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Thursday, April 12, 2007
Law of Cause & Effect
Workshop on Buddhism - Sunday, April 22, 2007
The Law of Cause and Effect
By Piyadassi Thera
The Law of Cause and Effect
INTRODUCTION - VI
One may justifiably be inclined to pose the question; Why did not the Tathàgata set forth the doctrine of 'Dependent Origination' in His first discourse,2 the sermon delivered to the five ascetics, His erstwhile companions, at Saranath, Benares? The answer is this; The main points discussed in that all-important sermon are the four Noble Truths; suffering, its cause, its destruction, and the way to the destruction of suffering, the Noble Eightfold Way. There is no word in it about 'Dependent Origination'; but he who understands the philosophical and doctrinal significance of the Dependent Origination certainly understands that the twelvefold Paticca-samuppàda, 'Dependent Origination', both in its direct order (anuloma) and reverse order (pañiloma) are included in the four Noble Truths.
The Paticca-Samuppàda in its direct order manifests the process of becoming (bhava), in other words, the appearance of suffering (dukkha, the first Truth); and how this Process of becoming or suffering is conditioned (dukkha-samudaya, the second Truth). In its reverse order the Paticca-Samuppàda makes plain the destruction of this becoming (dukkha-nirodha, the third Truth) and the cessation of conditions, or the destruction of suffering (dukkha nirodha gàminã patipadà, the fourth Truth). The Buddha word with regard to this fact appears in the Anguttara Nikàya thus:
'And what, monks, is the Noble Truth of the Arising of Suffering?
'Dependent on ignorance arise volitional formations; dependent on volitional formations consciousness; dependent on consciousness, mentality-materiality (mental and physical combination); dependent on mentality-materiality the sixfold base (the five physical sense organs and consciousness as the sixth); dependent on the sixfold-base, contact; dependent on contact, feeling; dependent on feeling, craving; dependent on craving, clinging; dependent on clinging, the process of becoming, dependent on the process of becoming, birth; dependent on birth, ageing... and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair come to pass. Thus does the whole mass of Suffering arise.
'This, monks, is called the Noble Truth of the Arising of Suffering.'
And what monks, is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering?
'Through the entire cessation of ignorance cease volitional formations; through the cessation of volitional formations, consciousness... and so on... the cessation of the whole mass of suffering. This monks, is called `the Cessation of Suffering.
1. Taken from metta.lk. This entire essay can be found at http://www.mettanet.org/english/cause-effect.htm .
2. Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta Sutta N which can be found at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html .
3. Anguttara Nikaya. 1. 1. 76.
* See previous instalment [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhamma/message/1206].
Related Youth Articles(1) Attachment (an analysis of) http://vihara.org.au/go?to=attachment (2) One Hour of Unsatisfactoriness (on dukkha) http://vihara.org.au/go?to=onehour (3) Four Noble Truths (a summary of) http://vihara.org.au/go?to=fourtruths (4) Noble Eightfold Path (on ending suffering) http://vihara.org.au/go?to=noblepath
The Blessed Buddha once said:
The rewarding fruition of morality is freedom from regrets!
The rewarding fruition of freedom from regret is gladness!
The rewarding fruition of gladness is rapturous joy!
The rewarding fruition of joy is serene tranquillity!
The rewarding fruition of tranquillity is happiness!
The rewarding fruition of happiness is concentration!
The rewarding fruition of concentration is knowing & seeing!
The rewarding fruition of knowing & seeing is realism!
The rewarding fruition of realism is disillusion!
The rewarding fruition of disillusion is release!
Step by step does morality thus lead to the highest!
Paticcasamuppada – A new interpretation
Paticcasamuppada (Law of Cause and Effect) or 'Relativity' is a deeply profound doctrine. It may properly be compared to the heart or the essence of Buddhism and is so important that it was preached by the Buddha within a week of attaining Enlightenment or Buddhahood.
