The Urban Dharma Newsletter - October 3, 2006
In This Issue: Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge
1. Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge
2. My interview with Dr. Ananda Guruge - in MP3 - Free Download
3. THE BUDDHA'S CONTRIBUTION TO HUMANITY AND WORLD PEACE - KEYNOTE ADDRESS - By Ananda W. P. Guruge
4. THE PLACE OF BUDDHISM IN INDIAN THOUGHT - by Ananda W. P. Guruge
In this special issue of the Urban Dharma Newsletter... The focus is on a podcast, Keynote Address and article by Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge. I’m happy to call him a friend, teacher and mentor. May his work continue to inspire and educate all those who come in contact with it for many years to come.
Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge is Dean of Academic Affairs, Director of the International Academy of Buddhism and Editor of Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism of the University of the West (formerly Hsi Lai University), Los Angeles County, California. He is also an adjunct professor of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Peace Studies of California State University, Fullerton; the Vice-President and Liaison Officer to the United Nations and UNESCO of the World Fellowship of Buddhists; the Chairman of the World Buddhist University Council; and the Patron of the European Buddhist Union; former Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, France and USA (with non-resident accreditation to Spain, Algeria and Mexico) (1985–1994); and former Senior Special Adviser to the Director General of UNESCO (1995-2000). He is author of fifty books in English and Sinhala and 175 research papers. The most recent among them are: What in Brief is Buddhism? Montrey Park, California, USA 1999, and Hacienda heights Ca, Buddha Light Publishing, 2004; Free at Last in Paradise (A Historical Novel on Sri Lanka), Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA 1998 buybooksontheweb and paperbck edition, Bloomington, Indiana, USA 2000 Authorhouse, The Unforgettable Dharmapala, Bloomington, Indiana, USA 2002 Authorhouse and Humanistic Buddhism for Social Well-being, Buddha Light Publishing, Hacienda Heights, CA, USA 2003, another historical novel on Sri Lanka: Serendipity of Andrew George, Summer 2003 Authorhouse and Buddhist Answers to Current Issues, 2004, Authorhouse. In press is the next book Buddhist Economics: Myth and Reality. E-mail: email@example.com
Making a Difference - Part 2 - 9/2006 - 1hr 11min - MP3 - 16.3 MB – Free download @ www.DharmaTalks.info
My interview with Dr. Ananda Guruge, Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the International Academy of Buddhism at the University of the West in Rosemead, CA. Dr. Guruge was kind and gracious in allowing me to interview him and consented to do another interview in the near future. His web site is: www.Ananda-Guruge.com
2550 Buddha Anniversary Celebrations,UNESCO, Paris, France, October 8. 2006
THE BUDDHA’S CONTRIBUTION TO HUMANITY AND WORLD PEACE
By Ananda W. P. Guruge
It is with immense pleasure that I accepted the invitation to this august event. Let me as Vice-President and Representative of the World Fellowship of Buddhists to the UN and UNESCO and the Chairman of the World Buddhist University Council, express my deepest gratitude to the Government of Thailand and its Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, the Director General and the Secretariat of UNESCO, the Pure Land Learning College of Australia and its President Venerable Shi Chin Kung and my compatriot and colleague Dr. Tampalawela Dhammaratana for the joint celebration of the Buddhist Era 2550 with a happy combination of spiritual, intellectual and cultural activities.
I cannot think of any better way of commemorating the Buddha on this occasion than recounting the magnificent contribution he has made to the humanity as a whole.
The inspiring life of Prince Siddhartha Gautama begins with his birth under a tree in the forest-grove of Lumbini, halfway between the two royal capitals of his grandparents. Queen Maya was on her way to have her first child with her parents at Devadaha. Returning to Kapilavastu where his father King Suddhodana ruled over the Shakyas, the Prince was brought up in the lap of luxury – especially designed to keep him away from the predicted destiny of a spiritual leader.
He is already twenty-nine years old and married for thirteen years and about to have the first baby when restrictions on his movements in the kingdom were relaxed and he encountered the realities of life in the form of old age, sickness and death. Shocked by the ineluctable suffering of humanity, he leaves his royal palaces, throws away the regalia and dons the rags of a mendicant to proceed on a quest of on way to end human suffering. He learns whatever the prevailing spiritual traditions could teach him and masters available techniques of meditation and mental development. But still unable to see a way to end suffering, he embarks on his own experimental path resorting to the most stringent penances, which yield no results.
Finally, evolving his unique approach to a middle path, he avoids both extremes of self-indulgence with unlimited luxury and self-mortification, characterized by torturous penances. Two thousand five hundred and ninety-five years ago, on the full moon day of the month of May, he attains enlightenment under the Bodhi tree of Gaya and announces himself the Buddha – the fully Awakened or Enlightened One – a teacher of a Path to End Suffering.
Claimed by Nepal as her brightest and noblest son and by India as its most illustrious and best known spiritual leader, hailed by a Western poet as the Light of Asia, and venerated and followed by the Buddhist world as an incomparable teacher of loving kindness and peace, the Buddha has left a legacy for the humanity as a whole. Over forty-five years, he traveled from village to village and town to town teaching the people the reality of existence, the nature of human suffering and a way to end suffering in a state of utmost bliss and happiness, peace and tranquility, which he termed Nibbāna - a state of deathlessness.
What the Buddha gave humanity as his primary and most important gift in this Path of Spiritual Perfection. It was not a message he brought from a divine origin or a supernatural power. He did not present himself as a saviour whose grace was needed for humans to attain eternal happiness. As a human, himself, he placed before his fellow humans what each man or woman could achieve by dint of individual effort in self-cultivation.
His Path began with moral or ethical purity which one achieved by avoiding evil and accumulating merit through compassionate service to humanity. One gained his or her spiritual development by simple acts of charity by generously sharing one’s time, energy and goods for the benefit of the many and the good of the many. Founded on self-discipline, thus attained, one proceeded to the cultivation of one’s mind.
It was the Buddha’s fundamental teaching that the mind was the forerunner of every action. One thought and acted accordingly. Thought preceded action. As such a well-controlled and developed mind was one’s best friend whereas as a mind left untamed was one’s worst enemy. The Buddha’s teachings have often been given the sub-title of Mental Culture or Self Cultivation. Meditation for this purpose is the second stage of his process of training. One could start with the simple exercise of mindful or conscious breathing and proceed in stages to develop total mindfulness when one acted with perfect awareness of every moment. With a mind so becalmed, one could progress to systematically graded states of mental training until one reached the highest level of Concentration.
It was with such a fine-tuned mind that one was persuaded to contemplate on the realities of existence. Impermanence and change, which characterized everyone and everything, could be easily observed and realized. With it would come the awareness of inherent suffering and misery which impermanence and change caused. The incapacity of the human to avoid either impermanence and change or the resulting suffering would convince one that there was nothing permanent and substantial that one could really identify as “This is I; this is mine; and this is my self.” Thus was formulated the Buddha’s unique concept of the three signs or marks of existence culminating in the doctrine of Selflessness.
The perfect realization of this truism would lead one to the recognition of the futility of a self-view, as characterized by self-importance and arrogance. Once this conviction is further reinforced by the removal of all doubt and skepticism and also the reliance on mere rites and ritual, one was steadfastly set to progress in a process of ethical perfection. The Buddha called such a person as having entered the stream, which would ultimately lead him to enlightenment.
The Buddha described this Path of Deliverance as leading one in eight stages of such perfection when with the final eradication of the defilement of Ignorance, one became a Worthy One (Arahant) – an Enlightened One or a Saint who in this very life has attained Nibbāna. Every sentient being is eligible to attain this final goal and all that one had to do is to seek it for oneself. Every sentient being has within oneself the Buddha Nature, the Buddhists believe and accept as the crux of the Buddha’s teachings.
If the Buddha had simply presented this Path of Deliverance to the few who could meet him and come under his direct influence, his legacy would have been as limited and even obscure as that of Upanishadic philosophers of the past or his own contemporaries. But the Buddha did every thing different. He claimed to be only the rediscoverer of Nibbāna and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to it. With remarkable modesty, he compared his role to one who found an ancient lost or forgotten city with the road leading to it covered and obliterated by a jungle overgrowth. He assumed for himself the function of a benevolent servant of humanity who had to share his discovery with not only his immediate neighbors and contemporaries but also the generations yet unborn in a planet, which still remained to be fully explored.
There is no doubt that the greatness of the Buddha as a spiritual leader teaching a Path of Deliverance, Redemption, Liberation, Emancipation, Salvation or Release from human suffering is beyond question. But all of humanity has not been ready, willing, eligible or spiritually prepared to seek the end of suffering. Many – in fact, the majority - remained outside the pale of the life of renunciation and steadfast adherence to strict discipline that was conducive to the progressive attainment of Nibbāna. The Buddha was as much concerned about them as about those who trod his Path leading to End of Suffering.
His teachings for the ordinary men, women and children of all classes and socio-economic circumstances are many and have remained as applicable to humanity of his days as of the world today, tomorrow and the millennia to come. What he taught was meant to ensure the good and the benefit of the many here in this life and hereafter. The Buddha reiterated the prevailing belief system of his times as regards a cycle of birth, death and rebirth wherein each individual experienced happiness or suffering or rather a combination of both according to good or bad action one committed intentionally. His own refinement of this view was that it was intentionality, which determined the moral implications of one’s action, and the human as the master of his or her destiny could continually modify the results of such action. To the Buddha, Karma was not a fatalistic concept demanding helpless surrender but a moral law which left one the freedom and capacity for self-improvement and self-perfection.
The Buddha in both precept and practice has underscored his unwavering recognition of the humanity’s intellectual capacity and critical acumen. He valiantly called upon us not to believe what was in the book, what came through rumour or hearsay, what was passed down as a family tradition or even what a teacher taught simply because the teacher was likeable. His appeal was for us to think for ourselves and do only what we could critically determine as was conducive to the good of the many and the benefit of the many. When his closest and perhaps the most brilliant disciple, Sariputta, one praised him saying “You are the best of the Buddhas, his reaction was only to rebuke him. He asked Sariputta, “How could you say no without knowing all the former and the future Buddhas?”
