HE GENERAL IMPRESSION that prevails in the world about Buddhism is that it is a philosophy of life which, though counted among religions, does not prescribe to the existence of God. This impression is only partially correct. Even in contemporary Buddhism, it is wrong to say that none of the Buddhists believe in God or gods. Although the predominant sects, Mahayans and Theravadins, are known to believe only in the ultimate inherent wisdom in man which Buddhaas perfected, they too believe in many superstitions and demonic figures which substitute God for them. This impression of the Buddhists' negation of God is also wrong on another count. An exploration of early Buddhist sources as we shall demonstrate, reveals ample proof that Buddhism began like any other Divinely revealed faith with its emphasis on the Unity of God.
As for the position of Buddha (563–483 BC) among the Buddhists, although he is not directly worshipped as a deity, there is very little difference between the veneration shown to the Buddha by the Buddhists and the manner of worship of God found in other religions. They revere him and pay homage to him, bow to his images and statues and prostrate before them like the adherents of any other idolatrous religion in the world.
In fact, despite the denial of God by most Buddhists, deep within their hearts there seems to be lurking a desire to worship something. It is this which is manifested in their veneration of Buddha. The same unquenchable innate thirst for God etched deep upon the human soul urges them to worship Him, or something, if not Him. So it is to fill this void that the Buddhists worship the Buddha without formally recognizing him to be a god.
It must also be mentioned here that in the Tibetan form of Buddhism not only is the existence of superhuman deities or demons a part and parcel of their faith, but also they certainly believe in communication with them. The selection of a new Panchen Lama for instance, requires many rites and rituals to be performed, to obtain guidance from gods as to which one of the newborn Tibetan children should be the future Panchen Lama.
Among the so-called atheistic Buddhist sects, it is commonly alleged that Buddha himself denied the existence of God. They support their claim by pointing at the hostility shown to Buddha by the contemporary Hindu pundits. That hostility, they maintain, was largely due to the contempt shown by Buddha to their gods. The Buddhists in general do not bother to analyse the real factors at work which generated misunderstandings leading to the persecution of Buddha. It is quite sufficient for them to believe that Buddha must have rejected the idea of God in totality.
However, as we shall presently establish by re-examining some facts of history and some important relevant passages in the Buddhist sacred literature, it can be clearly shown that Buddhaas is absolved from all such allegations. Yet it must be said, at the very outset, that the historical evidence to which the adherents of both view points refer, is in itself meagre. This difficulty, however, can be offset to a large degree by having recourse to other circumstantial evidence.
The Buddhist philosophy, teachings and practices remained to be transmitted only verbally for almost five hundred years after Buddha, except in the case of inscriptions on the rocks and stupas made during the illustrious reign of Ashoka (273–232 BC). Ashoka, it should be remembered, appeared some three hundred years after his spiritual master, Buddhaas. This fact in itself is of vital importance because these writings can certainly serve the purpose of judging Buddha's philosophy and way of life from the vantage point of Ashoka. Moreover, at a time when nothing of Buddhism was committed to writing, it was Ashoka alone who left behind a written account of what he understood to be Buddha's teachings. Again, his authority as a true representative of Buddha has never been challenged. What remains therefore, is simply a case of different interpretations.
As far as the story of Buddha is concerned, although it too was committed to writing many centuries after his demise, it has been unanimously accepted by all researchers without serious disagreement. This knowledge seems to have been passed on from generation to generation. Hence the personality of Buddha and his lifestyle appear to have a continuity, beginning from Buddha himself to the present day.
From this, it is reasonable to conclude, that an understanding of Buddha and Buddhism which accords with these two sources i.e. the life of Buddha and the writings on the stupas, should have the stronger claim to acceptance. Against this, such views as are clearly at variance with them may safely be rejected. However, if the early sources seem to contradict each other, caution has to be applied in accepting one and rejecting the other.