It is my view that Paticcasamuppada referring to rebirth spanning three life spans has not been properly understood and taught during the past several hundreds of years. An extension of this idea leads to the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin – not a bad view anyway.
It has also been differently interpreted by others, but the most important interpretation to my view is that Paticcasamuppada is the thought process. This is the most reasonable and useful interpretation, to my belief, after several years of research and study.
The thought process applies to all living beings - to humans as well as to animals. Paticcasamuppada is therefore a natural process. The doctrine was taught by the Buddha to explain the 'I concept', the cause of suffering (the selfish gene). The way leading to the cessation of the 'I concept' is Right View.
Paticcasamuppada is then the link between the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path (Right view, Right thought etc). One may ask - how do we arrive at Right View? Did not the Buddha teach us how to arrive at Right View? Yes, He did. To arrive at the Right View see Sammaditthi Sutta - Paticcasamuppada in the order of cessation.
A misunderstanding seems to have arisen in the misinterpretation of the words Jati and marana to mean birth and death, with their common meanings.
Jati, strictly speaking, is the arising of the five aggregates. When the five aggregates arise in a package (as in a photon) and in quick succession, there is the temporary arising of a thought or the birth of a thought. Several such births become your personal identity, the Buddhist definition of a human being.
Jati causes jara, marana etc
Marana is the ceasing or death of that thought moment.
Thought process - A physiological explanation
In its general sense, Sankara or knowledge or free will is experience / information gathered during a person's lifetime. This information is 'stored' somewhere in the brain as memory -
Stage (1) Sensory Information Storage (SIS)
Stage (11) Short Term Memory (STM)
Imagine a stimulus entering the brain via one of the senses and is detected as a conscious thought.
If the conscious thought is not stimulated, it will last for a few moments and is forgotten. This is called Short Term Memory. Kamma is not preformed at this stage.
Stage (111) Long Term Memory (LTM)
However, if the thought process is stimulated due to different perceptions, the process will continue. This causes the Short Term Memory to be stimulated and, instead of becoming weaker, become stronger. As a result, the brain triggers impulses to the body, to cope with any situation that may arise – a kind of fight or flight response. This is mind/body contact. Mind / body activate the six senses (eyes, ears, smell, taste, touch and mind).
Dependent on contact arise feeling (Vedana)
Without feeling there is no thought
Dependent on craving arises grasping (Upadana), becoming (bhava)
With the arising of 'becoming' the thought process is complete.
This is called Jati or birth of the 'I concept'.
This is Long Term Memory (Kamma or cetana)
Depending on Jati arises, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair.
Thus the whole mass of suffering originates.
Paticcasamuppada does not necessarily refer to the recurring cycle of births and deaths in Samsara, as is commonly understood. There is nothing much one can do by this knowledge, but in the more beneficial interpretation is to consider it as a thought process, a process within our own control that can be skillfully handled to lead us to the cessation of the 'I concept' 'here and now'. This is the path to Nibbana.
"We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make our world"
Approaches to Buddhism
Jayasuriya from New Jersey
DEVELOPMENT OF BUDDHIST STUDIES
Scientific study of Buddhism originated in Europe about one hundred and fifty years ago. Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765-1837) was one of the first modern scholars who discussed Buddhist doctrines at a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1827. The works of B.H. Hodgson, Alexander Csoma de Koros, and Eugene Burnouf, together with that of Colebrooke, may be said to have started the modern discipline of Buddhist Studies.
A glance across the pages of the volumes of Bibliographie Bouddhique published so far reveals the enormous amount of work done by modern scholars of Buddhism in Asia, Europe and North America. Evidence of continuous and increased interest in the study of Buddhism in our times is borne out by a large number of Buddhist texts, translations, studies, manuals, anthologies, pamphlets and articles published during the last thirty years or so.
A study of modern Buddhist studies is interesting as well as instructive. In fact, acquaintance with different approaches or methods adopted in the study of Buddhism by modern scholars forms an important part of Buddhist scholarship. We propose briefly to discuss here some of the approaches and attitudes towards Buddhism that are discernible in the works of modern scholars.
