Tuesday February 19, 2019

The Birth of ‘The Awakened One’: Is Buddhism a part of the Vedantic thought process?

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By Gaurav Sharma

India has eternally served the world with an oceanic infinitude of religious doctrines and postulations in order to bridge the fissures of boundaries which have been created by the puny mind of man.

While superficially it may appear that such a multitude of religious credos amplify the fault lines between men, such a notion is akin to thinking that different opinions and views are pernicious to the health of a democracy.

The current of history is replete with epochs that marked a departure from the customary thoughts and prevalent mode of living, specifically, when they reached the nadir of degraded existence.

And this is also true for the genesis of Buddism.

The Birth of ‘The Awakened One’

Buddha, also known as ‘Shakyamuni’ or Gautama Buddha, literally translates as ‘The Awakened One’. He is thought to have been born between the 6th and 4th century BCE, a time when the people of India, although following the Vedas in the namesake, had deviated from the true goal of Vedic philosophy.

Ritualistic ceremonies and rites for material pleasures had become prominent. Animal sacrifices, which form an important edict of the early Vedic schools, had reached a flash-point of unscrupulous meat eating.

More importantly, the Vedic scriptures had been usurped while becoming the sole preserve of the priestly class or the brahmanas, who had eschewed the essential tenet of non-violence and consequently become like degraded dirt.

To revitalize the decaying morality of individuals, Buddha propounded one of the most basic yet critical precepts of Dhammapada: “All beings fear death and pain, life is dear to all; therefore the wise man will not kill or cause anything to be killed.”

By rejecting the Vedic rituals, Buddha saved the people and the animals from the barbaric onslaught of the corrupt and degenerate priests.

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Confounding Conundrums

The crown jewel of the the Vedanta–Srimad Bhagavatam declares boldly: “In the beginning of the age of Kali, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will appear in the province of Gaya as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, to bewilder those who are always envious of the devotees of the Lord.”

On the contrary, Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born in Lumbini, Nepal, and his mother was Queen Mahamaya. By making such a statement, the revered Hindu scripture clearly appears to be at odds with framework of history.

A deeper scrutiny into the life of Buddha suggests otherwise and, indeed verifies the claims of the scripture.

Siddhartha became the Buddha after he attained spiritual enlightenment during his meditation under the Bodhi tree in Gaya.

Furthermore, Siddhartha’s mother, Queen Mahamaya, died several days after Siddhartha’s birth, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, Anjana.

Buddhists, however, staunchly denounce the claim that Buddha was an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. Conversely, they cite it as a concerted attempt by Hindus to stem the flow of Buddhism.

In the metaphysical realm, Buddhism, with its emphasis on ‘non-self’ or non-belief in the existence of the soul and God embraces and espouses Shunyata– the void or nothingness that is the essence of everything to which we must return.

This stands in stark opposition to the propositions of the Vedas which clearly accept the existence of a Supreme controller and, in fact, seek to reestablish the link between God and man.

While the Buddha unequivocally refused to discuss how the world was created or what was existence in Nirvana, the Vedas contain vivid descriptions of the spiritual world and the creation of its counterpart.

Demystifying the Riddle

While the distinctions might seem to be the only visible commonality amongst the two fraternal religions, there are striking parallels where the tide of humanistic Buddhist teachings congregate with the profound spiritual wisdom of the Vedas.

The Buddhist conception of arahant is synonymous with the Hindu brahmin. The Dhammapada states: “Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brahmin. By deed one becomes an outcast, by deed one becomes a brahmin.”

Treading on similar lines, the Bhagavad Gita elucidates a set of qualities that fine-tunes the Buddhist concept of Brahmin with the Vedic conception.

Both Krishna and Buddha define purity as a state of mind and reject birth as a determinant of ones spiritual progress.

Within the Buddhist tradition Nirvana–release from the cycle of birth and death is attained when the ‘three fires’ of raga, dvesha and moha–passion, aversion and ignorance are extinguished.

Nirvana bears a striking resemblance to the Hindu concept of Moksha, which is also achieved by transcending the three modes of ignorance, passion and goodness.

Even the means of breaking the shackles of suffering or the fetters of Karma bear a staggering similitude.

The Noble Eightfold Path–the system of eight steps propounded by the Buddha for progressing towards Nirvana are nothing but mere offshoots of yama and niyama–a set of basic do’s and don’ts as mentioned by the Hatha-Yoga of Patanjali.

The pali term jhana or zen used by Buddhists is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyan–to meditate. Both propose the cultivation of insight to prevent the oscillations of the mind.