A close examination of Buddha's biography reveals that in his lifestyle, he was not any different from other prophets of God, who appeared in different parts of the world. There is a universality about the character and style of prophets which can also be discerned in the life of Buddha.
Coming to the issue of the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism, the problems begin with different interpretations of what he is known to have said or done. We disagree with the commonly held view that Buddha was an atheist. We maintain that Buddhism was a Divinely revealed religion. We emphasize the fact that the founder of Buddhism was certainly not an atheist, but was a man commissioned by God Himself, to deliver His message in the style that all other messengers were raised.
Most scholars who write about Buddhism are out of their depth in trying to justify the placing of Buddhism among the great religions of the world. To do that they have to change the universally accepted definition of religion so that it also accommodates Godless philosophies and religions. Why should a code of conduct which starts its journey with a denial of God be admitted into the comity of religions, is the question. As far as our view is concerned, no such objection can be raised on this count. We on our part reject the premise that Buddhism had no Divine origin. To support our contention we shall have recourse to the same well-established sources as the Buddhists themselves rely on and demonstrate that our interpretations have a stronger basis for acceptance. We repeat that Buddhism is no oddity among religions; on the contrary, its fundamental characters are at one with the rest of the Divinely revealed faiths.
The erroneous popular belief in the Godless origin of Buddhism was spread largely by the Western scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Their knowledge of Buddhism was largely based on the translations of Buddhist literature from the Pali language by Buddhist scholars who had permitted their own biased, godless philosophy to influence their translations. Few among them understood the Pali language, which is the language of the source material. Moreover, instead of drawing their own inferences directly from a study of reliable Buddhist sources, they leaned entirely on the beliefs about Buddhism prevailing among the major Buddhist sects.
ONTRARY TO this general trend of Western scholars, a solitary voice in India was raised by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian (1835–1908), who presented a diametrically opposed view. He maintained that Buddhaas had firm belief in the existence of God who Himself had raised him as His messenger with a specific mission to perform. He demonstrated that Buddhaas, like all other prophets of God, also believed in the existence of Satan, as well as in heaven and hell, in angels and in the Day of Resurrection. Hence, the allegation that Buddhaas did not believe in God is pure fabrication. What Buddha rejected was Vedanta (i.e. doctrines and beliefs found in the Hindu sacred books, the Vedas). He rejected the belief in corporeal manifestations of gods as found in Hinduism. He was severely critical of the Brahmans and regarded them to have corrupted their Divine teaching through their distorted interpretation.
The voice of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas was not to remain solitary for long. Soon, other voices from among the second generation of Western scholars and researchers on Buddhism began to follow suit. The most prominent among them was the great French scholar Dr. Gustav Le Bon (1841–1931) who writes:
Unfortunately, the study of Indian monuments has been completely neglected by European scholars. The specialists of Indian studies, through whom we have come to learn of Buddhism, had never visited India. They had only studied this religion in books; an unfortunate twist of fate made them chance upon the works of philosophical sects written five or six centuries after the death of Buddha, these being absolutely alien to the religion practised in reality. The metaphysical speculations which had so astonished Europeans by their profoundity were in fact nothing new. Ever since the books of India have been better known, these have been found in the writings of philosophical sects which had developed during the Brahmanic period.* 1
So far, Dr. Le Bon seems to be perfectly right in his criticism, but as is apparent from the following text, he himself committed the same mistake of not deriving the concept of true Buddhism, strictly as it is presented by the writings on the stupas—which never mention Buddhism as polytheistic. In the words of Dr. Le Bon:
It is not in the books, but in the monuments that one should study what Buddhism used to be. What the monuments tell us differs strangely from what certain books teach us. The monuments prove that this religion, which modern scholars want to see as an atheistic cult, was, on the contrary, the most polytheistic out of all the cults.* 2
It is this last part of his statement which is false as will be presently shown.
