Tibet, China and Japan, obviously influenced them to identify Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism".

But as noted, we cannot distinguish between Buddhism and "Hinduism" the way the latter can be distinguished from Christianity or Islam. Also historically the development of Buddhism in India is different from the way Buddhism developed in other countries. Buddhism in India grew only in relation to its native cousins and its relationship with them is different from its relationship with the religions of the alien lands it spread to. So while it might be meaningful to distinguish between Buddhism and Taoism or Shintoism as distinct religions primarily because of the native cultural and philosophical contexts in which each religious stream developed, the same doesn't hold for its relationship with the so-called "Hinduism".

Understanding the relationship between Indic spiritual streams: Dharmic Substratum

One of the important questions to be asked in understanding Buddhism's relationship with Hinduism is: Did the Buddha consider himself to be starting out a totally new tradition apart from the Vedic tradition?

This cannot be so because the Buddha accepted that what he was doing was only continuing the ancient arya tradition - puraana aarya dharma. It is in this spirit that though his name was Siddhaartha, the Buddha let himself be addressed to by his Vedic gotra name - Gautama - and also in many cases took care to refer to other people by their Gotra names - Vaccha (Vatsa), Kaashyapa etc. This clearly indicates that he considered himself to be a part of the existing tradition.

Also the very fact that Buddha accepted that he had gone through various births and it was due to adherence of the dharma in past lives that he has come to the present stage of Buddhahood, itself implies that there was dharma prior to him and he was an integral part of it. But like various teachers prior to and after him, he only gave that extra individual addition to the dharma, which was his own individual contribution to the understanding of the dharma. But this doesn't make his school a totally new tradition divorced from its cultural ancestors and contemporaries - if this is so then all other schools too have to be considered likewise.

So there is little doubt that even as other spiritual streams the Buddha considered himself to be a part of an age-old tradition. And historically too all the spiritual streams were acutely conscious of their traditional connection to the underlying age old religious tradition of the land and took care to emphasize it - in fact each school claimed that they were the true representatives of the tradition.

With regards to the identity of this tradition there are two possibilities:

1. The Buddha considered himself part of the Vedic tradition, but disputed the Brahmanical interpretation of the Vedas. OR

2. There's an even earlier dharmic substratum of which even the Vedic tradition is but a part - and it is this ancient dharmic substratum that the Buddha considered himself as reviving/following.

Either way there is little doubt that the Buddha considered himself to be following in the footsteps of his civilizational ancestors in spreading the dharma. The same is the view of his rivals too. It is due to this common dharmic ancestor that all religious streams of India share many common beliefs in philosophy and spiritual practice: that there's a cycle of rebirths and each life is filled with suffering due to the transient nature of the world; karma which conditions each existence based on past actions; salvation is knowing the reality inherent in oneself which is effected by living a life of dharma (control of the psycho/physical faculties, compassion and charity) in combination with meditation or devotion - thus does one escape the cycle of rebirths.

The underlying civilizational unity underlying all the spiritual streams of India is more than evident in the shared philosophical heritage that they all subscribed to. All streams predominantly worked under the same philosophical framework and mainly used Sanskrit as the lingua franca amongst themselves. In this regard it is to be noted that Panini's Ashtadhyaayi and Patanjali's Mahaabaashyam, the classical works on Sanskrit grammar, have been commented upon by both Buddhist and Jaina authors too.

Thus the various spiritual streams of India are better understood from the standpoint of the dharma. It is from the same dharmic tree that all the great spiritual streams of India, including Buddhism, sprung as branches to teach their own brand of dharma with the common goal of salvation from the cycle of rebirths. It is in this spirit that each school referred to other schools only as a darshana (school of philosophy) or a siddhaanta (spiritual philosophy) and not as independent religions. Hence the significance of works like Sarva Darshana Samgraha or Sad Darshana Samuccaya.

In conclusion given the civilizational/dharmic unity underlying all the spiritual streams of India we have to find a more integrative way to define and represent the various spiritual streams of India.