Not only did he seek to liberate humanity from its reliance on dogma, blind faith, superstition and rigid conformity to tradition, but he also boldly stood against all forms of discrimination, exploitation and oppression of his days. He declared the validity of treating a person on the basis of his moral standing and not merely on his birth as the Brahmanical caste system decreed.
Recruiting disciples from all castes, he compared their integration within his community to rivers, which flowed into the ocean and thereby lost their individual names. The only way an order of precedence among its members was determined was the seniority of entry. Thus many a disadvantaged person of depressed castes and classes achieved positions of significant recognition and veneration for their erudition, piety and leadership.
Just as the Buddha agitated for the oneness of humanity, so did he attest to a common and shared role for diverse religious systems to lead humanity to ethical responsibility and thereby to happiness here and hereafter. He accepted disciples from other religious paths only on condition that these disciples continued their support to their earlier teachers and institutions and followed what they had taught them as good and evil. Discussing the obligations of a religious teacher to him disciples, the Buddha specified that such a teacher’s responsibility was to lead disciples to heaven through moral perfection.
Similarly, in identifying seven ways for a country or community to progress without disruption or degeneration, he asserted that the country or community should open its doors to all saintly persons and facilitate them to live peacefully serving the people. While holding his own Path of Deliverance as one of proven efficacy, the Buddha argued against teachers of fatalism, irreligion, and blind surrender to divine will and dissuaded people from performing sacrificial ritual involving the killing of animals. His fundamental premise was that these teachings and practices did not contribute to a person’s moral and spiritual development based on conviction and devotion.
The Buddha was deeply conscious of the importance of wholesome interpersonal relations and worked out a matrix of rights and obligations between parents and children, teacher and student, husband and wife, friend and friend, employer and employee, and religious teacher and disciple. He reminded parents to educate their children, ensure their timely establishment in marriage and passing on the family inheritance while the children still needed support. The children were likewise asked to nourish and maintain parents in old age.
Emphasizing the significance of mutual respect and conjugal fidelity among spouses, the Buddha advised husbands to devolve authority in family affairs to wives and even to buy them jewelry from time to time. The wives, on the other hand, were told to treat relatives of both sides alike and to utilize family income thriftily. While counseling students to be attentive to teachers and to learn diligently, the teachers were made to recognize that spreading the good name of the student was one of the responsibilities. The Buddha was equally concerned with employer-employee relations and spoke on equitable workload, health care, leave and what may be termed bonuses. It is in his comments on religious teachers and disciples that the Buddha expressed his unique understanding of interfaith amity and cooperation.
A spiritual leader, practicing and preaching renunciation and poverty, the Buddha encouraged the laity to engage in economic activity to gain wealth. He showed how wealth gave a person the fourfold happiness of possession, consumption, sharing and avoiding wrongful ways of living. Extending his remarkable approach to moderation as reflected by the Middle Path, he cautioned against excessive greed and resulting corruption. With significant knowledge of financial management, he noted that one should consume only a fourth of his earnings but invest half into his business and keep the balance fourth in savings for a rainy day. He stressed on how one should safeguard his wealth by adopting a balanced life style in which income exceeded expenditure. Similarly, he counseled the young to avoid addictions and wasteful and dangerous activity, which would render them indigent.
When one goes over his forty-five years of teachings, which fortunately his disciples have diligently preserved in Buddhist scriptures, one is absolutely impressed by the sheer variety of his concerns and sagacious answers to issues that affected every aspect of human life. One such was education. A teacher of exceptional ability and talent, the Buddha was a remarkable innovator of instructional techniques, which continue to exert an influence on public education in Buddhist circles. What made Buddhism last and spread across world and remain a perennial influence on humanity is a series of incredibly effective steps that the Buddha and his immediate disciples took right from the time he delivered his first discourse at Sarnath.
With his very first audience of five ascetics, the Buddha set up the Sangha – the Buddhist monastic order, which grew to sixty within months. These sixty monks, he sent out as missionaries to announce the Path of Immortality he had discovered saying, “Wander, O monks, on mission for the good of the many and the benefit of the many. No two shall go on the same road.” He himself followed suit and the Sangha grew in leaps and bounds.
Yhe Buddhist Sangha was conceived as an evolving organization and rules were made from time to time as circumstances demanded. It was a learning and teaching society with the emphasis that its main purpose was to facilitate self-cultivation leading to the end of suffering. While this aim remained the foremost, the Sangha did realize that its members could serve different roles.
Whereas those seeking salvation and proceeding to the realization of Nibbāna developed meditational practices, others took to the more mundane activities of studying and preserving the Buddha’s teachings, instructing and guiding monastic as well as lay students, and managing the monastic institutions, which grew in number and size as the support for the Buddha’s mission came from kings and the rich. Specialization as meditators and educators was possible within the Sangha and educators again specialized in doctrinal aspects or monastic discipline.
Progressively the Sangha had become a most efficacious human organization, which had perfected a self-renewing, self-regulating and self-perpetuating systems approach to development, preserving a remarkable uniformity despite its spread over the whole of Asia.
The most durable contribution of the Sangha has been the compilation, codification and systemization of the Buddha’s teachings into the vast scriptural literature. Apparently with the Buddha’s own initiative or approval, his discourses were rehearsed and committed to memory right from the beginning of his mission. It is possible that with memorization in mind, he himself had rendered his thoughts into verse with poetic qualities enhanced by alliteration, similes and metaphors. These poetic compositions as well as dialogues, debates and discourses of the Buddha were grouped and arranged according to subject, venue, audience and number of items dealt with into sections, divisions, and volumes. The names given to these volumes as Long Discourses, Middle Discourses, Numerical and Kindred Discourses, and Minor Texts are indicative of the textual methodology adopted during the life-time of the Buddha.
Sariputta, who had played a leadership role in the codification of the Buddha’s teachings, had, in fact, developed an exhaustive index of headwords to retrieve systematically each of the substantial body of doctrines. In addition, exegetical and interpretational studies had commenced simultaneously and a tradition of scholastic analysis was in position.
Thus had been preserved a vast literature in three major divisions, giving the Buddhist scriptures the name Tripitaka or Three Baskets. The three divisions are Vinaya or Discipline (dealing with monastic rules, regulations and procedures), Sutta or Discourses – the sayings of the Buddha and journalistic records of his debates and dialogues, and Abhidhamma or Metaphysics, comprising scholastic interpretations and synthesis of philosophical concepts. This vast body of scriptures, once diffused in many Indian languages, has been preserved in Sri Lanka in Pali, the language in which the Buddha preached, and in China in Chinese as Āgama Sūtras.
This literary heritage of the Buddha to humanity had set in motion a vigorous, intellectual movement. It has resulted in a voluminous commentarial literature, developed primarily in Sri Lanka and further carried on in Myanmar and Thailand. With the development of Mahayana tradition in India, a rich and varied literature evolved in Sanskrit in the form of Mahayana Sutras. With the emergence of such poets, scholars and philosophers as Asvaghosa, Vasubandhu, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga and his bother Vasubandhu, Dinnāga, Matrceta, Dharmakirti and Santideva, Sanskrit Buddhist literature flourished to inspire an equally rich Buddhist literary heritage in Central and Eastern Asia.
The Chinese Tripitaka, representing the efforts of many eminent literati as prominent and prestigious as Kumarajiva, Paramartha, Fa-Xian and Xuan-Zhang, and the voluminous Kanjur and Tanjur in Tibetan are an integral part of the cultural patrimony of humanity. The Buddhist impetus to literary production persists unabated for thousands of creative and scholarly works have appeared and continue to appear in many languages of the world.
Far more conspicuous than this intellectual and literary heritage is the Buddha’s contribution to art and architecture. With his princely background, he was no doubt inclined to promote aesthetic creativity.
Inspired by the beauty of a well-laid out rice-field, he orders his monks to cut the rags for their robes into squares, rectangles and strips to form a neat and presentable design. He allows monks the freedom to paint pictures on their cell walls and makes restrictions only when excesses were detected. Not only did he accept luxurious monasteries, which kings and rich merchants offered him, but he also encouraged the donation of beautiful monasteries – aptly described in Pali as “Vihāre ramme”.
As Buddhism consolidated itself as a recognized religion, its institutions were built in stone to last longer and generous donors found a way to immortalize themselves. It was thus that the Buddhist monuments have turned out to be the oldest religious buildings to be constructed in India. The Buddhist shrines all over Asia are noted for their artistic treasures in sculpture, painting and statuary.
The simple burial mound over a grave gave rise to the unique Buddhist shrine the Caitya or Stūpa. In India, itself, the Stūpas at Bharhut, Sanchi, Amaravati and Nagarjunikonda were surrounded by railings and archways, displaying exquisite sculptures of incredible beauty and novelty. Almost simultaneously the Stūpas in Sri Lanka distinguished themselves for their humongous size and three of the largest Stūpas of Anuradhapura have remained the biggest brick-buildings ever to be constructed in the world. Of them Jetavanarama of the third century CE was second in height to only the Great Pyramid of Gizeh in Egypt. Nepal adopted a similar design but painted eyes on the cubical structure on top of the dome.
Stūpa evolved in shape until some of the most innovative and attractive structures are to be associated with those at Buddha Gaya in India, Shwe Dagon in Myanmar, Paharpur in Bangladesh, Borobudur in Indonesia and Nakorn Pathom in Thailand. Further variations are to be found in those at Chiengmai and Ayuthia in Thailand, in Chortens of Tibet and the many-tiered tower-like pagodas of China, Korea and Japan.
The use of visual aids to illustrate a doctrinal point dates back to the days of the Buddha. He is said to have not only appreciated such instructional technology but had a pictorial representation of the wheel of existence drawn on the outer wall of a monastery. Thus have Buddhists used sculpture and painting most creatively and effectively for both ornamentation and public education.
Even when a reluctance or prohibition to represent the Buddha in human form existed during the first five hundred years, the Buddhist artist was able to narrate the life of the Buddha, stories about his past lives and also the history of Buddhism, using significant symbols to represent him. Footprints, a royal parasol, an empty seat, the wheel of Dhamma, a bodhi-tree, a Stūpa, a column of fire and the like stood in beautifully executed panels or medallions in sculptures of Bharhut, Sanchi and Amaravati. In Sri Lanka, an ingenious design incorporating the footprints, the parasol, the wheel of Dhamma and lotus buds was utilized to represent the Triple Gem, namely the Buddha, his Teachings and the Sangha.