After Dr. Le Bon, another renowned scholar, Arthur Lillie drew a completely different conclusion from his careful study of the inscriptions on Ashoka's stupas. He amply quotes them in his book, India in Primitive Christianity. It should be noted that these inscriptions were not etched solely on the stupas which were specifically built for this purpose, they were also discovered upon the faces of huge rocks situated on highways and trade routes. We present below two examples of such inscriptions from Lillie's translations.
On the Eastern bank of the river Katak, twenty miles from Jagan Nath, there is a rock by the name of Pardohli upon which is written:
'Much longing after the things (of this life) is a disobedience, I again declare; not less so is the laborious ambition of dominion by a prince who would be a propitiator of heaven. Confess and believe in God (Is'ana) who is the worthy object of obedience. For equal to this (belief), I declare unto you, ye shall not find such a means of propitiating heaven. Oh strive ye to obtain this inestimable treasure.'3
Is'ana, mentioned in this inscription is the name of ShivDevta—God. (See The Sanskrit/English Dictionary by Shivram Apte).
On the seventh Stupa the same writer quotes:
'Thus spake Devanampiya Piyadasi: "Wherefore from this very hour, I have caused religious discourses to be preached, I have appointed religious observances that mankind, having listened thereto, shall be brought to follow in the right path, and give glory to God* (Is'ana)." '4
From these references it becomes obvious that the early sources portray Buddhaas as a dedicated believer in God (may He bless his soul).
The second source material in order of credibility and authenticity, is such Buddhist literature as came into being five hundred years after Buddha. This too contains enough evidence to indicate that Buddha was neither an atheist nor an agnostic but was indeed a believer in God. We specifically refer to the Theravada texts known as Tripitaka (Three Baskets), which as the name suggests, are divided into three sections. The first part is called Vinaya-Pitaka (Rules of Conduct), the second is called Sutta-Pitaka (Discourses on Truth) and the third is called Abhidhamma-Pitaka (Analysis of Religion).
In Sutta-Nipta there is The Chapter on Going to the Far Shore,5 in which the goal of conquering death is expressed. Buddha explains that birth and death do not mean anything to those who have overcome their ego thus becoming at one with God. These passages may have been misunderstood and confused with the Brahman concept of Mukti (redemption), but it is not right. Buddha clearly speaks of only those who have already reached the other side of the barrier here on earth before their death. This simply means that according to him, no man could have access to the hereafter, unless he had experienced it during his life here on earth, a teaching close to the Quranic precept. He preached that by being at one with God, man rises above life and death and becomes eternal.
At the end of the chapter, Pingiya, a follower of Buddha describes the excellence of his master which becomes instrumental in converting him to Buddhism. Having already expressed that he was enfeebled by old age and close to dying, Pingiya concludes his discussion with the following statement:
'Assuredly I shall go to the immovable, the unshakeable, the likeness of which does not exist anywhere. I have no doubt about this. Thus consider me to be one whose mind is so disposed.'6
This illustrates the hope and expectation of a disciple of Buddha, that after his death he will meet his Lord, who is described as immovable, unshakeable and without likeness. This is a description of God in full agreement with that found in other scriptures.
There is another interesting account giving further information about Buddha's beliefs found in Sutta-Pitaka—the second part of the Tripitaka texts, subdivided into five books containing many of the Buddha's dialogues. The president of the Pali Text Society of London, Mrs T.W. Rhys Davids has translated some of these dialogues into English and her translation can be found in a series of books entitled Sacred Books of the Buddhists. Dialogue number thirteen of the second volume entitled Tevigga Sutta, deals specifically with the question of how man can be led to God.
In response to this question, Buddha first rejects the suggestion that anyone among the Hindu clergy of his time was capable of leading man to God, then he answers the question as he understood it himself. The background of how and where this dialogue took place is quite interesting.