3. Hinduism in Sri Lankha


Whereas Buddhism claims a historical founder, a basic doctrine, and a formal monastic structure, Hinduism embraces a vast and varied body of religious belief, practice, and organization. In its widest sense, Hinduism encompasses all the religious and cultural systems originating in South Asia, and many Hindus actually accept the Buddha as an important sectarian teacher or as a rebel against or reformer of ancient Hindu culture. The medieval Arabs first used the term Hindu to describe the entire cultural complex east of the Sindhu, or Indus, River (in contemporary Pakistan). Hindu beliefs and practices in different regions claim descent from common textual sources, while retaining their regional individuality. In Sri Lanka, Hinduism is closely related to the distinctive cultural systems of neighboring Tamil Nadu

Classical Hinduism includes as a central tenet of belief the concept of nonviolence (ahimsa), a concept that was of great importance to the Buddha and to such reformers as Mahatma Gandhi some 2,500 years later. Veneration of pure life, especially of the cow, has come to be intimately associated with orthodox Hinduism of all sects. The cow is regarded as, among other things, the sacred embodiment of motherhood and fruitfulness. The deliberate killing of a cow is scarcely less terrible than the killing of a Brahman. For the miscreant it results in immediate and irrevocable outcasting; even the accidental killing of a cow requires elaborate purification ceremonies

The earliest and most sacred sources of Hinduism are the Vedas, a compilation of hymns originating in northern India around 1,500 B.C. They are the oldest surviving body of literature in South Asia, created by the culture of the Arya (the "noble" or "pure" ones) in northwest India. Composed in an archaic form of the Sanskrit language, the Vedas were sung by a caste of priests (Brahmans) during sacrifices for the ancient gods. Families of Brahmans have passed down the oral recitation of these hymns for thousands of years, and Brahman claims to high status ultimately rest on their association with Vedic hymns. The vast majority of Hindus know almost nothing of Sanskrit or the Vedas, but even in the late twentieth century Brahmans frequently officiate at important ceremonies such as weddings, reciting ancient hymns and making offerings into sacred flames

By the time of the Buddha, intellectual speculations gave rise to philosophical concepts that still influence all of South Asia. These speculations became books called Upanishads, originally written as commentaries on the Vedas but later viewed as sacred works in their own right. The Upanishads discuss brahman, an impersonal, eternal force that embodies all good and all knowledge. The individual "soul," or atman, partakes of the same qualities as brahman but remains immersed in ignorance. Action (karma) is the cause of its ignorance; reason continually searches for meaning in the material world and in its own mental creations, instead of concentrating on brahman, the one true reality. The individual soul, immersed in action, migrates from life to life, until it achieves identity with brahman and is released. There is a close relationship between the Buddha's understanding of suffering and enlightenment, and the ideas of atman, karma, and brahman that became basic to Hindu philosophy. The Buddha, however, claimed that even the idea of the soul was a mental construct of no value, whereas Hindu thought has generally preserved a belief in the soul

As India became a major center of civilization with extensive political and economic systems, Hinduism became associated with new visions of the gods and worship in temples. Tamil Nadu was a major center of this transformation. By about A.D. 1000, the Tamils had reworked Brahmanical culture into a southern Indian type of devotional (bhakti) religion. This religion claimed to be based on the Vedas and the philosophy of the Upanishads, but its roots lay just as deep in strong attachments to local deities and a desire for salvation (moksha) through their intercession

Several gods predominate in the many myths, legends, and styles of worship. One of the main Hindu gods is Vishnu, often represented as a divine king accompanied by his beautiful wife, Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth and good fortune. Besides presiding as a divine monarch, Vishnu periodically descends to earth, assuming a physical form to help beings attain salvation. Vishnu has ten main incarnations, two of which - Rama and Krishna- -are particularly popular. Rama was a great hero, whose exploits in rescuing his wife from the demon king of Lanka are recounted in the epic Ramayana. Vishnu's most popular incarnation is Krishna, who combines in a single divine figure the mythic episodes of a warrior prince and a rustic cowherd god. As warrior, Krishna figures prominently in what is perhaps the single most important Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, where he stresses the importance of doing one's duty and devotion to god. As divine cowherd, Krishna served as an inspiration for a vast body of religious poetry in Sanskrit and the regional South Asian languages. From the eighth to the twelfth centuries, Tamil devotees of Vishnu (alvars) composed poetry in praise of the god. These Tamil poems, collected in anthologies, are still recited during worship and festivals for Vishnu

The second major Hindu deity, and by far the most important god among the Tamils in Sri Lanka, is Siva. He differs considerably from Vishnu. In many stories he reigns as a king, but often he appears as a religious ascetic, smeared with ashes, sitting on a tiger skin in the jungle, with a snake around his neck. He is the lord of animals. Although he is an ascetic, he is also a sexual figure, married to the beautiful Parvati (the daughter of the mountain), and his image is often a single rock shaped like a phallus (lingam). He is often a distant figure whose power is destructive, but paradoxically he is a henpecked husband who has to deal with family squabbles involving his sons. His devotees enjoy retelling his myths, but worshipers visualize him as a cosmic creator who will save his creatures when they have abandoned themselves totally to his love. One of the most powerful expressions of his creative role is the image of Nataraja, "Lord of the Dance," who gracefully manifests the rhythm of the universe. Great Tamil devotees (nayanmar) of the early middle ages created a large collection of poems dedicated to Siva and his holiest shrines. These collections are still revered among the Tamils as sacred scriptures on the same plane as the Vedas

