What did Buddhism vs. Hinduism mean politically?

What did Buddhism vs. Hinduism mean politically?

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I am just starting to study the history of Hinduism and Buddhism. This question is strictly about the objective outer trappings of the religions, not their spiritual teachings. Popular literature on the subject generally tells us that Buddha was a Hindu reformer, but I can't discern strong differences between the essence of Hinduism vs. Buddhism. This leads me to suspect that it was a sociopolitical split just as much as scriptural. Just as it is enlightening to study Jesus in the context of Roman-occupied Israel, I am curious about the historical Buddha.

One source, Haywood's Atlas of Past Times, briefly refers to Buddhism as a reaction against the Brahmin class. I note that Buddha was from the Khattiya caste, which is regarded as second to the Brahmins. I also note that Buddhism has done away with the entire caste system. Hmmm…

Is there evidence that Buddha was something of a caste revolutionary? Was there a power struggle going on between Brahmins and Khattiyas in the 5th century BC? Buddhism was adopted by Emperor Ashoka; did he have political incentives for making the conversion?

600 B.C. was roughly the beginning of the Mahajanapadas (Great States). It saw the beginning of not only small kingdoms, but also major urban centers. The era is marked by the transition from Painted Greyware to Northern Black Polished Ware. NBPW was a luxury item used by the new urban elites. Parallel with the growth of cities was a major increase in long distance and foreign commerce. All of these things led to a new economic and political situation which the Brahmans could not maintain control. Ideologically, Brahmanism failed to capture the minds of the new Urban class. It had come to include dozens of archaic gods. To become a Brahman, one had to memorize the entire Vedas. These grew in size, and the memorization become more and more tiresome.

In the 6th century B.C., Amidst these social and political upheavals, the Sramanas appeared in Maghada, and neighboring Videha. These were philosophical movements professing a simpler doctrine of aestheticism and liberation. The adherents of these ideologies were naked mendicant-yogis who lived in the woods. Alain Danielou, who lived and studied in India, said that these Yogis were preservers of an indigenous Harrapan tradition which had moved underground when the Aryans arrived. Indeed, one of the meditations of the Shivaites was to feign madness, by which they would avoid persecution and be left alone. Many of them were darker skinned Dravidian types. Their wisdom attracted the ears of the new urban class.

The revolution was very much commercial. The adherents to Buddhism, a Sramana movement, were Brahmans who were successful merchants. Hinduism wasn't accommodating to the needs of merchants. After all, merchants were the second lowest of the four classes. It didn't guarantee their safety, or the unimpeded movement of goods. Their ability to do business was at the whim the local Brahman priests. Buddhism, with its universal clause of non violence, allowed for the unhindered flow of commerce, which translated to wealth. Kingdoms had a vested interest the flow of commerce. Politically, Buddhism had another caveat. The burgeoning amount of hindu gods had the effect of chaos and disarray. The simple, unified message of dharma helped create political uniformity. This was definitely the motive for Ashoka's conversion. He incorporated these political and economic elements into his ideology of "peaceful conquest".

Hinduism was ultimately adaptable to less archaic governments and economies. It just so happened that Buddhism filled a particular niche when it opened up. By the present era, Vishnavism and Shivaism were created, which also served as a counterweight to Brahmanism. Vishnavism, for instance was popular with foreign merchants in the ports, who probably would have earlier been Buddhist. Buddhism appeared more like Hinduism after the creation of Mahayana Buddhism.

Alternately, I recommend reading Tornada's blog about the point of view of the authors of the Mahabharata. It explains how they viewed the expansion of Maghada from a Hindu perspective, decrying the violations of sacred Kshatriya-kings rights. It's shows how the two world views clashed, and ultimately Buddhism prevailed.

The main limitation of Hinduism was that it was a "local" religion, to the Indian subcontinent. The term Hindu derives from "Sindu," a part of India. Over the two hundred years or so after 500 BCE, it was formed by a "fusion" of various Indian traditions. It may be considered the Indian version of China's Confucianism, oriented toward ethics, rituals, and astrology, where the role of deities was implied, rather than explicit.

Bhuddism was a "takeoff" on the antecedents of Hindu religion that did not develop contemporaneously into the Hindu mainstream, even though it shared important concepts such as "Dharma" with Hinduism. Bhudda preached "Four Noble Truths" about 1) a cycle of 2) suffering 3) death, and 4) rebirth. An important solution to life's problems was reincarnation, and steadily improving reincarnations could lead to Nirvana, or perfection. Put another way, one's current life was only one of a series of "iterations" (in modern technical language), and doing one's best in the current life would lead to a better future incarnation. This was a philosophy that had "universal" appeal (that is, in many parts of Asia, outside of India).That may be why a Japanese emperor adopted it. Even so, Bhuddism stood the caste system on its head by promising people that good behavior in the current life could lead to birth in a higher caste in the next reincarnation, while one's current low caste was because of misbehavior in a previous life.

The Caste System is philosophically/politically/culturally unacceptable to the Chinese based east asian civilizations.

So when the Chinese imported Hinduism / Buddhism from India, all the stuff (The caste system, most of the hindu gods, and virtually all the myths) that didn't appeal to their sensibility were left behind.

My understanding is, only the philosophical concepts were taken.

And the political impact is hard to overstate.

even for the ruling class, the caste system is a double edge sword. While it made the populous much easier to control, it also disenfranchised 80% of the people. What do the people of the bottom 2 castes and the untouchable care about the fate of the ruling class? It isn't their country. This I think is why India has historically been a surprisingly easy subcontinent to conquer.

And the Caste System's rejection of social mobility also created a culture of illiteracy and apathy among the lower classes that persists to this day, keeping India down as a country.

Lord Buddha was a Kshatriya- though if he had wanted to be a Brahmin he could easily have received into the priesthood of one or other of the leading lineages. However, in that case, he'd have been expected to get married and have sons. He preferred the life of the Shraman- renouncer- who has gone beyond caste and family.

This did not mean Buddhism abolished Caste or Untouchability- it helped spread it as far as Japan where there are untouchables but no Brahmins whereas in Bali there are Brahmins and Kshatriyas etc. but no untouchables

Judaism came to South India a few centuries before Christ while Christianity and Islam appeared almost immediately after their inception. They all have Caste and mistreat untouchables. Arundhati Roy and Sujatha Gidla are famous Christian authors who have exposed this. The Chief Rabbis of Israel did tell the Indian Jews to get rid of Caste in the Nineteen Thirties- at about the time Hinduism was reforming itself in this regard. However, it was only in Europe where Indians of an untouchable case- the Doms or Romanis- were subjected to genocide by Hitler.

Hinduism and Buddhism A Comparison

Gautama was born and brought up and lived and died a Hindu. There was not much in the metaphysics and principles of Gautama which cannot be found in one or other of the orthodox systems, and a great deal of his morality could be matched from earlier or later Hindu books." (Rhys David)

"To my mind. Buddhism has always seemed to be not a new religion, but a natural development of the Indian mind in its various manifestations, religious, philosophical, social and political" (Prof. Max Mueller.

"Buddhism, in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism." (S. Rahdhakrishnan)

Both Hinduism and Buddhism originated in the Indian subcontinent and share a very long, but rather peculiar and uncomfortable relationship, which in many ways is comparable to that of Judaism and Christianity. The Buddha was born in a Hindu family, just as Christ was born in a Jewish family. Some people still maintain that Buddhism was an offshoot of Hinduism and the Buddha was a part of the Hindu pantheon, a view which is not acceptable to many Buddhists. However, it is widely accepted that Buddhism gained popularity in India because it released many people from the shackles of tradition and orthodoxy who were otherwise ignored as victims of their own karma. Through his teachings and guidance, the Buddha created hope and aspiration for them, who previously had no hope of salvation and freedom of choice. India of his times was characterized by an unjust caste system, ritual methods of worship which only a few could perform and social inequality due to the exalted status of privileged classes, which the Vedic religion upheld as inviolable and indisputable.

Long ago, over 1500 years ago, Hindu tradition accepted the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu. However strong rivalry existed between both traditions in the subcontinent for a very long time. The followers of Siva and the Buddha could hardly stand each other in the earlier times. There were instances of Buddhist persecution by Hindu rulers, though a great majority followed a policy of religious toleration. Sasank, a ruler from Bengal and contemporary of Harshavardhana vandalized Buddhist monuments and burnt the Pipal tree under which the Buddha got enlightenment.

Despite the fundamental differences between both the religions, Hinduism and Buddhism influenced each other in many ways. The Buddhist notion of non-injury and compassion toward all living beings took deep roots in the Indian soil, while Mahayana Buddhism took cue from the traditional Indian methods of devotional worship. Buddhism influenced the growth and development of Indian art and architecture and contributed richly to the practice of breathing and meditation in attaining mindfulness and higher states of consciousness. The Hindu tantra influenced the origin and evolution of Vajrayana Buddhism, which became popular in Tibet.


Certain Buddhist teachings appear to have been formulated in response to ideas presented in the early Upanishads – in some cases concurring with them, and in other cases criticizing or re-interpreting them. [3] [4] [5]

The influence of Upanishads, the earliest philosophical texts of Hindus, on Buddhism has been a subject of debate among scholars. While Radhakrishnan, Oldenberg and Neumann were convinced of Upanishadic influence on the Buddhist canon, Eliot and Thomas highlighted the points where Buddhism was opposed to Upanishads. [6]

Buddhism may have been influenced by some Upanishadic ideas, it however discarded their orthodox tendencies. [7] In Buddhist texts the Buddha is presented as rejecting avenues of salvation as "pernicious views". [8] Later schools of Indian religious thought were influenced by this interpretation and novel ideas of the Buddhist tradition of beliefs. [9]

In later years, there is significant evidence that both Buddhism and Hinduism were supported by Indian rulers, regardless of the rulers' own religious identities. Buddhist kings continued to revere Hindu deities and teachers and many Buddhist temples were built under the patronage of Hindu rulers. [10] Kalidas' work shows the ascension of Hinduism at the expense of Buddhism. [11] By the eighth century, Shiva and Vishnu had replaced Buddha in pujas of royalty. [12] [13] [14]

Basic vocabulary Edit

The Buddha approved many of the terms already used in philosophical discussions of his era however, many of these terms carry a different meaning in the Buddhist tradition. For example, in the Samaññaphala Sutta, the Buddha is depicted presenting a notion of the "three knowledges" (tevijja) – a term also used in the Vedic tradition to describe knowledge of the Vedas – as being not texts, but things that he had experienced. [15] The true "three knowledges" are said to be constituted by the process of achieving enlightenment, which is what the Buddha is said to have achieved in the three watches of the night of his enlightenment. [16]

Karma Edit

Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म from the root kṛ, "to do") is a word meaning action or activity and often implies its subsequent results (also called karma-phala, "the fruits of action"). It is commonly understood as a term to denote the entire cycle of cause and effect as described in the philosophies of a number of cosmologies, including those of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Karma is a central part of Buddhist teachings. In Buddha's teaching, karma is a direct intentional [17] result of a person's word, thought and/or action in life. In Buddhism a person's words, thoughts and/or actions form the basis for good and bad karma: sila (moral conduct) goes hand in hand with the development of meditation and wisdom. Buddhist teachings carry a markedly different meaning from pre-Buddhist conceptions of karma. [18]

Dharma Edit

Dharma (Sanskrit, Devanagari: धर्म or Pāli Dhamma, Devanagari: धम्म) means Natural Law, Reality or Duty, and with respect to its significance for spirituality and religion might be considered the Way of the Higher Truths. A Hindu appellation for Hinduism itself is Sanātana Dharma, which translates as "the eternal dharma." Similarly, Buddhadharma is an appellation for Buddhism. The general concept of dharma forms a basis for philosophies, beliefs and practices originating in India. The four main ones are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism (Jaina Dharma), and Sikhism (Sikha Dharma), all of whom retain the centrality of dharma in their teachings. In these traditions, beings that live in harmony with dharma proceed more quickly toward, according to the tradition, Dharma Yukam, Moksha, or Nirvana (personal liberation). Dharma can refer generally to religious duty, and also mean social order, right conduct, or simply virtue.

