Hinduism: once was: RAJARAM EPISODE

Ven. Tantra troyoga at YAHOO.COM
Thu Oct 5 06:30:38 UTC 2000

The learned colleague Stephen Hodge wrote:

1.  <<The problem for me is when the term is applied
retroactively to an era centuries before it was first

So long as we keep looking at the past, the past is
bound to change, hence demanding fresh naming. We look
to the remote past and call ourselves �humanity.� We
are bound to do that. We have a term �Hindu,� but are
not sure how to employ it, or what it means. It is
both necessary and cool to try to come to terms.

2. <<I don't think it is helpful to lump Buddhists
together with Hindus -- however you define the term. I
have not encountered any Buddhists who would do so
apart from Ven Tantra.>>

This statement is significant. For I trust and respect
that Mr. Hodge is not only a learned, but also a well
traveled and networked gentleman. And I hasten to add
that I myself have rarely encountered a designated
�Buddhist� with, as it were, �open borders.� And this
fact is both astounding and outrageous. So, the
question arises: What on earth could compel a
designated �Buddhist� (person or church) to place an
apparently irreconcilable point of contention between
themselves and that which they perceive as something
called �Hindu?� This is serious.

I offer the following. The original problem likely
arose from the earliest polemics of the Buddhist
church, as gleaned from the majority of the canonical
texts, which �allege an irreducible distance between
the Enlightened One and his masters and
contemporaries� (Eliade, Yoga, 162). At this early
period, then, it could not have been an �Us
(Buddhist)� vs. �Them (Hindu)� sort of thing at all.
It was perhaps more simply the urge to create a
culture hero and to set the Guru off as historically
unique and without antecedent or peer amidst a rich
and varied field of contending holy men, all of whom
were players in a single broad generic field of
religious asceticism (i.e., the same religion). And
indeed, �this is a polemic position, which requires
[contemporary] rectification� (ibid).

But what exactly is this irreconcilable �point� of
contention? Especially as this seemingly
�anachronistic� polemic continues to this day? It is
this. It is the concept of anaatman (Paalii anatta).
And I further suggest the ancient Sinhalese as the
prime illustration of the truly contemporary
socio-pathological consequence. It essentially stemmed
from political motives, or else it was created out of
fear and the want to engineer and maintain a position
of conflicting theological, cultural, ethnic and
thereby heightened political divergence between
themselves and their rival Hindu monarchs across the
narrow Palk Strait in India. In other words, I trace
the �disease� of contemporary Buddhism, particularly
prevalent among the �Theravaada� designation, to a
Hindu-phobic id�e-fixe, which if not altogether
manufactured by the ancient Sinhalese, they certainly
exemplify. In short, by taking this core-Buddhist
concept of anaatman and bending it all out of sane
recognition by its rearticulation in ways and idioms
deemed incompatible with non-Buddhist thought, the
Buddhists have essentially cursed themselves to be
perpetually hung up on this very exceedingly obvious
Pan-Indian doctrine of �non-entity.�

Most sincerely,

Ven. Tanta

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