Saturday, October 26, 2013

Was the Buddha a Hindu? Are Buddhists Hindus?


In a past article, we had argued that the Buddha lived and died as a Hindu and that Bauddha Dharma is nothing but one of the sects within Hinduism. Ambedkarite neo-Buddhists and Ambedkar-touting secularists are understandably furious when their ambitions for a separate identity or their schemes for pitting Hindus against Hindus are thwarted. So we received a number of questions meant as rhetorical and as exposing the hollowness of our claim. Six are from a certain S. Narayanaswamy Iyer, then three more by a Dr. Ranjeet Singh. We reproduce them and then answer them. First Mr. Iyer’s questions:

(1)   Which of our four Vedams did Buddha follow in his teachings?

Throughout his text, Mr. Iyer presupposes one of the most common weapons which the enemies of Hinduism use: changing the definition of “Hinduism” to and fro, depending on their own best interest. Thus, the Christian mission lobby swears that “tribals are not Hindus”, except when tribals defend themselves against encroachment by Bengali Muslim settlers or take revenge on the Christians for having murdered Swami Lakshmananda and four of his assistants; then they are suddenly transformed into “Hindus”. Here, as long as convenient, “Hindu” is narrowed down to “Brahmanical”. The Vedic tradition, started among the Paurava tribe established in Haryana, was the most prestigious tradition, first to take the shape of a fixed corpus and learned by heart by a class of people set apart just for this purpose. Tribe after tribe adopted this tradition, all while maintaining its own identity and religious practices. Kings in Bengal and South India imported the Vedic tradition and gave land to settle Brahmin communities just to embellish their dynasties with this prestigious Vedic tradition. But other traditions existed alongside the Vedas, both among speakers of Indo-Aryan and among Dravidians and others. Many non-Vedic elements come to light in a corpus collected in the first millennium CE, the Puranas. Many more were incorporated by the later Bhakti (devotion) poets or have subsisted till today as part of oral culture. All these Pagan practices together, Vedic and non-Vedic, constitute “Hinduism”.


When the Muslim invaders brought the Persian geographical term “Hindu” into India a thousand years ago, they meant by it: an Indian Pagan. In Islamic theology, Christians and Jews count as a special category, and Parsis were often considered as Persian and not Indian Pagans. But all the other Indians were called “Hindus”. Whether tribals, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), atheists, polytheists, Brahmins, non-Brahmins, the Lingayats, even the not-yet-existing Sikhs or Arya Samajis or Ramakrishnaites,-- all of them were Hindus. It is now a mark of anti-Hindu polemicists that they manipulate the meaning of “Hinduism”, and interpret it more broadly or more narrowly as per their convenience. The first rule of logic is “a = a”, i.e. “a term retains the same meaning throughout the whole reasoning process”. So, against these manipulations, we will stick to one meaning for Hinduism, viz. the historically justified meaning of “all Indian Pagans”


The Buddha had, according to Buddhist scripture, received a Kshatriya upbringing. That means his outlook was formed by an at least passive initiation into the Vedas. Never in his long life did he repudiate this. On the contrary, he only developed ideas that were already present in the Vedic tradition. Thus, “liberation” was a goal that the Upanishadic thinkers had invented and that set them apart from practically all others religions (certainly from Christianity and Islam). Meditation or yoga as the technique to achieve this liberation was first mentioned in the Upanishads. Buddhist scripture mentions two meditation teachers with whom the Buddha studied. At most he invented a new meditation technique, Vipassana (now vulgarized as “Mindfulness”), but meditation was an existing tradition into which he was initiated by older masters, and to which he contributed his own addition, like others did. Reincarnation and karma are at the heart of Buddhism, and is the first thing which outsiders associate with Buddhism; but these concepts were introduced in the Upanishads. Even the repudiation of what the Vedas had become, particularly the repudiation of ritualism, is already found in the Upanishads. And so is the rejection of desire, the extolling of the value of compassion (daya), and the first options for celibate monkhood. When Buddha became a recluse, he followed a path that was already well established, and that is already mentioned in the Rg-Veda, though only in the third person (the Vedic poets themselves were elite figures and a different class from the renunciates). The Buddha rightly said that he had not invented anything new, that he was only treading an ancient path formerly trodden by the earlier Buddhas.


Hindu attitudes to the Vedas varied greatly. Some had never heard of them, some had heard the names but knew little of their contents, some thought they were interesting literature but not a guiding light for moral decisions or choosing a way of life, some adopted practices which they called Vedic though they were not, some paid lip-service to the Vedas, and some really practised Vedic rituals or learned the Vedas by heart. Within this continuum, the Buddha took his place, without this ever being a problem for the Brahmins. The only two attempts on his life were committed by a jealous pupil of his own, a leading Buddhist. Still, he died at an advanced age.


