When did the gods become literate?

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 12 19:15:14 UTC 1999

Julio writes :

>Who either grasps or does not grasp Buddhism is not a land, but thoseintent
>on being Buddhists. And there is no need for the whole country's population
>to follow Buddhist precepts in order to Buddhism be preserved in such
>country - if this were true Buddhism would never have existed even in

This whole assumption is based on the presumption that to be a
Buddhist you need to intellectually grasp something - that is the
truth is to be grasped intellectually. This is quite in tune with
Western - European conceptions of the power of the intellect which
elevates it to absurd levels and undermines the importance of virtue,
control and compassion.

The SanAtana Dharmam in Bharath has not lasted through the millenea
and often in hostile conditions, because people read the Bhagavath
Gita or the VedAnta SUtrams or engaged in the suble dialectic of
Advaitam. That which sustains this culture is the way of life itself
- the dharmam - the do and don'ts, the rights and wrongs, the sublime
and the trivial.

Truth is to be lived and not to be grasped. That's why in the Buddha's
Eight Fold Path, there's no studying of philosophy etc For no amount
of thought - however subtle it may be can bring an end to suffering.
The Upanishadic Seers and the Buddha are unanimous in saying that
the Truth is beyond mere reasoning. As M Gandhi says, it's not a mind
grasp, but a heart grasp. The path is a way of life to be lived - with
right knowledge of the world, one should endeavour to turn away from
its lures and practice meditation - and  vegetarianism is an essential
part of this way of life.

>Besides many Buddhists have been reported to be strict
>vegetarians, for instance, in Tibet.

If so, I salute them - they're indeed true sons of the SAkhyamuni.

>Not being as much of a specialist as you would wish, it may be interesting
>to remark that the literature of the three of Theravaadins,
>Sarvaastivaadins and Mahaayaanists refer to the three of S'ravaakas,
>Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas.

It only strengthens my views that all the three classes of Bauddhas
recognized their distinction - else why would they each refer to the
other two?

L Cousins writes :

>I have always suspected that it was there before. It is its acceptance by
>Devaanampiya Tissa which is the focus of the stories.

Let me make an observation here. The culture of Andhra and Tamil Nadu,
which are close to one another are not very different - in terms of
dress, food, social customs etc

But the difference between Lanka (SinhAla) and Tamil Nadu is quite
distinct. And if interaction between India and Lanka were as you
claim, such a distinction cannot be supported. And when Hinduism
gained ascendency in Tamil Nadu, that should've reflected in Lanka too. But
Sinhalese have remained stauch Bauddhas and even seem to consider Hinduism
as an alien religion.

>We know very little about how Buddhism spread to other parts of South Asia.
>But there were certainly other missionaries -referred to in various
>inscriptions and literary sources.

But I think the case should be pretty obvious atleast in India itself.

>He refers to the Colas and Paa.n.diyas in exactly the same way.

But for some reason, he didn't consider them to be important enough
to send his son there. So why Lanka?

>On the contrary, travel by sea was much faster and easier at the right time
>of the year; so the travel distance from Patna to Ceylon may well have been
>much less than that to, say, Ujjain.

What? From Bihar to Ceylon? To get to Ceylon from Bihar you'd have
to first cross Ujjain itself.

>As regards vegetarianism, this is a later development in both Buddhism and
>Brahmanism. The Buddha himself was not a vegetarian.

I doubt it. The spirit of his teachings deny it.
Compassion = no killing.

Sometime back I met a Lankan bhikshu in Madras. He was staying in a
three star hotel! Anyway I asked him about vegetarianism. He cooly
asserted that the Buddha didn't enforce it. I questioned him whether
it was true that the Buddha forbade the eating of meat, where something was
killed specifically to feed a bhikshu. He said yes, but also immediately
said it didn't make any difference because the meat that he ate was bought
in a shop.

But then why would they sell meat in a shop, if people didn't eat it?
It is because that people like him ate it, that the shop sold meat,
which was what caused an animal to be killed.

He looked confused for a minute and said all this wasn't practical in
normal day to day life!

Whoever said, that to be a bhikshu - to renounce the world - is being
practical? If you want to live your normal life, then live it - why
pretend to be a follower of the Buddha? The point in Buddha not condemning
meat was that his bhikshus were supposed to beg for food. So whatever they
got, which was generally the leftovers of the common people, they were
supposed to be satisfied with it - even if it be meat - and not be choosy
about the food they ate. But if food is specifically cooked for the bhikshu
and if some animal was killed to specifically for that purpose, the bhikshu
was supposed to refuse such food. In short the motto is : eat what is
available. But if something is prepared just for feeding you, make sure it
doesn't involve killing.

To misinterpret this as Buddha didn't endorse vegetarianism, is to miss the
spirit of his teachings. And this trend seems common in countries where
eating meat is part of the culture, thus justifying practices not compatible
with Buddhism.

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