Sunday, November 17, 2013


19.  Argo Spier:
…there is a big ‘danger’ to your Buddhism ‘chat’. I give you here a quote from Carnap, ‘… the WAY (of discourse) chosen by the meta-physician is such that it give rise to the suggestion the metaphysical is something which it is not at all, viz., a descriptive theory’. This implies that the discussion about Buddhism should not be about ‘what it is or its cultural accomplishes but about HOW to discuss it. Or really, you should discuss ‘the way how to discuss it’ first before you get to the discussion ABOUT it.
20.  K. G. Poulos:
I was carefully following your note and the responses. You have raised an issue relevant to us today. But let us not, in our enthusiasm, miss the focus. Reference to Kalady etc. will only help us to loose the game. Buddhism was a force in Kerala from the time of Asoka. After the advent of vedic way of life, it was forced to move to the margins. By 10-12 centuries (CE) the vedic culture could banish it from the mainstream discourses. Yet it continued to be a living tradition in our life by providing alternatives, especially to those belonging to the lower strata of society. It provided parallel streams in education (remember Pallikkuutam is from Buddhist Palli-vihaara), Health (Ayurveda- Velan, Mannaan Kaniyan and those who practised popular medicine) and many other areas of our day today life. There would not have been an Itty Achyutan, a Kumaran Asan, a Sreenarayana Guru or a K R Narayanan had the Buddhist practices not continued to influence Kerala's social and cultural life.   My point is that our studies should cover these areas also.

21.  M. Gangadharan:
It is probable that paddy cultivation in midland Kerala was started by Budhists who came down from the mountains in the east where they might have reached for trade in spices. This might have happened in the 3rd century A.D. The Dalits of today, who came down from the mountains with the Budhist leaders, were taught the ways of using the land between the hills (vayals) in the midland after draining the excess water on the marshes there. They were also taught the technology of setlled grain cultivation known till then only in the Gangetic valley. This cultivation which flourished till the end of 6th century A.D. might have been taken over by the Brahmins in early 7th century who entered Kerala from north through east coast. Some tribal groups of the eastern mountains might have been used by the Brahmins to take over the grain cultivation using force when necessary. These groups were given the high social position of the Nayars and were given martial training to protect the Bramin intersts. This explains the presence of Budhist influence among the Dalits today.
All this at present is only conjecture. Properly guided reaserch only can show whether the conjecture can be accepted as authentic history.
22.  Ajay Sekher:
This is a response to M. Gangadharan’s note on paddy cultivation and Buddhism in Kerala. Linguistic archeology and toponymy provides vital evidences proving that paddy cultivation and pepper/spice harvesting and trade were initiated by  Buddhist missionaries not as late as 3rd century AD as he points out, but as early as 3rd century BC the time of Asoka. There is a variety of Kara Nellu (upperland paddy seed) called Pallyal. Another upper land variety of paddy is called Mundan/Mundakan seed. The  Vayal or fields are called Mundakan Padam. The common affix Munda(k)n clearly denotes a shaven egg head. This was the practice of the Sramana monks that you still find in Palani and Tirupati both Buddhist shrines before the Middle Ages. They were often called by the people as Mundans in Kerala. There are still domiant Avarna and Syriian Christian families with Mundan or Mundassery as their household name. Place names like Mundur, Mundery, Mundatikodu, Mundamatam, Mundamukham, Mundakayam…and so and so forth scattered throughout Kerala are linguistic evidences of Mundans or the monks and their prolonged settlements with cultivation. These places are also known for paddy cultivation even today. Then Chiras and Thodus, ie; bunds, reservoirs and canals used for paddy field cultivation and for draining marshes are also associated with Mundans as in Mundan Chira and Mundan Thodu. Like Kavu (Sangharamas),Ambalam (Sanghatirthas); like thePipal and the Banyan the wetland eco system and upland irrigation/dewatering low land cultivationin Kerla are also a clear Buddhist legacy and a whole way of life; that is why the Avarnas and dalits in particular carry forward this ancient culture and life struggle. Mundans are also locally called Bhutatans in some places after the demonizing discourse initiated by Brahmanism. Bhutatan Kettu in Periyar is another distinguishd work of ancient engineering and irrigation regulator/canal system developed by the Buddhist monks. This impossible work astonished the Brahmanical groups that they initiated a slur that it is a work of the demons or Bhutatans. Places associated with Bhutam or Putam or Putan are also deviant forms of Buddhan as in Putan Kuti or Putan Pandi. Kutan is also a rural form of Putan or Buddan in Kerala as in Kutan Kulangara, Karumady Kutan or Kutanellur. Linguistic archeology and studies on local history and minor histories associated with place names and toponyms provide greater details and insights into the erased and buried realities of our past. The pioneering works of V V K Valath, N M Namburi, K Sugatan, P O Purushotaman… are going to be vital in the near future.