It is said that once upon a time there used to be a famous Brahman village by the name of Manasâkata. This village was situated at a most scenic spot of the country beside a beautiful river. Its fame had reached far and wide because it was the centre of Brahmanic religious controversy. Five of these Brahmans were especially distinguished and led the school of their respective religious ideology. It so happened that Buddha also alighted by the same river along with his chosen disciples. The news spread and people began to pay him visits to enlighten themselves on Buddha's doctrine and hear about Buddhism from his own lips. Once, Vasettha and Bharadvaga of the same village, while taking a walk after their bath in the river, began to debate a religious doctrine. Neither of the two could convince the other of the correctness of the opinions of their respective gurus. Vasettha, the young Brahman, suggested that it should be taken to the court of Buddha. This agreed upon they proceeded to present the issue to Buddha seeking his wise counsel. During the meeting, Bharadvaga, the young Brahman, remained silent and Vasettha asked the questions. Before responding to the question, Buddha posed some counterquestions.
First he asked, 'Did any Brahmans versed in the Three Vedas, ever see Brahmâ face to face?' The answer was 'No'. Then Buddha asked Vâsettha if any of the Brahmans or their pupils of the previous seven generations had seen Brahmâ, and the answer was again, 'No'. Then Buddha asked them if they themselves claimed that they had ever seen Brahmâ. Again the answer was, 'No'. Then he asked Vâsettha that if a man, born and brought up in Manasâkata was asked the way to Manasâkata, would that man be in any doubt or difficulty in answering that question. Vâsettha answered:
'Certainly not, Gotama! And why? If the man had been born and brought up in Manasakata, every road that leads to Manasâkata would be perfectly familiar to him.'
At this point Buddha expounded:
'That man, Vâsettha, born and brought up at Manasâkata might, if he were asked the way to Manasâkata, fall into doubt and difficulty, but to the Tathâgata,' (the fully enlightened one, meaning himself), 'when asked touching the path which leads to the world of Brahmâ, there can be neither doubt nor difficulty. For Brahmâ, I know, Vasettha, and the world of Brahmâ, and the path which leadeth unto it. Yea, I know it even as one who has entered the Brahmâ world, and has been born within it!'7
Buddha's argument was that the residents of Manasâkata should clearly know the roads leading to Manasakata. Any claimant belonging to God, must also know the path leading to Him, but it would only be possible if he had come from God and had known Him personally. But the answers to the counter questions of Buddha clearly showed that none of the gurus had either seen God or had any personal knowledge of Him. Hence, the identity of God was completely outside and beyond their understanding. Up to this point of the dialogue, Buddha's arguments may have been misunderstood by some to mean that Buddha was declaring there was no God because nobody had met Him. Indeed, the translator in her introduction has suggested that the whole line of argument followed in this discourse is:
'... only an argumentum ad hominem. If you want union with Brahmâ—which you had much better not want—this is the way to attain to it.'8
But this analysis of the discourse shows a total failure on the part of the author to understand what Buddha positively proves. It illustrates how some researchers have been influenced by the beliefs of the Buddhist monks who had misread Buddha's heroic campaign against his contemporary order of the Brahmans. What he categorically rejected were their superstitious beliefs in godlike figures, which they had neither seen nor heard from. But Buddha's answer did not end there. He went on to claim that for the Tathagata, there could be no such difficulty in pointing out the way to God. He went on to claim that he himself was the one who could lead man to God because he had been in communion with Him and had come from Him.
It should by now have become obvious that Buddha did have faith in the existence of one Supreme God and it was from Him that he claimed to have come. He knew Him better than the villagers of Manasâkata knew their own village or the roads leading to it. Here Buddha asserts for himself a life of constant communion with God, a state which stands higher in order of nearness to Him than mere revelation. Many great prophets have made similar claims of witnessing a life of eternity with Him here on earth, even before death transports them to the otherworldly life. They, all the Divine messengers, share this eternal state of communion with Him, Buddha being no exception. Buddha referred to God as Brahmâ, because this was a familiar term to the Hindus, who applied it to the Supreme God among their gods. As the dialogue continues, the position is made even clearer.