Some scholars have divided Buddhist Studies into three schools:
the Older Anglo-German School,
the Leningrad School, and
the Franco-Belgian School.
THE OLDER ANGLO-GERMAN SCHOOL
The names of T.W. Rhys Davids and H. Oldenberg stand out pro‑point out that the Buddha was a human teacher of morality; they Hipha:,ized the ethical and rational elements in the Buddha's teachings; and they assumed that the Pali Canon had preserved the discourses of S�kyamuni more faithfully than any other. This school thus was confined largely to the Theravada form of the Buddhist religion; it relied on the Pali texts for its knowledge and interpretation of the oldest form of Buddhism. The Dialogues of the Buddha, wrote T.W. Rhys Davids, 'constituting, in the Pali text, the Digha and Majjhima Nik�yas, contain a full exposition of what the early Buddhists considered the teaching of the Buddha to have been:" Hermann Oldenberg wrote in a more confident tone that 'it is probably not too much to believe that the very words, in which the ascetic of the Sakya house couched his gospel of deliverance, have come down to us as they fell from his lips.'2
Writing in 1959, Edward Conze assigned E.J. Thomas's The History of Buddhist Thought to the Older Anglo-German School and remarked that 'in scholarly circles it (this school) has few, if any, representatives.' In the same year, however, Walpola Rahula, a distinguished Theravadin monk and scholar, published his best-seller, What the Buddha Taught. In this book he claimed to have given 'a faithful and accurate account of the actual words used by the Buddha as they are to be found in the original Pali texts of the Tipitaka, universally accepted by scholars as the earliest extant records of the teachings of the Buddha' (p. xi).
It goes without saying that most of the modern students of Buddhism, the authors of text-books on Buddhist religion and philosophy who are not themselves grass-roots scholars and cannot read canonical languages of Buddhism, and those lovers arid admirers of the Buddha and His doctrines who can read only English but who insist on lecturing and writing on Buddhist principles, have derived their knowledge of Buddhism from the works belonging to this school. The common and educated people in India, Europe and America
have received their notions of 'pure', 'original', 'primitive' and 'genuine' Buddhism from the writings of the same school. here is, of course, no convincing evidence to sustain the belief that the Buddha spoke the Pali language. It is possible that the Buddha two or perhaps three languages in His sermons and dialogues.
believe that He must have conversed with the learned brahmanas in Vedic dialect which later on became the foundation of Sanskrit. While in Magadha He must have spoken a nigadhi form of speech, ;Ind in Kosala He would have employed the language of that province. 'I his does not mean that the Pali texts are not authentic sources of ancient Buddhism. What we mean is this that the Pali Canon contains one of the several versions of the Buddha's teachings as understood and preserved by the earliest sages and scholars of the Theravada radition. To say that the Pali Canon has preserved the words of the Buddha exactly 'as they fell from his lips' amounts to saying that the Great Sage was a Theravadin. Such a view is ridiculous.
It is well known that the Theravada school came into existence more than one century after the mandparinirviina of d-kyamuni, at the time of the Second Buddhist Council. The collateral school of the Mands�rnghikas merits the same respect from modern students as is accorded to the Theravada. That the authenticity of some of the Theravada doctrines and interpretations of the Master's message had been questioned and criticised by the sages and scholars of the Mah�sanngha has indeed been recorded in the texts of the Theravada dating from a venerable antiquity.' Edward Conze is right: 'The Pali Canon, as we have it, is no older than that of other schools, say that of the Sarvastivadins. Its prestige among Europeans owed something to the fact that it fitted in with their own mood, in being more rationalistic and moralistic than some other traditions, and much less given to religious devotion, mythology and magic. The Pali Canon stresses the ethical side of Buddhism, to which Protestants would readily respond.'2 It also stresses the empirical and intellectual aspects of Buddhism. William Hoey wrote in 1882 that `to thoughtful men who evince an interest in comparative study of religious beliefs,
Buddhism, as the highest effort of pure intellect to solve the problem of being, is attractive.'" Perhaps one of the elements which attracted some European intellectuals of the nineteenth century towards Buddhism was what they called 'pessimism' supposedly taught by the Buddha. T.W. Rhys Davids, one of the co-founders of the school, insisted that the goal of Buddhism was an ethical state of the mind in this life: `Nibb�na is purely and solely an ethical state, to be reached in this birth by ethical practices, contemplation and insight. It is therefore not transcendental.'2 Little did he realize that such a position would reduce Buddhism to a tenet of this-worldliness and nihilism. No wonder that the man who described the Buddha's teachings in 1911 for the great Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics in five un-Buddhistic words as 'materialistic, atheistic, pessimistic, egoistic, and nihilistic'3 had derived his knowledge about Buddhism predominantly from the works of the authors of the Older AngloGerman School.