(2) Which of our 330 devathaas did Buddha worship?


The more usual number is 33, but modern tourists (and therefore also the secularists) have opted for 330 million. This number is based on a mistranslation of “33 big gods” as “33  crore (= ten million) gods”. Anyway, the number can vary, but yes, there are quite a few, let us settle for “a lot”. Like many elite characters and thinkers, the Buddha is reputed to be into other things than worship, as were many people in Vedic society. Sankhya was an atheist school, as was early Vaisheshika, and so were Jainism and the Charvaka school. The Mimansa school, orthodox par excellence, taught that Vedic rituals are effective alright, but the gods invoked during the ritual proceedings are mere cog-wheels in the magical mechanism set in motion by the priests. These gods have no reality in themselves and only exist in so far as they are invested with existence by the human beings who “feed” them. So, atheism was a recognized option among the Hindu elite, of which prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was a prominent member.


All the same, he paid homage to the gods on some occasions. His breakthrough to liberation was followed by an intervention of the supreme gods Brahma and Indra, asking him to share his bliss and teach his way to liberation with others – the very start of Buddhism. Had the Buddha or even the later editors of the Pali Canon been as anti-Vedic as the present neo-Buddhists imagine, they could easily have censored this episode out. At the end of his life, during which he was regularly consulted on political matters because he was after all very at home in statecraft, he was asked by the authorities of a republic to formulate the qualities by which a state prevents decline. In reply, he listed the “seven principles of non-decline”, and among them is an abiding maintenance of ancient religious traditions, including rituals and pilgrimages. The ancient religious practices which he knew, were Vedic or at any rate Hindu ones. Buddhist monks later carried Vedic gods such as Indra, Brahma, Ganapati and Saraswati to foreign lands. Japanese temples are dedicated to Benzai-ten or Saraswati, some house the “twelve Adityas/Ten”. The Shingon sect of Buddhism has a quasi-Vedic ritual called “feeding the gods”, exactly the same conception as in the Vedas. Thai and Indonesian Buddhists have adopted the cult of Rama, whom the Buddha did not really worship but whom he venerated as a great scion of the Aikshvaku lineage to which he himself belonged, and of whom he claimed to be a reincarnation. Neo-Buddhists object to the long-established Puranic teaching that both Rama and the Buddha are incarnations of Vishnu, but the germ of this teaching was planted by the Buddha himself when he claimed that Rama and he were the same person.



(3) Which of our samskaarams did Buddha tell his followers to observe and perform?


Samskaarams (life rituals) are meant for people living in society, as the Vedic poets did. Renunciates are living outside society, often they perform their own funeral upon “leaving the world”, and after that the samskaarams no longer apply to them. The Buddha founded a monastic order, an organized form of renunciation. He did not found a separate non-Hindu religion (the way the first Christians did), for his lay followers were part of Hindu society. Mostly we are informed of their caste provenance, their families, their marriage situations. Whatever customs or rituals applied in their respective Hindu communities applied to them as well. Jains developed a separate lay community, but even these lay Jains are part of Hindu society. They observe caste, often intermarrying with non-Jains belonging to the same caste but not with Jains belonging to another caste. In Buddhism, even this much separateness did not exist. Buddhism was nothing but a monastic community within Hindu society. So the Buddhist order did not observe Hindu lay society’s life ritual, just as many non-Buddhist renunciates didn’t.

(4) Which of our varnaashrama rules, duties and practices did Buddha teach his followers, and which of those do they perform today?


Caste is a part of lay society, not applicable to renunciates. Their names revealing their caste provenance are replaced by monastic names. The questioner also betrays his short-sighted assumptions by projecting the caste relations of recent Hindu society on that of the Buddha’s time. Social order was in flux at the time, with the Buddha e.g. defending caste as defined by the paternal line regardless of the mother’s caste against king Prasenadi disowning his wife and son when he finds out his wife (and therefore, he assumes, his son) isn’t a true Kshatriya. Clearly, both conceptions of caste, viz. in the paternal line vs. full endogamy, were competing at the time, with the Buddha taking the then more conservative position, while later the principle of full caste endogamy (only marriage within one’s own caste) was to prevail. Mind you, the Buddha didn’t use this excellent opportunity of a king’s question on caste matters to fulminate against caste. If he was an anti-caste revolutionary, as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar imagined, he would have seized this opportunity to condemn caste itself, but he didn’t.