Buddha Edit

The term "Buddha" too has appeared in Hindu scriptures such as the Vayu Purana, where sage Daksha calls Lord Shiva Buddha. [19]

Similar symbolism Edit

  • Mudra: This is a symbolic hand-gesture expressing an emotion. Images of the Buddha almost always depict him performing some mudra.
  • Dharma Chakra: The Dharma Chakra, which appears on the national flag of India and the flag of the Thai royal family, is a Buddhist symbol that is used by members of both religions.
  • Rudraksha: These are beads that devotees, usually monks, use for praying.
  • Tilak: Many Hindu devotees mark their heads with a tilak, which is interpreted as a third eye. A similar mark is one of the characteristic physical characteristics of the Buddha.
  • Swastika and Sauwastika: both are sacred symbols. It can be either clockwise or counter-clockwise and both are seen in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Buddha is sometimes depicted with a sauwastika on his chest or the palms of his hands. [20]

Similar practices Edit

Mantra Edit

A mantra (मन्त्र) is a religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit and Pali language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras existed in the historical Vedic religion, Zoroastrianism [21] and the Shramanic traditions, and thus they remain important in Buddhism and Jainism as well as other faiths of Indian origin such as Sikhism.

Yoga Edit

The practice of Yoga is intimately connected to the religious beliefs and practices of both Hinduism and Buddhism. [22] However, there are distinct variations in the usage of yoga terminology in the two religions.

In Hinduism, the term "Yoga" commonly refers to the eight limbs of yoga as defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written some time after 100 BCE, and means "yoke", with the idea that one's individual atman, or soul, would yoke or bind with the monistic entity that underlies everything (brahman). Yoga in Hinduism also known as being 'complex', based on yoking (integrating). Yoga defines a specific process: it has an emphasis on knowledge and practice, as well as being known to be 'mature' and difficult. [23] The most basic meaning of this Sanskrit term is with technique. The technique of the different forms of yoga is what makes the practice meaningful. Yoga is not an easy or simple practice, viyoga is what is described as simple. Yoga is difficult in the fact of displaying the faith and meaning of Hinduism. Many Hindus tend to pick and choose between the five forms of yoga because of the way they live their life and how they want to practice it in the form they are most connected to. [24]

In the Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, however, the term "Yoga" is simply used to refer to any type of spiritual practice from the various types of tantra (like Kriyayoga or Charyayoga) to 'Deity yoga' and 'guru yoga'. In the early translation phase of the Sutrayana and Tantrayana from India, China and other regions to Tibet, along with the practice lineages of sadhana, codified in the Nyingmapa canon, the most subtle 'conveyance' (Sanskrit: yana) is Adi Yoga (Sanskrit). A contemporary scholar with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism, Robert Thurman writes that Patanjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox. [25]

The yoga scholar Stephen Cope identifies the following similarities between Raja yoga and Buddhism. He notes that the two philosophies are not the same, but are strikingly similar, having shared a long period of interchange up to about 500 CE. [26]

Aspects [26] Raja yoga [26] Buddhism [26]
Primary problems Dukkha (suffering)
Seeing reality clearly
Problem-solving method 1:
Cultivate skilful behaviours
Yamas (restraints),
Niyamas (observances)
Sila (ethical practices)
Problem-solving method 2:
Cultivate concentrated states
Dharana (concentration),
Dhyana (meditation)
Problem-solving method 3:
Use states to explore self
(i.e. dharana, dhyana, samadhi)
other insight practices
View of ordinary reality 4 Erroneous Beliefs
— permanence,
— reality of body,
— that suffering is happiness,
— that body/mind is true self
3 Marks of Existence,
obscured by error:
— anicca (impermanence)
— anatta (no-self)
— duhkha (suffering)
The end of suffering Kaivalya (emancipation) Nirvana ("unbinding"
of constructions)
Shared concepts nirodha (cessation)
klesha (affliction)
karma (action)
samvega (urgency)
prajna (intuitive wisdom)
samskara (unconscious pattern)
maitra/metta (loving-kindness)
Shared approaches Direct investigation of reality (not metaphysics)
using self-study, self-reliance, self-liberation

Meditation Edit

There is a range of common terminology and common descriptions of the meditative states that are seen as the foundation of meditation practice in both Hindu Yoga and Buddhism. Many scholars have noted that the concepts of dhyana and samādhi - technical terms describing stages of meditative absorption – are common to meditative practices in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Most notable in this context is the relationship between the system of four Buddhist dhyana states (Pali: jhana) and the samprajnata samadhi states of Classical Yoga. [27] Also, many (Tibetan) Vajrayana practices of the generation stage and completion stage work with the chakras, inner energy channels (nadis) and kundalini, called tummo in Tibetan.

Despite the similarities in terminology there exist differences between the two religions. There is no evidence to show that Buddhism ever subscribed to vedic sacrifices, vedic deities or caste. [28]

Major differences are mentioned below.

Founders Edit

The founders of Hinduism and Buddhism are both unlike most major religions. Hinduism has no single founder. It grew out of the overlapping beliefs of the diverse groups who settled in India. The founder of Buddhism Prince Siddhartha Gautama, a Śramaṇa who became the Buddha. [29]

God Edit

Gautama Buddha was very ambiguous about the existence of a Ultimate Reality (Brahman),Creater Deity(Ishwara) and Eternal Self (Atman) and rejected them both. Various sources from the Pali Canon and others suggest that the Buddha taught that belief in a Creator deity was not essential to attaining liberation from suffering, and perhaps chose to ignore theological questions because they were "fascinating to discuss," and frequently brought about more conflict and anger than peace. The Buddha did not deny the existence of the popular gods of the Vedic pantheon, but rather argued that these devas, who may be in a more exalted state than humans, are still nevertheless trapped in the same sansaric cycle of suffering as other beings and are not necessarily worthy of veneration and worship. The focus of the Noble Eightfold Path, while inheriting many practices and ideologies from the previous Hindu yogic tradition, deviates from the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and earlier works of the Dharmic Religions in that liberation (Nirvana or Moksha) is not attained via unity with Brahman (the Godhead), Self-realization or worship. Rather, the Buddha's teaching centers around what Eknath Easwaran described as a "psychology of desire," that is attaining liberation from suffering by extermination of self-will, selfish desire and passions. [30] This is not to say that such teachings are absent from the previous Hindu tradition, rather they are singled out and separated from Vedic Theology.

According to Buddhologist Richard Hayes, the early Buddhist Nikaya literature treats the question of the existence of a creator god "primarily from either an epistemological point of view or a moral point of view". In these texts the Buddha is portrayed not as a creator-denying atheist who claims to be able to prove such a God's nonexistence, but rather his focus is other teachers' claims that their teachings lead to the highest good. [31] Citing the Devadaha Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 101), Hayes states, "while the reader is left to conclude that it is attachment rather than God, actions in past lives, fate, type of birth or efforts in this life that is responsible for our experiences of sorrow, no systematic argument is given in an attempt to disprove the existence of God." [32]

The Buddha (as portrayed in the Pali scriptures, the agamas) set an important trend in nontheism in Buddhism by establishing a somewhat non-theistic view on the notion of an omnipotent God, generally ignoring the issue as being irrelevant to his teachings. [33] Nevertheless, in many passages in the Tripitaka gods (devas in Sanskrit) are mentioned and specific examples are given of individuals who were reborn as a god, or gods who were reborn as humans. Buddhist cosmology recognizes various levels and types of gods, but none of these gods is considered the creator of the world or of the human race. [33]

  1. Buddha preaches that attachment with people was the cause of sorrow when 'death' happens and therefore proposes detachment from people. Hinduism though proposes detachment from fruits of action [34] and stresses on performance of duty or dharma, it is not solely focused on it. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva explains 'death' to be journey of the immortal soul in pursuit of 'Moksha' and therefore a fact of life.
  2. While Buddhism says retirement into forest was open to everyone regardless of caste, and although according to the vinaya (the code of conduct for the Sangha) it is not possible to take ordination as a Buddhist mendicant (a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni) under the age of 20 or adulthood, this is still viewed as escapism by Hinduism. Pre-Buddhist, non-brahman forest mendicants are criticised in the earliest group of Upanishads. Hinduism allows for this to happen only after performing all dharmas or duties of one's life, starting from studying scriptures, working to support children and family and taking care of aged parents and lastly after all the dharma done retire to the forest and slowly meditate, fast and perform rituals and austerities (tapas), until physical disintegration & to reach the ultimate truth or Brahman. Buddhism by contrast emphasises realisation by the middle way (avoiding extremes of luxury or austerities), seeing limited value in the rituals and tapas and the danger of their mis-application.
  3. Buddhism explained that attachment is the cause of sorrow in society. Therefore, Buddhism's cure for sorrow was detachment and non-involvement (non-action or negative action). Hinduism on the other hand explained that both sorrow or happiness is due to 'Karma' or past actions and bad karma can be overcome and good karma can be obtained by following dharma or righteous duty (pro-action or positive action) which will ultimately provide 'Moksha' i.e. overcoming the cycle of life and joining Brahman.

Buddhist canonical views about God and the priests are:

13. Well then, Vasettha, those ancient sages versed in ancient scriptures, the authors of the verses, the utterers of the verses, whose, ancient form of words so chanted, uttered, or composed, the priests of today chant over again or repeat intoning or reciting exactly as has been intoned or recited-to wit, Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, and Bhagu [11] – did even they speak thus, saying: "We know it, we have seen it", where the creator is whence the creator is?

Scholar-monk Walpola Rahula writes that man depends on God "for his own protection, safety, and security, just as a child depends on his parent." He describes this as a product of "ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire," and writes that this "deeply and fanatically held belief" for man's consolation is "false and empty" from the perspective of Buddhism. He writes that man does not wish to hear or understand teachings against this belief, and that the Buddha described his teachings as "against the current" for this reason. [35] He also wrote that for self-protection man created God and for self-preservation man created "soul". [36]

In later Mahayana literature, however, the idea of an eternal, all-pervading, all-knowing, immaculate, uncreated and deathless Ground of Being (the dharmadhatu, inherently linked to the sattvadhatu, the realm of beings), which is the Awakened Mind (bodhicitta) or Dharmakaya ("body of Truth") of the Buddha himself, is attributed to the Buddha in a number of Mahayana sutras, and is found in various tantras as well. In some Mahayana texts, such a principle is occasionally presented as manifesting in a more personalised form as a primordial buddha, such as Samantabhadra, Vajradhara, Vairochana, Amitabha and Adi-Buddha, among others.

Rites and rituals Edit

In later tradition such as Mahayana Buddhism in Japan, the Shingon Fire Ritual (Homa /Yagna) and Urabon (Sanskrit: Ullambana) derives from Hindu traditions. [37] Similar rituals are common in Tibetan Buddhism. Both Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism share common rites, such as the purification rite of Homa (Havan, Yagna in Sanskrit), prayers for the ancestors and deceased (Ullambana in Sanskrit, Urabon in Japanese).