In his fascinating odyssey of enlightenment, Buddha denied the existence of God. Yet, paradoxically, he was tempted by Mara– the Evil One, with many pleasures in an effort to make him relinquish his quest. Mara can easily be visualized as Yamaraj–the Hindu God who doles out punishments for ‘sinful’ activity.

The mesmerising correlations do not end there. In the Vayu Purana Daksha calls Shiva–the God in charge of the mode of ignorance–as Buddha.

The fragrant essence of the teachings of  the Buddha– Look inward: Thou art Buddha, is a euphemism for the ambrosial Vedantic aphorism:

Tat Tvam Asi–Thou are That.

 

  • Great subject! I wish the writer wrote in a simpler language that caters to an average online reader, instead of long, complicated sentences such as “oceanic infinitude of religious doctrines and postulations in order to bridge the fissures of boundaries which have been created by the puny mind of man”.

Next Story

Know Why Hindus Are Tolerant And Accept Diversity

Though unborn, it appears to be born in diverse ways

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Hindu God Shiva. Image source: Pixabay

Introduction

“Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” is a Sutra from Upanishads meaning,  “That which exists is ONE, sages call it by various names.”  This is the reason why Hindus are tolerant and accept diversity.

Many young Hindus and Indians get confused with the diverse concepts of different Gods in Hinduism. This diversity can be confusing when confronted by other faiths who are equally confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. This article is an attempt to explain the vast riches of Sanathana Dharma and help Hindus not get converted to other faiths out of confusion with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma. Unfortunately an average Hindus doesn’t have an answer because we are not taught Hinduism properly. We only know to go to temple, ask for wishes, take prasad and may be say a few mantras. There is no connection to the Gods or the Mantras because we understand and follow the rituals but are not taught the philosophy.

We hope  to address the confusion young Indians have about multiple Gods, especially to counter the mockery that non-Hindus make on multiple GODS of Hinduism. Our objective is to prepare young Hindu community to give answers to these conversion machines. Some people claim that many Hindus convert to other religions because they didn’t understand Idol Worship and Concept of many Gods.

God

The English word God is a poor translation for Hindu concepts of Supreme Being/Ultimate Reality. In English, the word God refers to an Abrahamic God who is the creator and is separate from HIS creation.

Hinduism has many additional concepts which get lumped together into English translation as one word, God. Hinduism has

  • Brahman
  • Ishvar
  • Avatar
  • Deities
  • Murti

each has a distinct and different meaning and many of them can be in manifest or in un-manifest form. But unfortunately, due to poverty of the English language or a lack of appreciation by language experts, all of these spiritual concepts get translated into Godthus causing confusion. In western terminology, most often, Hindu Gods are also referred to as Deities.

33 Million Hindus Gods

There is, a popular perception stating that there are 33 million deities (Gods?) in Hinduism.[116] No one has a list of all the goddesses and gods, but scholars state all deities are typically viewed in Hinduism as “emanations or manifestation of genderless principle called Brahman, representing the many facets of Ultimate Reality”.[115][116][117] This concept of Brahman is not the same as the monotheistic God of Abrahamic religions. In those religions God is considered, separate from humans as “creator of the world, above and independent of human existence”. Hinduism accommodates that concept of God as duality as well as a concept of God, the universe, human beings and all else is essentially one thing and everything is connected oneness, the same god is in every human being as Atman, the eternal Self.[117][118]  It is quite likely that when the world’s population was estimated to be only 33 million, each atman being one with Brahman, led to the popular belief of 33 million Gods.

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For many young Hindus and Indians who are confused with the diverse concepts of Hinduism, are adviced to seek through choosing one form that they connect most with. Then Surrender, be open and have faith, Seeking will come and path will be shown through perseverance. Hindus are implored to invest more time in understanding the vast rich Sanathana Dharma and not get converted to other faiths because they are confused with the diversity of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma.

Sagun/Nirguna

The concept of Brahman (wrongly translated as God) can be understood as Saguna or as Nirguna. The Formless Pure Consciousness is the unmanifest energy (Nirakar/Nirguna) which can manifest into form (Saakar/ Suguna) of Brahma as the Creator, Vishnu as the Protector and Shiva as the Destroyer. In unmanifest form, this is pure consciousness,  Nirguna – with no Gunas or attributes , Nirvisesha – no special characteristics, Sat-chit-ananda – Eternal truth consciousness. This unmanifest form when manifested, it has form and Suguna – attributes or qualities required for sustenance of the creation. But both the Manifest (Suguna) and UnManifest (Nirguna) forms of this cosmic energy are eternal, non-destructive and non-differential from each other.

Vedas and the Upanishads have said that there is one supreme energy named “’PARABRAMHA” which is formless, infinite, all pervading, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, genderless, eternal and unfathomable or indescribable in Human language. “God” is a Supreme cosmic energy, with infinite potentialities and attributes, which is formless but can manifest into a form when required to run and sustain creation.