Two recent works which seem to have been inspired by certain psychological strands found here and there in the Pali texts may be mentioned here: A.J. Bahm's Philosophy of the Buddha and Nolan Pliny Jacobson's Buddhism: The Religion of Analysis. These books do not share all the characteristics of the school under discussion, but like many modern Western professors of philosophy and psychology, their authors seem to have found their own ideosynerasies in some passages of the Pali Canon. Both these books deal with Theravada psychology and are based wholly on Pali sources in English translation. As such the very titles of these books are questionable: Bahm's book should be called `Theravdda. Philosophy' while Jacobson's book should be called `Theravada Buddhism : The Theory of Analysis.' Theravada is only one of the many schools of Buddhism; the Pali Canon is only one of the many recensions of the Buddhist scriptures; psychology or psychological analysis is only one of many facets of Buddhist religion and philosophy. There can be no justification for mistaking the part for the whole. Both these philosophers have conveniently forgotten that in addition to being a philosophy, a psycho‑
logy, an ethic and a system of analysis, Buddhism is, above all, a doctrine and a method of ultimate release. Moreover, the first of these authors has misunderstood the Buddhist doctrines even according to the scriptures of the Theravada. Bahm's book' is based on the untenable assumption that the Buddha's teachings can be reduced to `a single psychological principle' which he formulates in the following words: 'Desire for what will not be attained ends in frustration; therefore to avoid frustration, avoid desiring what will not be attained'. This is a common sense principle of the common man's psychology. Bahm's 'psychological principle relates to this-worldliness of desires; the Buddhist diagnosis concerns the ills inherent in sarnstira, but the Buddha's final teachings are concerned with the transcendental goal called Nirvana. Jacobson's book contributes significantly to an aspect of the Theravada Buddhism, viz. the psychological analysis. But he goes astray when he uncritically accepts certain passages in the Pali texts as representing the original sayings of the Buddha. Further, to describe Buddhism merely as 'the religion of analysis' is far from truth. We must remind the reader that men go astray because of 'erroneous views' (micchaditthi) In order to write `a convincing modern interpretation of the teachings of the Buddha' ( p. 11), one has to find out first what those 'teachings' were, a task which requires a critical and comparative study of the Pali, Buddhist Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan recensions of the Buddha's words.
