Fri Oct 6 23:12:48 UTC 2000

Nanda Chandran wrote:

> But also think about this - what makes you think that "Hindus" as
you term
> them, do not get offended when you try to group them as an entity
apart from
> Buddhists?
As far as I can see, you have inverted the original point.  If Hindus
want to group themselves with Buddhists, that is fine by me although
there would perhaps arise some problems in those areas where Buddhism
differs (as you are well aware in view of your other msg today) from
Hindu beliefs.   But don't be surprised if some Buddhists -- Asian or
Western are not entirely happy about being grouped by Hindus with
Hindus -- with no disrespect intended towards Hinduism.  I was talking
to one Hindu recently who thought that Buddhism is a montheistic
religion in which each individual has a personal soul -- which doesn't
sound like any Buddhism I have encountered.

> As you all know, the Hindu tradition views the Buddha as an
> avatAram of Lord NArAyana.

Yes, and you are being a little disengenuous about the purpose of this
avataaram as another subscriber has pointed out -- or perhaps his
comment does not count since he is an outsider Westerner.

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

You keep shifting the goal-posts :)   As you very well know, without a
time machine this is not possible.  Because all living Buddhists are
"second-generation" (even if Asian) does that somehow reduce the value
of their transmission of the Dharma ?   Out of interest, what status
do you ascribe to Buddhist monks in Srilanka ?  Are they "Indian" by
your definition ?  Would they be an acceptable substitute for the now
extinct monks from the mainland ?

> 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?
I do not intend this to sound discourteous, but what is you actual
experience of Buddhist practitioners (NOT academics) in the West ?   I
get the feeling you have little or no first hand experience.   I have
taught and attended a large numbers of Buddhist centres in Europe and
the "reasoned approach" you allude to does not seem to be predominant.
Myself, I specialize both as a humble scholar and practitioner in
Tantric Buddhism -- hardly a form of Buddhism that "lays stress on
reason" !    Likewise, I do not see much emphasis on "reason" in Zen
nor Pure Land Buddhism as practised in the West.  Theravada seems
mixed according to which tradition one follows -- here the
"forest-dweller" tradition is popular, emphasizing  meditation and
down-playing the "rational intellectual abhidharma" approach.  With
sincere respect, I suggest you come along and see for yourself
especially as you seem unhappy about us poor Westerners making
statements about the nature of Hinduism in India while simultaneously
allowing youself the priviledge of defining us without apparent
first-hand knowledge on your part.

> In short what attracts Europeans/Americans to Buddhism? In Asia, I
> think that it was the personality and confidence of the Indian
> 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
> behind Asians embracing Buddhism.
On the contrary, that is exactly why many (but obviously not all)
Westerners are attracted to Buddhism in the first place as these
virtues are equally well exemplified in their non-Indian Asian
teachers !   Your concept of the appeal of the "rational" aspects of
Buddhism to Westerners seems to be based on the pre-1939 opinions of
early Western Buddhists -- a bit out of date ?

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

[Snip]  I agree in general terms with your comments which followed but
I do feel you rather over-simplify the situation to suit your own
position.   We can return to that another time.

> But do Tibetans and Burmese name themselves as Gautama or Siddhartha
Who said the Buddha was Tibetan ?   If the Shakya polity inhabitants
were of Tibeto-Burman stock, their proximity to the culturally and
spiritually superior lands to their immediate south would have
resulted in a desire to emulate various aspects of those lands --
without necessarily lessening any intrinsic differences.   I know many
Chinese people who have adopted Western "first-names" but they still
view themselves as Chinese first and formost.  Or else consider the
post-war Japanese who have embraced many aspects of American culture
with an almost embarrassing gusto -- but this still does not make them
Americans, does it ?

> 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
> of Buddhism) - follow the dharma and be Buddhist.

So you really agree with me -- one can be a Buddhist without being a
Hindu !   Ask any Chinese Buddhist if they think they are really
crypto-Hindus and I think you will get only one reply.   If you think
they should be classed as Hindus that is up to you but is it not a
little presumptious for you to decide for them with first consulting
with them -- self-determination and all that stuff.

> Also why go against the Buddhist scriptures themselves who affirm
> Gautama was a Hindu Kshatriya ?
Please supply references for this claim -- I thought we had all agreed
that the term "Hindu" was primarily a late arrival on the scene.  Do
we have previously unnoticed early occurences of the term here ?   A
pretty revolutionary discovery !

> Aren't those very scriptures the basis of your faith in the religion

> I think this comparison is flawed - for neither the Buddha
> nor those from whom he tried to learn the truth, from anywhere
> India.
Please re-read your earlier statement to which I was replying.   I
think my comparison is perfectly adequate.

> Buddha's in-depth knowledge of brahmanical **philosophical**
Which might those be ?  ("Philosophical" highlighted by me)  Perhaps
it is a matter of definition, but I see the Upanishads to be less
philosophical than spiritual.  But no matter -- he gained "an in-depth
knowledge" by studying them -- but that still does not make him a
"Hindu".   Know thy enemy, perhaps ?   The Buddha's rejection of
virtually all the key Upanishadic teachings is apparent from a cursory
reading of any number of Pali suttas.

> the acute philosophical bent of his religion which needs a prior
> philosophical basis etc.
But have you not contradicted yourself here ?   Philosophy to me
implies reason but you said in your posting that this was not a
central feature of Buddhism:  ""Buddhism's stress on reason
wouldn't have been as important as the above mentioned factors (=
ethics and love). This would
have appealed only to the intellectual minority"".   I really get the
feeling you want to have your cake and eat it.

> It is not very easy to answer all these questions if Gautama is not
an Indian.
Perhaps if you are Nanda Chandran :)

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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