Female deities are very important among the Hindu Tamils. At temples for Siva or Vishnu there are separate shrines for the god and for his consort, and in many cases the shrine for the goddess (amman) receives much more attention from worshipers. Hindu philosophy interprets the goddess as the Shakti, or cosmic energy, of the god in the world and therefore the most immediate creative or destructive force, to be thanked or placated. Many of the manifestations of the goddess are capricious or violent, and she is often seen as a warrior who destroys demons on her own or whom Siva himself has to defeat in combat. As Mariamman, she used to bring smallpox, and she is still held responsible for diseases of the hot season

In addition to the main gods, there are a number of subordinate divine beings, who are often the most popular deities. Ganesha, or Pillaiyar (or Ganapati), the elephant-headed son of Siva and Parvati, is the patron of good fortune and is worshiped at the beginning of a religious service or a new venture, such as a business deal or even a short trip. Murugan, his brother, is a handsome young warrior who carries a spear and rides a peacock. He is worshiped near hills or mountains, and his devotees are known for fierce vows and austerity that may include self-mutilation. Every village has its own protective deities, often symbolized as warriors, who may have their own local stories and saints

Worship of the gods is known as puja. Worship can occur mentally or in front of the most rudimentary representations, such as stones or trees. Most people assemble pictures or small statues of their favorite deities and create small shrines in their homes for daily services, and they make trips to local shrines to worship before larger and more ornate statues. Public temples (kovil) consist of a central shrine containing images of the gods, with a surrounding courtyard and an enclosing wall entered through ornately carved towers (gopuram). During worship, the images become the gods after special rituals are performed. Worshipers then offer them presents of food, clothing, and flowers as they would honored guests

The gifts are sanctified through contact with the gods, and worshipers may eat the sacred food or smear themselves with sacred ash in order to absorb the god's grace. In public temples, only consecrated priests (pujari) are allowed into the sanctum housing the god's image, and worshipers hand offerings to the priests for presentation to the god. Most of the time, worship of the gods is not congregational, but involves offerings by individuals or small family groups at home or through temple priests. During major festivals, however, hundreds or thousands of people may come together in noisy, packed crowds to worship at temples or to witness processions of the gods through public streets.

4. DharmaDate


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We are two Buddhist practitioners who founded this site as a service to the larger, international Dharma community. We hope DharmaDate brings people interested in Buddhism together for friendship, practice and love. And in the meantime, we hope DharmaDate provides a place for everyone to work joyfully with our desires, attachments and connections with others.

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Namaste, Gassho and Tashi Delek - Erik Curren and L.B. Shiu, Lexington, Virginia, USA

5. A Buddhist History of the West ...by David R. Loy


Editorial Reviews; From the Back Cover - Buddhism teaches that to become happy, greed, ill-will, and delusion must be transformed into their positive counterparts: generosity, compassion, and wisdom. The history of the West, like all histories, has been plagued by the consequences of greed, ill-will, and delusion. A Buddhist History of the West investigates how individuals have tried to ground themselves to make themselves feel more real. To be self-conscious is to experience ungroundedness as a sense of lack, but what is lacking has been understood differently in different historical periods. Author David R. Loy examines how the understanding of lack changes at historical junctures and shows how those junctures were so crucial in the development of the West.

Amazon.com - Reviewer: from Shaker Heights, Ohio United States ...This is an incredibly insightful contribution to our understanding of why Western institutions have become so destuctive of the world around us while generally failing to provide people with a sense of meaning, direction, or pleasure in life. As Loy so clearly articulates, Buddhism offers a perspective that can transform our lives and, perhaps, our self-destructive culture.

Amazon.com - Reviewer: from Seattle, WA ...For Westerners who've had a taste of Buddhist practice or insights, there comes a moment when we must look back on our own cultural heritage and wonder, "What the hell happened?" Why this long 2,500 year detour into dominating nature and building social empires? Why this absorbtion into disconnected individualism? Loy's book is exciting trailblazing into the emerging field of putting Buddhist concepts to work to decode history. Highly recommended. Gassho.


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