THE LENINGRAD SCHOOL
The so-called Leningrad School started with the works of Stcherbatsky (1866-1942). Rosenberg and Obermiller were the two other notable scholars of this school. The merit of this school was that it studied Buddhist thought on the basis of Indian, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese texts of Buddhism. Due notice was taken of the continuous and living traditions of thought in Buddhist lands while the emphasis was on scholastic literature. Stcherbatsky perceived in Buddhism 'the most powerful movement of ideas in the history of Asia.'2 He was responsible for bringing out the real meaning of the technical Buddhist terms dharma and dharmas in accordance with Buddhist philosophy. If Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga is a fundamental compendium of Buddhist soteriological methods and principles
according to the Theravtida school, Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakoia is :1 fitilaimental encyclopaedia of Buddhist theories and techniques of 111.1ot ion according to the collateral school of the Sarveistivadins. The sutras quoted in the work of Vasubandhu seem to be as old and authentic as the suttas quoted by Buddhaghosa. The Central Conception of Buddhism and the Meaning of the Word Tharma' therefore should be considered as one of the most significant mile-stones in modern Buddhist studies. One may not agree with some specific views of Stcherbatsky expressed in his classic masterpiece, Buddhist Logic. His excessive emphasis on the intellectual side of Buddhism or his introduction of Kantian and Hegelian phrases into the study of Buddhist thought is not always appropriate. Modern European philosophy is purely intellectual and non-religious whereas classical Buddhist thought is a by-product of religiousness aimed at a transcendent goal. While Stcherbatsky was aware of this important difference, some of his admirers and followers in Indian universities are unable to discern the spuriousness of European parallels to Buddhist philosophy.
THE FR .NCO-BELGIAN SCHOOL
The third school of Buddhist studies has been called the Franco-Belgian School. Sylvain Levi, Louis de la Vallee Poussin and Etienne Lamotte are the famous names in this school. The works of Giuseppe Tucci, Edward Conze, E. Frauwallner and Andre Bareau, to mention only a few names, belong to it. Two works on the history of Buddhism in India, those of Lamotte and Warder, are examples of this kind of Buddhistic research.' These Buddhist scholars study Buddhism on the basis of all the available sources, literary as well as archaeological. Warder tends to neglect the archaeological sources, though. Fragments of the MahAs5t-peghika Canon, the texts of the Sarviistivada, the Mahayana Siltras and Tibetan and Chinese translations of the Tripitakas from Indian originals in Buddhist Sanskrit have now become as important as the Pali Canon. La Vallee Poussin (1869-1938) was one of the first to stress the fact that the Pali Canon informs us only about one sect of Buddhism, that of the Theravadins, and that to describe Buddhist history and doctrines merely on its basis will be an illusory endeavour.'
Buddhism is no longer studied merely as an ethical system. Thetradition of the Leningrad School continues but Buddhist scholarsnow know that in the Buddhist Tradition we have to deal not onlywith moral and philosophical systems but also with a complexfaith. buddhology, mythology, devotion and ascetic mysticism. An‑thropological analysis of myths and legends, philological and philoso‑phical...analyses of texts and tenets, the exegeses of commentatorsof various schools, the evidence of art and epigraphy, and form‑geschichte or stratification of canonical documents from historicalstandpoint, all these are now recognized as the tools of Buddhist research. We must add to these the element of sympatheticempathy towards the ideas and ideals of the Buddhist tradition.Without this important attitude a scholar of Buddhism is likely tomisunderstand and misinterpret his subject. Louis de la Valleethe most famous European Buddhologist and one of thefounder of this school, was particularly lacking in this attitude towardS Buddhism. He was capable of combining with his study of Beellenism not only his Roman Catholic prejudices but also the imperialist conceit of some of the nineteenth century European intellecuals. . As a result of this, La Vallee Poussin, in spite of his exceptional abilities as a Buddhist philologist and historian, could not understand the essential message of Buddhism. We will quote just one
passage from one of his mature works to support this conclusion :
`On the one hand, whereas we have been for centuries trained to ineake our ideas clear, this was not the case with Indians. The historian has not to deal with Latin notions worked out by sober and clear sighted thinkers, but with Indian `philosophumena' concocted
by ascetics ... men exhausted by a severe diet and often stupefied by the practice of ecstasy. Indians do not make a clear distinction between facts and ideas, between ideas and words; they have never clearly recognized the principle of contradiction.
Moreover, we look at the Buddhist doctrines from the outside. Whereas Nirvana is for us a mere object of archaeological interest,
it is for Buddhists of paramount practical importance. Our task is to study what Nirvana may be; the task of Buddhist is to reach Nirvana" (italics added).
