Buddhism and Hinduism

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The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from the Brahmanism in which it originated; the more profound our study, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism. ~ Ananda Coomaraswamy
Buddhism is returning home to India after a long exile of a thousand years and, like the proverbial prodigal son, is being received with open arms... Buddhism is Hindu in its origin and development, in its art and architecture, iconography, language, beliefs, psychology, names, nomenclature, religious vows and spiritual discipline.. ~ Ram Swarup
When I say that Buddhism is a part of Hinduism, certain people criticize me. But if I were to say that Hinduism and Buddhism are totally different, it would not be in conformity with truth. ~ Dalai Lama
In all essentials Buddhism and Brahmanism form a single system. ~ A. Coomaraswamy

Hinduism and Buddhism have common origins in India. They have shared parallel beliefs that have existed side by side, but also pronounced differences.

Quotes[edit]

  • I will choose only the least harmful way for the country. And that is the greatest benefit I am conferring on the country by embracing Buddhism; for Buddhism is a part and parcel of Bhâratîya culture. I have taken care that my conversion will not harm the tradition of the culture and history of this land.'
    • BR Ambedkar, Quoted in Dhananjay Keer: Ambedkar, p.498. (Dr. Ambedkar, Life and Mission. Popular Prakashan, Bombay 1987 (1962).)
  • Barth calls Buddhism "a Hindu phenomenon, a natural product, so to speak, of the age and social circle that witnessed its birth ", and "when we attempt to reconstruct its primitive doctrine and early history we come upon something so akin to what we meet in the most ancient Upanishads and in the legends of Hinduism that it is not always easy to determine what features belong peculiarly to it."
    • A. Barth quoted in Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist by Radha Kumud Mookerji
  • The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from the Brahmanism in which it originated; the more profound our study, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in what respects, if any, Buddhism is really unorthodox. The outstanding distinction lies in the fact that Buddhist doctrine is propounded by an apparently historical founder, understood to have lived and taught in the sixth century B.C. Beyond this there are only broad distinctions of emphasis. It is taken almost for granted that one must have abandoned the world if the Way is to be followed and the doctrine understood.... but nothing could be described as a 'social reform' or as a protest against the caste system. The repeated distinction of the 'true Brahman' from the mere Brahman by birth is one that had already been drawn again and again in the Brahmanical books.
  • "There is no true opposition of Buddhism and Brahmanism, but from the beginning one general movement, or many closely related movements. The integrity of Indian thought, moreover, would not be broken if every specifically Buddhist element were omitted; we should only have to say that certain details had been less adequately elaborated or less emphasized. (...) [The Buddha] in a majority of fundamentals does not differ from the Atmanists, although he gives a far clearer statement of the law of causality as the essential mark of the world of Becoming. The greater part of his polemic, however, is wasted in a misunderstanding. (...) At first sight nothing can appear more definite than the opposition of the Buddhist An-atta, 'no-Atman', and the Brahman Atman, the sole reality. But in using the same term, Atta or Atman, Buddhist and Brahman are talking of different things, and when this is realized, it will be seen that the Buddhist disputations on this point lose nearly all their value."
    • A. K. Coomaraswamy: Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • It may readily be granted that Buddhist thought is far more consistent than the thought of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are the work of many hands and extend over many centuries; amongst their authors are both poets and philosophers. The Buddhist Dhamma claims to be the pronouncement of a single rationalist, and to have but one flavour. Gautama propounds a creed and a system, and it is largely to this fact that the success of his missionary activities was due. (...) No one will assert that the Upanishads exhibit a consistent creed. But the explanation of their inconsistencies is historical and leaves the truth of their ultimate conclusions quite untouched. (...) we find in point of fact that the essential thought of the Upanishads is never grasped by the Early Buddhists, and, is sometimes but obscurely apprehended by modern exponents.
    • A.K. Coomaraswamy: Buddha, p.206-207., quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • So, in spite of an intellectual misunderstanding concerning the notion of Self, the substance of the Upanishadic and Buddhist spiritual paths remains essentially the same. The central point of agreement is the value and discipline of non-attachment: "Implicit in Brahman thought from an early period (...) and forming the most marked features of later Indian mysticism-achieved also in the Mahayana, but with greater difficulty-is the conviction that ignorance is maintained only by attachment, and not by such actions as are void of purpose and self-reference; and the thought that This and That world, Becoming and Being, are seen to be one by those in whom ignorance is destroyed. In this identification there is effected a reconciliation of religion with the world, which remained beyond the grasp of Theravada Buddhists. The distinctions between early Buddhism and Upanishadic Brahmanism, however practically important, are thus merely temperamental; fundamentally there is absolute agreement that bondage consists in the thought of I and Mine, and that this bondage may be broken only for those in whom all craving is extinct. In all essentials Buddhism and Brahmanism form a single system.'
