nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 10 06:54:12 UTC 2000

Yaroslav Vassilkov wrotes :

>If you only take trouble to look into some Hindu sacred texts, such as,
>e.g., PurANas, you would find that, according to them, Lord NArAyana took
>his Buddha avatar for only one reason: to tempt the sinners and heretic
>the worst possible, false doctrine and in this way make sure that they will
>not escape hell. Do you mean it is in this particular way the Buddhism was
>developed and sustained by the Hindus?

According to some "sacred" texts, say like the Padma PurAna even
Advaita is not actually VedAnta. Does this mean that this reflects
the whole "Hindu" view of Advaita, a school which enjoys the greatest
following amongst all such schools in BhArath?

Take the Devi BhAratam for instance : According to it the Lord took
the form of the Buddha to put a stop to the slaughter of animals in
the name of Vedic sacrifices. It even accuses the brAhmanas of
deliberately misinterpreting the shruti, to satisfy their gluttony!
Does this justify your position?

The influence of Buddhism on Advaita itself is well known. The founder
AchArya repeatedly salutes the compassionate one in his MAndUkya KArikA. Or
take Advaitins like Sri Harsha who openly acknowledges his indebtness to
MAdhyamaka dialectic. Or Citsukha, a VedAntin, who comes to the rescue of
the MAdhyamaka concept of Samvritti against KumArilla's attacks. Or
KumArilla himself, the champion of Vedic orthodoxy and BrAhminism, asserting
that Buddhist texts should be considered as authoritative.

So do all this justify your position that "Hinduism" only had negative
value for the Buddha? Every cult/religious belief in India has it own
sectarian prejudices and so will interpret/misinterpret texts/spiritual
teachers according to their beliefs. Just because of one or two such views
we cannot immediately generalize it as relevant to the entire set of cults
in BhArath. As I said it is best to give up the notion of "Hindu" which
represents all the cults and religious practices of BhArath.

Forget all these texts which are anyway read by a small minority of the
entire Hindu population : in my house, a traditional smartha brahmin house,
whatever ShankarAchArya might say still the Buddha has always been looked up
to as a symbol of purity, compassion and holiness. This, I would guess, is
the general "Hindu" view of the Buddha.

S Hodge writes :

>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.

Like what? If the differences in philosophy is what you're talking about
I don't think you've understood the point I was trying to make.

>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.

As far as I can see, Ven Tantra, an Asian Buddhist has no problem. Quite a
few of the SinhAla Buddhist monks that I've met can't stop singing praises
about India's contribution to culture and religion and also claim to be
historically from India. And from what I read many Asians dream about being
born in India during the time of the future Buddha. So I doubt if there's a
problem on the Asian side.

Ok, you say there's no disrespect intended. So if you are a Buddhist,
what makes you so reluctant to identify with the people of the land of
your religion's origin?

>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.

I won't bring up the Vastiputriya school. Anyway ignorance of metaphysical
tenets, is hardly an indicator of animosity or lack of affiliation towards
the religion. For that matter of the whole smartha population only a small
percentage are knowlegable about the metaphysical aspects of Advaita - that
doesn't mean that they don't belong to the tradition.

>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.

I hope that I've clarified this point in my reply to Prof. Vassilkov. And
I've already clarified that I didn't mean "outsider" that way. And let me
also make it clear that I'm not arguing for the sake of argument. If that's
your intention, let me know and I'll desist from further posts on the
subject. My aim is to primarily refute the common opinion that Hinduism is
antognistic/alien to Buddhism. I've my own reasons for this stand and am
willing to discuss it with anybody who's interested in having a sincere

>Because all living Buddhists are "second-generation" (even if Asian) does
>that somehow reduce the value of their transmission of the Dharma?

Maybe not, but still the original cultural baggage would be lacking. I've to
remind you that our discussion is not about the quality of teaching imparted
by Asian monks, but rather the "ties" to India which would have been an
integral part of the original proslytization by Indian monks.

>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 ?

That Sri Lanka didn't get it from the Buddha himself and the religion was
spread in the land by an official mission by Ashoka some two hundred years
later makes some difference.

Also if you take the philosophical development of Buddhist thought, Lanka
has hardly made a significant contribution - almost the entire chunk of
Buddhist philosophy was developed on the mainland. Why is this so? Maybe the
lack of brahmins in Lanka?

Also, the Buddha is the symbol of compassion - vegetarianism at the
practical level - in India. A NyAya author from Bengal infacts rebukes
South Indian brahmins for being too Buddhistic in embracing vegetarianism.
Ashoka is remembered in India for having passed an order in favor of
vegetarianism in his whole realm. But neither the lay Sinhalese nor the
Buddhist monks themselves are vegetarian. So all this does make a

>I do not intend this to sound discourteous, but what is you actual
>experience of Buddhist practitioners (NOT academics) in the West ?

I've met quite a few MahAyAna and TheravAda practitioners in the US.
Apart from those, who seemed more attracted for the novelty value
- oriental clothes, food, figurines, incenses etc, the serious ones
seemed to be those cerebrally inclined and I don't think there's anything
wrong with it. What I'm trying to say is that the "devout" section, which
would represent the great mass of Asian practitioners - is missing in the
West. Infact I would think this section is what represents the majority of
Christian practitioners in the West. This I guess is what comes of a
"natural" religious acceptance, the way Christianity has been accepted in
the West.