Caste was in existence but considerably more relaxed than in later centuries. For this reason, the Buddha’s attitude was more relaxed too, unlike the obsession with caste among the neo-Buddhists. Moreover, he had chosen not to rock the boat in a society that tolerated and maintained his monastic order. In every country where Buddhism found a place, it accepted whatever social arrangement prevailed. In Thailand, it didn’t abolish hereditary monarchy though this is a casteist phenomenon par excellence. In China it didn’t abolish the centralized-bureaucratic empire. On the contrary, when the Buddhist White Lotus sect drove out the Mongol dynasty, its leader, who had started out as a Buddhist monk and was deemed the Maitreya Buddha, established a new imperial dynasty, the Ming, replacing the Mongol ruling class by a Chinese ruling class but leaving the exploitative system in place. In Japan, it didn’t abolish militaristic feudalism; instead, its Zen school became the favourite religion of the Samurai warrior class. So, in India too, it fully accepted the arrangement in place, recruited mainly among the upper castes (most Buddhist philosophers were born Brahmins), and concentrated on its spiritual mission. Buddhism as an anti-caste movement is just a figment of the secularist imagination.

(5) Which Hindu priests initiated Buddha into sannyaasam?

Any lineage is founded by someone who takes the jump. Later on, it is continued by followers who go through an initiation ceremony; and when succeeding their guru, they go through an investiture ceremony. But the founder just has his moment of enlightenment. Asking about the founder’s initiation is the mediocre mind’s imposing his humdrum norms onto a genius. Thus, Ramana Maharshi was unprepared when suddenly, the insight overcame him; he didn’t receive it from a teacher. Even so, when Siddhartha Gautama went to the forest, he did become a pupil of at least two meditation masters. Probably they put him through some kind of initiation, though we don’t have the details on it.


The questioner means “Vedic” whenever he says “Hindu”, and projects everything we now know as Hindu (decried by the Arya Samaj as “Puranic”) onto the Vedic age. The institutionalization of Sannyaasa (renunciation) took on a shape recognizable till today with Shankara in ca. 800 CE. In the Vedic age itself, the current formalities of Sannyaasa did not exist. When Yajnavalkya retired to the forest (the occasion on which he pronounced his famous exposition of the Self to his wife Maitreyi), he did not have to take anyone’s permission. Valmiki of Ramayana fame set up his own hermitage, as did seer Vasishtha and his wife Arundhati. So he starts imposing current Hindu norms on the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago. This just illustrates the over-all unhistorical character of the neo-Buddhist rhetoric.



(6) When and where did the initiation take place?


As a youngster, the Buddha must have gone through the thread ceremony making him a full Kshatriya. This was unlike most modern Kshatriyas, who leave it only to the Brahmins to don the thread. Then, he went through the marriage ritual, at least according to the Pali Canon. Some scholars doubt that he had a wife and son and think that later scholars have merely turned a particular nun and a particular monk into his mother and son. Be that as it may, Buddhist scripture makes no effort at all to deny that he had gone through whichever appropriate Hindu rituals were part of the life of anyone belonging to his class and age group.


Later, when he became a renunciate, we are vaguely told that first he searched alone, then he had some companions (though we don’t have all the details about their relations), then he had two successive teachers. To be a renunciate at that time, he did not have to go through specific rituals, but he may have. Then, after he reached his awakening, he became the topmost man in his universe and didn’t recognize any living human being above him and empowered to put him through further ceremonies. His pupils became monks through a ceremony (dharmam saranam gacchami, “I take refuge in the dharma”), just as every other Hindu sect has its own procedure for allowing new members in. The relation of his pupils to him was the same as that of other renunciates to their guru. The institution of guru-dom was, again, exported by Buddhism as far as Japan.

Then we consider Dr. Singh’s additional questions:


1)     Which were the rules, duties and practices he himself followed at that particular time, had followed and used to follow before in the youth and pre-Buddhahood mendicant life?

As the Pali Canon explains, he was the son of the President-for-life of the Shakya tribe, a Kshatriya by birth and upbringing. After he became a renunciate, he practiced asceticism and several meditation techniques of which names are given, though we cannot be sure which techniques are meant by these names. At any rate, they are the same names and probably refer to the same techniques which are incorporated in the Buddhist training scheme before the meditation technique that brought the Buddha his awakening.


2)     Was his marriage with Yashodhara, his first cousin, in accord with the Vedic rules: as per Shaastra injunctions?