'When he had thus spoken, Vasettha, the young Brahman, said to the Blessed One:
'So has it been told me, Gotama, even that the Samana Gotama knows the way to a state of union with Brahmâ. It is well! Let the venerable Gotama be pleased to show us the way to a state of union with Brahmâ, let the venerable Gotama save the Brahman race!'9
Having heard Vasettha, Buddha does not reject his prayer and aspirations with reference to Brahmâ as unreal and meaningless; a definite proof of his approval of whatever he spoke of the Brahmâ and His communion with His chosen ones.
For people who respond to the call of God, irrespective of their caste, the path to God is made easy for them. For one who fears God, all human passions such as anger, jealousy, prejudice etc., cease to dominate him. When one transcends them, one is likely to imitate Godly attributes and acquire them. This whole dialogue is worthy of special attention by those who want to understand Buddha's attitude towards Him.
So why should Buddha have been misunderstood by his own followers? An answer to this question may lie in earlier Buddhist history and the conflict between the newly emerging religion of Buddha and the older religious order of Brahmanism. They attributed to Buddha their own views, not a rare phenomenon with religious clergy, or they might have misunderstood him in good faith. When Buddha waged war against the prevalent idolatry, to which the Brahmans of the time were entirely dedicated, he was accused of denying the existence of God. This propaganda, carried out by a powerful class of Brahmans, was so loudly proclaimed that the voice of Buddha was drowned in their tumultuous antagonism.
Considering the difficulties of communication and lack of writing facilities, it is not at all unlikely that this propaganda not only found favour with the Hindus, but also influenced the followers of Buddha. Ultimately, they themselves began to believe that Buddha's rejection of the Hindu gods was total. Thus Gotama Buddha's denial of the gods of the Brahmans was overgeneralized and led many to maintain that he did not believe in any God.
As far as their allegiance to Buddha is concerned, it remains untouched. They had accepted Buddha as an all-wise teacher, so kind, so loveable, so humane. We are talking of an age when literacy was at its lowest level. The common people would often make their decisions on hearsay, hence the followers of Buddha themselves could have been carried away by this Brahmanic propaganda. But it created little effect upon their loyalty to him. For them it was sufficient that Buddha was the perfect source of wisdom. As such they revered him and continued to follow him with all their heart, as their beloved and all-wise master. Slowly and imperceptibly, however, this so-called Godless master of theirs began to be revered as God himself.
It had not happened for the first time in the history of religions. How often oracles had been transformed into gods and humans raised to the level of deities! In the case of Buddha however, all the forms of their love and attention remained centred upon Buddha as a human paragon of perfection and he was not literally raised to the mythical concept of godly figures. For them, it was sufficient to place the Brahmans on one end of the spectrum and Buddha on the other. To them the Brahmans stood as oracles of legends and myths, while Buddha personified truth, wisdom and rationality. Thus, gradually Buddhism acquired a character where the belief in a legendary god had no role to play. Whatever the urge in human nature there is for believing in God, it was progressively filled with the image of Buddha. So Buddha, who in the eyes of his followers of the fourth century, had started his journey as just a source of absolute wisdom, began to rise to a status much higher than can be filled by an ordinary secular philosopher. In his case, he did not remain a mere symbol of mundane wisdom for long, but began to command such high respect and veneration as is commanded by God, or gods, among religions.
We are not talking here of a short period of a few years. It might well have taken centuries for the shadow of atheism to have cast its ominous spell over a large part of the Buddhist world. Again, it may also have taken centuries for the Buddhists to ultimately build a god out of Buddha, without naming him so. The manner in which we suggest the transformation of Buddhists took place from believing in God to a Godless people, is not merely conjecture. A study of Buddhist sources, as we have demonstrated, fully supports the view that Buddhaas was a believer in One Supreme Creator. What he rejected was polytheism. This is the true image of Buddha which survived untarnished for the first three centuries despite the best efforts of his enemies. Here we take the reader's mind once again to the age of the great Buddhist monarch Ashoka, who ruled a vast Buddhist empire which extended beyond the boundaries of India covering the whole of Afghanistan. It is he who possesses the most authentic and unquestionable authority on the teachings and the ways of Buddha's life. There is no shadow of doubt that what he portrayed Buddha to be was simply a messenger of God who founded his teachings upon Divine revelation. Whatever he conveyed to mankind was only what he was commissioned to, by their Supreme Creator. It is this verdict of Ashoka which is indelibly etched upon the rocks of history.
