nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 11 04:42:56 UTC 2000

Dear Stephen,

Yes, I think we're going around in circles. Probably we've agreed to
disagree :-) Anyway I too wish to make a few points after which if
you wish we can abandon the subject.

>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.

If this is regarding the significance of the anatta doctrine - which in
my opinion is only a negative approach of the Atman doctrine of the
Upanishads, then we can open a fresh thread on this and discuss it out.

>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

My point is not to revise the classification just for the sake of revision.
It is just that the label "Hinduism" which bunches together various
religious sects of India and excludes certain other sects is inherently
flawed. If we sort this out, much of the confusion would disappear.

>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.

Not a problem at all as I've already expressed. Just that we need to
review the label "Hinduism".

>all that does not mean that you have any right to define the religious
>affiliations of others to suit your own agendas.

I've no agenda except to clear up distortions.

>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.

If he can prove it based on reason and factual evidence, I'll be more
than happy to accept it.

>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

Except that I question the labels "Hinduism" and "Hindus" itself.

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

Yup, you've a point there.

>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

Thanks for the insider information.

>Many people say to me that their attraction to Buddhism lies in its
>non-authoritarian approach, the structured spiritual path absent from
>popular Christianity, the possibility of liberation through personal effort
>etc etc.

"Non-authoritarian", "structured path" etc implies the cerebral bent,
doesn't it?

>OK.  You're wrong.

I'll take this with a pinch of salt.

>Again you contradict yourself -- in earlier messages you were
>especially emphasizing the Indic cultural baggage that went with

Only to show that Asian Buddhists would thus have a tie to India,
which Westerners wouldn't.

>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 !

I think you misunderstand me. I'm not saying that all Buddhist everywhere
SHOULD identify themselves as Hindus. Only that it would not be
INAPPROPRIATE if they should WISH to identify themselves so (like
Ven Tantra whose view you didn't accept) for the original
Buddhists were themselves so.

>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 ?

I do not have books at me with present. But isn't there a famous
instance where a brAhmana rebukes Gautama for being a low born
Kshatriya. And in reply Gautama rebukes him for not knowing the
truth about his own origins - according to the Compassionate One
the brahmana was born of a wedlock between a brahmana and a low
caste servant maid. In contrast Gautama extols his own family line
saying that at one point in time when his branch of the family
was in exile and didn't have any SAkhyas around, his ancestors
rather than taking mates from other races, committed incest to
preserve the purity of their race! And Gautama says this with
obvious pride!

If you want I can get the reference as to the NikhAya in which this
incident is related.

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

Well, you don't seem to be too familiar with the PAli canon. Give me
some time and I'll get you the references. Or perhaps Lance Cousins
or others familiar with the PAli canon can lend a hand?

>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 ?

Pardoned. Dvijas are those who are twice born i.e, eligible to study the
Vedas - all the top three castes were eligible - brAhmana, kshatriya and
Vaishya. See the number of kshatriya teachers in the Upanishads. So
Gautama was a dvija too and the reason he has the gotram name "Gautama".

>Sorry, I should have said "even a cursory study".

If you want to go into a detailed analysis of the relationship between
the Buddhist anatta and the Upanishadic Atman doctrine, let me know.
Maybe we should start a seperate Indian Philosophy discussion list. Any

>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 ?

It is my honour to have exchanged views with such a qualified person. As for
me, I'm just a student of Indian Philosophy for the last four years - no
academic qualifications though and little interested in it, for my interest
is more spiritual than technical. But then the test of knowledge - "As the
wise test gold by cutting and rubbing ..." - should be based on reason and
textual knowledge, no?
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