In comparison, other religions express God either as a Nirguna (formless, unmanifest) or Saguna (with form, manifest) but it is only Hinduism that understands God in both unmanifest as well as manifest form. Other religions when the explain God as manifest usually insist of one form of God only which sometimes is depicted as an old White Male with a flowing beard.

Deities

Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna
Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna. Pixabay

Deities in Hinduism are referred to as Deva (masculine) and Devi (feminine).[44][45][46] The root of these terms mean “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”.[47] Manifest Gods in Hinduism are symbolism for spiritual concepts. For example, god Indra (a Deva) and the antigod Virocana (an Asura) question a sage for insights into the knowledge of the self.[71] Deva-Asura dichotomies in Hindu mythology may be seen as “narrative depictions of tendencies within our selves”.[71] Hindu deities in Vedic era, states Mahoney, are those artists with “powerfully inward transformative, effective and creative mental powers”.[72]

Another Hindu term that is sometimes translated as God or deity is Ishvara[77] The term Ishvara has a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism.[78][79][80] In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, Ishvara means supreme soul, Brahman(Highest Reality).[78] In medieval era texts, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self depending on the school of Hinduism.[2][80][81]

Avatars

Hindu mythology has nurtured the concept of Avatar, which represents the descent of a deity on earth.[155][156] This concept is commonly translated as “incarnation“,[155] and is an “appearance” or “manifestation”.[157][158]

The concept of Avatar is most developed in Vaishnavism tradition, and associated with Vishnu, particularly with Rama and Krishna.[159][160] Vishnu takes numerous avatars in Hindu mythology. He becomes female, during the Samudra manthan, in the form of Mohini, to resolve a conflict between the Devas and Asuras. His male avatars include Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki.[160]Various texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, discuss the idea of Avatar of Vishnu appearing to restore the cosmic balance whenever the power of evil becomes excessive and causes persistent oppression in the world.[156]

In Shaktism traditions, the concept appears in its legends as the various manifestations of Devi, the Divine Mother principal in Hinduism.[161] The avatars of Devi or Parvati include Durga and Kali, who are particularly revered in eastern states of India, as well as Tantra traditions.[162][163][164] Twenty one avatars of Shiva are also described in Shaivism texts, but unlike Vaishnava traditions, Shaiva traditions have focussed directly on Shiva rather than the Avatar concept.[155]

Murti

Hinduism has an ancient and extensive iconography tradition, particularly in the form of Murti (Sanskrit: मूर्ति, IAST: Mūrti), or Vigraha or Pratima.[22] A Murti is itself not the god in Hinduism, but it is an image of god and represents emotional and religious value.[124] A literal translation of Murti as idol is incorrect, states Jeaneane Fowler, when idol is understood as superstitious end in itself.[124] Just like the photograph of a person is not the real person, a Murti is an image in Hinduism but not the real thing, but in both cases the image reminds of something of emotional and real value to the viewer.[124] When a person worships a Murti, it is assumed to be a manifestation of the essence or spirit of the deity, the worshipper’s spiritual ideas and needs are meditated through it, yet the idea of ultimate reality or Brahman is not confined in it.[124]

Murti is an embodiment of the divine, the Ultimate Reality or Brahman to some Hindus.[21] In religious context, they are found in Hindu temples or homes, where they may be treated as a beloved guest and serve as a participant of Puja rituals in Hinduism.[127] A murti is installed by priests, in Hindu temples, through the Prana Pratishtha ceremony,[128]whereby state Harold Coward and David Goa, the “divine vital energy of the cosmos is infused into the sculpture” and then the divine is welcomed as one would welcome a friend.[129] In other occasions, it serves as the center of attention in annual festive processions and these are called Utsava Murti.[130]

Scriptures

 

This chance occurrence had forever immortalized the Feline species as being irrevocably intertwined with Goddess worship.
Idol of Goddess Durga

erses Describing God as Formless (Nirakar)

“Na tasya pratima asti”

“There is no likeness of Him.” [Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:19, Yajurveda 32:3]

There is no Form of Nirguna Brahma or God as Supreme Consciousness.

“His formless form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye.”

[Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:20]

His Formless Form can’t be seen. Though He manifests Himself as Sakar Saguna Brahman, no one can see Him with present eyes or material eyes. To see His Supreme and Original Form one needs spiritual perfection. “No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of God through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.”(Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu 1.2.234).

God says: “You cannot see me with your present eyes. Therefore I give you divine eyes so that you can behold my mystic opulence” (Bhagavad-Gita 11.8)