Caste Edit

The Buddha repudiated the caste distinctions of the Brahmanical religion, [38] by offering ordination to all regardless of caste. [39]

While the caste system constitutes an assumed background to the stories told in Buddhist scriptures, the sutras do not attempt to justify or explain the system. [40] In Aggañña Sutta, Buddha elaborates that if any of the caste does the following deeds: killing, taking anything which is not given, take part in sexual misconduct, lying, slandering, speaking rough words or nonsense, greedy, cruel, and practice wrong beliefs people would still see that they do negative deeds and therefore are not worthy or deserving respect. They will even get into trouble from their own deeds, whatever their caste (Brahmin, Khattiya, Vessa, and Sudda) might be. [41]

Cosmology and worldview Edit

In Buddhist cosmology, there are 31 planes of existence within samsara. [42] Beings in these realms are subject to rebirth after some period of time, except for realms of the Non-Returners. Therefore, most of these places are not the goal of the holy life in the Buddha's dispensation. Buddhas are beyond all these 31 planes of existence after parinibbana. Hindu texts mostly mentions the devas in Kamma Loka. Only the Hindu god Brahma can be found in the Rupa loka. There are many realms above Brahma realm that are accessible through meditation. Those in Brahma realm are also subject to rebirth according to the Buddha.

Practices Edit

To have an idea of the differences between Buddhism and pre-existing beliefs and practices during this time, we can look into the Samaññaphala Sutta in the Digha Nikaya of the Pali Canon. In this sutra, a king of Magadha listed the teachings from many prominent and famous spiritual teachers around during that time. He also asked the Buddha about his teaching when visiting him. The Buddha told the king about the practices of his spiritual path. The list of various practices he taught disciples as well as practices he doesn't encourage are listed. The text, rather than stating what the new faith was, emphasized what the new faith was not. Contemporaneous religious traditions were caricatured and then negated. Though critical of prevailing religious practices and social institutions on philosophical grounds, early Buddhist texts exhibit a reactionary anxiety at having to compete in religiously plural societies. Below are a few examples found in the sutra:

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. are addicted to high and luxurious furnishings such as these — over-sized couches, couches adorned with carved animals, long-haired coverlets, multi-colored patchwork coverlets, white woolen coverlets, woolen coverlets embroidered with flowers or animal figures, stuffed quilts, coverlets with fringe, silk coverlets embroidered with gems large woolen carpets elephant, horse, and chariot rugs, antelope-hide rugs, deer-hide rugs couches with awnings, couches with red cushions for the head and feet — he (a bhikkhu disciple of the Buddha) abstains from using high and luxurious furnishings such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. are addicted to scents, cosmetics, and means of beautification such as these — rubbing powders into the body, massaging with oils, bathing in perfumed water, kneading the limbs, using mirrors, ointments, garlands, scents, . bracelets, head-bands, decorated walking sticks. fancy sunshades, decorated sandals, turbans, gems, yak-tail whisks, long-fringed white robes — he abstains from . means of beautification such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. are addicted to talking about lowly topics such as these — talking about kings, robbers, ministers of state armies, alarms, and battles food and drink clothing, furniture, garlands, and scents relatives vehicles villages, towns, cities, the countryside women and heroes the gossip of the street and the well tales of the dead tales of diversity [philosophical discussions of the past and future], the creation of the world and of the sea, and talk of whether things exist or not — he abstains from talking about lowly topics such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. are addicted to running messages and errands for people such as these — kings, ministers of state, noble warriors, priests, householders, or youths [who say], 'Go here, go there, take this there, fetch that here' — he abstains from running messages and errands for people such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. engage in scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, and pursuing gain with gain, he abstains from forms of scheming and persuading [improper ways of trying to gain material support from donors] such as these. "Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as: reading marks on the limbs [e.g., palmistry] reading omens and signs interpreting celestial events [falling stars, comets] interpreting dreams reading marks on the body [e.g., phrenology] reading marks on cloth gnawed by mice offering fire oblations, oblations from a ladle, oblations of husks, rice powder, rice grains, ghee, and oil offering oblations from the mouth offering blood-sacrifices making predictions based on the fingertips geomancy laying demons in a cemetery placing spells on spirits reciting house-protection charms snake charming, poison-lore, scorpion-lore, rat-lore, bird-lore, crow-lore fortune-telling based on visions giving protective charms interpreting the calls of birds and animals — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as: determining lucky and unlucky gems, garments, staffs, swords, spears, arrows, bows, and other weapons women, boys, girls, male slaves, female slaves elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, cows, goats, rams, fowl, quails, lizards, long-eared rodents, tortoises, and other animals — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as forecasting: the rulers will march forth the rulers will march forth and return our rulers will attack, and their rulers will retreat their rulers will attack, and our rulers will retreat there will be triumph for our rulers and defeat for their rulers there will be triumph for their rulers and defeat for our rulers thus there will be triumph, thus there will be defeat — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these. Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as forecasting: there will be a lunar eclipse there will be a solar eclipse there will be an occultation of an asterism the sun and moon will go their normal courses the sun and moon will go astray the asterisms will go their normal courses the asterisms will go astray there will be a meteor shower there will be a darkening of the sky there will be an earthquake there will be thunder coming from a clear sky there will be a rising, a setting, a darkening, a brightening of the sun, moon, and asterisms such will be the result of the lunar eclipse. the rising, setting, darkening, brightening of the sun, moon, and asterisms — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as forecasting: there will be abundant rain there will be a drought there will be plenty there will be famine there will be rest and security there will be danger there will be disease there will be freedom from disease or they earn their living by counting, accounting, calculation, composing poetry, or teaching hedonistic arts and doctrines — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as: calculating auspicious dates for marriages, betrothals, divorces for collecting debts or making investments and loans for being attractive or unattractive curing women who have undergone miscarriages or abortions reciting spells to bind a man's tongue, to paralyze his jaws, to make him lose control over his hands, or to bring on deafness getting oracular answers to questions addressed to a mirror, to a young girl, or to a spirit medium worshipping the sun, worshipping the Great Brahma, bringing forth flames from the mouth, invoking the goddess of luck — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these.

Whereas some priests and contemplatives. maintain themselves by wrong livelihood, by such lowly arts as: promising gifts to devas in return for favors fulfilling such promises demonology teaching house-protection spells inducing virility and impotence consecrating sites for construction giving ceremonial mouthwashes and ceremonial bathing offering sacrificial fires administering emetics, purges, purges from above, purges from below, head-purges administering ear-oil, eye-drops, treatments through the nose, ointments, and counter-ointments practicing eye-surgery (or: extractive surgery), general surgery, pediatrics administering root-medicines binding medicinal herbs — he abstains from wrong livelihood, from lowly arts such as these. [43]

Meditation Edit

According to the Maha-Saccaka Sutta, the Buddha recalled a meditative state he entered by chance as a child and abandoned the ascetic practices he has been doing:

I thought, "I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?" Then following on that memory came the realization: "That is the path to Awakening."

According to the Upakkilesa Sutta, after figuring out the cause of the various obstacles and overcoming them, the Buddha was able to penetrate the sign and enters 1st- 4th Jhana.

I also saw both the light and the vision of forms. Shortly after the vision of light and shapes disappear. I thought, "What is the cause and condition in which light and vision of the forms disappear?”

Then consider the following: "The question arose in me and because of doubt my concentration fell, when my concentration fell, the light disappeared and the vision of forms. I act so that the question does not arise in me again.”

I remained diligent, ardent, perceived both the light and the vision of forms. Shortly after the vision of light and shapes disappear. I thought, "What is the cause and condition in which light and vision of the forms disappear?”

Then consider the following: “Inattention arose in me because of inattention and my concentration has decreased, when my concentration fell, the light disappeared and the vision of forms. I must act in such a way that neither doubt nor disregard arise in me again.”

In the same way as above, the Buddha encountered many more obstacles that caused the light to disappear and found his way out of them. These include sloth and torpor, fear, elation, inertia, excessive energy, energy deficient, desire, perception of diversity, and excessive meditation on the ways. Finally, he was able to penetrate the light and entered jhana.

The following descriptions in the Upakkilesa Sutta further show how he find his way into the first four Jhanas, which he later considered samma samadhi.

When Anuruddha, I realized that doubt is an imperfection of the mind, I dropped out of doubt, an imperfection of the mind. When I realized that inattention . sloth and torpor . fear . elation . inertia . excessive energy . deficient energy . desire . perception of diversity . excessive meditation on the ways, I abandoned excessive meditation on the ways, an imperfection of the mind. When Anuruddha, I realized that doubt is an imperfection of the mind, I dropped out of doubt, an imperfection of the mind. When I realized that inattention . sloth and torpor . fear . elation . inertia . excessive energy . deficient energy. desire . perception of diversity . excessive meditation on the ways, I abandoned excessive meditation on the ways, an imperfection of the mind, so I thought, ‘I abandoned these imperfections of the mind. ‘ Now the concentration will develop in three ways. ..And so, Anuruddha, develop concentration with directed thought and sustained thought developed concentration without directed thought, but only with the sustained thought developed concentration without directed thought and without thought sustained, developed with the concentration ecstasy developed concentration without ecstasy develop concentration accompanied by happiness, developing concentration accompanied by equanimity. When Anuruddha, I developed concentration with directed thought and sustained thought to the development . when the concentration accompanied by fairness, knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘My release is unshakable, this is my last birth, now there are no more likely to be any condition.

According to the early scriptures, the Buddha learned the two formless attainments from two teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta respectively, prior to his enlightenment. [45] It is most likely that they belonged to the Brahmanical tradition. [46] However, he realized that neither "Dimension of Nothingness" nor "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception" lead to Nirvana and left. The Buddha said in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta:

But the thought occurred to me, "This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception." So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.

Cessation of feelings and perceptions

The Buddha himself discovered an attainment beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, the "cessation of feelings and perceptions". This is sometimes called the "ninth jhāna" in commentarial and scholarly literature. [45] [47] Although the "Dimension of Nothingness" and the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception" are included in the list of nine Jhanas taught by the Buddha, they are not included in the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Path number eight is "Samma Samadhi" (Right Concentration), and only the first four Jhanas are considered "Right Concentration". If he takes a disciple through all the Jhanas, the emphasis is on the "Cessation of Feelings and Perceptions" rather than stopping short at the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception".

In the Magga-vibhanga Sutta, the Buddha defines Right Concentration that belongs to the concentration (samadhi) division of the path as the first four Jhanas:

And what is right concentration? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first Jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the Second Jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the Third Jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the Fourth Jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called right concentration.

The Buddha did not reject the formless attainments in and of themselves, but instead the doctrines of his teachers as a whole, as they did not lead to nibbana. He then underwent harsh ascetic practices that he eventually also became disillusioned with. He subsequently remembered entering jhāna as a child, and realized that, "That indeed is the path to enlightenment."

In the suttas, the immaterial attainments are never referred to as jhānas. The immaterial attainments have more to do with expanding, while the Jhanas (1-4) focus on concentration. A common translation for the term "samadhi" is concentration. Rhys Davids and Maurice Walshe agreed that the term ” samadhi” is not found in any pre-buddhist text. Hindu texts later used that term to indicate the state of enlightenment. This is not in conformity with Buddhist usage. In The Long Discourse of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya (pg. 1700) Maurice Walshe wrote,

Rhys Davids also states that the term samadhi is not found in any pre-Buddhist text. To his remarks on the subject should be added that its subsequent use in Hindu texts to denote the state of enlightenment is not in conformity with Buddhist usage, where the basic meaning of concentration is expanded to cover "meditation" in general.