The emergence of the Buddha statue as a result of the Kushan Empire’s cultural relations with the Greco-Roman world around the beginning of the Christian Era added a new dimension to Buddhist art. Modeled on Apollo, the Greek sun-god, the Buddha statue has evolved as Buddhism traveled from country to country. The Buddha has the rare distinction of a human commemorated with the largest number of images over the longest period in a most extensive area.
The Buddha image whether in sculpture, painting or statuary seeks to portray the spiritual characteristics of peace and serenity, which the Buddhist teachings emphasize. The size of the image has become an indication of the esteem and veneration and exceedingly large and impressive Buddha statues have come into existence like the two giant Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afganistan (since destroyed by the Taliban government), the seated Budhas of Lesham and Dunhuang in China, Daibutsu in Nara and the Kamakura Buddha of Japan and the numerous giant statues in existence in Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. As works of exquisite beauty may be mentioned the Sarnath Buddha of India, Samādhi statues of Anuradhapura and Toluwila of Sri Lanka, the walking Buddha of Thailand and the Buddha at Sakkuragam in Korea.
With the Buddha image, the use of sculpture and painting as visual aids expanded impressively. Both from the point of view of architectural innovation and as treasure–troves of exceptional works of painting and sculpture, the Buddhist care-temples are an invaluable part of the cultural heritage of humanity. Those in Western India, represented by Ajanta, Bhaja, Karli and Ellora set the model for the equally entrancing artistic treasures to be found in Begram of Afghanistan, Dunhuang and Loyang of China, Sigiriya and Dambulla of Sri Lanka. These may be described as veritable crown jewels of Buddhist instructional art.
The two millennia of Buddhist art and architecture, like Buddhist literature, is a continuously renewing and ever-expanding heritage. In the traditionally Buddhist countries, the emphasis on aesthetic creativity remains astonishing. Monuments of exquisite beauty and Buddha statues of immense proportions are being continuously added. One has only to observe the activity around Buddha Gaya in India, Lumbini in Nepal and Lesham and Lentau (Hong Kong) in China to see the driving force of Buddhist enthusiasm. Buddhist monuments are being constructed all over the world as Buddhist communities enhance their spiritual and cultural contribution to their host countries. Buddhist objects of art of exceptional aesthetic value adorn museums and galleries throughout the world.
Even though the Buddha’s monastic discipline laid down restrictions on singing, dancing and drama, performing arts, nevertheless, thrived in Buddhist circles and even today temple festivals have ensured significant cultural traditions of music and dance in traditionally Buddhist countries.
Of cause, the Buddhist texts record an instance when the Buddha appreciated a music recital and commented with expertise on the harmonization of the singer’s voice and the instrumental music. Asvaghosa of the first century CE popularized the philosophical teachings of the Buddha through the medium of ornate court poetry in Sanskrit and has gone on record as the producer of the earliest known Indian drama, the Sariputraprakarana, based on the conversion of this great disciple. Sculpture and painting in Buddhist shrines provide ample evidence on the association of performing arts in religious processions. As the Buddhist temple evolved as the foremost spiritual, educational and cultural centre of each community, its contribution to the development of aesthetic activities of every form has been of the highest impact.
Far more important and spectacular than all these visible and tangible contributions, which the Buddha has made to humanity through his personality and teachings and the institutions he created, is what he has given humanity through the intangible spiritual and moral values he has inculcated. If Buddhism remained for the first two centuries or so as a monastic religious system with a limited regional impact, it was not to be so after Asoka, the third Emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, discovered it in his fervent search for the inner essence of religion. His conversion was the most significant watershed in Buddhist history in that he paved the way to make Buddhism the world religion it now is.
Though Asoka was already a Buddhist by the fourth regnal year, he was obliged to go to war to annex or tame the region of Kalinga. His Buddhist leanings are reflected in his thirteenth Rock Edict in which he expresses his heartfelt remorse over the havoc his military expedition caused. A hundred thousand people died in war and a hundred and fifty thousand were rendered refugees. As many died of famine and pestilence. “One hundredth or one thousandth of that human suffering would generate repentance and remorse in me,” he said putting an end to war for the rest of his reign, which lasted a total of thirty-seven years. “Do not engage in wars of weapons and let your conquests be conquests of righteousness,” he advised his sons and grandsons. He further added, “If you are drawn into a war of weapons, be forgiving and administer only light punishment.”
Nonviolence, which Asoka exercised under the influence of the Buddha’s teachings, extended to all living beings and the environment. His proclamations of sanctuary listing many species to be protected are the earliest known legislation on animal rights. He prohibited the burning of forests without a purpose and the killing of animals in sacrificial ritual. He restricted hunting and fishing on holy days. He advocated vegetarianism, setting the example by reducing drastically and ultimately abolishing the slaughter of animals in the royal kitchen.
Asoka upheld the importance of interfaith amity. He condemned the wanton and vituperative criticisms of another’s religion with the vain belief that one thus glorified one’s own religion. He also enjoined all to learn one another’s religious beliefs. As the root cause of inter-religious disunity, he identified the tactless use of language, stating that guarded speech was the foundation of interfaith understanding.
He balanced legislation with action and believed that conviction gained by promoting informed reflection was more effective than rules and regulations. His vast range of public services included medical facilities for humans and animals, amenities to travelers and the distribution of rare medicinal herbs and fruit plants. He achieved his humanitarian program through intensive education utilizing all available personnel and means of communication from inscriptions on rocks and pillars to visual aids and the spoken word.
Asoka, the ideal Buddhist Emperor, stands out in history as an exemplary implementer of the Buddha’s teachings relating to peace and security, social welfare and humanitarian service. Declaring that all beings feared violence and life was precious to each and everyone, he admonished people to consider their own love for life and avoid killing either directly or indirectly.
The highest quality to be developed by every human, according the Buddha, is loving kindness – metta in Pali and maitri in Sanskrit. He defined loving kindness as the equivalent of a mother’s undying love for her only son. No sentient being of whatever size, seen or unseen, nearby or far away, already born or in the process of coming to existence was excluded as outside the range of creatures to be treated with loving kindness. A moment of reflection on loving kindness was declared by the Buddha to be more meritorious than offering meals to a hundred Buddhas.
The taxonomy of love according to the Buddha was as extensive as it was exhaustive. The mental exercise of loving kindness had to be complemented with acts of compassion as Karuna was defined. It was a human’s fervent obligation to help, nurture and serve all beings in distress or suffering. He himself risked his own life to go in search of the murderous bandit Angulimala to put an end to his violent career. He sat between battle-ready armies to avert a war and interceded twice an invading army bent on a massacre. From saving a snake tormented by kids to preaching against violence, the Buddha promoted peace and security for all sentient beings.
Recognizing envy and jealousy as hindrances to harmony, the third aspect of love in the Buddha’s teachings was mudita or sympathetic joy, displayed by congratulating and felicitating others on their happiness, appreciating and admiring other’s advantages and achievements and promoting goodwill.
The fourth quality to be developed in this process was upekkha -- equanimity or equality wherein everyone and every situation was treated alike. These four aspects of the Buddha’s concept of love, called appropriately the Four Sublime States and further emphasized in Northern Buddhism as limitless Imponderables, form the foundation of Buddhism in practice. It is against this backdrop that the Buddhist approach to peace and security stems from inculcating in everyone the commitment, “Let there be peace in the world and let it begin with me.”
When the Buddha was recognized in Hinduism as the ninth incarnation of its God of Sustenance, namely Vishnu, a Hindu poet designated the Buddha as “Mahakaruna” – the Great Compassionate. Buddhism spread and took root in various parts of Asia, its message of peace and nonviolence tamed tribes and nations with serene thoughts of loving kindness reinforced by compassionate action for social well-being.
Buddhism became a mighty civilizing force with a unique record for a system of thought which influenced millions of people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds for over two millennia. Not a drop of blood has been shed in the process and neither persecution nor oppression was ever resorted to. On the contrary, Buddhism accommodated within its fold the prevailing beliefs and practices of each culture and demonstrated an unusually strong capacity to assimilate and absorb diverse socio-cultural traits.
The unique ability of Buddhism for harmonious co-existence is a key to world peace. As a Chinese proverb asserts,
When one is at peace with oneself,
There is harmony in the community
When there is harmony in the community
There is order in the nation
When there is order in the nation
There is peace in the world.
The Buddhist history records significant instances where violence was thoughtfully averted. A king of Sri Lanka and another from Thailand challenged their rivals to single combat so as to prevent military casualties in long-drawn battle. King Sri Sanghbodhi of Sri Lanka had his head severed and sent to the usurper to his throne so as to stop the killing of look-alike innocents. A minister who was ready to wage war against a king of Sri Lanka found that the delicacy that was served to him at dinner on the eve of the battle was a favourite of the king, and crossed the enemy lines to share the meal with him. In a nightlong discussion they settled their differences and a war was averted. Histories of other countries have similar anecdotes to illustrate the impact of the Buddha’s teachings and example. One even sees the reflection of Buddhist thought in the motto of UNESCO: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be constructed.”
That Buddhism has a role to play in ushering and maintaining world peace has been conclusively demonstrated in recent history as in the San Francisco Peace Treaty Conference of 1953. The invocation of the Buddha’s diction that “Hatred is never appeased by hatred and only love appeases hatred” enabled new Japan to evolve as a free nation without the burden of war damages. If a similar policy was adopted after the First World War to avoid humiliation and impoverishment of the defeated party, the causes and conditions leading to the Second World War could have been totally eliminated.
The Buddha’s ideal of loving kindness, which expresses itself with a deep commitment to peace, unity and harmony, tolerance and accommodation, nonviolence and selfless service, remains the fundamental basis for all human relations – person to person in family and community and nation to nation in the world. This is his contribution to sustainable world peace.
May all beings be happy and well.