It is in the works of D.T. Suzuki, Edward Conze, and Bhikshu
Sangharakshita that the reader is consistently reminded that Buddhism is a soteriological doctrine. Those who are not aware of the transcendental quest in Buddhist tradition will find it impossible to appreciate Buddhist doctrines and practices. The 'outsider' who treats the Buddhahood as 'a mere object of archaeological interest' will not be able to understand its meaning. Without sympathetic empathy his intellect may not perceive the distinction between words (iabda) and their meaning (artha). He who deals merely with the language of texts and carries the load of words will be lost in the forest of philology. What the Europeans call 'Buddhism' is a subject of scientific and historical study; what the Buddhists call Dharma is beyond the reach of this approach.
THE BRAHMANICAL SCHOOL
To these three schools may be added a fourth one which, for the want of a better word, we have called the Brahmanical School. It is so called because its authority is partly derived from the Brahmanical literature of the first millennium of the Christian era produced by the bralimanas. This literature had effected 'brahmanization' of Buddhism and acknowledged the Buddha as an avatc7ra of God; in this literature we find a picture of Brahmanism transformed into 'Hinduism' through a steady and constant process of assimilation of Buddhist doctrines and practices. Another reason for calling this school 'Brahmanical' is that the scholars of this school study Buddhism from the standpoint of Brahmanical or Hinduistic tradition. In other words, here Buddhism is viewed as a form or branch of Hinduism. It may be noted that many modern western scholars of the Older Anglo-German School and the Franco-Belgian School had also widely propagated certain aspects of the Brahmanical attitude towards Buddhism. In India, it was Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) who for the first time widely spread the refined Vedantic interpretation of the history and doctrines of Buddhism. He did this in the wake of national awakening and 'Hindu renaissance' and 'reformation'. His intention was not to start a school of historical studies nor was he an orientalist by profession. In the following chapters we will examine in detail his views about Buddhism. Here we may note some characteristics of this school.
Some of the Brahmanical scholars subscribe to the theories propagated by the Older Anglo-German School. The Pali Canon is often believed to have preserved the 'pure' and 'original' Buddhism which
was not a religion or a philosophy but merely an 'ethical system.' The ancient Brahmanical thinkers understood the Buddhist system of thought as 'nihilistic' (vainedika) and 'materialistic' (nc7stika) and put it on a par with the Cdrvdka system. Modern Brahmanical scholars interpret the word n� stika in the sense of being 'non-Vedic', 'atheistic' and 'heterodox'. The spread of 'immoral' T�ntrika practices in medieval India is commonly attributed to Buddhism. In almost all the departments of Sanskrit in Indian universities, Buddhist doctrines are still studied on the basis of Mddhavacairya's Sarvadarianasatngraha (14th century AD). 8awkara, the Advaita teacher, is often remembered as the crusader against the Bauddhas, in India. This is one side of the picture of Buddhist history current in modern India.
The official or standard theory of the modern historians, philosophers, philologists and intellectuals of the Brahmanical school is that Buddhism was a 'protestant' and 'reformist' sect of 'the Hindu religion'. This hypothesis, repeated endlessly, upheld dogmatically and defended passionately, is founded on the assumption that every noble and profound idea must have originated within the 'Eternal Religion' (sandtana-dharma) which is 'the Hindu Religion.' The historians of Sanskrit do not harp on the theological myth of nonhuman origin of the 'revealed' texts. They know that the Vedas and the Upanisads are human and historical documents. A characteristic of their scholarship is that they do not discuss the date of the 'older' Upanisads nor analyse the origin of the major ideas found in these texts, especially of those ideas which constituted what Edgerton called 'the extraordinary norm' in Indian culture.' The Sanskritists believe that the older Upanisads belong to the 'Vedic Age,' whatever that may mean. Since the Buddha flourished after the 'Vedic Age' (some even make room for an imaginary 'Epic Age' before the Buddha in spite of the fact that the epics grew between BC 200 and 200 AD), His teachings are later than the Upanisads. They do not see the possibility that, in many instances, the later portions of the so-called Vedic texts, especially of the Aranyakas, the Upanisads, and the Dharmasfaras, may have been composed as late as the Maurya Age; and, of course, they do not want to unsettle their traditional chronology and history of the Vedic period in spite of the concrete evidence of Indus archaeology. Hardly any scholar of this school
shows an awareness of the importance of Jaina and Buddhist myths and traditions regarding the antiquity of Srarnava thought.