Meditation was an aspect of the practice of the yogis in the centuries preceding the Buddha. The Buddha built upon the yogis' concern with introspection and developed their meditative techniques, but rejected their theories of liberation. [49] In Buddhism, sati and sampajanna are to be developed at all times, in pre-Buddhist yogic practices there is no such injunction. A yogi in the Brahmanical tradition is not to practice while defecating, for example, while a Buddhist monastic should do so. [50]

Another new teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption must be combined with a liberating cognition. [51]

Religious knowledge or "vision" was indicated as a result of practice both within and outside the Buddhist fold. According to the Samaññaphala Sutta this sort of vision arose for the Buddhist adept as a result of the perfection of 'meditation' (Sanskrit: dhyāna) coupled with the perfection of 'ethics' (Sanskrit: śīla). Some of the Buddha's meditative techniques were shared with other traditions of his day, but the idea that ethics are causally related to the attainment of "religious insight" (Sanskrit: prajñā) was original. [52]

The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest describing meditation techniques. [53] They describe meditative practices and states that existed before the Buddha, as well as those first developed within Buddhism. [54] Two Upanishads written after the rise of Buddhism do contain full-fledged descriptions of yoga as a means to liberation. [55]

While there is no convincing evidence for meditation in pre-Buddhist early Brahminic texts, Wynne argues that formless meditation originated in the Brahminic or Shramanic tradition, based on strong parallels between Upanishadic cosmological statements and the meditative goals of the two teachers of the Buddha as recorded in the early Buddhist texts. [56] He mentions less likely possibilities as well. [57] Having argued that the cosmological statements in the Upanishads also reflect a contemplative tradition, he argues that the Nasadiya Sukta contains evidence for a contemplative tradition, even as early as the late Rg Vedic period. [56]

Vedas Edit

The Buddhist text Mahamayuri Tantra, written during 1–3rd centuries CE, mentions deities throughout Jambudvipa (modern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and invokes them for the protection of the Buddhadharma. It also mentions a large number of Vedic rishis. [58]

The yaksha Mahesvara resides in Virata.
Brhaspati resides in Sravasti.
The yaksha Sagara resides in Saketa.
The yaksha Vajrayudha resides in Vaisali.
Haripingala resides in Malla.
The yaksha king Mahakala resides in Varanasi.
Sudarsana resides in Campa.
The yaksha Visnu resides in Dvaraka.
The yaksha Dharani resides at Dvarapali.
The yaksha Vibhisana resides in Tamraparni.
These deities of virtues and great yaksha generals are located everywhere in Jambudvipa. They uphold and protect the Buddhadharma, generating compassion.
Maharishi Astamaka / Maharishi Vamaka / Maharishi Vamadeva / Maharishi Marici / Maharishi Markandeya / Maharishi Visvamitra / Maharishi Vasistha / Maharishi Valmika / Maharishi Kasyapa / Maharishi Vrddhakasyapa /
Maharishi Bhrgu / Maharishi Bhrngirasa / Maharishi Angirasa / Maharishi Bhagiratha / Maharishi Atreya / Maharishi Pulastya / Maharishi Sthulasira / Maharishi Yamadgni / Maharishi Vaisampaya / Maharishi Krsnavaisampaya /
Maharishi Harita / Maharishi Haritaya / Maharishi Samangira / Maharishi Udgata / Maharishi Samudgata / Maharishi Ksantivadi / Maharishi Kirtti / Maharishi Sukirtti / Maharishi Guru / Maharishi Sarabha /
Maharishi Potalaka / Maharishi Asvalayana / Maharishi Gandhamadana / Maharishi Himavan / Maharishi Lohitaksa / Maharishi Durvasa / Maharishi Vaisampayana / Maharishi Valmika / Maharishi Batto / Maharishi Namasa /
Maharishi Sarava / Maharishi Manu / Maharishi Amgiraja / Maharishi Indra / Maharishi Brhaspati / Maharishi Sukra / Maharishi Prabha / Maharishi Suka / Maharishi Aranemi / Maharishi Sanaiscara /
Maharishi Budha / Maharishi Janguli / Maharishi Gandhara / Maharishi Ekasrnga / Maharishi Rsyasrnga / Maharishi Garga / Maharishi Gargyayana / Maharishi Bhandayana / Maharishi Katyayana / Maharishi Kandyayana /
Maharishi Kapila / Maharishi Gotama / Maharishi Matanga / Maharishi Lohitasva / Maharishi Sunetra / Maharishi Suranemi / Maharishi Narada / Maharishi Parvata / Maharishi Krimila.

These sages were ancient great sages who had written the four Vedas, proficient in mantra practices, and well-versed in all practices that benefit themselves and others. May you on account of Mahamayuri Vidyarajni, protect me [your name] and my loved ones, grant us longevity, and free us from all worries and afflictions.

The Buddha is recorded in the Canki Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 95) as saying to a group of Brahmins:

O Vasettha, those priests who know the scriptures are just like a line of blind men tied together where the first sees nothing, the middle man nothing, and the last sees nothing.

In the same discourse, he says:

It is not proper for a wise man who maintains truth to come to the conclusion: This alone is Truth, and everything else is false.

He is also recorded as saying:

To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior – this the wise men call a fetter.

Walpola Rahula writes, "It is always a question of knowing and seeing, and not that of believing. The teaching of the Buddha is qualified as ehi-passika, inviting you to 'come and see,' but not to come and believe. It is always seeing through knowledge or wisdom, and not believing through faith in Buddhism." [59]

In Hinduism, philosophies are classified either as Astika or Nastika, that is, philosophies that either affirm or reject the authorities of the Vedas. According to this tradition, Buddhism is a Nastika school since it rejects the authority of the Vedas. [60] Buddhists on the whole called those who did not believe in Buddhism the "outer path-farers" (tiirthika). [61]

Conversion Edit

Since the Hindu scriptures are essentially silent on the issue of religious conversion, the issue of whether Hindus proselytize is open to interpretations. [62] Those who view Hinduism as an ethnicity more than as a religion tend to believe that to be a Hindu, one must be born a Hindu. However, those who see Hinduism primarily as a philosophy, a set of beliefs, or a way of life generally believe that one can convert to Hinduism by incorporating Hindu beliefs into one's life and by considering oneself a Hindu. [62] The Supreme Court of India has taken the latter view, holding that the question of whether a person is a Hindu should be determined by the person's belief system, not by their ethnic or racial heritage. [63]

Buddhism spread throughout Asia via proselytism and conversion. [64] Buddhist scriptures depict such conversions in the form of lay followers declaring their support for the Buddha and his teachings, or via ordination as a Buddhist monk. Buddhist identity has been broadly defined as one who "takes Refuge" in the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, echoing a formula seen in Buddhist texts. In some communities, formal conversion rituals are observed. No specific ethnicity has typically been associated with Buddhism, and as it spread beyond its origin in India immigrant monastics were replaced with newly ordained members of the local ethnic or tribal group. [65]

Soteriology Edit

Upanishadic soteriology is focused on the static Self, while the Buddha's is focused on dynamic agency. In the former paradigm, change and movement are an illusion to realize the Self as the only reality is to realize something that has always been the case. In the Buddha's system by contrast, one has to make things happen. [66]

The fire metaphor used in the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta (which is also used elsewhere) is a radical way of making the point that the liberated sage is beyond phenomenal experience. It also makes the additional point that this indefinable, transcendent state is the sage's state even during life. This idea goes against the early Brahminic notion of liberation at death. [67]

Liberation for the Brahminic yogin was thought to be the permanent realization at death of a nondual meditative state anticipated in life. In fact, old Brahminic metaphors for the liberation at death of the yogic adept ("becoming cool", "going out") were given a new meaning by the Buddha their point of reference became the sage who is liberated in life. [68] The Buddha taught that these meditative states alone do not offer a decisive and permanent end to suffering either during life or after death. [69]

He stated that achieving a formless attainment with no further practice would only lead to temporary rebirth in a formless realm after death. [70] Moreover, he gave a pragmatic refutation of early Brahminical theories according to which the meditator, the meditative state, and the proposed uncaused, unborn, unanalyzable Self, are identical. [71] These theories are undergirded by the Upanishadic correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm, from which perspective it is not surprising that meditative states of consciousness were thought to be identical to the subtle strata of the cosmos. [72] The Buddha, in contrast, argued that states of consciousness come about caused and conditioned by the yogi's training and techniques, and therefore no state of consciousness could be this eternal Self. [71]

Nonduality Edit

Both the Buddha's conception of the liberated person and the goal of early Brahminic yoga can be characterized as nondual, but in different ways. The nondual goal in early Brahminism was conceived in ontological terms the goal was that into which one merges after death. According to Wynne, liberation for the Buddha ". is nondual in another, more radical, sense. This is made clear in the dialogue with Upasiva, where the liberated sage is defined as someone who has passed beyond conceptual dualities. Concepts that might have some meaning in ordinary discourse, such as consciousness or the lack of it, existence and non-existence, etc., do not apply to the sage. For the Buddha, propositions are not applicable to the liberated person, because language and concepts (Sn 1076: vaadapathaa, dhammaa), as well as any sort of intellectual reckoning (sankhaa) do not apply to the liberated sage. [73]

Nirvana Edit

Nirvana (or Nibbana in Pali language) means literally 'blowing out' or 'quenching'. The term is pre-Buddhist, but its etymology is not essentially conclusive for finding out its exact meaning as the highest goal of early Buddhism. [74] It must be kept in mind that nirvana is one of many terms for salvation that occur in the orthodox Buddhist scriptures. Other terms that appear are 'Vimokha', or 'Vimutti', implying 'salvation' and 'deliverance' respectively. [75] Some more words synonymously used for nirvana in Buddhist scriptures are 'mokkha/moksha', meaning 'liberation' and 'kevala/kaivalya', meaning 'wholeness' these words were given a new Buddhist meaning. [76]

The concept of Nirvana has been also found among other religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, [77] and Sikhism. [78]

Early Buddhist scriptures do not mention schools of learning directly connected with the Upanishads. Though the earliest Upanishads had been completed by the Buddha's time, they are not cited in the early Buddhist texts as Upanishads or Vedanta. For the early Buddhists they were likely not thought of as having any outstanding significance in and of themselves, and as simply one section of the Vedas. [79]

The Buddhist texts do describe wandering, mendicant Brahmins who appear to have valued the early Upanishads' promotion of this lifestyle as opposed to living the life of the householder and accruing wealth from nobles in exchange for performing Vedic sacrifices. [80] Furthermore, the early Buddhist texts mention ideas similar to those expounded in the early Upanishads, before controverting them. [81]

Brahman Edit

The old Upanishads largely consider Brahman (masculine gender, Brahmā in the nominative case, henceforth "Brahmā") to be a personal god, and Brahman (neuter gender, Brahma in the nominative case, henceforth "Brahman") to be the impersonal world principle. [82] They do not strictly distinguish between the two, however. [83] The old Upanishads ascribe these characteristics to Brahmā: first, he has light and luster as his marks second, he is invisible third, he is unknowable, and it is impossible to know his nature fourth, he is omniscient. The old Upanishads ascribe these characteristics to Brahman as well. [82]

In the Buddhist texts, there are many Brahmās. There they form a class of superhuman beings, and rebirth into the realm of Brahmās is possible by pursuing Buddhist practices. [84]

In the Pāli scriptures, the neuter Brahman does not appear (though the word brahma is standardly used in compound words to mean "best", or "supreme" [85] [86] ), however ideas are mentioned as held by various Brahmins in connection with Brahmā that match exactly with the concept of Brahman in the Upanishads. Brahmins who appear in the Tevijja-suttanta of the Digha Nikaya regard "union with Brahmā" as liberation, and earnestly seek it. In that text, Brahmins of the time are reported to assert: "Truly every Brahmin versed in the three Vedas has said thus: 'We shall expound the path for the sake of union with that which we do not know and do not see. This is the correct path. This path is the truth, and leads to liberation. If one practices it, he shall be able to enter into association with Brahmā." The early Upanishads frequently expound "association with Brahmā", and "that which we do not know and do not see" matches exactly with the early Upanishadic Brahman. [87]

In the earliest Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Absolute, which came to be referred to as Brahman, is referred to as "the imperishable". [88] The Pāli scriptures present a "pernicious view" that is set up as an absolute principle corresponding to Brahman: "O Bhikkhus! At that time Baka, the Brahmā, produced the following pernicious view: 'It is permanent. It is eternal. It is always existent. It is independent existence. It has the dharma of non-perishing. Truly it is not born, does not become old, does not die, does not disappear, and is not born again. Furthermore, no liberation superior to it exists elsewhere." The principle expounded here corresponds to the concept of Brahman laid out in the Upanishads. According to this text the Buddha criticized this notion: "Truly the Baka Brahmā is covered with unwisdom." [89]

Gautama Buddha confined himself to what is empirically given. [90] [91] [92] This empiricism is based broadly on both ordinary sense experience and extrasensory perception enabled by high degrees of mental concentration. [93]

Ātman Edit

Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. A major departure from Hindu and Jain philosophy is the Buddhist rejection of a permanent, self-existent soul (Ātman) in favour of anicca or impermanence.