sceticism or Escapism
Renunciation of the world and the severing of worldly ties is considered as the ultimate means in Buddhism for the complete liberation of self from anguish and misery. It takes an ascetic to understand the problems associated with the conflicts between the soul and the mundane temptations of life. Unless one is endowed with exceptional qualities of patience and resolution, this challenge seems insurmountable. But in this lies the only hope offered by Buddhism. A total renunciation of all that life is made of and a total withdrawal from the allurements of life is the only path to Nirvana, the eternal peace.
The complete denial of all passions is therefore claimed by the Buddhists to be the absolute truth. The greed for material wealth, for power, or even for the love of others, when unfulfilled, results in the agony and frustration of the deprived. Similarly, hatred also plays havoc with one's peace of mind. All these forces weaken the spiritual powers of man. This also emphasized that because man's intrinsic nature cannot be changed and his lust for ever more cannot be stilled, full contentment and satisfaction can never be achieved without severing all ties with matter.
This for the Buddhists is a starting point upon a long journey of denial to reach the ultimate goal of redemption. He has to deny all that life requires for its comfortable existence in a material sense. It is a struggle of denial relating to all the five senses. A denial of what the eyes require, and what the ears crave for, a denial of touch, taste and smell, a denial of all which agitates human hearts. They seek to avoid all dangers of addiction by avoiding all situations in which there is a threat to man becoming involved and enslaved by material influences. In short, the Buddhist concept of peace through denial is simply another name for escapism. To live is the problem, to die is the solution.
Rather than attempting to struggle and conquer the baser motivations and to bring them under the command of the soul, the soul is advised to beat a retreat and vacate the arena of life on earth. All that is born out of desire to satisfy one's ego, is lowly, materialistic, ignoble and should be sacrificed for the sake of the ultimate good of the same ego. The peace achieved through such an escape amounts to little more than death i.e., the negation of life.
Peace can be of two types. Death can also be classed as peace; to draw a line between peace and death is not an easy task. For instance, a compromise with defeat and resignation to a state of dishonour can serve as a case in point. The contentment of victory and the calm of surrender, though similar, are in reality poles apart. One is life and the other is death. The identification and classification of religions, at times, becomes difficult because of this attendant confusion. Each religion seemingly invites to the same ultimate goal of peace and contentment. Yet there are some which prefer a peaceful surrender to death rather than to die for a noble cause and there are those who raise the banner of a holy war to be fought against evil at all costs. All challenges to absolute morality are taken on bravely and roundly defeated. The calm that ensues is the true Nirvana.
Religions such as the decadent form of Buddhism admonish their adherents to find peace in the haven of escape. They teach escapism from all temptations which may lure them to their natural desires, urges and cravings. A Buddhist would withdraw to the safety of his inner self—a state described vaguely by some as an emptiness—by others as something which is eternal and possesses the qualification of being without substance. Are they talking of God? One may wonder! But opinions differ. Most believe that it is a state shared and understood only by those who reach it. If it is not an ultimate return to God, and most Buddhist scholars will refrain from admitting the existence of God in any form, then the only valid definition for this emptiness is absolute annihilation and total death.
In short, all natural urges related to the five senses which constitute life are denied with a finality for gaining absolute peace or Nirvana. Of course, all the adherents cannot reach that goal simultaneously, but all true adherents are required to continue to endeavour to achieve it step by step, as they advance to the precipice of annihilation.