THE PLACE OF BUDDHISM IN INDIAN THOUGHT - by Ananda W. P. Guruge
In the Nagarasutta in the Samyutta Nikaya, (SN p.74) the Buddha states,
"As a person discovers an ancient path to a lost city. I have discovered this ancient path leading to Nibbanna.”
Thus the Buddha assumed the role of a re-discoverer rather than that of an original path-finder. What he meant by this statement is subject to interpretation and has given rise to a controversy among students of Buddhism and Indian philosophy.
The Buddhists, who believe that Gotama, the Buddha of the sixth century before Christ, was the twenty-fifth in a line of Buddhas commencing from Dipankara (or the 29th, commencing from Tanhankara), have no difficulty in explaining that the Buddha's reference was to the doctrines of the earlier Buddhas. The Buddhist commentators from very early times accepted this explanation. In fact, one of them, Buddhaghosa, the most illustrious translator of Sinhala commentaries in the fifth century CE, went further and suggested that the Vedas themselves were only a degenerated version of the teachings of Buddha Kassapa, the immediate predecessor of Gotama, the Buddha. But in the absence of reliable historical data, one does not readily accept this Buddhist tradition. So there has been an attempt to review the statement of the Buddha in the light of what is known for certain of Indian philosophy.
Assumptions or Theories of Early Scholars
There are a number of generalised statements by scholars whose genuine quest for the truth is not disputed. They are -
(I) that the Buddha restated what was already current among the Brahmanical thinkers of the Indian subcontinent;
(2) that the Buddha based his teachings on the teachings of the Upaniads;
(3) that the Buddha was a follower of the Yoga system of Patañjali; and
(4) that the Buddha's doctrine derives its inspiration from the Snkhya Philosophy.
Each of these statements has been made presumably after careful examination of whatever data were available and, therefore, should be examined with due care.
Originality or Otherwise of Buddhism
It was Professor T. W. Rhys Davids who stated most emphatically that the Buddha was in every respect a product of the Brahmanical environment. He says,
"Gautama was born and brought up and lived and died a Hindu. Such originality as Gautama possessed lay in the way in which he adopted, enlarged, ennobled and systematised that which had already been well-said by others; in the way in which he carried out to their logical conclusion, principles of equity and justice already acknowledged by some of the most prominent Hindu thinkers. The difference between him and other teachers lay chiefly in his deep earnestness and in his broad public spirit of philanthropy." (Davids 1896 p. 33)
Professor Herman Oldenberg in his pioneering work, Buddha, too, was of the same opinion when he said,
"It is certain that Buddhism has acquired as an inheritance from Brahmanism not merely a series of its most important dogmas but what is not less significant to the historian, the bent of its religious thought and feeling, which is more easily comprehended than expressed in words." (p. 53)
Much later, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan had been the most ardent supporter of these views. In a foreword written in 1956 to the Government of India publication, "2500 years of Buddhism" (ed. P. V. Bapat), he says,
"The Buddha did not feel that he was announcing a new religion. He was born, grew up and died a Hindu. … Buddhism was an offshoot of the more ancient faith of Hindus, perhaps a schism or a heresy."(pp. ix and xii)
Dr. Radhakrishnan's assessment of the relationship between Buddhism and Brahmanism has undergone a gradual change. In his magnificent work Indian Philosophy in two volumes published in London in 1927 he began the chapter on Buddhism with the statement,
"There is no question that the system of early Buddhism is one of the most original which the history of philosophy presents." (Vol. 1 p. 342)
This is followed by the comment,
"Early Buddhism is not an absolutely original doctrine. It is not a freak in the evolution of Indian thought. Buddha did not break away completely from the spiritual ideas of his age and country. To be in open revolt against the conventional and legalistic religion of the time is one thing; to abandon the living spirit behind it is another." (Vol. I p. 360)
Three Preliminary Considerations
There are a number of points, which should be clarified before we proceed to discuss these views:
1. CHRONOLGY: The foremost among them is the question of chronology. As far as Buddhism is concerned, chronology presents little difficulty. According to the tradition preserved in Southern Buddhist countries, the demise of the Buddha took place in 544-43 BCE and this date has been fairly satisfactorily established with historical evidence. (Paranavitana EZ V, p. 86 ff) Even otherwise, the date as accepted by most modern scholars on the basis of Chinese records and Greek and Latin sources is 483 BCE. In a country where events have to be dated vaguely as falling within centuries or even millennia, a difference of sixty years is negligible.
While the date of Buddhism is known with a greater degree of certainty even after considering the recent dates suggested by Western scholars like Heinz Bechert and Richard Gombrich, (Guruge 1990 pp. 3-4), other philosophical systems have to be dated purely on speculation. But the antiquity of Brahmanism is not disputed even though the actual dates are in dispute. (I have excluded from this discussion the dates as proposed by the publications of Akhil Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalan like Rajendra Singh Kushwaha’s Glimpses of Bharatiya History or the prolific writings of David Frawley which call for in-depth scrutiny. In refuting the theory of an Aryan Invasion, these works place the Vedas in the fifth millennium BCE and the Buddha in 1800 BCE).
The Rgveda, which on linguistic and cultural evidence is dated not later than 1500 BCE, is, no doubt, the oldest document of the Aryans, which reflects the growth as well as the consolidation of those religious and philosophical views, that ultimately formed the basis of Brahmanism. It is also agreed that the later Samhits, namely the Smaveda and the Yajurveda, came into existence in their present form at a date not later than 1000 BCE, while the development of the Brhmaa literature on sacrificial rites and ceremonies is assumed to have taken place between 1000 BCE and 800 BCE. By this time, two of the fundamental aspects of Brahmanism were well established: namely, the concept and technique of sacrifice and the caste system. Thus, if the Buddha, who lived in the sixth century BCE, was really a follower of the Brahmanical way of life, he should have subscribed to the doctrines relating to these matters even during the earlier phase of his life.
II. GEOGRAPHY: The second problem, which has to be settled as a preliminary step in our discussion is the question of geography. Whether as invaders or as peaceful migrants, the Rgvedic Aryans appear to have come to the Indian subcontinent via the passes in the North-western Frontier Region. The early hymns of the Rgveda refer to geographical features of this region. The ancient settlement of the Aryans in the Indian subcontinent was known as "Sapta-sindhava," that is, "the land of seven rivers." (RV. VIII, 24, 27) Though there had been several interpretations of this term by Max Muller, Ludwig, Lassen and Whitney, the most reasonable view appears to be that the seven rivers were the Indus, the five rivers of Punjab and the Sarasvati. The gradual widening of the geographical horizon is reflected in the Rgveda itself. Thus in a later hymn, reference is made to such rivers as Gang and Yamun, which lay further towards the East. (RV. X,75) In commenting on this hymn, Max Muller said,
"It shows us the widest geographical horizon of the Vedic poets, confined by the snowy mountains in the North, the Indus or the sea, in the South and the valley of the Jumna and Ganges in the East. Beyond that, the world, though open, was unknown to the Vedic poets."(The Vedas pp. 95-96)
The geographical data in the later Samhits and the Brhmaas merely reveal a drift to the east, but there is no definite evidence either to indicate the route or to mark the eastern-most boundary. If Revottaras in Satapatha-Brahmana is a variation of Reva, the southern boundary of the areas known to Aryans of the Brhmaas might have been the river Narmad. The names of the two cities Kauœambi and Kampila in the same Brhmaa help to establish the eastern limit with a certain amount of accuracy. But it is presumed that the Aryans had moved further east at the time of the Brhmaas; however, the evidence on which a definite conclusion can be drawn is somewhat vague.
The problem is related to the identification of the river Sadnra mentioned in Œatapatha-Brhmaa as the boundary between the Kosalas and the Videhas. The mention of Videha is of special significance, as it occurs in a story, which deals with the spread of Aryan culture. Videgha Mthava, with his priest Gotama Rahugaa, is said to have carried the sacrificial fire from river Sarasvati to the land across river Sadnra, where the kingdom of Videha was established. This is clearly an indication of the manner in which Brahmanism spread eastwards.
It was very unlikely that the Aryans as a hoard invaded or migrated en masse into this region. Only a few adventurers could have gone eastwards to seek their fortune and incidentally to spread their culture. The accounts found in the epic Rmyana about the Aryanization of the Southern parts of the Indian subcontinent also give us an idea of the role which Ris and Brahmans might have played. They might have spread into the eastern region, too, in a similar manner and established hermitages, which might have served as pockets of Brahmanical culture. This is an important aspect to be borne in mind when the extent to which Brahmanism was known in the east is to be gauged.
III. AUTHORSHIP OF CULTURES: There is a third problem, which is closely related to that of the geographical horizon. Were the Aryans the only people who contributed towards the cultural evolution of ancient Indian subcontinent? Only a very few scholars had so far devoted adequate attention to this question. The majority were apparently satisfied with the theory that Aryans, a branch of the Indo-European family, entered the Indian subcontinent through the passes in the North-western Frontier and moved steadily towards the east and the south widening their range of settlements in the shape of a mighty wedge and that their religious and philosophical views evolved gradually from animism to polytheism, and from polytheism to pantheism and monism, while their religious practices ranged from elaborate sacrificial rites to asceticism and pure philosophical speculation. This, indeed, is a very simple explanation of the cultural processes of ancient Indian subcontinent; but its simplicity is the result of two factors:
Firstly, the pioneering scholars were over-impressed by the volume as well as the character of the ancient Indian literature. Rgveda, the later Samhits, the Brhmaas, the rayakas and the Upaniads, in addition to Vedngas and the later works showed a development in Indian thought which appeared so logical, regular, and sequential. It was, therefore, difficult for them to visualize any other influences, which in their own way could have been adequately formidable as to leave an indelible mark in the cultural pattern of the Indian subcontinent.
Secondly, the real serious work in this field was undertaken and completed long before the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization, which was a significant eye-opener. It was enough evidence to refute the argument that Aryans met in the Indian subcontinent only aboriginal tribes with no cultural attainments. The Aryans, in fact, could have come in contact with a superior civilization or mingled with an existing civilization to enrich it further. To imagine that the Indus Valley people merely succumbed to the “Aryan invaders” is idle. What was most likely was a cultural synthesis.