Writing only came to India after Alexander, i.e. well after the Buddha. Though the Shaastras contain older material, they were at any rate written centuries later than the Buddha. In the age of the Vedic seers, they were totally non-existent. So, unless Dr. Singh insists that the Vedic seers were un-Hindu, it is not a defining trait of a “Hindu” to follow the Shaastras. Like most anti-Hindu polemicists (and, alas, quite a few pro ones too), he displays a most unhistorical conception of what “Hinduism” means, projecting recent notions onto ancient history.

What this question alludes to, is the difference in marriage customs between the Shakya tribe and the Brahmanical injunctions. The Brahmins practise, and their Shaastras prescribe, rules of “forbidden degrees of consanguinity”. By contrast, certain other peoples, such as the ancient Dravidians or the contemporaneous Muslims, practice cousin marriage. In this case, we find that the Shakya tribe practiced cousin marriage. The Buddha’s father and mother had been cousins, and his own reported union was also between cousins. The Shakyas were apparently aware that within the ambient society, they stood out with this custom, for they justified it with the story that they had very pure blood, being descendants of patriarch Manu Vaivasvata’s repudiated elder children, who had arrived at sage Kapila’s hermitage in the forest and built a town there, Kapilavastu (where the Buddha grew up). So, to keep Manu’s blood pure, the Shakyas had to marry someone with the same blood.

Some scholars say this is just a story made up to convince their neighbours. The true account, according to them, is that the Shakyas were originally an Iranian tribe that had moved along with the great migration eastwards, from the Saraswati plain into the Ganga plain. The prevalence of cousin marriages was one of the main differences between Iranians and Indians. That contemporaries describe the Buddha as tall and light-skinned seems to conform to the Iranian identity. Nowadays also, after twelve centuries in India, Parsis are still physically distinct. Well, be that as it may, the custom of cousin marriage was at any rate in existence among the Shakyas, whatever its provenance.

What we have here, is a typical case of Brahmanical norms being overruled by caste autonomy, another defining feature of Hindu society. For comparison, consider two rather dramatic examples. Widow self-immolation (sati) is forbidden in Brahmanical writings since the Rg-Veda, where a woman lying down on her husband’s funeral pyre is told to rise, to leave this man behind and re-join the living; yet the custom flourished among the Kshatriyas, particularly the Rajputs. Brahmins could lay down norms all they wanted, and ambitious lower castes might well imitate these Brahmin norms; but if a caste decided to defy these norms, there was little that could be done about it. For another example: abortion is scripturally condemned as one of the worst sins. Yet, some castes, such as notoriously the Jats, could kill their unwanted children before or even after birth. If today’s India has a problem with the balance between the sexes because so many girl children are being aborted, this is very much against the Shaastras (though secular feminists addressing ignorant Western audiences will still blame “Hinduism”). But caste autonomy means that the caste Panchayat (council) and not the Shaastric law is the ultimate arbiter. So, if the Shakyas insisted on maintaining their own non-Brahmanical marriage customs, Hindu society allowed them to do so.     

3)     How; on what authority and provision of the scriptures, Hindu Shaastras, had he entered the fourth aashrama and entered sanyaasam, a born prince as he was? Was it dharma for him, a born prince? Was it in accord with and as per the teachings and provisions of the scriptures and enjoined for princes, members of the Kshatriya varna? Is it and has it been so prescribed and postulated? If yes; could we know how and where? On what scriptural grounds: what pramaanas, words and provision of the scriptures?
Here again, we have a lot of projection of later Hindu scripture onto Hindu society during the Buddha’s life. First off, the notion of a “fourth aashrama” is – and here I break ranks with most Hindus and most Indologists – a confused compromise notion. The Vedic system very sensibly distinguished three stages of life: before, during and after setting up one’s own family, i.e. Brahmacharya/student, Grhastha/householder and Vanaprastha/forest-dweller. The first stage is devoted to learning, the second to founding and administering your family (until your daughters are married off and you first grandson born), the third is devoted to renunciation. This renunciation could take different forms and have differently conceived goals, but at least since Yajnavalkya, it was understood as looking for the Self, working on your liberation. This is not split into two, Sannyaasa is not more renounced than the Vanaprastha stage. It is only when ascetic sects introduced renunciation not as a sequel but as an alternative to family life, that Brahmins fulfilled their typical function of integrating new things by extending the aashrama scheme to include Sannyaasa. So, what Buddha entered was not a “fourth stage” (he was still in the second stage and had never even entered the third stage), but an alternative to the second stage (family life), viz. renunciation as a full-time identity and lifelong profession. Just as Shankara was to do, and as Hindu monks mostly still do. Being pluralistic, Hindu society recognizes different forms of renunciation, both after family life and instead of family life..