To illustrate this point further, let us relate an episode which we find so befitting in helping the reader to understand the specific point we are raising. There used to be a beggar in Kashmir, who was half mystic and half beggar. He begged for the barest necessities of his life and no more. He was often found lost in contemplation and reverie, delving deep into his own self in search of something. Once a sage walked past him and suddenly noticed that he was no longer the same person, because he was bubbling with joy and dancing with ecstasy.
'Baba why this great transformation? You do not seem to be the same pauper any more. Whatever have you achieved?' were the questions. 'Have you chanced upon a treasure?'
'Yes,' was the answer. 'A priceless, peerless treasure! Why should not one exult at the fulfilment of all one's desires?'
Having received this reply, the sage inquired, 'You are clothed in the same rags and tatters, covered from head to foot in dust like you ever were, how then can you claim that all your desires are fulfilled?'
The beggar dismissed him with a wave of his hand, staring at him with a gaze of profound wisdom and said, 'Remember this, that one's desires are only fulfilled when he is left with no desires. Such is my great moment of liberation. Off you go and leave me to dance.'
A beautiful answer, leaving the sage absolutely nonplussed. But looking at it once again, one is bound to admit that the answer of the beggar was as beautiful as it was empty. No change had taken place beyond the confines of his limited personal world. The world around was the same miserable world of sorrow, suffering and pain. The world around him was the same world of tyranny, oppression and despotism. He still needed something to live by—food, water and air were as indispensable to him as they ever were. Of desires one may get rid, but not of needs.
Whatever change was brought, was brought about within himself. But who knows whether it had come to stay forever. Maybe it was just a brief moment of triumph. Maybe on a chilly night with freezing cold, he would desire to have some warmth around, some clothes, some shelter, some hearth. Maybe if he fell ill, he would feel the need of a healer and pray for one. With what surmounting resolve would he conquer such challenges of the hard realities of life? Only a Buddhist sage would know the answer. It was only a subjective feeling of fulfilment and no more. In truth it was an absolute resignation to the state of helplessness—call it peace or call it death, by whatever name you may, it is not entitled to be called true Nirvana.
The search for peace through complete denial of all that relates to life and supports it, seems to have taken hold in both the major Indian religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. This is tantamount to denying the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. In application to the human pursuit of peace, this can only mean surrender and acceptance of defeat.
Here we are not discussing the teachings of the founders of Hinduism or Buddhism, but are merely examining the philosophies that have resulted after thousands of years of decadence. Both have moved far away from their Divine origin. In fact they have followed the same course as is followed by mysticism or Sufis in other major religions of the world. In their case, the latter do not break their ties with a belief in God; instead within the framework of a Divine religion, they carve their own domain of subjective spiritual experiences which result from inspiration rather than revelation.
In the case of yogic philosophy in Hinduism and Buddhism, both are completely broken away from their traditional teachings without a trace of the original to be found in them. As against revelation, which was the ultimate source of enlightenment of Buddha, the emphasis during the later ages kept shifting from revelation to inspiration, contemplation and reverie. In a strange way, despite the fact that Buddhism at its beginning was at complete odds with Hinduism, both joined forces later in the philosophy and practices of yoga.
It is amazing that the first mention of yogic teachings is only found in the Tantras, the so-called religious documents, which were compiled at least five hundred years after Buddhaas. These documents were only for the eyes of a few who comprised the supreme Buddhist hierarchy and were kept under strict secrecy from the common people. To doubly reassure their secrecy they were written in such cryptic language and terminology as would be impossible for an ordinary person to understand. Much later, the contents of the Tantras became accessible to scholars who were horrified to find this so-called sacred literature to be extremely profane and indecent. There are mentions of demons and frightful phantom images. They are also full of vulgar language speaking of obscene and sexual desires in a manner as jars the human sensibilities. As such, the yogic teachings as contained in the Tantras have no connection whatsoever with the holy words of Buddhaas.