What evidence is there to disprove that the culture reflected in the Rgveda and the later Vedic works is not the result of an admixture of the Aryan and Indus Valley cultures? To my mind, the differences, which exist between the Avestan Aryans of Iran and the Rgvedic Aryans of the Indian subcontinent, were brought about by this synthesis. If this was possible, there is nothing to prevent one from concluding that similar cultural contacts were possible in other parts of the Indian subcontinent.
It should also be noted here that the general conception has been that various peoples entered the Indian subcontinent through her passes in the North-west. Were there no other migrations to the Indian subcontinent? Could not some tribes find a way by her passes in the North-east? In fact, the Aryan migrants themselves could have moved into the North-eastern region of the Indian subcontinent and settled down long before the Rgvedic Aryans came. Who were the Vrtyas? There were also other possibilities.
The Chinese, too, were active in very early times. They had evolved a highly developed culture and were in a position to influence these parts of the Indian subcontinent culturally and by physical presence. One would, however, call for evidence. It should be admitted that there are no documents whatsoever to support this contention. But there is one very important piece of evidence. There are two references in Buddhist literature and the Rmyana to kings of North-eastern Indian subcontinent, who were playing a leading role in the agricultural life of the people. In the Buddhist works, we meet King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu participating in ceremonial ploughing. The king is said to have been at the head of the train of people who ploughed their fields on this ceremonial occasion. Similarly, the Rmyana narrates how King Janaka found Sta on the occasion of ceremonial ploughing. This custom finds no reference in the Vedic literature. The only parallel, which I am aware of, is from Chinese culture. As far back as the Shang Period (1760 -1122 BCE) the Chinese had evolved the concept of the farmer-emperor and had maintained the traditional rite of the emperor ploughing a field at the Temple of Earth at the beginning of each year until the fall of the Manchu dynasty two centuries ago.
I - Buddhism and Brahmanism: The Pali Canon on Vedas and Vedic Brahmanism
I have discussed these three problems in order to emphasize the need for an open mind in analysing the question of Buddhism and its relationship with other Indian systems. The issues are so complicated that one cannot afford to be too confident, as both Professor Rhys Davids and Dr. Radhakrishnan had been in summarily stating that the Buddha was born, grew up and died a Hindu.
Let us take the data at our disposal. As the Vedic texts do not give us any definite material to establish .the relationship between Brahmanism and Buddhism, we should search for evidence in Buddhist literature. From the Pali Canon, whose authenticity is the least in dispute, we find that Buddhist circles of the Indian subcontinent in the east were familiar with the Vedas and the principles of Brahmanism. The early texts of the Buddhist Canon speak of the Three Vedas (Sn. verse 594), the Devayna (DN. I, p. 215), Rgvedic gods (Loc. Cit. p. 244), the Svitr hymn of twenty-four syllables (Sn. verse 568) some of the Vedic Skhs such as Addhariy, Tittiriy, Chndoka, Chandav, and Brahmacariya (DN. I, p. 236), and a list of Vedic seers which recurs a number of times as the ancient Ris, composers of the Mantras. (DN I, p. 104, Vin. I, p. 245, AN. III, p. 224 and IV, p. 6)
They were also quite conversant with the subject-matter of the Brhmaas. The fire sacrifice and also Aœvamedha, Puruamedha and Vjapeya are referred to. (Sn. verse 303) Analysing the Brhmaadhammika Sutta of the Suttanipta, it will be seen that the contemporary religious practices were identical with those of the Brhmaas. (Sn. verses 284ff) Sacrifices attended by bloodshed were the normal procedure and the Buddha vehemently opposed them. The Brhmaadhammika Sutta is an unambiguous exposition of the Buddha's attitude to both Brahmans and their ritual; he traces a gradual degeneration of the Brahmans from selfless seekers after truth to money-grabbing sacrificers who kill cattle and persuade kings to perform sacrifices, saying, "Much indeed is your wealth. Increase it by the performance of sacrifice." The Buddha states that even Indra and other deities discard these Brahmans.. Similar, and even more severe, attacks on the ancient Brhmaa institution of sacrifice are found in abundance in the Buddhist Canon.
Not only-were sacrificial rites the target of the. Buddha's attacks; the caste system of the Brahmans too was severely criticised. The standpoint of the Buddha is, however, too well known to be discussed in detail. It will, nevertheless, suffice me to state that the Buddha was opposed to the caste system from both the spiritual and the social point of view. As a teacher of a lofty code of ethics, he revolted against the unfair discrimination against humans on grounds of birth. Further, as a Katriya he treated the Brahmans with little respect. It is interesting to note how the Buddha winds up an argument on caste in the Ambahasutta of the Dighanikya by reciting an ancient stanza to the effect that the Katriyas are the best of men.
There should be no doubt from these data that the Buddha was not prepared to accept either of the two fundamental principles of Brahmanism. Dr. Radhakrishnan, of course, is unable to refute it. But he considers that the open revolt against these does not constitute a complete breakaway from the spiritual ideas of his age and country. This is no doubt true, provided it is conceded that Brahmanism, alone, did not constitute the spiritual ideas of the Buddha's age and the part of the country in which he lived and taught. The need for such a proviso is based on the fact that even the metaphysics and ethics, which the Buddha preached, had developed with no direct connection with Brahmanism. For instance, Brahmanism places very little emphasis on ethics.
It is impossible even to imagine that the inspiration for such codes of ethics as one meets in Buddhism and Jainism came from the Vedic literature. Buddhist ethics are closely related to the ascetic ideal of life it upholds. But one does not find that aspect of religious life in any Vedic texts of the pre-Buddhist times. The evidence in both Buddhism and Jainism leads most poignantly to a conclusion that the religious values of the Northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent were more ethical and that they were connected with the doctrines of Karma and Rebirth, which were specifically non-Brahmanical in origin. The ascetic ideal developed with the aid of such doctrines. Dr. E. J. Thomas was correct when he said in A History of Buddhist Thought, that "probably pre-Aryan influences were at work" (p. 10); presumably what he meant by 'pre-Aryan' is really the non-Brahmanical Œramaa Cult, whose origins seem to extend to the Indus Valley Civilization. The doctrines of Karma and Rebirth are neither Vedic nor Brahmanical. They find no reference in the early Vedic literature.
The Chndogya Upaniad, in fact, gives some valuable data to establish the contention that Brahmans knew nothing about these doctrines. It says,
“As to what you have told me, O! Gautama, this knowledge has never yet come to Brahmans before you and therefore in all the world has the rule belonged to the Katriya only." (V, 3)
In the seventh Chapter of Chndogya Upaniad, we come across another interesting statement: Nrada, apparently the revered Ri of the Brhmaas, comes to Sanatkumra, saying, 'Teach me, Sir." Sanatkumra teaches him the doctrines of soul and karma. It is not so much the doctrines, which draw our attention as the name, Sanatkumra. We meet him so often in the Buddhist literature; the Buddha himself refers to him as a Katriya teacher.
Even though I have not marshalled enough data to warrant a definite conclusion, I may yet venture to hazard the opinion that even the fundamental Upaniadic teachings arose in the East and their propagation was particularly sponsored by the kings of Videha and Kœi among whom Janaka and Ajtaœatru find specific mention in the Bhadrayaka Upaniad. (BrU. II, I, I)
These data will no doubt show that Buddhism can in no way be called a restatement of Brahmanical teachings.
II - Buddhism and the Teachings of the Upaniads
Let us now examine the second statement that the Buddha based his system on the teachings of the Upaniads. The earlier scholars were not emphatic in associating Buddhism with the Upaniads. For instance, Professor Max Muller merely stated,
"In that fifth century B.C. took place the rise of Buddhism, a religion built up on the ruins of the Vedic religion, and founded, so to say, on the denial of the divine authority ascribed to the Veda by all orthodox Brahmans."(The Vedas p. 128)
It was George Grimm, who in 1926 in his The Doctrine of the Buddha, hinted at a possible connection between the two systems. He said,
"Thus the Buddha has not become untrue to Indian thinking; rather is his doctrine the flower of Indian thought. He is 'the true Brahman,' who has completely realized the ideal of the Upaniads. And precisely because this is so, India will again greet him as her greatest son, as soon as she again shall have recognized this." (p. 502)
The Indian subcontinent was not so late in recognizing this, for in the very next year, Dr. Radhakrishnan in his Indian Philosophy advanced the theory that the Buddha was not so much creating a new dharma as rediscovering an old norm. It was presented most cautiously as a conjecture. He said,
"Early Buddhism, we venture to hazard a conjecture, is only a restatement of the thought of the Upaniads from a new standpoint." (I p.361) (emphasis mine)
He also explained the manner in which the doctrines of the Upaniads were adapted by the Buddha:
"To develop his theory Buddha had only to rid the Upaniads of their inconsistent compromises with Vedic polytheism and religion, set aside the transcendental aspect as being indemonstrable to thought and unnecessary to morals and emphasize the ethical universalism of the Upaniads." (ibid)
Further in his discussion of early Buddhism he admittedly assumed that the spirit of the Upaniads is the life-spring of Buddhism.
Let us examine these views in the light of what is revealed by the Buddhist Canon.
First and foremost, the absence of any reference to the Upaniads should be noted. There is, however, a Pali word upanis which some have attempted to explain as meaning the Upaniads. In verse 75 of the Dhammapada, this word occurs in the following form: "Ann lbhpanis aññ nibbagmi". In Majjhimanikya III, p. 7, it occurs in a compound as "Samdhi saupanisa." In both contexts the only permissible meaning is that of upaniœraya (cause or means).
Brahman, Atman and Brahmasahavyat
The two main terms of the Upaniads, Brahman and tman are, however, profusely used in the Suttas. At first sight the shades of meaning and the philosophical import of these terms seem to reveal an actual relationship between the Upaniads and Buddhism. But a more careful examination reveals entirely different results.