Having been convinced of the hypothesis of Brahmanical origins of Buddhism, the scholars of the Brahmanical school proceed to harmonize Vedanta and Buddhism. Syncretism is a dominant characteristic of this school. Here the Bhagavadgit�, famous for its marvellous eclecticism and synthesis, is an authority and a model for our intellectuals. It is an article of faith with them to believe in the fundamental unity of all the religious traditions of the world. All the religions teach the same ultimate truth; therefore all the religious paths are good. This was one of the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna.1 `We Hindus accept every religion' said Swami Vivekananda." `My Hinduism is not sectarian. It includes all that I know to be the best in Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism', said Mahatma Gandhi.' 'No country and no religion have adopted this attitude of understanding and appreciation of other faiths so persistently and consistently as in India and Hinduism and its offshoot of Buddhism', and `the Hindu welcomes even the atheist into his fold', said Radhakrishnan.4
The average educated Indian who reads English quotes these high authorities and occasionally cites also from the works of Sri Aurobindo. He cherishes a chimerical but grand and synthetic picture of `the wonder that was India' in ancient times. Since he is not a scientifically trained historian, he is unable to distinguish between Vedic Brahmanism, Buddhism, and Puranic Hinduism. This category of educated modern Indians is an important, often effective, agency for propagating modernized notions of the Brahmanical school of history, especially among young students, journalists, and popular writers. The typical modern Hindu's apologetic attitude towards Indian culture has been ably analysed, albeit with occasional sarcasm, in a different context by Agehananda Bharati in two of his recent articles.'
The grass-roots scholars who passionately look for syncretism strengthen their belief in the hypothesis of Brahmanical origin of Buddhism by saying that the Buddha put old wine in new bottles, that He reintepreted the `Indo-Aryan ideals'. They tell us that the Buddhist Nirvana is identical with Upanisadic Brahman, that the tenet of `not-self' is a denial only of the ego, the 'lower self', and not of the Atman, and that the Buddhists have misunderstood the Buddha's teachings.
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy offers an example of a scholar who could resort to anachronism and distort historical facts whenever necessary for building a synthetic whole, or forcing a comparison, or drawing a superficial parallel between two sets of ideas. A great scholar of Indian art and literature, he was less precise as a historian of ideas. In his enthusiasm for what he called 'the connected historical study of Indian thought as an organic entirety', he lost the historical perspective altogether. `There is', said he, `no true opposition of Buddhism and Brahmanism, but from the beginning
one general movement, or many closely related movements.'
We have said above that many European scholars had widely
diffused the theory of the Brahmanical origin of Buddhist doctrines and practices. Louis de la Vallee Poussin, for example, had found in Buddhism `everything second-hand so to speak : mythology, doctrine, and piety.'" The Indian intellectuals also take delight in saying that
everything in Buddhism existed already in 'Brahmanism' or 'Hinduism', just as English-educated and Sanskrit oriented Indians believe that
everything in modern science and technology existed already in the `Epic Age' : atom bomb, air-plane, and artificial satellite. It must be
added that in his more mature works La Vallee Poussin changed his earlier naive view and came to the conclusion that Buddhism had
originated from a yogic and non-Upanisadic cultural milieu.' But very few scholars have thought of tracing non-Aryan and non-Upanisadic
roots of ideas in Buddhism. Even Nalinaksha Dutt, whose works belong rather to the school of `Franco-Belgian' scholars, believed that both Brahmanic and non-Brahmanic systems of thought had developed out of the Upanisads.' From what source the Upanisads derived, for example, the ideas of sanzsdra, karma and dhyana-yoga is a question which perhaps falls outside the scope of scholars of the Brahmanical School.
