[Advaita-l] Budha & Advaita

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Jan 4 12:20:59 CST 2006

On Tue, 3 Jan 2006, Sankaran Aniruddhan wrote:

> Buddhism probably became a separate religion because its day-to-day
> practices may have been quite different from the prevalent vedic religion
> (leaving aside the question of whether ultimately they tried to describe
> the same reality). I assume that practising the vedic religion involves,
> to a great extent, following the karma kanda portion of the vedas, the
> same portion that Buddhists criticised severely.

As far as the historical evidence seems to indicate Buddhism in India was 
not a seperate religion at all.  For instance the "Buddhist" emperor par 
excellence, Ashoka in his edicts calls himself devanampriya and exhorts 
his subjects to show respect to "Brahmanas and Shramanas"

In fact this was the big cultural divide in ancient India.  not between 
"Hindu" vs "Buddhist" but Brahmana Vs. Shramana, grhastha vs Sannyasi, 
karma vs jnana.  For instance the samkhyakarikas also criticize the 
karmakanda and for mostly the same reasons as the Buddhists.  Yet they are 
considered "Hindu"  (Incidently they are also included in the Buddhist 
tripithaka though not considered authoritative.)  Also Indian Buddhism had 
no concept of laity (that developed later on.) so Buddhist was synonymous 
with Buddhist monk.

At the popular level most people probably practiced the same rituals and 
traditions as they always did.  Whether they were "Hindu" or "Buddhist" 
was just a matter of which matha or vihar they supported.  No doubt some 
supported both. Just as today we have Smartas and Vaishnavas etc. and some 
people who do "jaya-jaya" to anyone in an orange robe.  We can see some 
evidence of this in the Jains.  Jainism is just as old as Buddhism and 
from a Vedic point of view, just as heretical.  Yet today ask the man in 
the street and he will not even be aware that it is anything other than 
just another Hindu sect.

Because Jain, Buddhist, Vaishnava, and Shaiva shramanas competed for 
patronage, the rivalry could get intense and sometimes degenerated into 
violence and forced conversions but there is also evidence of cooperation 
and even syncretism.  Tantra for instance is a pan-Indian concept that cut 
across all sectarian boundaries.

It is only at the philosophical level that there is a real sharp 
difference and because most of what we know about ancient times is based 
on the works of the rival philosophers some mistakenly assume that all 
society behaved the same way but there is no reason to believe that there 
wasn't as much diversity then as there is now.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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