The term Brahm, which is always used in the masculine sense in Buddhist texts, refers to the personal God. The Upaniadic notion of a neuter principle is not found in the Buddhist Canon. Here Brahm is described in the Brahmajlasutta as the great Brahm, the conqueror, the unconquered, the all-seeing, the controller, the lord, the maker, the creator, the greatest, the mover, the powerful and the father of all past and future beings. (DN, I, p. 46) In the Kevaasutta he is not even omniscient. (Ibid I, 221) The epithets used for Brahm elsewhere in the Canon, too, have no relation to the Upaniadic principle. Here the Brahm is said to be celibate, free of hatred, malice and stain and very powerful, (Ibid I, p. 247) while the Upaniadic Brahman can only be described in negative terms as imperishable, infinite, unqualified and neti neti (not this only, not that only),.
There is in the Tevijjsutta an important term. The Buddha, in discussing the religious practices of Brahmans, states that the goal of such rites is "Brahmasahavyat" (the company of Brahm). Dr. I. G. Jennings believes that this reference is to the neuter Brahma of the Vedanta and in his The Vedantic Buddhism of the Buddha, interprets ".Sahavyat" as complete absorption. (p. 556) It is rather difficult to assume that the Upaniadic concept of a universal soul into which individual souls were re-absorbed is what is expressed in this Sutta. On the other hand, one can discern a more ancient and primitive concept behind this term. "Brahmasahavyat" appears in all likelihood to be a synonym of "Brahmasalokat"; that is, being in the same realm as the personal god Brahm. The path for the attainment of this state is given in the Tevijjsutta. It is plainly the Vedic karma-mrga - the path of sacrifice. The preachers of this path are listed and we do not find the names of Upaniadic teachers of repute such as Yajñavlkya, Uddlaka, rui, Skalya or Grgi. Instead, we meet Ahaka, Vmaka, Vmadeva, Vessmitta, Yamataggi, .Angrasa, Bhradvja, Vseha, Kassapa and Bhagu. These were really the composers of Rgvedic hymns. How was it that Buddhist literature shows no knowledge of the great Upaniadic thinkers?
My contention, therefore, is that the fundamental doctrine of a universal soul from which the individual souls emanated and into which they should ultimately return was also unknown in the Buddhist circles. The trends of Indian philosophy with which they were familiar belonged to an earlier era than that of the Upaniads.
Let us examine the philosophical import of the other Upaniadic term so frequently used in the Buddhist Canon. "tman" occurs in the Suttas in both a positive form, Atta and a negative formulation, Anatta. Atta, in addition to being a reflexive pronoun, means the "soul." In this sense it finds no place in Buddhist philosophy, but occurs always in the criticisms and enunciations of rival teachings. Thus we hear of sixteen ways how Atta is conscious after death, eight ways how it is unconscious and not subject to decay and seven ways how it is annihilated. (DN. I, p. 31) As such, we have here an opportunity of investigating the traces, if any, of the Upaniadic concept of tman in the theories of Atta known to the Buddha.
.Atta as identical with the body was a concept well-known in Buddhist circles. Pohapada speaks of a material (Olrika) Atta, having a form composed of the four elements and enjoying food (rpi, ctumahbhtika, Kabalinkhrabhakkha). (ibid I, p. 186) Also, the Buddha is reported to have said, "It would be better if an uninstructed person should consider as his Atta this body composed of the four elements, rather than the mind." (SN. II, p. 94) There are a few places in the Canon, where the Atta and the form (rpa) are treated as identical: "My form is the Att" (Rpa me att):” (Ibid III, 219). Commentarial literature explains it as "He looks upon the form and Atta as indivisible." (Rpañ ca attañ ca advaya samanupassati). (Atthaslini p. 300; Papancasdani p. 300) This conception of Atta evinces some resemblance to certain views found in the old Upaniads. The Bhadrayaka Upaniad. states, "His body (tman) indeed is his work, for with his body he performs work." (I, 4, 17) Taittirya II,4 further remarks "This indeed, is its bodily self. (Tasyaisa eva œarra atm)". But the tman as Œarra marks only a very primitive stage of the Upaniadic speculations and is turned down as an imperfect understanding, which satisfies only the Asuras (Virocana - cf. ChU. VIII). Furthermore, it can be questioned whether a material Atta as described by Pohapda refers to the Upaniadic or the Crvka materialistic teachings of tman.
A second Atta is mind-made (Manomaya), comprising all major and minor limbs and not devoid of sense-organs (Sabbanga-paccangim ahnindriya).'(DN. I, p. 186) The notion of tman as the mind, the receptacle of sense-perceptions, no doubt, represents also a stage, though a passing one, in the gradual development of the Upaniadic Atman concept. If the rather ambiguous statement in Anguttaranikya, "Att te purisa jnti sacca v yadi v mus" ( AN. I, p. 57) can be explained as "Your tman, 0 man, knows if it is true or false," we can surmise that the tman as the subject of sense perception was a notion familiar to the early Buddhists.
The third Atta, enunciated by Pohapada, is formless and made of Sajñâ (consciousness).(DN. I, p. 186) The old Upaniads, however, refer to a formless tman. made of Sajñâ. But we may consider that this notion has its prototype in the old Upanisadic prajñâmaya-tman.
A fourth theory postulates an tman, which is eternal (Sassato) and having form and consciousness (rp Saññï). (Ibid III, p.137)
These four theories of tman can be connected only with certain stages in the development of the Upaniadic tman concept as observed by Betty Heimann in her Studien Zur Eigenart Indischen Denkens. (p. 56 ff) But the fully developed Upaniadic tman as the imperishable, unperceived all-functioner, the inner controller, that is immanent in all beings and things of the Universe and is identical with the super-personal creative, underlying and re-absorbing principle of Brahman, is neither here nor anywhere in the Buddhist Canon expounded.
On the other hand, the Atta which is denied in Buddhism is more a psychological illusion of Ahakra (I-ness) and Mamatva (My-ness). Hence the formulation of the Buddha's refutation of Atta runs as "Na eta mama. Na eso aha asmi. Na me eso att." (MN.I, p. 135) The Anattalakkhaasutta emphatically states that there is no Atta – or rather room for Atta - for one cannot determine for one's self how one's rpa, vedan. saññã, etc., should be. (cf. Avasavattatthena anatt, Anatta because of the impossibility to control - Nettippakarana 6.21). Physical change from growth to decay in bodily existence is a natural law beyond human control. This teaching of Anatta, as far as the Suttas go, compares only with the Njrmamatva and the Nirtmakatvam of later Upaniads like the Maitryana Upaniad, (cf. Mait. Up. VI, 20. 21), which had been strongly influenced by the teachings of Yogic system and even quite likely by Buddhism.
While the Buddha stresses man's incapacity to control the course of natural evolution and stops at a negation, the Upaniads postulate an inner controller (Antar-ymin) in the form of the tman, who is identical with the Brahman or the Paramtman. Brahman, again, it is taught, transcends the relativity, the impermanence and the imperfection of the single tman.
Nmarpa, Samsra and Nirva
We shall also consider, now, the apparently common notions of Nmarpa, Sasra and Nirva. Nmarpa in the Upaniads is a term suggesting two concrete and empirical factors, viz., the name or designation and the form. Every embodied tman has a Nma and a Rpa (cf. ChU. VIII, 14; BrU. 1.4.7 and 1.6.4.). In Buddhism the term Nmarpa is given a new and wider interpretation. The five aggregates or the component parts (khandhas), which constitute a being, are divided into the two categories of Nma and Rpa, where Nma represents the four psychological phenomena of Vedan, Saññâ, Sakhra and Viññâa.
The belief in Sasra was common to all sects of the Indian subcontinent other than the Crvkas since the times of the Brhmaas and hence it can be regarded as belonging to the religious and philosophical public property of the Indian subcontinent. The direct influence of the Upanisads, therefore, is not necessarily to be surmised here.
With regard to the concept of Nirva, we have to apply a slightly different method. It is true that the word "Nirva" occurs, not in the old and the middle Upaniads, but only in the Bhagavadgt and later Upaniads, such as runeya Upaniad and Nirva Upanisad, which are later than Buddhism. Even if we could assume that Buddhism here has influenced Hindu thought, the contents of the Upaniadic Nirva or the Brahma-nirva concept develop not on Buddhist lines, but under the influence of pre-Buddhist Upaniadic notions. In Buddhism, Nirva, whether it is complete cessation of existence or a state of ending all suffering is a form of liberation attained through psychological development. It is a Yogic attainment. The Upaniadic Nirva or Brahmanirva, on the other hand, is the re-absorption into the universal source of Brahman, caused by the realization of the true knowledge that the tman is essentially the same as Brahman.
With this survey we may arrive at the conclusion that the Buddha and his disciples, whose speeches and discourses are recorded in the Canon, knew for certain the Vedas and the Brhmaas; they were quite conversant with the Brahmanic ritual. But their knowledge of the Upaniads was not complete in so far as they did not take into consideration the climax of Upaniadic teachings: namely, the cosmic doctrines of Brahman and tman, which are united in a primary and final, pre- and post-empirical, stage. The Buddhist circles knew Brahman as a personal deity - Brahm, and tman as a psychological and merely individual factor. In the Tripitaka, as a whole, a characteristic vagueness pervades all that is akin to the Upaniadic teachings.
It is very doubtful whether one can still hold the view that the Upaniadic teachings were the life-spring of Buddhism. The absurdity of the claim made by some writers that the Buddha’s contribution to Indian thought was made in the role of a popularizer of Upaniadic doctrines should be abundantly clear from the fore-going discussion of actual literary data. A comparison of the essential doctrines of the two systems will throw further light.
Origin and Nature of the Universe
The basic difference between Buddhism and the Upaniadic philosophy relates to their notions of the origin and the nature of the Universe. It is true that the Buddha was not inclined to discuss the question of the Universe seriously, simply because he pragmatically considered that such knowledge, though of academic interest, did not contribute towards the salvation of humankind. His attitude was vividly expressed by means of the parable of the wounded man. "When a man is shot at with an arrow and a doctor comes to attend on him, the primary concern of the wounded man should be to have the arrow removed and the wound attended to. Instead, if he were to inquire as to who shot the arrow, what his caste or complexion or stature was, he would, long before the answers are found, succumb to the injury."