As a Kshatriya, it was not considered the Buddha’s dharma to renounce the world. His father hoped his son would succeed him to the throne and made every effort to keep him from renouncing the world (including his caste vocation). Similarly, Shankara’s mother tried to dissuade and prevent her son from becoming an early renunciate, as he was her only hope of her having grandchildren. Hindu society recognizes the option of monkhood as an alternative to family life, but this doesn’t mean that individual Hindu lives and schemes cannot be adversely affected by this option. Both Siddhartha and Shankara disappointed their families and renounced their caste dharma to become monks.  



Neither of the questioners has been able to pinpoint a moment in the Buddha’s life or preaching when he made a break with Hinduism. He inherited most of his ideas from the ambient Hindu tradition, and stands out mostly by the institution he founded, the Buddhist monastic order. His meditation technique may be his own, though with a canon written two centuries after his death and by scribes who were less than impartisan, we don’t really know what happened. His intellectual system mostly systematized ideas which were in the air and had already found mention in the Upanishads. Among his monks, Brahmin philosophers gradually refined and perfected his philosophy, ascribing most of their new ideas to the master himself. 

When Dr. B.R. Ambedkar “converted” to Buddhism in 1956, he made his co-“converting” followers promise that they would renounce Hinduism and specific Hindu practices. It was the first time in the history of Buddhism that this happened. The Buddha had never renounced, or made his novices renounce, any religion they formerly practiced – in fact, the notion of “a religion” (as opposed to “religion”, a very approximate translation of “dharma”) hardly even existed. Ambedkar’s involved the typically Christian notion of conversion as “burning what you have worshipped, worshipping what you have burned”. The box-type notion of religious belonging, with rejecting one identity in order to be able to accept another, is fundamentally un-Hindu. In other countries too, entering Buddhism did not entail any formal renunciation of Daoism, Shinto or any other tradition. So, when Ambedkar and his hundreds of thousands of followers (mostly caste-fellows from his own ex-Untouchable Mahar caste) “converted” to Buddhism, most Hindus saw this as just an entry into a particular Hindu sect. As V.D. Savarkar commented, Ambedkar “conversion” was a sure jump into the Hindu fold.

Buddhism was classed as a separate religion from Hinduism because travelers and then scholars had first become aware of it outside India. When separated from its Hindu roots, it did take on a life of its own. Yet in India, it was not more than one of the many Hindu sects, although numerically the most successful one.

Finally, the Buddhist separatist polemic is fundamentally unhistorical in projecting contemporary Hindu traits onto ancient Hindu society. Unfortunately, this also counts for much Hindu activist polemic. Shaastric norms are absolutized, when in fact they were changing throughout history. And most importantly, devotional theistic forms of Hinduism, now long predominant, are projected onto ancient Hinduism which had several distinct conceptions of the divine, including atheism. It is common for Hindus to lambast non-Hindus as “atheists”, as if there were no atheist Hindus. The category “atheists” would naturally include Buddhists, who can therefrom deduce a separate non-Hindu identity. This way, narrow-minded Hindus themselves reinforce the unhistorical neo-Buddhist separatism.


Apuleius Platonicus said...

It is impossible to understand the Buddha's teachings without appreciating the fact that he was part of an already ancient spiritual tradition. If, instead, we see him as someone who renounced existing traditions in order to found a "new" religion, then we are no longer talking about the Buddhadharma, rather we are talking about a projection of the Christian mind.

Gururaj B N said...

Excellent rebuttal to the confused and mixed up questions posed by the challengers. The questions smack of intolerance, while the answers display patience and learning. Dr. Koenraad Elst has been the best intellectual kshatriya for Hindu case during the last two decades. Swami Vivekananda has also frequently asserted the Buddha taught the Dharma preached in the Upanishads.

Gururaj B N said...

Modern scholars, particularly the lefitst liberal scholars and neo-buddhists try to make a social reformer out of the Buddha. In reality, he as a traditionalist. Reading of some of the suttas of Suttanipata shows that this is a wrong perception. A reading of Ambshta Sutta shows his defence of caste system and superiority of Kshatriyas over Brahmins.

Karigar said...

Pretty forthright & well quoted as usual. Thanks!

American said...

Great responses by KE.

Thank you for giving me an aahaa! moment. For a while now, I have been wondering 'why Brahmins, why did ancient Hindu society create and sustain a class of priestly people called Brahmins?'

The answer may very well be, at least in part, that low cost technology and widely available tools for rapid writing had not yet come to India, or at least proliferated to a point when knowledge could be discovered, retained and transferred from one generation to next.