    • A. K. Coomaraswamy quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, quoting A.K. Coomaraswamy: Buddha, p.221.
  • In comparing Buddhism (the teaching of Gautama, that is) with Brahmanism, we have then to understand and take into account the difference of the problem to be solved. Gautama is concerned with salvation and nothing but salvation: the Brahmans likewise see in that summum bonum the ultimate significance of all existence, but they also take into account the things of relative importance; theirs is a religion both of Eternity and Time, while Gautama looks upon Eternity alone. It is not really fair to Gautama or to the Brahmans to contrast their Dharma; for they do not seek to cover the same ground. We must compare the Buddhist ethical ideal with the (identical) standard of Brahmanhood expected of the Brahman born; we must contrast the Buddhist monastic system with the Brahmanical orders; the doctrine of Anatta with the doctrine of Atman, and here we shall find identity. (...) Buddhism stands for a restricted ideal, which contrasts with Brahmanism as a pars contrasts with the whole.
    • A.K. Coomaraswamy: Buddha, p.219. , quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Ananda Coomaraswamy concedes that Buddhism developed a more satisfactory systematization of certain Upanishadic ideas than the Upanishads themselves: "Gautama repudiates the two extreme views, that everything is, and that everything is not, and substitutes the thought that there is only a Becoming. (cfr. Samyutta Nikaya, xxii:90:16) it is due to Gautama to say that the abstract concept of causality as the fundamental principle of the phenomenal world is by him far more firmly grasped and more clearly emphasized than we find it in the early Upanishads; nevertheless the thought and the word 'Becoming' are common to both, and both are in agreement that this Becoming is the order of the world, the mark of organic existence, from which Nibbana, or the Brahman (according to their respective phraseology) alone is free.'
    • A. K. Coomaraswamy quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, quoting A.K. Coomaraswamy: Buddha, p.208.
  • When I say that Buddhism is a part of Hinduism, certain people criticize me. But if I were to say that Hinduism and Buddhism are totally different, it would not be in conformity with truth.
    • Dalai Lama, quoted in: Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism
  • The exact meaning of the Arabic rendering of Indian terms is ambiguous, starting with the meaning of budh/budd/but. As the Buddhists had been the first big producers of ornate sculptures for veneration, viz. Buddha statues, the word but became the standard Persian term for "idol", so an idol-worshipper was called But-parast, and an idol-breaker But-shikan, even when the idol was not a Buddha statue. Al-Baladhuri says that "the Indians give in general the name of budd to anything considered with their worship or which forms the object of their veneration. So, an idol is called budd.' (...) In the circumstances, is it likely that the freshly arrived Arab chronicler could distinguish a category of "Buddhists" in the general population of Hindus?... At that stage, the Arab-Muslim newcomers simply couldn't distinguish between Brahmins and Buddhist monks, all But-parasts, "idol-worshippers".
    • Al-Baladhuri, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, with reference to Elliot & Dowson: History of India, vol.1
  • The Japanese-Buddhist Goddess Benzai-ten is none other than Saraswati, the Chinese-Buddhist God Shui-tian is Vedic Varuna, etc., all imported by Buddhism without the help of a single (non-Buddhist) Brahmin. As D.D. Kosambi notes: 'Pali records started by making Indra and Brahma respectful hearers of the original Buddhist discourses. The Mahayana admitted a whole new pantheon of gods including Ganesha, Shiva and Vishnu, all subordinated to the Buddha.'... But in Japanese Buddhism too, we find many practices that are not traditionally Japanese nor Buddhist in the strictest sense, but that have been carried along by Buddhism as a part of its Hindu heritage, e.g. the fire ceremony of the Shingon sect which, like the Vedic sacrifice, is called 'feeding the Gods'.... The inclusion of Vedic and other Gods in the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon is well-attested.
    • D.D. Kosambi quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743 with reference to Louis Frédéric: Les dieux du bouddhisme, p.258-268., D.D. Kosambi: Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India, p.179.
  • The essential part of the teachings of Buddha now forms an integral part of Hinduism. (...) It is my fixed opinion that the teaching of Buddha found its full fruition in India, and it could not be otherwise, for Gautama was himself a Hindu of Hindus. He was saturated with the best that was in Hinduism, and he gave life to some of the teachings that were buried in the Vedas and which were overgrown with weeds. (...) Buddha never rejected Hinduism, but he broadened its base. He gave it a new life and a new interpretation.'
    • Mahatma Gandhi, Speech delivered in Colombo in 1927, quoted by Gurusevak Upadhyaya: Buddhism and Hinduism, p. iii. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The essential message of the Buddha constitutes not a 'different' religion but forms an integral part of Hinduism itself, supplying to it the dynamism needed for continuous self-criticism and self-purification.
