Wed Oct 11 01:45:10 UTC 2000

Dear Nanda Chandram

By and large, this discussion does not seem to be getting us very far
and does not seem to be very academic in content now so I hesitate to
continue.  I have made my views quite clear but I am also constantly
being accused of views which I do not hold nor advocate.  Moreover,
your postings have gradually become more and more "ad hominem" so
there are a just few points I would like to address and then leave.
So ....

Nanda Chandran wrote:

> >although there would perhaps arise some problems in those areas
>> 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
> I don't think you've understood the point I was trying to make.
This discussion is becoming somewhat circular -- I think I quite well
understand the point you are making but I just happen not to agree
with you.

> 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
> historically from India.
If that is now your position I am more than happy to concur with you.
But for a Buddhist to acknowledge India's undoubted and obvious
contribution to culture and religion is not the same as accepting your
revised religious classificatory system.   If you would be a bit more
specific in your definition of Hinduism, we might make some progress
but rather conveniently you wrote earlier that Hinduism defies

> Ok, you say there's no disrespect intended. So if you are a
> what makes you so reluctant to identify with the people of the land
> your religion's origin?
Ah, here we go again !   How do you arrive at that conclusion ?   I am
quite happy to "identify" with the people of India -- why shouldn't
I ?   I merely repeat the point that I personally (like other many
Buddhists I have met) see myself as a Buddhist and not as a Hindu --
not at least in the general modern sense of the word.

> My aim is to primarily refute the common opinion that Hinduism is
> antognistic/alien to Buddhism.
That is not how I have been reading your postings -- with friends like
you, who needs enemies, as they say !   Hinduism may or may not be
"antagonistic/alien" to Buddhism, there may be much common ground
between them, they may share a common background, may have been
developed by people living in ancient / medieval India, some Indian
Buddhists may have been brahmins by birth, some Buddhists like Ven.
Tantra may be happy to call himself a Hindu (that's up to him) -- but
all that does not mean that you have any right to define the religious
affiliations of others to suit your own agendas.  Raimundo Pannikar (a
Christian writer) believes that Hinduism is a covert "precursor" of
Christianity and thus can be subsumed into Christianity.  Obviously he
says this on somewhat different grounds, but if one were to say that
Hindus are really Christians but just don't want to admit it, I
imagine that you perhaps not be entirely happy about this.

> I've to remind you that our discussion is ... about the "ties" to
> India which would have been an integral part of the original
> proslytization by Indian monks.
No, it is not.  Your initial premise was that Buddhists are really
Hindus.  As I keep repeating, if you mean "Hindu" in the obselete
sense of an inhabitant of India, then that is a truism.  If you mean
the religious phenomenon that is currently labelled "Hinduism", I beg
to differ -- except in the common-sense manner in which Lance Cousins

> 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
> wrong with it.
Well, that's Americans for you :)   I only know about European

> 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.
Can't agree with you.  My experience of first, second and now some
third generation Western Buddhists indicates that they are quite
"devout" -- perhaps they are just a bit more reserved about showing

> 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
Well, so does every other religion that I know of -- except of course,
Buddhists reject the personal creator God concept or are you imposing
this on us as well ??
Many people say to me that their attraction to Buddhism lies in its
approach, the structured spiritual path absent from popular
Christianity, the possibility of liberation through personal effort
etc etc.

> At least 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
> am wrong.
OK.  You're wrong.

> 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 was not talking about Tibetans or Burmese per se -- I should have
thought that was pretty obvious.

> >I know many Chinese people who have adopted Western "first-names"
> Proslytization of Christianity has different dimensions than the
> same with Buddhism.
I did not say "Christian" names.  Many Chinese in Hong Kong and
elsewhere adopt Western first names for social / cultural reasons.

> As I explained before in Buddhism there was very little
> cultural teaching.
Again you contradict yourself -- in earlier messages you were
especially emphasizing the Indic cultural baggage that went with

> The point I'm trying to make is that it is not inappropriate for
> Buddhists anywhere to identify themselves as Hindu.
That's up to them to decide, not you.   I have also met people who
define themselves as Jewish Buddhists, Eastern Orthodox Buddhism,
Catholic Buddhism, Sufi Buddhist and so forth.  That's THEIR choice !

> 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.
Where ?

> Also note the Buddhist effort in some texts to prove the superiority
> kshatriyas over brahmins, because Gautama was a kshatriya.
Which ones ?

> 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
Granted.  But that still does not make him a "Hindu" -- why not say he
is a Jain ?  But I forget -- Jains are also Hindus, aren't they !

> So it is next to impossible for Gautama to have had brahmin teachers
> if he wasn't a dvija.
Pardon my ignorance, but I though "dvija" meant one was a brahmin.
You were saying (probably correctly) that the Buddha was a k.satriya
earlier so when did this transmutation occur ?

> When the study is cursory perhaps. But an intense study will prove
> otherwise.
Sorry, I should have said "even a cursory study".

> And I get the feeling that all this is just argument for argument's
> sake without much factual substance.
Ditto !

> 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?

Ah !  Now you want my CV !  Are you going to offer me a job ?  I think
this request is quite pathetic but to satisfy your curiosity:
I became a Buddhist over 35 years ago.
I have studied with numerous Thai, Srilankan, Chinese, Tibetan and
Japanese masters.
I was a monk in Japan for several years -- I lived there for 10
years -- translated from Japanese, I am a "dharma-aacaarya" in their
I have completed PhD studies on early Tantric Buddhism.
I have probably read more Buddhist texts than you ever will -- simply
because I also read (and speak fluently in some cases) Tibetan,
Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Sanskrit and I have a bit of Pali apart
from the usual European languages.
I have written over 12 books on Buddhism and other subjects that
interest me -- look up Amazon.com for some of them if you want.
I quietly engage in textual research, critical editions and
translations of Buddhist texts -- sadly not too many published yet but
that's a problem of commercial publishing.
I have taught classes in Buddhism and Tibetan at the University of
London for a number of years and have advised MA / PhD students.
I have also taught at several major UK Buddhist centres.
I was President of the European Buddhist Union for several years.
I have participated in the British Interfaith Dialogue Council.
As for my non-academic Buddhist affiliations, I dislike labels as you
might have noticed but my primary "allegiance" is Mahayana /
Vajrayana -- I told you this before but obviously you missed it.
Does that satisfy you ??   So what is your esteemed level of knowledge
on the subject ?

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

Dept of Religious Studies,
Birkbeck College,
University of London

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