In absence of such a technology, a spiritual society would need people with ability to learn, memorize, comprehend, orally transmit, store and inter-generationally transfer knowledge. The work of books, libraries and data storage hard drives had to be done by the human mind. That is an intense effort, perhaps full time, life long - for the teacher, for the next generation. These people naturally then would evolve into a distinct social group with a necessary social function - so called, the brahmins.

Even when lower cost, more accessible writing technology arrived and scribes multiplied, the debate, disagreements, consensus and new knowledge would continue to proliferate - continuing a need for those whose job was to wrestle with moral questions, with questions about ethics, about values, about spirituality. And while they do so, society must also produce food, clothing, and productively create and distribute other basic necessities of life.

Society may have evolved into a structure of caste/class, out of necessity, to compensate for ambient technology, missing tools, and evolving constraints.

That explains why neither the ancient scripts, nor eyewitness accounts of Greek visitors with Alexander to Persian Al Biruni in 11th century AD painted India as a country of social inequality like the way British colonial census did or orientalist/revisionist do. That also explains why Hindus in Bali, Indonesia never had the ills alleged in Hinduism by modern revisionists.

One of the easiest mistake we can make is to examine the development of an open, free and introspective society such as Hindus over its history, from contemporary assumptions, structure, technology, tools and perspective. Same is true for Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism or any other -isms.

American said...

KE, Additional independent evidence that support your response can be found in Java and Bali Indonesia. Buddhism, in many older temples near Yogyakarta, Java for example is represented as a sect of Hinduism, Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu, and quite a few Buddhist-Hindu temples are fused. For example, on of the oldest temples near Borobudur has Buddha inside, Hindu god such as Siva with his trisul (sp?) and rest carved outside.

The 9th century Borobudur is the largest ancient Buddhist temple, of course - and it is distinctly Mahayana, with primarily Indian faces, form and design. But other temples, including some temples in the Candi Prambanan complex treat Buddhism as a sect of Hinduism.

This is important because Indonesian temples are an export of Indian spirituality, and one should expect that this export to a distant land would try to represent, to one's best abilities, the core beliefs back then about Hinduism and Buddhism; as well discard any inadvertent influences that may persist in North India from inertia and ambient evolution in beliefs.

Your questioning of the questions is on the mark; for example, the 'changing definition' or using modern day attempts to cage and misrepresent Hinduism by re-re-defining Hinduism to suit one's best interest. A neutral, objective understanding of Hinduism would start from verifiable facts and comprehensive study of ancient scripts on Hinduism, from India, from Cambodia, from Indonesia, and so on; and it would not start from a biased presumed theory followed by demand to fit data to their theories and prejudiced assumptions.

Anonymous said...

Great post sir. The questions were quite silly in a way, but they are very prevalent and reflective of the common Hindu mind. You have taken them seriously and gave precise and enlightening answers. Thank you.

Yash said...

wonderful post sir as always, anti hindu polemicists like the ones above & others take a presumed notion and then search for arguments in their defence.Therfore while sometimes they cry about shartas not being old enough and all and now using shastraas to defend their argument.U addresed them politely while calmly refuting their claims.Looking forward to more good posts

Karthikrajan said...

Stellar analysis ! , You have excelled in the art of hitting the nail plum on its head.
your previous posts were quite useful to people like me who were wondering what the various hindu scriptures were all about.
But did the south indian kings invite vedhic tradition as a matter of prestige ? To impress whom ? It appears that these kings , not brainier like the braahamans , were over awed by the sophistication found in their vedhic chants and theory and believed that this tradition could genuinely invoke the grace of the gods to ward-off all evils.
Your top-to-bottom percolation theory regarding language in previous post quite explains sanskrit words in tamil. In their awe, tamils readily accepted sanskrit words to put themselves or par with braahmans, but quietly rejected the difficult aspirated syllables of sanskrit. Is this some kind of skepticism or sheer laziness ?
Regarding Ambedkar, hindus must have heaved a collective sigh of relief when he switched over to budhdhism. It would have been disastrous for hindus if he had opted for islam or churchianity.
I wish you would write soon on the 'idolatry' nonsense being hurled at hinduism by the evangelical clowns. Somehow i fail to understand what this charge is all about.

Hari said...


Thanks for an excellent post.

"Widow self-immolation (sati) is forbidden in Brahmanical writings since the Rg-Veda,... "

Sir, are you suggesting that Rg-Veda is a Brahmanical writing?

This question is no way related to this post, but I want to get it clarified. Please advise.


gurpreet singh said...