Thus from the Buddha's point of view, the search was meaningless and hence to be abandoned in preference to the path that leads one to complete deliverance. But, on the other hand, the Upaniadic philosophy has no foundation if its teachings relating to the origin of the universe are not there. The neuter principle of Brahman, the active as well as the material cause of the Universe, is an essential concept. The Universe comes into existence when all phenomena including individual souls emanate from it and the end of suffering (and hence the final bliss) lies in the reabsorption into it. By its very nature, it has to be permanent and static. Unborn, imperishable, immutable and eternal, the Brahman is the very antithesis of change. Such a view is repugnant to the Buddhist concept of the nature of the Universe. According to the Buddha, impermanence is the very nature of all existence. There is nothing that escapes this universal law. An eternal phenomenon even as the first principle is unimaginable.
This doctrine of impermanence goes hand in hand with that of Dependent Causation or Origination. There is no cause, which is uncaused. Existence is the result of an ever-continuing chain of actions and reactions; one thing leads to another and that to a further thing. This doctrine of Dependent Causation or Origination, called the Paicca-samuppda (Walpola Rahula p. 53ff) is the most salient contribution made by the Buddha to Indian thought. With this the Buddha shattered the very foundation of the Upaniadic philosophy. Neither the Brahman nor the tmans can retain their Upaniadic character when viewed from the point of view of Paicca-samuppda.
Therefore, can one continue to recognize in the Buddha's mission a direct or even an indirect attempt to propagate or popularise Upaniadic teachings?
III - Buddhism and Patañjali Yoga
Let us now examine the third statement, namely, that the Buddha was a follower of the Yoga system of Patañjali. On purely chronological grounds this contention stands disproved. Though the orthodox Hindus claim a hoary antiquity for Patañjali, there is no evidence to date him earlier than 300 BCE. In fact the general consensus of opinion is that the date of Patanjali's Yoga Stra falls between 300 and.100 BCE. (Macdonell p. 396; Radhakrishnan II p. 341) But the Yoga system is very old; perhaps, it is even older than Rgveda.
In several seals discovered in the Indus Valley, there is a figure seated in a conventional yogic posture. Yoga, however, is not referred to in any early Vedic texts. The earliest references are in the later Upanisads such as the Kaha, Taittirya and the Maitryani. (Radhakrishnan p. II p. 339) These works are more or less contemporaneous with the Buddha, if not later. But they do not give us any definite or detailed information of the Yogic system. On the other hand, the Buddhist texts evince a greater familiarity with Yogic practices. The Buddha was not only conversant with this system but also ready to adapt it to his path of deliverance. From the accounts of the Buddha's quest for deliverance, it is clear that the teachers, lra Klma and Uddaka Rmaputta, (MN. I, 163ff; 240ff) to whom he went for instruction, were masters of Yoga, and the spiritual attainments which he experienced under their guidance, were Yogic in character.
The term "Yoga" occurs in the Pali Canon, though not in the sense of a particular system of spiritual training. In most contexts, it means
( i ) application, endeavour, undertaking, effort
(ii) magic power or spells and
(iii) bondage, tie, attachment. (PTS-PD sv)
The term "Yogi" occurs in older verses and here it is used as a synonym for "muni.” (TG. I, 947) A Bhikkhu, devoted to meditation and spiritual exercises is called a "Yogvacara" which need not strictly mean "one who is at home in Yoga" because the first part of the compound can also mean simply 'endeavour'. Thus "Yogvacara" can mean a bhikkhu who is dedicated to spiritual endeavour. Similarly the frequent epithet to Nibba, "Yogakkhema" does not necessarily mean "safety gained through Yoga", as the general interpretation as "peace from bondage" appears justifiable. Again, in a statement like "savna khayya yogo karayo" in the Dutiyasamdhisutta of Anguttaranikya, the term "Yoga" is used more as a common noun meaning "endeavour or effort" than as a proper noun denoting a philosophical system. Likewise, the two Buddhist texts, which are called Yogasuttas in the Samyutta and Anguttaranikya, refer to fourfold bonds of sensual desire, becoming, wrong view and ignorance. While a doubt thus exists as to the term "Yoga," the terminology of the Yogic system is frequently confronted in the Buddhist Canon. Samdhi, Jhna (Dhyna), Sampatti, Sayama etc. occur in identical meanings in both Buddhist and Yogic systems.
Besides the terminological similarities, which are not unusual as all religious and philosophical systems of the Indian subcontinent used a common vocabulary, there are many resemblances in practices, which establish the dependence of Buddhism on early Yogic teachings. With the paramount importance assigned by the Buddha to the purification of the mind as an essential part of a person's spiritual training, meditation and the control of the mind are fundamental to the Buddhist path of deliverance. The mind, which according to Buddhism is the sixth sense organ, is fickle and subject to constant change; it has to be brought under one’s control. For this purpose, many forms of mental culture are recommended by the Buddha. The development of mindfulness by pondering over subjects of meditation is stated to be the surest way to control one's mind and thereby attain the goal of spiritual pursuit.
In a very early text, the Mahsatipahnasutta of both Dighanikya and Majjhimanikya, embodying a sermon which the Buddha had preached on his own accord, four subjects of meditation, namely, the human body, sensations, thoughts and mind-objects were described as the "Foundations of Mindfulness." The preparation for meditation outlined in this text is not only reminiscent of Yoga but also adumbrates a system, which the Yoga Stras had subsequently elaborated. Here the "Yogvacara" is enjoined to find a quiet place, free from disturbances, such as a forest, the foot of a tree or an empty house. He should sit cross-legged with his body erect. Then he should proceed to mindful breathing (npnasati), by which he is expected to breathe in and out consciously and with awareness. The subjects of meditation are taken up when the mind is calmed and brought to a point of concentration through this meditation. This process, though only briefly presented in the Buddhist text, includes the salient elements of the eight-fold method of Yoga advocated by the Yoga Stras, (Radhakrishnan II p. 352) which is as follows:-
Yama -abstension (equivalent to sla or moral purity of Buddhism).
Niyama -observance of internal and external purification (also included in Buddhist sla).
Sana -posture, which has to be easy, comfortable and steady (which corresponds to the requirement in Buddhism that the meditator should sit cross-legged with the body erect).
Pryma - regulation of breath (comparable to the Buddhist concept of "Mindfulness in regard to breathing" though not quite correctly. The Buddhist npnasati calls for only awareness or mindfulness of the process of breathing e.g. whether the breathing is brisk or slow etc. But the Yogic Pryma is a deliberate regulation of the breath according to set patterns which should be mastered with conscious effort, guidance and practice.).
Pratyhara- withdrawal of the senses.
Dhyana -fixed attention or trance.
Dhraa -contemplation, and
The similarity which exists between the four dhynas of Buddhism and four states of conscious concentration in Yoga as well as their common emphasis on faith, energy, thought, concentration and wisdom are also noteworthy. (Vajiranana pp. 35ff)
The striking point of divergence between the Buddhist concept and the Yogic system is the importance attached to the state of Samdhi. In the Yoga Stras, Samdhi is the ultimate goal and from it proceed other attainments such as suspended animation, levitation, knowledge of past births and others' minds and also the mastery over the first cause which results in absolute independence (kaivalya). But in Buddhism, Samdhi is only an intermediary step in spiritual training, Sla or moral purity being the first and Paññâ or insight (i.e. the realization of the true nature of life as embodied in the Four Noble Truths etc.) being the final stages. Such an extension of the Yogic concept of the ultimate goal is understandable in Buddhism because the Buddha reportedly rejected the teachings of his Yogic teachers on the ground that they did not go far enough.
Another significant factor, which should be noticed in comparing Buddhism with Yoga, is the acceptance by the Buddha of higher mental attainments of Yoga as not only possible and desirable but also as conducive to one's spiritual perfection. But these, in Buddhist texts, are not claimed to be intrinsically Buddhist for many an ascetic is said to have possessed Yogic powers even before the appearance of the Buddha. Besides, the use of Yogic powers of levitation, knowledge of others' thoughts etc. for purposes of worldly gain and renown has been strongly criticized by the Buddha.(Vin. II, 110f)
The above facts very clearly show that the Buddha, besides knowing the Yoga as an ancient system of spiritual training, accepted its fundamental doctrines and, in evolving his system of mental culture, went beyond what the Yoga laid down. The elaborate system of meditation, which the Buddha formulated with as many as forty subjects of meditation, thirteen vows of physical restraint, and many aids for concentration, (Vajiranana p. 71; VM. Dhtanga and Kammahna niddesas) had an effect on the development of classical Yoga, while the developed Yoga techniques subsequently influenced the evolution of the Yogcra Buddhist school. (Bapat p. 122)
IV - Buddhism and Snkhya Philosophy
The last of the statements, which I propose to discuss, necessitates a reference to Dr. Radhakrishnan. He says in his Indian Philosophy,
"The relation of Snkhya to early Buddhism has given rise to much speculation as to mutual borrowing. Though Snkhya works, which have come down to us, are later than the origin of Buddhism, and may have been influenced by Buddhist theories, the Snkhya ideas themselves preceded Buddha and it is impossible to regard Buddhism as the source of the Snkhya If the Buddhist chain of causation resembles in some respects, the Snkhya theory of evolution, it is because both of them have for their common source the Upaniads." (II, p. 251)
Further on, he says,
"It seems to be very probable that the earliest form of the Snkhya was a sort of realistic theism, approaching the Viœiadvaita view of the Upaniads. While this type of Snkhya may be regarded as a legitimate development of the teaching of Upanads, the dualistic Snkhya, which insists on the plurality of Puruas and the independence of Prakti and drops all account of the Absolute can hardly be said to be in line with the teachings of the Upaniads. The question is how did it happen that the Snkhya rejected the idea of the Absolute, which alone could make the system satisfactory? The Snkhya did not become a well-co-ordinated system until after the rise of Buddhism. When Buddhism offered a challenge to realism, the Snkhya accepted the challenge and argued on strictly rational grounds for the reality of selves and objects. When it developed on a purely rationalistic soil, it was obliged to concede that there was no proof for the existence of God." (ibid p, 253 –emphasis mine)
The relationship between the Snkhya system and Buddhism cannot be traced with any degree of certainty. The dissimilarities between them are as strong as the similarities. If Dr. Radhakrishnan is correct in his view that the Snkhya was theistic at the beginning and that its theory of God was abandoned as a result of Buddhist influence, it is the Snkhya system that is indebted to Buddhism. If the Snkhya did drop one of its fundamental principles in deference to Buddhism, it is most likely that other aspects of the system were also influenced by Buddhism.
