Hinduism: once was: RAJARAM EPISODE

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 6 06:45:31 UTC 2000

S Hodge writes :

>I "got" my Buddhism from Asian teachers --

But that still is not the same as getting Buddhism from Indian monks
as in the days of yore, is it?

>While Western Buddhism was imported into the West by Westerners

>This may be true of an academic approach to Buddhism but is only
>partially true at best of practitioners/converts themselves -- go to
>any sizable Buddhist centre in the UK where I live and see for yorself.

But isn't there a difference in the way Europeans and Asians view
Buddhism? Isn't the European/American approach more "reasoned" than
the Asian approach?

Inshort what attracts Europeans/Americans to Buddhism? In Asia, I would
think that it was the personality and confidence of the Indian monks,
their unique message of ethics and love, probably in some cases the lack of
native religions, their own piety - these might have been the main factors
behind Asians embracing Buddhism. In my opinion Buddhism's stress on reason
wouldn't have been as important as the above mentioned factors. This would
have appealed only to the intellectual few - though this small group might
have formed a very important part of the Buddhist society.

But in today's "enlightened" environment in Europe and America, Buddhism's
stress on reason seems to be the main attraction.

So don't you think that this would have a distinct difference on the way
Europeans and Asians view it?

>Naturally you would not have called yourself "Hindu" since the term
>did not exist then but you would have been quite conscious of your
>religio-philosophical affiliation -- read any of the accounts given by
>medieval Chinese or Tibetan pilgrims -- Buddhists are "insiders" and
>all the others are "outsiders" or else "heretics".   Xuan-zang is
>quite clear that he is a Buddhist and not anything else.

Yes, but that's more a doctrinal standpoint. What're the main differences
between the religion preached by the Buddha and the Brahmanical religion?

Leaving aside the philosophical differences, which anyway doesn't amount to
much in the absolute sense, since both sides are unanimous that truth is
beyond the reach of the intellect, their main differences lie in the way :
1. they view of the Veda and 2. they view the caste system.

While for the Brahmanical religion the Veda and its pronouncements - both
ritual and philosophical - have great value, the Buddhists are opposed to
atleast against the former. They are dead against Vedic sacrifices.

They are also opposed to the caste system, though their opposition is not as
radical as we are sometimes led to believe - for the Buddha is not so much
opposed to the concept of brahmin itself - but is more interested in
moralising it - ofcourse in such an attempt at moralising, he totally
revolutionizes the traditional definition of brahmin itself.

So for these two priorities - sacrifices and caste - they had to ensure that
their religion always had its individual identity as apart from the other
brahmanical faiths. Proslytizing religions in India had always targetted
brahmins - for if brahmins could be won over, the rest of the castes too
would follow and also the root of the opposition would disappear. But not
many brahmins would be won over by the caste factor where they anyway were
supreme - so they had to be approaced in an area which was very important to
them - philosophy.

It is here that the unique Buddhist doctrine of "anatta" is significant - on
the surface it seems so radically opposed to the Upanishadic doctrine of the
Atman - but as later works of MahAyAna shows, it is in truth but a different
angle from which the truth is approached. So here the Buddha and his
followers were pretty
smart in using the anatta doctrine to condemn the Atman theory and woo
brahmins into their fold with a seemingly contradictory doctrine. But with
more philosophical development the underlying unity between both doctrines
is recognized by both sides - BhAvaviveka and GaudapAda. But still for the
traditionalists on both sides - they had to keep their philosophical
differences alive to make their religion relevant and sustain their
priorities - the Veda and the caste
factor. But that such pretences couldn't be carried on for too long is
revealed by history itself.

>Well, my name is Stephen and my partner's is Rebecca.  Does that mean
>I am Greek and she is Jewish ?  Actually, I am basically Anglo-Italian
>and my partner is Afro-Caribbean. and we are both Buddhists ! Or I
>could confuse things even more and give you our Sanskrit or Tibetan
>Dharma names.  Or more appositely, many of the Buddhist rulers in the
>Kapi`sa / Gandhara area in the 8th century CE called themselves by a
>variant of "Caesar".  Does this make them Romans ?  No, they  were
>Eastern Turks.

But do Tibeteans and Burmese name themselves as Gautama or Siddhartha?
Forget monastic names for Gautama Siddhartha wasn't one - talk about common
names. Also if you notice Buddhism as a proslytizing religion doesn't try to
kill local cultures and replace it with Indian culture - so unlike
Christians or Muslims who adopt names from their holy books - a Chinese who
converts to Buddhism could still retain his his own cultural background -
name, dress, food (as long as it is compatible with the fundemental tenets
of Buddhism) - follow the dharma and be Buddhist. This I guess is due to the
fact that Buddhism unlike Christianity or Islam is not a personality cult
where Christ
and Mohammed form an inseperable part of the religion - in Buddhism the
dharma is more important than the historical personality of the Buddha.

So the assertion that "Gautama Siddharta" was a name adopted by
Tibetean/Burmese people - who have little history of any association with
Hinduism anyway to have acquired such a name - doesn't carry much weight.

Also why go against the Buddhist scriptures themselves who affirm that
Gautama was a Hindu Kshatriya? Aren't those very scriptures the basis of
your faith in the religion? If you do not believe them why believe in the
historic personality of the Buddha himself? Or his teachings?

>Probably for the same reason that early Christians like Paul or Peter
>gravitated to Rome rather than drift out into the deserts of nearby

By this do you mean that Peter and Paul were Arabians? Or that Jesus was
from Arabia? I think this comparison is flawed - for neither the Buddha
nor those from whom he tried to learn the truth, from anywhere outside

You have also not answered the questions that I'd raised regarding the
Buddha's indepth knowledge of brahmanical philosophical systems, his own
pride at being "Arya", how he could've studied under brahmins, the acute
philosophical bent of his religion which needs a prior existing
philosophical basis etc

It is not very easy to answer all these questions if Gautama is not an
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