If Mr Iyer alludes to 'non-hindu' nature of Buddha and sakyas by citing their inbreeding , he must answer how his very vedic south Indian brahmin tribe ended up retaining cousin marriages. Let us remember that this is the very south India where even a cat knows 'yajurveda' , thanks to taittiriya shakha . Brahmanical(both vedic and puranic) religion allowed foreign tribes to retain their norms even after they came under the fold.

Koenraad Elst said...


Let's call the Rg-Veda "proto-Brahminical". The Brahmins as a caste are not mentioned yet, but virtually all the text-composing in India was done by Brahmins, and Brahmins today trace their lineage to the Rg-Vedic rishis: Bhargava < Bhrgu etc.

Unknown said...

Yes you are correct, Ancient Egyptian Religion= Hinduism= Buddhism, and these all equal to Neanderthals cult and primitive Ape cult and etc... useless arguments, which is try to hide the uniqueness and speciality and rationality of each of those with others. Simply fooling the masses, The one and only rational preaching is buddhas teaching, you people try to paint it with drainage waste!

xxx said...

@Balan kesavan. Yes you are correct. I concur .The one and only rational preaching is buddha's teaching .

So rational that buddha offered a discount of 'nirvana in seven days ' to whomsoever joined his cult. So rational that he labelled all his critics 'stupid and foolish'

@hari--- brahmins were known by other names such as 'vipra, usij , hotra , atharvan etc..,. in the rgveda

Shravan Tanjore said...

Sir you a=have written some very good essays on the questions of 'Are Buddhists and Sikhs Hindus'? What do you have to say about Jains?

Unknown said...


ye.... it is a miraculous, your finding to blame Buddhism! Waste of many century! india with 90% ( Hon. Katju)

American said...

@Balan Kesavan - Neither KE in his post, nor scholars of Buddhism or Hinduism conclude, or argue, A = B = C = X = Y = Z.

The question, 'was Buddha a Hindu? are Buddhists Hindus?' does not necessarily mean Hinduism = Buddhism. If you like math symbols, then look into concepts of subset, superset and Jaccard index. What is the Jaccard index between Buddhism and Hinduism? Is it higher than the Jaccard index between Buddhism and any other major religion of our world?

We all know what China did in Tibet, how Buddhist leaders fled, and where they landed. We also know what Islam and Taliban did to Buddhism from Persia to Afghanistan. These facts are easy to verify.

Out of compassion, out of metta to understand history, humanity and our own selves, our goal, our ambition and our efforts must be directed to objectively seek data and meditate on what Hinduism is? what Buddhism is? where are the overlaps, where are the differences, why, how, when? and what evidence is out there to enlighten us in this effort?

From the little I know, Buddhism has its roots in Hinduism, refines ideas of Hinduism, just like Jainism refines ideas of ahimsa from Hinduism to another level.

No serious Buddhist scholar can claim he knows everything about Buddhism there is, 100%? But then, no serious Buddhist scholar can claim or should pretend he knows everything about Hinduism there is, 100%? Even Hinduism scholars are, at their best, on a journey of understanding what Hinduism was, has been and is? Do we really know? And how do we know?

Stereotypes and bashing Hinduism or any-ism is not the path to metta, compassion or enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether the Buddha rejected tradition or not, the religion he 'founded' has now assumed a life of its own distinct from Hinduism. Buddhism is not Hinduism. Burma expelled one million Hindus in the early 1960s. Bhutan expelled one hundred thousand Nepalese Hindus in the 1990s. Sri Lanka has had a problem with its Tamil Hindu minority, one fueled by the intransigence of its Buddhist monks. Nepalese Buddhist had traditionally supported Maoist efforts to roll back state sponsorship of Hinduism. The neo-Buddhists in India are vehemently anti Hindu. So Buddhism has assumed a life of its own and often takes on a very anti Hindu stand in the political sphere while continuing to worship and venerate Hindu gods in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand etc.

Unknown said...

"Swami Vivekananda has also frequently asserted the Buddha taught the Dharma preached in the Upanishads."

Uhh...gotta say you're wrong on that one. Vivekananda and Elst aren't really well-schooled in Buddhism. Buddha the central idea in the Upanishads and said they don't go far enough. They confuse the "arupa jhanas" with "enlightenment:"

"Now, of these ten totalities, this is supreme: when one perceives the consciousness-totality above, below, all-around: non-dual, unlimited. And there are beings who are percipient in this way. Yet even in the beings who are percipient in this way there is still aberration, there is change. Seeing this, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with that. Being disenchanted with that, he becomes dispassionate toward what is supreme, and even more so toward what is inferior."

