" Did Buddhism Harm India ? "

Source: http://www.francoisgautier.com

There is little doubt that Buddha came at a time where Hinduism had got bogged down in too much philosophical talk, rituals and casteism – it would need much later a Shankaracharya to give it again a new impetus – and Buddhism offered a simple way out of human misery to anybody, whatever their caste and social status. This may explain why at the beginning of our era, the entire northern and eastern India was practicing Buddhism. Unfortunately, after Buddha’s death, his followers and disciples gradually made of Buddhism a religion of rigid tenets, do’s and don’t, which not only diminished Buddhism’s popular appeal, but also may have harmed India. This harm has two facets: non-violence and Maya.

Many Buddhists like to believe that Buddhism disappeared from India, because it was slowly “swallowed” back by Hinduism at the hands of the vengeful Brahmins, who had lost their principal source of income with the self-liberation methods of Buddha. But the truth could be entirely different. Hinduism of the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita always held “ahimsa” as one of its highest spiritual values, but at the same time understood that violence can sometimes be necessary to defend one’s border’s, women and children, in a word that Might has to protect Dharma. Which is why, until Buddhism made of non-violence an uncompromising, inflexible dogma, India’s borders were not only secure, but extended from Afghanistan to Kanyakumari. But when Ashoka embraced Buddhism, India’s great protecting armor, which had worked for milleniums, had been breached.

As the first Muslim invasions started submerging India in the seventh century, Hinduism was able to initially withstand the extremely violent onslaught of Islam, thanks to its tradition of Kshatriyas, the warriors; but contrary to what History books say, Buddhism was literally wiped-off the face of India in a few centuries, as it REFUSED to oppose any resistance. For the Muslim soldiers, Buddhists, who adored statues and did not believe in Allah, were as much Infidels as the Hindus, and they razed every single Buddhist temple (and also Jain, as the ruins below Fathepur Sikri have proved) they encountered, burnt all the precious libraries (Buddhist philosophy, particularly of the Shankya School, had shone like a beacon of light on the entire Western world much before Christ and was quoted till the late 19th century by western philosophers like Nietzche) and killed tens of thousands of monks, without encountering any resistance. This is why you cannot find a single trace of Buddhist structures today in India, save for a few stupas, which were too cumbersome to be destroyed.

The second unfortunate legacy which Buddhism gave to India is Maya. “Everything is illusion, everything is misery, misery, misery, Buddhists said – and still say today – and the sooner you get out of it by attaining Nirvana, the better. Fine. But Hinduism had always taught that the Divine is concealed in all things, animate and inanimate and that every aspect of life has to be conquered by the Spirit: even the Asura is a fallen Angel, doing unknowingly God’s work. Hence Hinduism had addressed itself to all aspects of life, from the Mundane, as brilliantly shown in Khajurao, to the subtle spiritual planes which stand one after the other above Mind.

In contrast, Buddhism came and said : “Just leave Matter and take refuge in Buddha”. And as result, because Buddhism has had a subtle influence on Hinduism, India started disdaining Her physical envelope, Her very body and material sheath, India’s yogis started withdrawing more and more in their caves, its people neglecting their surroundings, its leaders forgetting about Beauty. And the result is there today for everybody to see: an ugly India, full of trash and refuse, with very little sense of aesthetics left; cities unplanned, polluted, crowded, hideous; a people who says it worships its Mighty Himalayas and Sacred Ganges, but which has allowed the former to be nearly completely deforested and the latter to be so polluted, that sometimes it is not even fit for bathing. And Indians cannot put all this on account of poverty, because its rich people are probably the most guilty, often not caring for anything and anybody beyond their own doorstep.

It is true that Buddhism has nearly completely disappeared from the subcontinent (**), but its rigid spirit endures in subtle ways: Mahatma Gandhi was no doubt influenced by Buddhist non-violence when he refused Churchill’s proposal in 1943 for a Commonwealth status after the Second World War, if India collaborated with the Allies’ efforts against Japan and Germany; or when he constantly gave-in to Muslim intransigence, thereby precipitating India’s Partition. Today, we see that the enemies of a dharmic India often use Buddhism as a weapon, whether it is the much hyped Ambedkar, who advocated conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, as he himself showed, or Indian intellectuals such as Prafulla Bidwai, or Aundhadi Roy, who borrow from Buddhist Thought to show why India should not have the atom bomb (and let itself wipe-out by Pakistan or China, who have no such qualms).

We see also, in a country like Sri Lanka, a very militant Buddhism, chauvinistic in its promotion of Sinhalese interests and anti-Hindu in its persecution of Sri Lankan Tamils. We notice too that new avatars of Buddhism, such as the remarkable Vipassana movement of Shri Goenka, have not fully lost their anti-Hindu slant and are still proponing a very rigid non-violence (see next article).

FRANCOIS GAUTIER

* Western historians like to call Emperor Ashoka “the Great” and India chose at Independence his three lions trademark as its symbol. But was he that great ? He went from being an extremely cruel emperor to a rigidly non-violent one, not a very balanced metal attitude for a religion which always promotes the “Middle Path”

(**) Tibetan Buddhism seems to have evolved its own identity and certain degree of plasticity, which makes it today the most popular form of Buddhism in the West, thanks in greater part to the present Dalai-lama’s unique charisma.

