Urban Dharma Newsletter... April 20, 2004
This Issue: Hinduism and Buddhism
1. Hinduism and Buddhism
2. Hinduism & Buddhism Different Religions! ...By
3. Hinduism in Sri Lankha
4. Temple/Center/Website: DharmaDate
5. Book/CD/Movie: A Buddhist History
of the West ...by David R. Loy
neurosis is a secret that you don't know you are keeping. -
a mad world only the mad are sane. - Akira Kurosawa (1910
doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different
results. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
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
in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations
and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 -
me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the fine line between sanity and
madness gotten finer? - George Price
he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.
- Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)
great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence.
- Henrik Tikkanen
Hinduism and Buddhism
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)
in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism." (S.Rahdhakrishnan)
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.
Both believe in the transmigration of souls and the cycle of
births and deaths for each soul.
Both emphasize compassion and non violence towards all living
Both believe in the existence of several hells and heavens or
higher and lower worlds.
Both believe in the existence of gods or deities on different
Both believe in certain spiritual practices like meditation,
concentration, cultivation of certain bhavas or states of mind.
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.
The Advaita philosophy of Hinduism is closer to Buddhism in
Buddhism and Hinduism have their own versions of Tantra.
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.
Hinduism is not founded by any particular prophet. Buddhism
was founded by the Buddha.
Hinduism believes in the efficacy and supremacy of the Vedas.
The Buddhist do no believe in the Vedas.
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.
Hinduism accepts the Buddha as an incarnation of Mahavishnu,
one of the gods of Hindu trinity. The Buddhist do not accept
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.
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.)
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.
Buddhists organize themselves into Order (Sangha) and the monks
live in groups. Hinduism is basically a religion of the individual.
Buddhism believes in the concept of Bodhisattvas. Hinduism does
not believe in it.
Hinduism & Buddhism Different Religions! ...By
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:
Show the inadequacy of the modern understanding of the word
"religion" in representing Indian religious traditions.
Understand the historical context of the definition of "Hinduism".
Understand the inadequacy of the arguments, which distinguish
Buddhism as a religion distinct from "Hinduism".
Understand why Buddhism is regarded as a religion distinct from
Attempt to understand the true relationship between Buddhism
fundamental problems with regards defining "religion"
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
considering all these it is a flawed theory that considers Buddhism
as a religion distinct from "Hinduism" based on modern
notions of religion.
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.
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
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
in distinguishing between Buddhism and "Hinduism"
seven main factors, which are normally used to distinguish Buddhism
as an entity apart from the various sects that make up "Hinduism":
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Buddhism cannot be distinguished from "Hinduism" based
merely on simplistic notions of the concept of anatta.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
it is not possible to distinguish Buddhism with "Hinduism"
based on simplistic notions of aastika and naastika.
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.
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.
why is Buddhism regarded as a religion distinct from "Hinduism"
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".
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".
the relationship between Indic spiritual streams: Dharmic Substratum
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
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.
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
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.
regards to the identity of this tradition there are two possibilities:
The Buddha considered himself part of the Vedic tradition, but
disputed the Brahmanical interpretation of the Vedas. OR
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Hinduism in Sri Lankha
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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Gassho and Tashi Delek - Erik Curren and L.B. Shiu, Lexington,
A Buddhist History of the West
...by David R. Loy
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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