"Although at present we rarely think in the same terms as the Samkhya philosophers, there has long been — and still is — a common tendency to create a "Buddhist" metaphysics in which the experience of emptiness, the Unconditioned, the Dharma-body, Buddha-nature, rigpa, etc., is said to function as the ground of being from which the "All" — the entirety of our sensory & mental experience — is said to spring and to which we return when we meditate. Some people think that these theories are the inventions of scholars without any direct meditative experience, but actually they have most often originated among meditators, who label (or in the words of the discourse, "perceive") a particular meditative experience as the ultimate goal, identify with it in a subtle way (as when we are told that "we are the knowing"), and then view that level of experience as the ground of being out of which all other experience comes.

Any teaching that follows these lines would be subject to the same criticism that the Buddha directed against the monks who first heard this discourse."

This gets into highly complex and advanced forms of Buddhist theory (i.e. craving for non-becoming), but variations on the "neti-neti" doctrine don't lead to "enlightenment" by themselves either:

"[8] "The supreme view-point external [to the Dhamma] is this: 'I should not be; it should not occur to me; I will not be; it will not occur to me.' Of one with this view it may be expected that '[the perception of] unloathsomeness of becoming will not occur to him, and [the perception of] loathsomeness of the cessation of becoming will not occur to him.' And there are beings who have this view. Yet even in the beings who have this view there is still aberration, there is change. Seeing this, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with that. Being disenchanted with that, he becomes dispassionate toward what is supreme, and even more so toward what is inferior."

Unknown said...

And also:

""Then again, the disciple of the noble ones considers this: 'Sensuality here & now; sensuality in lives to come; sensual perceptions here & now; sensual perceptions in lives to come; forms here & now; forms in lives to come; form-perceptions here & now; form-perceptions in lives to come; perceptions of the imperturbable; perceptions of the dimension of nothingness: all are perceptions. Where they cease without remainder: that is peaceful, that is exquisite, i.e., the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.' Practicing & frequently abiding in this way, his mind acquires confidence in that dimension. There being full confidence, he either attains the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception now or else is committed to discernment. With the break-up of the body, after death, it's possible that this leading-on consciousness of his will go to the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is declared to be the practice conducive to the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.

When this was said, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One: "There is the case, lord, where a monk, having practiced in this way — 'It should not be, it should not occur to me;[2] it will not be, it will not occur to me.[3] What is, what has come to be, that I abandon' — obtains equanimity. Now, would this monk be totally unbound, or not?"

"A certain such monk might, Ananda, and another might not.'

"What is the cause, what is the reason, whereby one might and another might not?"

"There is the case, Ananda, where a monk, having practiced in this way — (thinking) 'It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon' — obtains equanimity. He relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it. As he relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it, his consciousness is dependent on it, is sustained by it (clings to it). With clinging/sustenance, Ananda, a monk is not totally unbound."

"Being sustained, where is that monk sustained?"

"The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.""

H R said...

The only reason for prevalence of SATI among rajput kshatriyas was the "Rape, Loot, Pillage" policy of Muslim invaders in 10th century. By the time of British colonisation it had taken a life of its own as a societal vice!!!

qa said...

Excellent write up but have one question - While all of earlier masters were absorbed in to Upanishads and "Hindu" society, why did Buddha become very prominent that lead to sect and later gain religious status?

koravisir said...

Sir When did Buddha say that Rama and he were the same person? Any proofs?

Dinesh said...

nice post! you have provide excellent information, can you please provide lingashtakam lyrics in english which will be chanted in favour of lord shiva.

Vedant Madane said...

(1) The master finished this discourse and the birth was identified:

... At that time the king of Suddhana was king of Dasaratha, Mahamma was the mother, the mother of Rahula, Ananda was Bharata, and I myself was Rama-Pasha "(pundit-scientist)

-Dasharat Jataka, number 461

(2) The Lankawatar Sutra

(3) The ascent of Buddha to Awakening was predetermined by the physical signs with which he was born, according to his disciples. Buddhist scripture makes the most of the noble birth of the Buddha in the Solar Line, as a relative of Rama. The Buddha himself claimed that he was the reincarnation of Rama, in the Buddhist retelling of the Ramayana in jataka. He also became like the mighty Vishnu. Later Hindus consider Rama and Buddha as the incarnations of Vishnu, but the Buddha began all this by affirming Reincarnation of Rama.

(4) Thai and Indonesian Buddhists adopted Rama's culture, which the Buddha did not really worship, but whom he revered as the great offspring of the Aikshwaku line to which he belonged, and whom he claimed to be reincarnation.