” Did Buddhism Harm India ? ”

There is little doubt that Buddha came at a time where Hinduism had got bogged down in too much philosophical talk, rituals and casteism – it would need much later a Shankaracharya to give it again a new impetus – and Buddhism offered a simple way out of human misery to anybody, whatever their caste and social status. This may explain why at the beginning of our era, the entire northern and eastern India was practicing Buddhism. Unfortunately, after Buddha’s death, his followers and disciples gradually made of Buddhism a religion of rigid tenets, do’s and don’t, which not only diminished Buddhism’s popular appeal, but also may have harmed India. This harm has two facets: non-violence and Maya.

Many Buddhists like to believe that Buddhism disappeared from India, because it was slowly “swallowed” back by Hinduism at the hands of the vengeful Brahmins, who had lost their principal source of income with the self-liberation methods of Buddha. But the truth could be entirely different. Hinduism of the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita always held “ahimsa” as one of its highest spiritual values, but at the same time understood that violence can sometimes be necessary to defend one’s border’s, women and children, in a word that Might has to protect Dharma. Which is why, until Buddhism made of non-violence an uncompromising, inflexible dogma, India’s borders were not only secure, but extended from Afghanistan to Kanyakumari. But when Ashoka embraced Buddhism, India’s great protecting armor, which had worked for milleniums, had been breached.

As the first Muslim invasions started submerging India in the seventh century, Hinduism was able to initially withstand the extremely violent onslaught of Islam, thanks to its tradition of Kshatriyas, the warriors; but contrary to what History books say, Buddhism was literally wiped-off the face of India in a few centuries, as it REFUSED to oppose any resistance. For the Muslim soldiers, Buddhists, who adored statues and did not believe in Allah, were as much Infidels as the Hindus, and they razed every single Buddhist temple (and also Jain, as the ruins below Fathepur Sikri have proved) they encountered, burnt all the precious libraries (Buddhist philosophy, particularly of the Shankya School, had shone like a beacon of light on the entire Western world much before Christ and was quoted till the late 19th century by western philosophers like Nietzche) and killed tens of thousands of monks, without encountering any resistance. This is why you cannot find a single trace of Buddhist structures today in India, save for a few stupas, which were too cumbersome to be destroyed.

The second unfortunate legacy which Buddhism gave to India is Maya. “Everything is illusion, everything is misery, misery, misery, Buddhists said – and still say today – and the sooner you get out of it by attaining Nirvana, the better. Fine. But Hinduism had always taught that the Divine is concealed in all things, animate and inanimate and that every aspect of life has to be conquered by the Spirit: even the Asura is a fallen Angel, doing unknowingly God’s work. Hence Hinduism had addressed itself to all aspects of life, from the Mundane, as brilliantly shown in Khajurao, to the subtle spiritual planes which stand one after the other above Mind.

In contrast, Buddhism came and said : “Just leave Matter and take refuge in Buddha”. And as result, because Buddhism has had a subtle influence on Hinduism, India started disdaining Her physical envelope, Her very body and material sheath, India’s yogis started withdrawing more and more in their caves, its people neglecting their surroundings, its leaders forgetting about Beauty. And the result is there today for everybody to see: an ugly India, full of trash and refuse, with very little sense of aesthetics left; cities unplanned, polluted, crowded, hideous; a people who says it worships its Mighty Himalayas and Sacred Ganges, but which has allowed the former to be nearly completely deforested and the latter to be so polluted, that sometimes it is not even fit for bathing. And Indians cannot put all this on account of poverty, because its rich people are probably the most guilty, often not caring for anything and anybody beyond their own doorstep.

It is true that Buddhism has nearly completely disappeared from the subcontinent (**), but its rigid spirit endures in subtle ways: Mahatma Gandhi was no doubt influenced by Buddhist non-violence when he refused Churchill’s proposal in 1943 for a Commonwealth status after the Second World War, if India collaborated with the Allies’ efforts against Japan and Germany; or when he constantly gave-in to Muslim intransigence, thereby precipitating India’s Partition. Today, we see that the enemies of a dharmic India often use Buddhism as a weapon, whether it is the much hyped Ambedkar, who advocated conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, as he himself showed, or Indian intellectuals such as Prafulla Bidwai, or Aundhadi Roy, who borrow from Buddhist Thought to show why India should not have the atom bomb (and let itself wipe-out by Pakistan or China, who have no such qualms).

We see also, in a country like Sri Lanka, a very militant Buddhism, chauvinistic in its promotion of Sinhalese interests and anti-Hindu in its persecution of Sri Lankan Tamils. We notice too that new avatars of Buddhism, such as the remarkable Vipassana movement of Shri Goenka, have not fully lost their anti-Hindu slant and are still proponing a very rigid non-violence (see next article).

FRANCOIS GAUTIER

* Western historians like to call Emperor Ashoka “the Great” and India chose at Independence his three lions trademark as its symbol. But was he that great ? He went from being an extremely cruel emperor to a rigidly non-violent one, not a very balanced mental attitude for a religion which always promotes the “Middle Path”

(**) Tibetan Buddhism seems to have evolved its own identity and certain degree of plasticity, which makes it today the most popular form of Buddhism in the West, thanks in greater part to the present Dalai-lama’s unique charisma.

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