See, why would anybody in the West give up Christianity and take up
Buddhism? Christianity gives you everything Buddhism has to offer from
the religious standpoint - compassion, morality, salvation, God etc
Infact with Christianity you also have the exclusive clause which infact
gives the follower a special status in contrast to non-believers. So why
give it up and embrace Buddhism? If not for its philosophical value - the
cerebral factor, I cannot see any other reason. In few cases the techniques
in meditation and compassion too might be a factor : in a MahAyAna centre in
San Francisco, an old American lady practitioner embraced me for being Hindu
- because that translated as "vegetarian" to her. But apart from these I
don't see religious piety as a factor - in which case Christianity needn't
be given up in the first place.

Atleast this is my perception as to why Buddhism in the West is different
from the way it is practiced in Asia. Please correct me if I am wrong.

>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 ?


>[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.

Or are you over complicating issues to suit your own views? Anyway your
objection would be more valid if you could explain why it is so simplistic?

>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.

But neither the Tibeteans nor the Burmese are known to have adopted
"Hindu" names in their normal civilian mode - not in the monastic
sense. So "Gautam SiddhArtha" being a non-Hindu is unlikely.

>I know many Chinese people who have adopted Western "first-names" but they
>still view themselves as Chinese first and formost.

Proslytization of Christianity has different dimensions than the same
with Buddhism. As I explained before in Buddhism there was very little
cultural teaching - the teaching was mainly of the dharma and the
MahAyAnists infact seem to have gone out of their way to accomodate
their teachings with local beliefs and practices. On the contrary the
proslytization of Christianity was used as a tool of imperialism by the
colonists - to eradicate local cultures and spread the Western forms.
Maybe as pointed out before, it is something related to the nature of
the religion - Buddhism as an impersonal religion and Christianity as a
personality cult.

>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.

I think we're losing focus. I'm only arguing that Indian Buddhism is
Hindu. If Buddhists in other countries want to identify with Hindus,
they can in the cultural and religious sense - like Ven Tantra. But
if they like the Chinese want to view the term in its geographical
dimension, that's not a problem too.

The point I'm trying to make is that it is not inappropriate for
Buddhists anywhere to identify themselves as Hindu.

>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 !

Please don't twist my words. Here when I used the word "Hindu" I only
meant people who lived east to the Sindhu on the subcontinent. And
Gautama was born in a kshatriya family on these people.

For references you only have to see the overwhelming evidence in the
Pali canon itself where Gautama takes pride in being "Arya" even in
the racial sense on occasions. Also note the Buddhist effort in some
texts to prove the superiority of kshatriyas over brahmins, because
Gautama was a kshatriya. Also can you point to a single instance in
any Buddhist work where Buddha is referred to as a "mleccha", which
he would have been in a casteist environment, which it sure was during
his time. Rather there are specific instances, where he is mocked
at for being a "low born kshatriya".

Also I think both the Tibeteans and the Sinhalese view the historical
Buddha as a member of a royal Hindu kshatriya clan.

>Please re-read your earlier statement to which I was replying.   I
>think my comparison is perfectly adequate.

Then I didn't understand it. Please explain.

>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.

Only in comparison to the later sutra literature. In the times preceding
it was was the only "philosophical" literature available. Anyway in his
discussion on various schools, he does show a more than casual knowledge of
systems like the SAmkhya, Yoga, JainA etc

>But no matter -- he gained "an in-depth
>knowledge" by studying them -- but that still does not make him a

Except that it wasn't so easy for a foreigner to learn such stuff in
India, where brahmins were extremely protective about such knowledge.
So it is next to impossible for Gautama to have had brahmin teachers
if he wasn't a dvija.

>The Buddha's rejection of virtually all the key Upanishadic teachings is
>apparent from a cursory reading of any number of Pali suttas.

When the study is cursory perhaps. But an intense study will prove

>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

And I get the feeling that all this is just argument for argument's
sake without much factual substance. Anyway what's your level of
knowledge on the subject - are you a professor or have you published
something on the subject?

And are you a follower of the TheravAda or the MahAyAna?

And what's Lance Cousin's view on this subject? Is Gautama a "Hindu"
kshatriya or not?

Regarding Naga Ganesan's observation's on "Dravidian kinship", I would
like to add that cross-cousin marraiges could have been abandoned by
the "Aryan" folk over a period of time, just like eating meat was. Just
because it is frowned upon at one point in time doesn't mean that it
were never practiced earlier. Still as Vidhya pointed out it still might
have been encouraged on certain situations:
In Tamil Nadu, the VAthima brahmin community is well known for marrying
strictly inside their own fold so as not to let their wealth out of their
family circles. In my own family, I've heard of atleast one instance of
cross cousin marraige.

Another argument against Buddha being Dravidian/Tamil is the nature
of his religion - it is the cerebrally inclined brahmanic way - the
traditional jnaana or knowledge path of the Upanishads where self effort is
of prime importance. In contrast the Dravidian religion all through its
ancient history has consistently avoided this path - be it even Dravidian
influenced brahmanic Vishitadvaita or the Saiva SiddhAnta, where ultimately
only the Lord's grace will effect liberation.
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