Maybe all the talk of demonic nonsense and sexual vulgarity are symbols and allegories. Perhaps no living monks share the secret of such cryptic language. Maybe the Buddhist hierarchy of two thousand years ago were the only people who invented this jargon and understood its meaning. But they are long dead and with them has died the age of the Tantras. Yoga however, has outlived the cryptic in the Tantras. There are scholars who still understand and implement the subtle science of yoga contained in the Tantras.
It is hard indeed to draw a clear-cut line between the yoga as understood and practised in Hinduism and the yoga as understood and practised in Buddhism. If there are any minor differences, they merely belong to nomenclature. Call them Hindu hermits or Buddhist ascetics, the reality of their withdrawal from the world, for the sake of God, will not change. Give them any name possessing the same meaning, it would not make the slightest difference to their holy identity. Whatever they find and whatever they consider enlightenment to be, neither has ever been able to change the face of the world with their subjective experiences. It is a dishonour for Buddhaas and Krishnaas to be counted in this category. They were revolutionaries—like all other prophets of God, whose philosophy of the spiritual and moral revolution sprang forth from the fountainhead of revelation. They gave a call for a noble struggle against falsehood and evil. They sounded the bugle for a heroic strife in life which was not just subjective. It was an outward, outgoing holy war, which came into headlong clash with the forces of darkness. A dire struggle for the survival of the fittest ensued. The life histories of Buddhaas and Krishnaas clearly present them as belonging to this category. They are only warriors, not suicidal escapists. Their faiths were products of revelation. Their teachings gave birth to inspirations, but were not born out of them.
The understanding of the majority of present day Buddhists appears to be that their religion is just a wisdom, budhi, discovered by Buddha through meditation. All that is claimed of their philosophy is that it was an inspiration of Buddha.
From the vantage point of those who believe in God, inspiration is nothing but a psychic experience in which many a time one feels spiritually elated. During this phase of elation, one experiences a sense of peace which seems to be the very ultimate of tranquillity. Returning from this ecstatic state to normal life, one has a strong impression of having gained something which might well have been the very purpose of life—the goal which mankind is striving to reach.
This psychological experience is all that they can boast of as spiritual enlightenment and redemption from the bondage of matter. Even at its very best, it cannot change any objective realities or reform the wicked people. It cannot transfer a jot from the world of the unknown to the world of the known—it cannot change darkness into light. Never has inspiration been able to retrieve the unknown events buried in the graves of history, nor has it ever been able to leap into the future to catch a glimpse of events to come.
If the philosophy of absolute self-negation is followed to its logical conclusion, it will inevitably lead to the extinction of the human race. To ascribe this inspirational jibberish to the Divinely enlightened wisdom of Buddhaas does him no honour; this is not the Divine cup of revelation from which he drank deep and became immortalised!
- LE BON, G., GUIMET, E. (1992) Mirages Indiens:de Ceylan au Népal, 1876–1886. Chantal Edel et R. Sctrick, Paris, p.241
- LE BON, G., GUIMET, E. (1992) Mirages Indiens:de Ceylan au Népal, 1876–1886. Chantal Edel et R. Sctrick, Paris, p.240
- LILLIE, A. (1909) India in Primitive Christianity. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co, London, p.85
- LILLIE, A. (1909) India in Primitive Christianity. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co, London, p.86
- NORMAN, K.R., (1992) The Group of Discourses (Sutta-Nipata). Vol II. The Pali Text-Society, Oxford, pp.112–129
- NORMAN, K.R., (1992) The Group of Discourses (Sutta-Nipata). Vol II. The Pali Text Society, Oxford, p.129
- MAX MÜLLER, F. (1881) The Sacred Books of the East. Vol. XI, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p.186
- MAX MÜLLER, F. (1992) Dialogues of The Buddha I. The Pali Text Society, Oxford, p.299
- MAX MÜLLER, F. (1881) The Sacred Books of the East. Vol. XI, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 186