In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ātman is the first principle, [94] the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual. Yajnavalkya (c. 9th century BCE), in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, uses the word to indicate that in which everything exists, which is of the highest value, which permeates everything, which is the essence of all, bliss and beyond description. [95] While, older Upanishads such as the Brihadaranyaka, mention several times that the Self is described as Neti neti or not this – not this, [96] Upanishads post Buddhism, like the Maitri Upanishad, define Ātman as only the defiled individual self, rather than the universal self. [97] Taittiriya Upanishad defines Ātman or the Self as consisting of five sheaths (kosha): the bodily self consisting of the essence of food (annamaya kosha), the vital breath (pranamaya kosha), the mind or will (manomaya kosha), the intellect or capacity to know (vijnanamaya kosha) and bliss (anandamaya kosha). [98] Knowledge or realization of the Ātman is seen as essential to attain salvation (liberation):

If atman is brahman in a pot (the body), then one need merely break the pot to fully realize the primordial unity of the individual soul with the plenitude of Being that was the Absolute. [99]

Schools of Indian philosophy, such as Advaita (non-dualism) see Ātman within each living entity as being fully identical with Brahman – the Principle, whereas other schools such as Dvaita (dualism) differentiate between the individual atma in living beings, and the Supreme atma (Paramatma) as being at least partially separate beings. [100] Unlike Advaita, Samkhya holds blissfullness of Ātman as merely figurative. However, both Samkhya and Advaita consider the ego (asmita, ahamkara) rather than the Ātman to be the cause of pleasure and pain. [101] Later Advaitic text Pañcadaśī classifies the degrees of Ātman under three headings: Gauna or secondary (anything other than the personality that an individual identifies with), Mithya or false (bodily personality) and Mukhya or primary (the real Self). [102]

The concept of Ātman was rejected by the Buddha. Terms like anatman (not-self) and shunyata (voidness) are at the core of all Buddhist traditions. The permanent transcendence of the belief in the separate existence of the self is integral to the enlightenment of an Arhat. The Buddha criticized conceiving theories even of a unitary soul or identity immanent in all things as unskillful. [103] In fact, according to the Buddha's statement in Khandha Samyutta 47, all thoughts about self are necessarily, whether the thinker is aware of it or not, thoughts about the five aggregates or one of them. [104]

Despite the rejection of Ātman by Buddhists there were similarities between certain concepts in Buddhism and Ātman. The Upanishadic "Self" shares certain characteristics with nibbana both are permanent, beyond suffering, and unconditioned. [97] Buddhist mysticism is also of a different sort from that found in systems revolving around the concept of a "God" or "Self":

If one would characterize the forms of mysticism found in the Pali discourses, it is none of the nature-, God-, or soul-mysticism of F.C. Happold. Though nearest to the latter, it goes beyond any ideas of 'soul' in the sense of immortal 'self' and is better styled 'consciousness-mysticism'. [105]

However, the Buddha shunned any attempt to see the spiritual goal in terms of "Self" because in his framework, the craving for a permanent self is the very thing that keeps a person in the round of uncontrollable rebirth, preventing him or her from attaining nibbana. [97] At the time of the Buddha some philosophers and meditators posited a root: an abstract principle all things emanated from and that was immanent in all things. When asked about this, instead of following this pattern of thinking, the Buddha attacks it at its very root: the notion of a principle in the abstract, superimposed on experience. In contrast, a person in training should look for a different kind of "root" — the root of dukkha experienced in the present. According to one Buddhist scholar, theories of this sort have most often originated among meditators who label a particular meditative experience as the ultimate goal, and identify with it in a subtle way. [106]

Adi Shankara in his works refuted the Buddhist arguments against Ātman. He suggested that a self-evident conscious agent would avoid infinite regress, since there would be no necessity to posit another agent who would know this. He further argued that a cognizer beyond cognition could be easily demonstrated from the diversity in self existence of the witness and the notion. [107] Furthermore, Shankara thought that no doubts could be raised about the Self, for the act of doubting implies at the very least the existence of the doubter. Vidyaranya, another Advaita Vedantic philosopher, expresses this argument as:

No one can doubt the fact of his own existence. Were one to do so, who would the doubter be? [108]

Cosmic Self declared non-existent Edit

The Buddha denies the existence of the cosmic Self, as conceived in the Upanishadic tradition, in the Alagaddupama Sutta (M I 135-136). Possibly the most famous Upanishadic dictum is tat tvam asi, "thou art that." Transposed into first person, the Pali version is eso ‘ham asmi, "I am this." This is said in several suttas to be false. The full statement declared to be incorrect is "This is mine, I am this, this is my self/essence." This is often rejected as a wrong view. [109] The Alagaduppama Sutta rejects this and other obvious echoes of surviving Upanishadic statements as well (these are not mentioned as such in the commentaries, and seem not to have been noticed until modern times). Moreover, the passage denies that one’s self is the same as the world and that one will become the world self at death. [110] The Buddha tells the monks that people worry about something that is non-existent externally (bahiddhaa asati) and non-existent internally (ajjhattam asati) he is referring respectively to the soul/essence of the world and of the individual. [110] A similar rejection of "internal" Self and "external" Self occurs at AN II 212. Both are referring to the Upanishads. [110] The most basic presupposition of early Brahminic cosmology is the identification of man and the cosmos (instances of this occur at TU II.1 and Mbh XII.195), and liberation for the yogin was thought to only occur at death, with the adept's union with brahman (as at Mbh XII.192.22). [111] The Buddha's rejection of these theories is therefore one instance of the Buddha's attack on the whole enterprise of Upanishadic ontology. [112] [113]

Brahmin Edit

The Buddha redefined the word "brahmin" so as to become a synonym for arahant, replacing a distinction based on birth with one based on spiritual attainment. [114] [115] The early Buddhist scriptures furthermore defined purity as determined by one's state of mind, and refer to anyone who behaves unethically, of whatever caste, as "rotting within", or "a rubbish heap of impurity". [116]

The Buddha explains his use of the word brahmin in many places. At Sutta Nipata 1.7 Vasala Sutta, verse 12, he states: "Not by birth is one an outcast not by birth is one a brahmin. By deed one becomes an outcast, by deed one becomes a brahmin." [117] An entire chapter of the Dhammapada is devoted to showing how a true Brahmin in the Buddha's use of the word is one who is of totally pure mind, namely, an arahant. [118] However, it is very noteworthy that the Bhagavad Gita also defines Brahmin, and other varnas, as qualities and resulting from actions, and does not mention birth as a factor in determining these. In that regard, the chapter on Brahmins in the Dhammapada may be regarded as being entirely in tune with the definition of a Brahmin in Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita. Both say that a Brahmin is a person having certain qualities.

A defining of feature of the Buddha's teachings is self-sufficiency, so much so as to render the Brahminical priesthood entirely redundant. [119]

Similarity 1) Concepts

In both religions, you will come across similar vocabulary such as samsara (the cycle of rebirth), karma (cause and effect), or dharma (moral order).

Samsara refers to the endless cycle of birth and death. Both Hinduism and Buddhism see life as a cycle, which means that spirits are continually reincarnated into a new life after the end of their previous one. This cycle can only be broken by achieving enlightenment.

For Buddhists, enlightenment is referred to as attaining nirvana, while for Hindus this is referred to as moksha, or becoming one with Brahman, the supreme god. The concept of enlightenment is similar in the two religions, but they differ on the path towards achieving it.


Karma is the concept that any action or thought will directly result in a fitting consequence in the present or future life state. To put it plainly, if someone does bad things in this life, that person might be reborn in a less desirable state in the next life. Similarly, when good things happen to someone, karma states that it may be due to good deeds in a past life.

However, the idea of karma for Hindus and Buddhists is slightly different. Hindus see karma as fitting behavior according to the role of the person, often this includes religious rituals, while Buddhists see it as correct intent and ethical actions.

Sculpture of Hinduism temple

Dharma is a difficult word to translate and it vaguely means natural law, duty, moral order, right conduct, or role in the universe. This concept is central to both Hinduism and Buddhism, but the interpretations in the two religions are different. In Hinduism, it is tied closely with the duty of a person, or how a person is supposed to conduct oneself according to their caste. In Buddhism, it often refers to the teachings of Buddha.

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Buddhism: the political impact

In this essay we will talk about the relevance of Buddhism and particularly the political impact of this religion, the main objective of this descriptive essay will be to present an small view to Buddhism and how this religion was able to influence politics in many aspects.

Buddhism is the most important philosophy in Asia although it is the world´s fifth largest religion, and the fifth popular religion in India it did spread their precepts and rituals all around the Asian continent and through their way to see the world “as conjoined on four levels: existentially, morally, cosmologically, and ontologically” (Swearer, 1998) the Buddhist cosmology established in the politics and history of many countries of Asia like India where it was born, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, India, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Bhutan, Mongolia and had an important impact in the political body of this territories.

It should be noted that the history of Buddha the “enlighten one” tells that he was a prince and how Dhammananda Maha points, “he came from a warrior caste and was naturally brought into association with kings, princes and ministers and despite his origin and association, he never resorted to the influence of political power to introduce his teaching, nor allowed his teaching to be misused for gaining political power”(2001) but taking Buddhism more like a philosophy and a way of life, his precepts are aimed to the personal enlightening of the person to achieve the Nirvana, so some of those precepts link directly whit politics.

“The Buddhist approach to political power is the moralization and the responsible use of public power. The Buddha preached non-violence and peace as a universal message. He did not approve of violence or the destruction of life” (Maha Thera, 2001)) which means that unintentionally de Buddha´s teaching creates a base for the political behavior and a good government, that allows some Asian politicians to approach to the divine truth so that they could have the potential to achieve a cessation of suffering and understand the nature of “the illumination”. This doctrine has a unique, strictly moral characteristic, “it seems to be a pacifist conjugation to lead the world to its true purpose … Buddha’s feelings are an immense mercy for all men and the desire to boot them from suffering in a transport of sublime generosity, longs for the salvation of all” (Shuré, 1998) that is where the strength of this philosophy lies.