The non-acceptance of the theistic principle, which characterizes both Buddhism and the Snkhya system, is the most conspicuous similarity between the two systems and has naturally raised the question of possible borrowings and influence in either direction. Dr. Arthur Berridale Keith in A History of Snkhya Philosophy, dismissed the possibility of the development of the Snkhya system out of Buddhism. He says,
"It is true that Snkhya abandons the idea of existence of the Absolute, but it is, on the other hand, careful to retain the idea of spirit and nature; the doctrine of Buddhism, on the other hand, has in effect abandoned these two conceptions, and has left itself with only the fleeting series of mental states as a quasi reality, from which the development of the doctrine of the void is a natural enough step. It is impossible to prove, and certainly not plausible to believe, that from so developed a doctrine as that of Buddhism there could have grown the Snkhya, which is indeed not a believer in the Absolute, but as little a believer in the view that the only existing principle is the law of movement, which in essence is the view of Buddhism." (pp. 24 & 33 – emphasis mine)
With regard to the view that Buddhism could have been influenced by Snkhya concepts, Dr. Keith, like most other scholars who attempted to examine this issue, confronted the difficulty caused by the fact that the works on classical Snkhya were of a much later origin than Buddhism. He felt that the Snkhya as found in the Epics might be compared with Buddhism. Here, too, his conclusion was speculative:
"It seems best, therefore, to draw the conclusion that Buddhism did not draw its inspiration from the Snkhya in the form in which it appears even in the epic, for there the doctrine of the isolation of spirit and nature and of the three Guas is fully and completely evolved." (ibid p. 251 n.)
But no less than twelve points of similarity are traceable between the two systems, viz.
(i) negation of or indifference to theism.
(ii) the belief in constant evolution (parinmanityatva.)
(iii) the denunciation of Vedic sacrifices and ascetic extravagances as well as the open hostility to caste system or the laxity with regard to Brahmanical restrictions.
(iv) the acceptance of suffering or misery as the nature of life.
(v) the role played by saskra (impressions) and vsans (tendencies) of past lives in determining the conditions of present and future lives.
(vi) the renunciation of the concept of self, expressed in Buddhism as "Ne'ta mama; N'eso'ham asmi; Na m'eso att ' (This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Self) and in the Snkhya as "Nsmi, na me, nham" (I am not; naught is mine; the ego exists not), as fundamental to deliverance.
(vii) the stress on the concept of causality or the law of cause and effect.
(viii) the correspondence between the four noble truths of Buddhism with the Snkhya view of the disease (that from which release is to be sought), health (final release), the cause of disease (the cause of that from which release is to be sought) and healing (the means of attaining release).
(ix) the adoption of yogic approach of meditation, (dhyna) as the path of release in both systems.
(x) the emphasis laid on ignorance as the cause of bondage and suffering.
(xi) the postulation of deliverance as the end of existence through knowledge by the elimination of avijj in Buddhism and aviveka in Sankhya and;
(xii) the correspondence between the Buddhist doctrine of Sopadisesa and Anupadisesa Nibba with the Snkhya concept of Jivanmukta and Videhakaivalya.
These similarities, however, fail to establish any lines of influence from Snkhya to Buddhism or vice versa because these broad points of agreement lose their significance when fundamental details are examined. While the approach to causality is common to the two systems, the theory of causation of one system differs from the other so vastly that each has to be stretched to its utmost to admit a semblance of what the other teaches. This is what Dr. Hermann Jacobi (ibid p. 26) did not realize when he came to the conclusion that the mere correspondence between the twelve principles of the Buddhist doctrine of Dependent Causation (Paiccasamuppda) and the evolution series of the Snkhya proved the dependence of the Buddha on the Snkhya teachings. The significant difference, which existed in the order of evolution and in the stress laid on the evolution were glossed over by him altogether. Firstly, the Sankhya system begins with the postulation of a permanent entity, Purua; secondly, the Snkhya Chain of Causation explains the evolution of the material aspect of the universe. In both respects the Buddhist Paicca-samuppda is different. While no permanent entity is recognised here, it explains the evolution of the individual.
An examination of the literary data may also prove useful. Dr. Heinrich Zimmer in his Philosophies of India says
"Sankhya is referred to in the Buddhist Pali Canon and Buddhist legends mention Kapila as one of the predecessors of the Buddha." (p. 332)
Apparently Dr. Zimmer was depending on Dr. Rajendra Lal Mitra's statement quoted in Dr. Radhakrishnan's Indian Philosophy Vol. II,
"There is abundant evidence, both in Hindu and Buddhist works, of unquestionable antiquity and authenticity of the Snkhya and Yoga systems having been current before the time of Buddha". (p. 251 n)
Both Dr. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Zimmer refer to the Brahmajlasutta of the Dghanikya, wherein, among the sixty-two heretical teachings the Buddha describes a system of philosophy comparable to the Sankhya;
"There are, 0, Bhikkhus, some recluses and Brahmans who are eternalists, and who on four grounds proclaim that both the soul and the world are eternal. They are addicted to logic and reasoning and give utterance to the following conclusions of their own, beaten out by their argumentation and based on their sophistry. 'Eternal is the soul; and the world is steadfast as a mountain peak, as a pillar firmly fixed; and these living creatures, though they pass from birth to birth, fall from one existence and spring up in another; yet they are for ever and ever'." (DN. I, p.30)
But the Snkhya system is not referred to by name in the Buddhist Pali Canon. While several Brahmans by the name of Kapila are mentioned in the Canon, only one, who may resemble the founder of the Snkhya system, is referred to in the Udana Commentary (p. 339 – See also DPPN s.v. Kapila) as an ancient teacher who taught that soul was limitless (na antav).
A very interesting word occurs often in the Pali Canon as an epithet to the higher life of renunciation and religious training: Sankha-likhhitam brahmacariyam. (DN.1 p. 63; Vin. !. p. 181) The meaning of this expression is obscure and the commentaries explain it as "likhitasankha-sadisa, dhota-sankha-sappaibhga" - pure, bright or perfect like the polished, inscribed or washed mother-of-pearl". This interpretation is not only far-fetched but also too figurative to be used in otherwise prosaic contexts as a frequent qualification for the life of religious training. One may, therefore, wonder whether the expression "Sankha-likhita" bears any reference to a form of religious life, which had been associated with the Snkhya system. Patrick Olivelle’s study of Yatidharmasamuccaya in his Rules and Regulations of Brahmanical Asceticism has thrown much light on the identification of Sankha and Likhita as two ancient and duly recognized authorities on asceticism. Amidst such authorities as Œaunaka, Yajnavlkya, Jbali, Grgi and others, these two are referred to individually and, quite frequently, jointly as exponents of certain specific aspects of ascetic life. (Olivrelle pp 41, 43, 45, 51, 69, 79, 81, 83, 86,107, 111, 117, 119, 133, 134, 141). Whether Sankha has anything to do with Snkhya is nowhere suggested.
Aœvaghoa, in circa 100 CE gave a clue which may be usefully pursued in our attempt to trace the connection between Buddhism and the Snkhya system. In his poem on the life of the Buddha, Buddhacarita, Ara (i. e. lra Klma) is said to have held Snkhya views in a theistic setting. To what extent Aœvaghoa relied on a now-lost tradition, we cannot be sure; but the association of Snkhya beliefs with a theistic element therein is not altogether untenab1e. Yoga has been very closely related to the Snkhya system from very early times and Yoga was founded on a theistic footing. There is every reason to believe that a teacher of the calibre of !ra Klma could be an exponent of the combined teachings of Snkhya and Yoga. Whatever similarities, which exist between Buddhism and the Snkhya can be explained as a reflection of the Buddha's philosophical training under !ra Klma. The Buddha and his disciples were not only aware but familiar with the teachings of Snkhya. Hence Dr. E. J. Thomas in A History of Buddhist Thought asks the question, "Did Buddhism get its notions of Snkhya through the Yoga philosophy? (p. 80)
The data so far presented seem to permit the conclusion that the Buddha treated the Snkhya teachings in identically the same manner as he dealt with the Yogic teachings. He used them in the formulation of his system of philosophy but went beyond their scope rejecting what was inapplicable. But the Snkhya, he knew, was not the developed system of the classical age. The classical Snkhya, on the other hand, can be shown to owe much of its development to Buddhism.
V - Conclusion
This brief survey of the place of Buddhism in Indian thought has brought to light a number of significant facts:
Firstly, the inadequacy of the current theories about the cultural evolution of the Indian subcontinent was strongly felt. There is a need to re-examine the data available with a view to assessing the pre-Aryan and other influences on Indian thought.
Secondly, the question of the relationship between Upaniadic philosophy and Buddhism is not so simple as to be dismissed with the generalized statement that Buddhism is another version of the Upaniads. The issues involved are so complicated that one should go deeper into details; it is idle to talk in terms of the spirit behind the Upaniads and general impressions, which unfortunately tend to be highly subjective. Literary data, alone, can give a full picture and with the evidence, which could be collected from the Pali Texts, there was adequate proof that the most popular theory on the subject is unacceptable. And this applies not only to the Upaniadic problem but also to that of the Snkhya system.
Lastly, the contributions to Indian thought made by the Buddha should be carefully borne in mind. It was no doubt the Buddha's admirable sense of humility, which led to his statement that he was not an original thinker. His theory of Dependent Causation or Origination was the most remarkable contribution to Indian thought. It is unique in the history of philosophy.
AN - Anguttaranikya
BrU - Bhadrayaka Upaniad
ChU -Chndogya Upaniad
DN - Dghanikya
DPPN – Dictionary of Pali Proper Names by Gunapala Malalsekera
EZ – Epigraphia Zeilanica
MN - Majjhimanikya
PD –Pali Dictionary
PTS - Pali Text Society of London
RV - Rgveda
SN - Sayuttanikya
Sn – Suttanipta
TG - Theragth
Vin – Vinaya Piakam
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