Here we would like to mention a particular type of Indian scholar who seems to study and like Buddhism for the wrong reason. Perhaps the best representative of the grass-roots scholar who studies and writes on Buddhism as an unavoidable appendix of Brahmanism is the late Pandurang Vaman Kane. A Sanskritist of the first order and a man of exceptional scholarship, he thought it necessary to write a chapter on Buddhism in the concluding volume of his Brahmanical encyclopaedia, History of Dharmakistra.= In this chapter he repeated the traditional Brahmanical attitude towards Buddhism and concluded his account with a 'strongly worded (but not unjust) passage' quoted from a lecture of Swami Vivekananda stressing the alleged 'hideousness' of degraded Buddhism.'
OBSERVATIONS ON 'ORIGINAL' BUDDHISM
An examination and criticism of the views expounded by the Brahmanical scholars regarding Buddhist history and doctrines will be offered below in the second chapter. Here we will give some more attention to the problems and perspectives encountered in the study of Buddhism as a religious tradition.
The question whether Buddhism can be called a religion was raised and discussed at a time when religion was identified with Christianity and the Christian church. The scholars of the History of Religions no longer consider this question meaningful or relevant. Nevertheless, a section of the professed Buddhists seems to persist in its belief that `original' Buddhism should not be called a 'religion' but treated as a kind of 'scientific', 'rationalistic' and 'humanistic' way of life. These simple people emphasize the human side of the Buddha's personality and the ethical side of Buddhism. A noted monk and scholar of Theravdda, H. Saddhatissa, for example, opens his popular and intro‑
'Early Monastic Buddhism, 2nd edit, Calcutta, 1960, p. 23.
2History of Dharmakistra, Poona, 1962, V, part II, ch. XXX, pp. 1003-30. 'The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, III, pp. 164-65.
Approaches to Buddhism 13
ductory book entitled The Buddha's Way with the following assertion :
`The first point to which attention must be called, if confusion is to be avoided in discussing Buddhism, is that the Buddha at no time claimed to be anything other than a human being' (p. 19). In our view the greatness of g�kyamuni lies not merely in His being a 'human being' but in His being a Buddha, an Awakened Being. No one denies that He was 'a human being'; every man is a human being but every human being is not a Buddha. If the Buddha were to be remembered merely as 'a human being' there would have been no 'Buddhism'. Born as a human being. Siddhartha Gautama had gone beyond the state of human beings and become the Glorious One (bhagavata). The liberating wisdom which He had realized had transformed His status as a human being; He was no longer a man, nor a god; He had become a Tathagata, a Buddha. This view is expounded in the Theravada Canon itself. Consider the following passage:
`On a certain occasion the Glorious One was journeying along the highroad between Ukkattha and Setabya. Now the brahmana Dona was also journeying along the highroad between Ukkattha and Setabya. Then the brdhmana Dona beheld on the footprints of the Blessed One the wheel-marks with their thousand spokes, with their rims and hubs and all their attributes complete. On seeing these he thought thus : It is wonderful indeed! It is marvellous indeed! These will not be the footprints of one in human form.
Just then the Glorious One stepped aside from the highroad and sat down at the foot of a certain free, sitting cross-legged, holding His body upright and setting up mindfulness in front of Him. Then the brdhmana Dona, following up the Glorious One's footprints, beheld the Glorious One seated at the foot of a certain tree. Seeing Him comely, faith-inspiring, with senses calmed, tranquil of mind, in the attainment of composure by masterly control (like) a tamed, alert, perfectly trained elephant, he approached the Glorious One and drawing near to Him said this :
`Venerable Sir, are you a god (deva)?'
`No indeed, bramana, I am not a deva.'
`Then Venerable Sir, are you a gandharva?'
`No indeed, br�hmana, I am not a gandharva.'
`A yaksa, then?'
`No indeed, brdhmana, not a yakya?'
`Then Venerable Sir, are you a human being?'