Somehow Buddha´s teaching talks already about the precepts of liberty, justice, equality, and how a government should act based on humanitarian principles for the “supreme peace” for humanity. It is just like Eduardo Shuré explains in his book “Los Grandes Iniciados”, “the law of karma or causal chain of lives, punishment and consequence of freedom, justice and logic of pleasure and misery, reason of the inequality of conditions, organization of individual destinies, rhythm of the soul that yearns to overcome his divine origin through infinity, is the organic conception of immortality in harmony with the laws of the Cosmos”( Shuré, 1998)

Supporting the foregoing, the Buddha once said, “When the ruler of a country is just and good, the ministers become just and good when the ministers are just and good, the higher officials become just and good when the higher officials are just and good, the rank and file become just and good when the rank and file become just and good, the people become just and good.”(B.E. 2556, A.D 2013) this is associated in some way with the political system long after do it by political theorists, realistic and liberalist, for example “The Prince” by Machiavelli where he emphasizes the moral conduct that a prince should have, or liberals talking about the pursuit of happiness of man through the seek of truth, those who manage to land these thoughts from one philosophy completely alien to them, when Buddhist philosophy offered these precepts and ideals long before them, in another time, space, and context because for Buddhist it is all about individual conscience.

Therefore some governments have misinterpreted the true significance of the Buddhism’s teaching and ideals, some of them have try to take religions to their political discourses or to act against this strictly moral philosophy because Buddhist monks play an essential role in seeking spiritual salvation as well as an important role in political activism, of course another important figure that represent the reincarnation of Buddha is the Dalai Lama and he also plays an important role in politics, “direct involvement in political activity, strictly speaking, is not sanctioned by the Buddha’s teaching, traditionally, the role of Buddhist monastics and clergy was limited to advising rulers on the proper application of Buddhist teachings to government” (O´Brient, 2008)

On the other hand most people would think that religion and politics are like water and oil, but this is precisely why this essay presents Buddhism and politics because there is a point where politics and Buddhism intersect and it has to do whit the humanistic focusing of this religion “the Buddha´s teaching clearly possesses a political dimension for, without adequate political support, the monastic order would not have flourished and Buddhism would never have emerged as a historical phenomenon influenced by, and on occasions influencing, patterns of political power in the societies in wish it was located” (Harris, 1999) of course Buddhism and its practitioners have suffer from persecution and repression because we don´t live in a totally free world and many political measures obey to particular interests.

I believe that Buddhism in the more adequate religion to have a influence in western political systems, because it is not only a religion is a philosophy and a way of life that is very flexible about its precepts and rules whit a very clear propose, anyone can achieve the illumination, the Nirvana, also whether intentionally or not Buddhism has already make an enormous impact in politics, because certainly the concepts of political authority and government would be incomprehensible without a consideration of religious background.

Schuré E. Los Grandes Iniciados, (1998) Editorial Tomo, México, D.F

Swearer D. Buddhism and ecology: Challenge and Promise, (1998) Harvard University

Sri Dhammananda Maha K. What Buddhist believe: Buddhism and Politics, (2001) Buddhist study and practice group.

Harris I. Buddhism and Politics in Twentieth Century Asia, (1999) New York.

History and Comparison of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam

What is Religion? For a long time, people has been asking question about it, but no one has corrected answer whether one religion is right, or another religion is wrong. Every person explains religion in different way. Religion is a cultural system for group of people who have shared same beliefs. As any person can remember religion has been part of history for long time. There are nearly 10,000 religious where people are born into or they can choose which one there prefer to be in. This essay is about the history of religions beginning with Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.

Buddhism is a practice that focus on spiritual behavior. It is mainly about nature of life. It does not include worshipping of any god. It is a practice by meditation which mean changing our self by developing awareness, wisdom and kindness. History of Buddhism began nearly 5th century B.C. Hinduism is known as a parent of Buddhism. Which also shared same belief of reincarnation, dharma and ahisma. It is practice by more than 300 million people. It is spread mostly in south and east Asia. Fonder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautam who take spiritual journey toward the path of Englighment. Siddhartha was born in royal family into a small village of Nepal.

He was always curious about human problem. He had different question rise in this mind when he saw dead bodies, sick person, and different age people. He wanted to find cause and solution of human problems. One day, Siddhartha decided to leave his royal palace and travel all around the world to find for answer. He also seen Indian monk who suggested him to follow self-discipline. He follows him and extremely meditation for six year. Still he didn’t find his answer. Finally, he decided to abandon his lifestyle and didn’t return to his kingdom. He didn’t stop to find answer and again that time he deeply meditation and achieved Enlightenment. After that he spent 45 year in teaching his philosophy across eastern India and Nepal. His teaching promoted four noble truth which are suffering, cause of suffering, end of suffering and path that end of suffering. Enlightenment is also known as Nirvana. There is other few people got nirvana across the world which is known as Buddhas.

Hinduism is known as the oldest religion. It is recognized by one god, Brahmas and include deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. There is no founder of Hinduism and not a common set of teaching. Hindu believe on spirit and soul. They also believe in reincarnation, died of physical bodies, soul lives on and reborn in new body. History of Hinduism began from 19th century. It is practice by most of the people from India and Nepal. Now there is nearly 900 million people worldwide. Hindu worship began with prayer image or icon. Prayer will be done by repeated mantra and offering god with flower, water and fruit. Hinduism were started from Indus Valley around 1500 B.C. First it was the religion of Aryan people whose philosophy is known as a Vedas. It include prayer, hymn and spell.

Christianity is the world greatest religion. There were nearly 2.1 billion people. Christianity were divided into three different branches such as Roman Catholics, Protestant and Eastern Christians. Christianity was beginning around 1st century. Christine believe in holy god Jesus Christ. Jesus was born around 2000 year ago. He was born in Jewish family in Palestine. His father was known as Holy Spirit of God. His follower consider that he was a massager sent to earth to help people from slavery, death and sin. They think god sent Jesus in a human form because he can understand their problem and guidance them better way. During that time, he informed people to love god and forgive other people with all their heart. He cured sick people and told lot of stories what god want people to follow. This way he raised lot of follower. After seeing this Roman governor decided to punish him. People were found his body was raised from death. After his painful sacrifice of his life on cross which show love of god to their people. Jesus death and rebirth were celebrating in Easter. Holy book of Christine is Bible. It teaches why people suffer, about death, and happiness of family.

Isham is the second greatest religion in the world. There is follower of 1.8 million people. Isham believe in only one god Allah. Most of the people were from India and Indonesia. There is also 7 million Muslim in United State. They were divided into two groups Sunnis and Shiites. However, they share same believe. There are five pillar of Islam which are Shahadah, Salat, Zakah, Sawn and Hajj. They believe in scripture of Koran which were written on Arabic language. It is remembering as life time of Muhammad. It indicates moral and spiritual value. History of Islam began in 7th century. First it was started from Mecca, Saudi Arabia during the era of Muhammad lives. Muhammad was sad with people when he seeing people were worshipping different god and they were forgotten message of Prophet Abraham to praying one god. Muhammad like to be meditated. Suddenly he started to received message from god. Muhammad was the final prophet directed by god to declare their believed to people. Through the Islamic text angle were order Muhammad to deliver decision of Allah.

Overall, Religion is the same belief shared by group of people. Where we can see the history of religions beginning with Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. There are so many religions where people itself born with it or can able to choose. But every religion concept is awareness and find moral value. We must respect all religion. Growing in multicultural society every people need to understand about each other religion which will help them to know other people better. A lot of people don’t have a spiritual belief but what is important is to accept other people and respect their believe this way we can maintain peaceful society.

Religion and Politics in India

Elizabeth Antony, a Catholic fish vendor, cuts fish on a roadside in Thiruvananthapuram, India Dec. 14. (CNS photo/Anto Akkara)

There are one billion people in India, the second most populous country in the world. This means every sixth person in the world is an Indian. About 450 million Indians live below the poverty line. Suppression of religious minorities and its nuclear blasts have made India visible to the world. One of the messages that India sent to the world was that it needs to be reckoned with. The Hindu nationalist leadership on the whole sent this message. While each country needs dignity before others, many ask why such a poverty-ridden country should invest massive amounts in nuclear devices and why it persecutes a Christian religious minority that has made bold attempts to empower the poor of India.

Religious Landscape in India

Of the one billion people in India, 85 percent are Hindus, 10 percent Muslims, and 2.5 percent Christians. The rest belong to other religious minorities: Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees and other groups. Though the decennial census classifies 85 percent as Hindus, there is no positive definition of what Hinduism is. Negatively, whoever does not belong to any of the other religious minorities is taken to be a Hindu. British discourse shaped the terminology used in reference to Hinduism. The British in India began by asking the Indians: "Our religion is called Christianity, what is yours?" It was then decided to call India’s religion Hinduism. The British asked, "We have the Bible as our scripture, what is your scripture?" It was decided to consider the Vedas, the Upanishads, etc. as the scriptures of Hinduism. Further the British asked, "We have religious heads like the pope and the bishops, but who are Hinduism’s heads?" They declared the Shankaracharyas as their pontiffs. The West initially tried to understand the religions in India in its own terms and categories.

But in truth many religions are grouped together under the title of Hinduism. First of all, there are the religions of autochthonous (indigenous or tribal) people, and second, there are the religions of Aryan invaders known as Hindus (living on banks of the Indus River). The latter had two main divisionsShaivism and Vaishnavism. Later came the protest religions, Buddhism and Jainism, criticizing the religion of the Aryan or Brahminic Hindus. In the medieval period came the Bhakti movements, through which the lower castes sought equality with the upper caste Hindus. Then came Sikhism, blending both Hindu and Muslim religious elements. As a result of the British colonial rule, reformist movements like Brahmo, Prarathana and Aryasamaj sought to reform Hinduism from within. Today Hindu nationalists prefer to classify Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism as insider religions to India and Islam and Christianity as outsider religions, even though Christianity has existed in India for 2000 years.

Two Traditions Within Hinduism

One useful approach to finding one’s direction within Hinduism is to see it as composed of two traditions: the Great Tradition and the Little Tradition. The Great Tradition consists of the higher forms of Hinduism, also known as Sanskritic or Brahmin Hinduism. This encompasses the hegemonic classical philosophy, rituals, dance, music and art of the upper castes (middle and upper classes) or the elite of Hindu society, who compose about 20 percent of Hindus. The Little Tradition consists of the lower forms of Hinduism, also known as non-Sanskritic or non-Brahminic. This encompasses the rites, folk wisdom, folk dance, music and art that have become the cultural heritage of the lower castes (the lower classes) or the masses, who consist of 80 percent of all Hindus.

It is important to understand the existence of two categories of elite within the Great Tradition. According to Schermerhorn, the first is known as the "parochial neo-traditionalists" and the second the "conditionally Westernized." The parochial neo-traditionalists "had their education primarily in the vernacular. They are more attracted to local or regional than to Western culture. Males prefer Indian to Western garb. Vegetarianism retains a strong hold on dietary habits, while caste restrictions and practices remain potent in the home, no matter how often they are violated in public. Most members in this category have a strong susceptibility to patriotic appeals couched in Hindu slogans, and they tend to share the suspicion that Muslims and Christians lack commitment to the nation. They usually ignore members of the lower castes and/or untouchables as much as possible unless the upper level politicians make a temporary display of favoritism towards them."

The "conditionally Westernized" have the opposite characteristics: "Educated almost universally in English medium if not public schools, the members are fluent in the English language they prefer Western to regional culture. People in this category consume meat and alcohol without a qualm, though in other respects they maintain an all Indian diet. Nearly all are secular minded. For the most part, patriotic appeals touch them only lightly except during national conflicts. They are convinced secularists in politics and have no difficulty in regarding Muslims and Christians as loyal patriots." The "parochial neo-traditionalists" and "conditionally Westernized" are 80:20 percent of the total elite or those belonging to the Great Tradition of Hinduism.