    • Prof. V.S. Jha,, In Gurusevak Upadhyaya: Buddhism and Hinduism, Foreword, dated 8 Nov. 1956. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Yet, when Hindu Revivalists claim Buddhism as a continuous evolute of Hinduism, they join an established viewpoint articulated by Western scholars with no axe to grind. Christian Lindtner quotes with approval Dharmakirti's list of four doctrines of contemporaneous Brahmanism which Buddhism rejected: 'The authority of the Veda, the doctrine of a Creator of the world, the conviction that rituals can cause moral purity, and the haughtiness based on claims of birth'. Then Lindtner adds: 'Apart from that, ancient Indian Buddhism should be seen as reformed Brahmanism.' (...) Though Western scholarship is usually invoked as the ultimate trump card with which to silence opponents, the Buddha-separatist authors prefer to ignore or dismiss it in this case. Thus, Buddhist scholar Davidi. Kalupahana, who rejects the inclusion of Buddhism in Hinduism, is irritated with Western scholarship: 'Hindu scholars writing on Buddhism made such statements as this: 'Early Buddhism is not an absolutely original doctrine. It is no freak in the evolution of Indian thought.[1]' But even a more sober scholar from the West felt that 'Buddhism started from special Indian beliefs, which it took for granted. The chief of these were the belief in transmigration and the doctrine of retribution of action (...) They were already taken for granted as a commonly accepted view of life by most Indian religions.[2]
    • Christian Lindtner: 'From Brahmanism to Buddhism', Asian Philosophy, 1999., and David Kalupahana: Buddhist Philosophy. with reference to S. Radhakrishnan: Indian Philosophy (Allen & Unwin, London 1962), vol. 1, p.360, and to EJ. Thomas: 'Buddhism in Modern Times', University of Ceylon Review) (Colombo), 9 (1951), p. 216. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • To my mind having approached Buddhism after a study of the ancient religion of India, the religion of the Veda, Buddhism has always seemed to be, not a new religion, but a natural development of the Indian mind in its various manifestations...
    • – Max Müller , Chips from a German Workshop, i, 434, quoted from Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist by Radha Kumud Mookerji [1]
  • For hundreds of years before Buddha's time, movements were in progress in Indian thought which prepared the way for Buddhism.
    • Hermann Oldenberg, quoted in Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist by Radha Kumud Mookerji
  • Buddhism is only a later phase of the general movement of thought of which the Upanishads were earlier [expressions]. Buddha did not look upon himself as an innovator, but only a restorer of the way of the Upanishads.'
    • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan: Indian Philosophy, vol.2, p.469., Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • We should never forget that Gautama was born and brought up a Hindu and lived and died a Hindu. His teaching, far-reaching and original as it was, and really subversive of the religion of the day, was Indian throughout. He was the greatest and wisest and best of the Hindus.
    • T.W. Rhys-Davids: Buddhism, p.116-117, quoted in D. Keer: Ambedkar, p.522. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Buddhism is returning home to India after a long exile of a thousand years and, like the proverbial prodigal son, is being received with open arms. Religious tolerance of the average Hindu partly explains the warm reception. But a more important reason is the fact that Buddha and Buddhism form an intimate part of Hindu consciousness. Buddha was a Hindu. Buddhism is Hindu in its origin and development, in its art and architecture, iconography, language, beliefs, psychology, names, nomenclature, religious vows and spiritual discipline....Hinduism is not all Buddhism, but Buddhism forms part of the ethos which is essentially Hindu.
  • There is reason to believe that his spiritual experience was wholly in the Vedantic tradition. This conclusion is inescapable as one studies Buddha's teachings. Buddha himself claims no more. He only claims to have "seen an ancient way, an ancient road followed by the wholly awakened ones of olden times".
    • Swarup, Ram (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Chapter 3.
  • Swami Vivekananda's close associate Sister Nivedita testifies that Swamiji was a great devotee of the Buddha: 'Again and again he would return upon the note of perfect rationality in his hero. Buddha was to him not only the greatest of Aryans but also 'the one absolutely sane man' that the world had ever seen. How he had refused worship! (...) How vast had been the freedom and humility of the Blessed One! He attended the banquet of Ambapali, the courtesan. Knowing that it would kill him, but desiring that his last act should be one of communion with the lowly, he received the food of the pariah, and afterwards sent a courteous message to his host, thanking him for the Great Deliverance. How calm! How masculine! (...) He alone was able to free religion entirely from the argument of the supernatural, and yet make it as binding in its force, and as living in its appeal, as it had ever been." Sister Nivedita also relates that Swamiji's first act after taking Sannyas was to "hurry to Bodh Gaya, and sit under the great tree"; and that his last journey, too, had taken him to Bodh Gaya.
    • Sister Nivedita, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, quoting Sister Nivedita: The Master as I Saw Him, p. 210-215.
  • There are then based on this common foundation three main religions, Brahmanism, Buddhism and Jainism. Of the second, a great and universal faith, it has been said that, with each fresh acquirement of knowledge, it seems more difficult to separate it from the Hinduism out of which it emerged and into which (in Northern Buddhism) it relapsed. This is of course not to say that there are no differences between the two, but that they share in certain general and common principles as their base.
    • Sir John Woodroffe (originally under pseudonym Arthur Avalon): Shakti and Shakta, p.5., quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743

References[edit]

  1. S. Radhakrishnan: Indian Philosophy
  2. EJ. Thomas: Buddhism in Modern Times

External links[edit]

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