Hinduism and Hindu Social Order

Hinduism and the Hindu social order (caste system) are two sides of a coin. One cannot be understood without the other. One cannot exist without the other. The caste system is similar to the racial society in many ways. One is born into a caste group. A caste (endogamous) group is ranked high or low according to its purity or impurity and is always linked to a traditional occupation. These caste groups are ranked in a hierarchical order like the rungs of a ladder. The higher the caste, the greater its social status, wealth, power and privileges. The lower the caste, the lesser its status, wealth, power and privileges. Hindu theological concepts like dharma, karma and sanskara lend legitimacy to the privileges as well as the deprivations. For instance, karma means, "as you sow, so shall you reap." You are born into a caste because of the actions in your previous life. Dharma calls upon an individual to fulfill the proper obligations of one’s caste (division of labor) assigned to it by the code of Manu (the lawgiver). Sanskara are caste-specific performances of sacraments and rituals.

The lower castes in Hinduism perpetually suffered economic, social, political and religious deprivations. They were largely laborers, who had to give free services to the upper castes by working in their fields and doing demeaning jobs. They had to live in a segregated part of the village. They could not be touched lest they pollute the upper castes. The Brahmins did not serve them, so they had to create their own priestly castes. The upper castes were literate intellectuals, and the caste system they created gave them a foolproof social security and welfare. Religion and the social order were so intertwined that most of those who belonged to the Little Tradition were the illiterate, laboring masses who make up 80 percent of the Hindus. These rebelled, protested and asserted their rights from time to time, largely through religious movements. Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and the Bhakti movement exemplify such movements within Hinduism that sought equality from within.

Paradoxically, what they got was spiritual but not socio-economic equality. Many lower castes opted out of Hinduism and joined Islam and Christianity in order to overcome indignities and deprivations through a new identity that would give them equality. Normatively, both Christianity and Islam preached an egalitarian social order. The British colonial period brought about a lot of social consciousness among the lower castes. Large numbers of them converted to Christianity, setting off alarms among the upper-caste Hindus. If many from the lower castes deserted the Hindu social order, who would provide cheap labor to the upper castes? Reactionary movements like Arya Samaj began to reconvert the low-caste Christian converts through shuddikaran (purification).

Struggle for Empowering the Poor

The struggle for freedom led by Mahatma Ghandi managed to throw out the British colonial power. The architect of India’s constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, an untouchable himself, managed to put in generous clauses of affirmative action (reservation or protective discrimination) for the lower castes. The egalitarian ethos of the secular, liberal and democratic constitution was another blow to the hierarchical Hindu social order. "One man, one vote" flattened the merit system of caste. A Brahmin’s vote and an untouchable’s vote were of equal value. For the lower castes education opened new windows for upward mobility. Affirmative action too had some beneficial impact on the lower castes. All this meant loss of power, loss of opportunities for employment and loss of status for the upper castes. This was seen as undermining the traditional Hindu social order. The upper castes were being sidelined. The vertical social structure (caste ladder) was being brought down to a horizontal level. No longer was it going to be one group placed on top of another, but groups placed side by side on the same level.

The role of the church is significant in the above-mentioned context. The educational, health and awareness-raising activities of the church have helped the lower castes in many ways to assert, protest and defy the upper castes, and to become upwardly mobile, thereby escaping the humiliation, indignities and exploitation suffered in the past. As droves of people from the lower castes took conversion to Christianity as an escape route, the upper-caste Hindus were alarmed. This is not to say that traits of caste do not exist in the Indian church.

The church was also serving the upper castes through its educational institutions, and by and large this service gave rise to the "conditionally Westernized" elite class mentioned earlier. The church had in a way appeased the upper castes to allow it to work among the lower castes. But the "parochial neo-traditionalists" mentioned earlier gave rise to Hindu nationalism. The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (national voluntary corps, known as R.S.S.) was the fountainhead of Hindu nationalism during independence, and it was a man linked to the R.S.S. who shot and killed Mahatma Gandhi for having permitted the division of India into India and Pakistan. This organization was banned but later allowed to rise again. In post-independent India it has been implicated by different inquiry commissions appointed by the government in a number of Hindu-Muslim riots in different parts of the country.

Fury of Hindu Nationalism

In 1982 a federal government dominated by the middle order castes or other Backward Castes (O.B.C.’s) appointed a commission to consider extending affirmative action to a few more disadvantaged communities and castes. This further angered the "parochial neo-traditionalists," as if it were going to eat into their share of the cake. This was the turning point in the relations between the upper castes and the O.B.C.’s. The upper castes declared war on the O.B.C.’s within the Hindu fold.

Hindu nationalism upheld one religion, one culture and one nation. Being numerically small, the upper castes needed mass support or lower-caste support to come to power in the "one man, one vote" system. In order to regain political supremacy, they played the religious card to mobilize the masses. On the one hand, they tried to homogenize the differences within Hinduism, and on the other, they declared war against Muslims and Christians. The latter were defined as the "other," enemy, outsiders, unpatriotic and were to be eliminated in order to realize the golden age of Hinduism in India. Besides the R.S.S., multiple other organizations came into being, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (V.H.P.), the Bajrang Dal (B.D.), the Hindu Jagran Manch (H.J.M.) and others, under the umbrella of the Sangh Parivar with the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) as its political organ. They all proclaimed that Hinduism was in danger. Accordingly, the birthplace of Ram in the city of Ayobhya in the northeast state of Ultar Pradesh had to be liberated from the Muslims, who had built a mosque over it hundreds of years ago.

In 1992 the demolition of the mosque known as Babri Masjib was preceded by rath yatras (car processions) made by the Hindu nationalist leaders across the country to mobilize the masses, which led to the death of scores of Muslims in the ensuing riots. More riots followed the demolition of the mosque itself. In Bombay alone rioting took the lives of 900 Muslims. But the general elections in 1994 saw the results of religion-based political mobilization. The Hindu nationalists captured the highest number of seats they had ever won in the parliament. It was almost as if the party rode in on the dead bodies of Muslims. But mobilization based on stirring emotions, particularly hatred, does not last long. The Hindu nationalists had to identify newer issues to stir up the emotions of the Hindu masses to keep them together and cultivate their vote bank.

In 1997 the Hindu nationalists turned the heat up on Christians in India, particularly in Gujarat State, where nationalists were in power. There were only 50 cases of registered atrocities against Christians during the first 48 years of independence. But between 1997 and 1998 there were 500 cases, a geometrical rise during two years. Christian missionary personnel were accused of converting tribals (indigenous people) and the lower castes by force or fraud, though no cases of this were cited to substantiate the allegation. Christian churches were desecrated or burnt, sacred festivals were disrupted, Bibles were torn and trampled upon, and priests and nuns were killed or raped. Most recently, in my home state of Gujarat, the nationalists disrupted Christmas midnight Masses by holding rallies outside Catholic churches.

These atrocities are taking place mostly in tribal areas, where Hindu nationalists have publicly declared war on Christian missions. Their strategy is to use the existing ritual differences among the Christian and non-Christian tribals to divide them further and pit one against the other. The one-sided vernacular press is making it look as if the non-Christian tribals are fighting the tribal Christians and missionaries for ruining their culture.

The Hindu nationalists focused upon the tribal regions (indigenous people) not so much because of conversions among them to Christianity but because the tribals were awakening to their plight. They were increasingly deprived of their life-supporting resourcesforests, land and waterby the "developmental" policies of the state. Large dams displaced thousands of tribals. Tribals could not cut trees even for fuel. Their land was acquired by the state for industrial plants. Non-tribals also were encroaching on their resources. The educational, health or developmental activities of missionaries raised the awareness of the tribals. Hindu nationalists struck upon the strategy of actively Hinduizing the tribals and making missionaries the scapegoats. They did this first to pre-empt or check the self-assertion of the tribals and, second, to cultivate a vote bank among the poor tribals.

Real Agenda

The Hindu nationalists targeted minorities like the Muslims and the Christians, who historically belonged to the lower castes, and tribals, who composed the lower strata of Indian society. It was a war on the lower strata, their upward mobility and on the democratic constitution, which upheld equality for all citizens irrespective of creed, code and cult. Hindu nationalists on the one hand gloried in the fact that Hinduism was tolerant, and on the other fomented, provoked and indulged in arson and atrocities, all in the name of producing a proud and glorious Hindu India. The atomic blast has been glorified. The bodies of dead Indian soldiers who died in the recent Kargil conflict in Kashmir have been used to whip up Hindu nationalistic hysteria among the masses before the recent elections. Indian history is being rewritten from the Hindu nationalist's perspective. School textbooks are being produced with an anti-minority bias. Muslims and Christians are finding it increasingly difficult to get employment in the public sector. They have little option except to eke out a living in the unorganized sector or migrate to the Middle East.

Hindu nationalism's hidden but real agenda is to wage war against the lower strata of Indian society and against anyone who empowers them. The Christian missions-while acknowledging the presence of an insignificant number of quixotic, aggressive salvation- and Bible-peddlers and street preachers-have largely done empowering work among the lower strata. This empowerment deals with social transformation, redistribution of power and human rights it seeks to secure basic needs, economic security, capacity building, skill formation and conditions of dignified existence for the poor. By and large the secular Hindus, English press and the international media have supported the Christians in India in recent times. More of this support is welcome in the name of the poor in India.


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Mantra, in Hinduism and Buddhism, a sacred utterance (syllable, word, or verse) that is considered to possess mystical or spiritual efficacy. Various mantras are either spoken aloud or merely sounded internally in one’s thoughts, and they are either repeated continuously for some time or just sounded once. Most mantras are without any apparent verbal meaning, but they are thought to have a profound underlying significance and are in effect distillations of spiritual wisdom. Thus, repetition of or meditation on a particular mantra can induce a trancelike state in the participant and can lead him to a higher level of spiritual awareness. Besides bringing spiritual enlightenment, different kinds of mantras are used to work other psychic or spiritual purposes, such as protecting oneself from evil psychic powers. One of the most powerful and widely used mantras in Hinduism is the sacred syllable om. The principal mantra in Buddhism is om maṇi padme hūṃ.

Mantras continue to be an important feature of Hindu religious rites and domestic ceremonies. Initiation into many Hindu sects involves the whispering of a secret mantra into the ear of the initiate by the guru (spiritual teacher). Indeed, mantras are thought to be truly efficacious only when they are received verbally from one’s guru or other spiritual preceptor.

The Term “Hinduism”

Their first line of defence, when put on the spot, is sure to be:“Actually, Hinduism did not yet exist at the time.”So, their position really is:Hinduism did not exist yet, but somehow the Buddha broke away from it.Yeah, the secular position is that he was a miracle-worker.

Darius relief from the northern stairs of the Apadana of Persepolis (Archaeological museum, Tehran)

Let us correct that: the word “Hinduism” did not exist yet. When Darius of the Achaemenid Persians, a near-contemporary of the Buddha, used the word “Hindu,” it was purely in a geographical sense: anyone from inside or beyond the Indus region.

When the medieval Muslim invaders brought the term into India, they used it to mean: any Indian except for the Indian Muslims, Christians or Jews. It did not have a specific doctrinal content except “non-Abrahamic,” a negative definition. It meant every Indian Pagan, including the Brahmins, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), Jains, other ascetics, low-castes, intermediate castes, tribals, and by implication also the as yet unborn Lingayats, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishnaites, secularists, and others who nowadays reject the label “Hindu.”

This definition was essentially also adopted by V.D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva (1923), and by the Hindu Marriage Act (1955). By this historical definition, which also has the advantages of primacy and of not being thought up by the wily Brahmins, the Buddha and all his Indian followers are unquestionably Hindus. In that sense, Savarkar was right when he called Ambedkar’s taking refuge in Buddhism “a sure jump into the Hindu fold.”

But the word “Hindu” is a favourite object of manipulation. Thus, secularists say that all kinds of groups (Dravidians, low-castes, Sikhs, etc.) are “not Hindu,” yet when Hindus complain of the self-righteousness and aggression of the minorities, secularists laugh at this concern: “How can the Hindus feel threatened? They are more than 80%!”

The missionaries call the tribals “not Hindus,” but when the tribals riot against the Christians who have murdered their Swami, we read about “Hindu rioters.” In the Buddha’s case, “Hindu” is often narrowed down to “Vedic” when convenient, then restored to its wider meaning when expedient.

One meaning which the word “Hindu” definitely does not have, and did not have when it was introduced, is “Vedic.” Shankara holds it against Patanjali and the Sankhya school (just like the Buddha did) that they don’t bother to cite the Vedas, yet they have a place in every history of Hindu thought.

Hinduism includes a lot of elements which have only a thin Vedic veneer, and numerous ones which are not Vedic at all. Scholars say that it consists of a “Great Tradition” and many “Little Traditions,” local cults allowed to subsist under the aegis of the prestigious Vedic line. However, if we want to classify the Buddha in these terms, he should rather be included in the Great Tradition.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was a Kshatriya, a scion of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty, a descendant of Manu, a self-described reincarnation of Rama, the son of the Raja of the Shakya tribe, a member of its Senate, and belonging to the Gautama gotra (roughly “clan”).

Though monks are often known by their monastic name, Buddhists prefer to name the Buddha after his descent group, viz. the Shakyamuni, “renunciate of the Shakya tribe.” This tribe was as Hindu as could be, consisting according to its own belief of the progeny of the eldest children of patriarch Manu, who were repudiated at the insistence of his later, younger wife.

The Buddha is not known to have rejected this name, not even at the end of his life when the Shakyas had earned the wrath of king Vidudabha of Kosala and were massacred. The doctrine that he was one in a line of incarnations which also included Rama is not a deceitful Brahmin Puranic invention but was launched by the Buddha himself, who claimed Rama as an earlier incarnation of his. The numerous scholars who like to explain every Hindu idea or custom as “borrowed from Buddhism” could well counter Ambedkar’s rejection of this “Hindu” doctrine by pointing out very aptly that it was “borrowed from Buddhism.”

Buddhism: Origin, Spread and Decline

A keen observer of the world history may notice a pendulous motion. At one end of the pendulum's swing is the society immersed in crass materialism, Pravritti (literally, action) and at the other end is the society engrossed itself in spirituality, Nivritti (literally, withdrawal).

Histories of both the east and the west seem to follow this trend. Greeks were originally Nivritti oriented. The Greek Pythagorean School was Nivritti oriented but later Epicureans were at the opposite end. Romans believed in active life but later Christianity emerged as a monastic movement with celibate monks and nuns. Martin Luther founded Protestantism to reject Catholic Nivritti. The scientific and industrial revolution of the 18th century can be identified as extreme Pravritti and now we are witnessing the Nivritti-oriented people opposing the extremes of science: atomic bombs, pollution etc. And the society is slowly inclining towards yoga, meditation, etc.

Similarly, India had its own share of these cycles. In the pre-historic times, Vedic India had an active life (Pravritti), and then Upanishadic sages realized and propounded the concepts of renunciation (Nivritti). After that, Krishna preached the balance of Pravritti and Nivritti in the Bhagavad-Gitä, by being active in one's duties but not attached to the results of it.

At the time of the Buddha's birth, Indian society had lost its balance of Pravritti and Nivritti. Society was divided into different sects. Brahmins who were the torch-bearers of the spiritual wisdom in the ancient times, had limited themselves to rituals. In the absence of knowledgeable guides and spiritual leaders, society had become virtually directionless. Society was looking for the ethical and moral order once again.

In such a chaotic time, the Buddha was born in Northeast India. In his early life, he renounced his wife, son, and kingdom and achieved liberation (nirvana). The Buddha revolutionized the society by showing a new path to spiritual freedom by renouncing the worldly activities. Hundreds of Buddhist Viharas were founded which were instrumental in spreading Buddhism all over India and other Asian countries. Thus, the Buddha rekindled the spirit of propagating spiritual knowledge in the society. Renunciation and passive life (Nivritti) became a major trend of the society.

2. Spread of Buddhism

Before the birth of the Buddha, Indian society had become self-centered (the intellectual class) and ritualistic (the masses). Buddhism provided a new organized form of religious Sangha, which preached a simple message of compassion in Päli, the language of laypeople. This ease and simplicity helped the extensive spread of Buddhism. The cryptic language of Vedic philosophy was difficult for the masses to understand. Buddhism filled the gap by offering a simplified way of noble conduct to the common people. Here are some key reasons for the spread of Buddhism in Asia:

  • India's Spiritual Reputation In the era of the Buddha, India was regarded as a pioneer in many fields. India had an economic surplus, political stability and more importantly, a history of spiritual and intellectual innovation. India was viewed as a superpower similar to 21st century America. Buddhism was received with open hearts in other countries in Asia because of its origin in India.

3. Decline of Buddhism in India (7th century onwards)

There are two broad categories of reasons for Buddhism's decline in India:
• Internal factors (e.g., laxity of monastic rules and internal disputes, etc.)
• External factors (e.g., Hinduism's revival and Islamic invasion, etc.)

3.1 Internal Factors

In his book "Studies in Buddhistic culture in India," Lal Mani Joshi quotes a number of references from various texts to show several examples of the moral degeneration of Buddhist monks and nuns. Joshi writes: "It is evident from these references that decadence of Buddhism in India is related, at least in some measure, to the decay of moral and spiritual discipline among the Buddhist monks and nuns. The examples he quotes are from Chinese travelers Yuan Chwang and I-tsing, Kashmiri historian Kalhana, Kalidasa's Mälvikägnimitra, Bhavabhuti's Mälati Mädhava, Shudrak's Mrichhakatika, Dandin's Dashakumära-Charita, Mahenravarman's Matta-viläsa-prahsana and Bhagavadajjukam and other anonymous writings such as Chaturbhäni and Räshtrapäla-Pariprichha-Sutra. Even the earliest Buddhist texts reveal an awareness of tendencies towards laxity and corruption within the Sangha, tendencies that eventually developed to the point where large numbers of monks were performing magical practices, amassing personal or community wealth and engaging in various other improprieties. Those who emphasized the significance of this phenomenon are certainly correct in claiming that it represented a serious weakness in the Buddhist community.

3.2 External Factors

Buddhism had generally relied on the support of kings. The rise of the Brahmanical Shungas, ending the Mauryan dynasty, meant the end of good times for non-Vedic sects in Magadha thus large numbers of both Jainas and Buddhists moved out of their native region towards Mathura in the west, thence along the mercantile routes into other areas hospitable to their cause.

From the above discussion we can conclude that Buddhism collapsed only as a separate identity. Its main principles were assimilated in Hinduism quite harmoniously.

4. Influence of Buddhism in India

One of the key contributions credited to Buddhism is its protest against the prevalent violent sacrifices (Bali) in the Yajnas. This may be a misconception founded by Max Muller. The Bali tradition may already have been stopped long before the Buddha's birth by the Upanishadic sages. The Bhägavada-Gitä has a clear definition of Yajna devoid of any violence and the date of Gitä are still debated vis-à-vis those of the Buddha.

The intellectual era of the Upanishads (and intellectual-devotional era of the Gitä) predates Buddhism. If Buddhism was really a non-violent alternative, Buddhist followers would not have admitted meat-eating people into its Sanghas. Moreover, the history of many Buddhist nations is full of violent religious struggles, e.g., Burma, Tibet (900 AD), China, Japan, Sri Lanka, etc. According to Dr Padmanabh S Jaini, Buddhists as meat-eaters could make little effective protest against any violence compared to Jainas who were strictly non-violent in every respect.

Thus Buddhism downplayed the role of complex rituals prevalent in the contemporary society but did not necessarily reform the violent sacrifices.

In the Buddhist literature, there is hardly any word against the Vedic Caste System. Though professedly open to all, Buddhism was practically limited to the higher castes. It did not interfere with the domestic rituals which continued to be performed as prescribed in the Vedas. The Buddha himself is recorded to have held that the original Brahmins were good men and the Veda (originally) a true doctrine but that both had become corrupt and needed to be completely reformed. Here are two texts from the early Buddhist tradition: the Dhammapada, a major text ascribed to the Buddha himself, and Sonananda Sutta - a minor text recording the Buddha's dialogues. The last chapter of the Dhammapada is about the Brahmins. Here are three from the fifty odd verses:

Not by matted hair, nor by clan
or by birth does one become a Brahmin.
In whom is truth and dhamma,
He is the pure one, and he is the Brahmin ( 39378)
And I do not call one Brahmin
Merely by being born from a [Brahmin] womb,
Sprung from a [Brahmin] mother.
He is merely a "bho-sayer"
If he is a possessor of things.
One who has nothing and takes nothing,
That one I call a Brahmin ( 39678)
Who, here, having abandoned the human bond,
Has transcended the heavenly bond,
Who is released from all bonds,
That one I call Brahmin (41781)

In tenor, theme and substance, all these verses are similar and the Buddha defines a true Brahmin in them. He does not say that being a Brahmin is to be a fraud, cheater, or a liar he does not call Brahmanism or caste system an abomination.

Even the Buddhist ruler Ashoka accepted caste system in social matters. He had said: "Caste may be considered when it is a question of marriage or invitation, but not of Dharma for Dharma is concerned with virtues, and virtues have nothing to do with caste." According to Etienne Lamotte:

"Adherence to the Buddhist faith in no way compelled the adept to reject his ancestral beliefs or repudiate the religious practices customarily performed in his circles. The Buddha did not combat the deities of pagan Hinduism. He refused to condemn the paganism as a whole."

Buddhism was a powerful force in India for around 1000 years and if it really reformed the caste system and established social equality by removing caste barriers, there was no reason for caste system to be present even today, so deeply rooted in Indian society. At least there should have been a movement to recreate caste system after Buddhism's demise and obviously no such thing has been recorded in the history. This shows that caste system was always there in India, before the Buddha, during the Buddha and even after Buddhism collapsed in India. Even in other Buddhist countries, equality is a rare commodity, e.g., China never had social, political or economic equality even though Buddhism has been there for almost 2000 years. In his book "The discovery of India", India's first prime-minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote that the caste system could not be influenced even by the powerful impact of Buddhism.

Therefore, we may conclude that the Buddha did not outrightly rejected the Vedic caste system but challenged its rigidity by downplaying the role of Brahmins and offering the path of renunciation to people of any caste or gender. The Buddha was mainly interested in spiritual rather than social reform. He founded the monastic system which was open to all castes but the lay society continued its prevalent caste system as before.

5. Conclusion

Although Buddhism as a separate religion vanished from India, many of its concepts and principles have merged with mainstream Hinduism. The tradition of organized Sanghas and Viharas was later adopted by Shankara in the form of Mathas. And that same tradition continues today in hundreds of other Mathas under Ramakrishna Mission, Chinmaya Mission, etc.

Buddhism originated as a reaction to Pravritti and propagated Nivritti. This may be a reason for its new acceptance now in western countries. In India, both the Brahmanic and the Shramanic traditions have merged to shape what is popularly called as Hinduism. Other countries may not have had such assimilatory experiments and therefore, Buddhism kept its separate identity there.

Human society will always be indebted to the Buddha for his great contribution in the fields of spirituality.

Buddham çaraëam gacchämi
Dharmam çaraëam gacchämi
Sangham çaraëam gacchämi

Watch the video: 03 20 10 2010 Ινδουϊσμός, Βουδισμός, Ταοϊσμός


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