23.  B. R. P. Bhaskar:
For what it's worth, let me narrate experiences of mine which may have some relevance in the context of this discussion.
While on a visit to Japan in 1959, I met K V Paul, whom C Kesavan mentions in his autobiography "Jeevithasamaram". He was a senior colleague of Kesavan at a school at Palakkad where  he had taught for a while before plunging into politics. He has written in glowing terms about Paul and before going to Japan I collected Paul's address from him. Paul had married a Japanese and settled down in Kobe as a businessman. I travelled to the city to meet him. He asked me what was the Japanese method of paddy cultivation, which was being promoted by the Govt of India at the time. I pleaded my ignorance about agrarian practices and said I presume that is the method followed in Japan. Where do you think the Japanese got it, he asked me. I again pleaded ignorance. He told me the Japanese method of paddy cultivation was exactly what was being done traditionally in Kerala. He claimed the Japanese were of Kerala origin. He pinpointed their place of origin as Thiruvilvamala, his own place. I asked if the Japanese are not supposed to be the product of the mixing of two streams of migrants, one from Malaya region and the other from Korea? Where do you think the Koreans came from, he asked. According to him, the Koreans too were of Kerala origin. I did not take Paul's claims seriously. A few months after the encounter with him in Kobe I was in the Asiana section of the library of the University of the Philippines and found there a small book titled Culture of Korea published by the Korean Association of Hawaii in 1901. Korea was under Japanese occupation at the time and the Koreans received little support for their struggle for freedom from the Japanese yoke as most people thought the Koreans are no different from the Japanese. The book carried a note by Dr Singman Rhee, who was president of the Korean Association of Hawaii, saying it was being published to give the world an idea of Korea's culture which was distinct from Japan's.. When I picked up the book Rhee was the President of South Korea.
I flipped through the pages of the book and found this sentence under the heading Language: "The Korean Language belongs to the Dravidian group of languages spoken in the south of India."
The Japanese language is said to have affinity with Tamil. According to Japanese tradition, the first Japanese work of grammar was written by a Buddhist monk from India, who introduced in it elements from the grammar of Indian languages. Foreign scholars have pointed to similarities between Tamil and Hebrew on the one side and Tamil and Japanese on the other. I don't think there will be any academic studies on these subjects in India.  Hindi-Sanskrit votaries will not want any studies which may show that Tamil had links with West Asian and East Asian languages which go back to an earlier period than that of the Indo-European languages. The Dravidian politicians do not want any studies that may establish links with other groups as it will explode the myth that the Dravidians, unlike the Aryans, sprang up on Indian soil.
24.  C. Rajendran:
Mr. Ajay’s letter makes very interesting reading. I would also like to invite your attention to the term Palli found profusely in place names of Kerala. Ajay could mention the contributions made by N. M. Namboodirialso which I think are valuable in reconstructing the Buddhist past. The popularity of Naganandam, a play with Buddhist motif of Ahimsa, penned by the Buddhist friendly Harshavardhana may have something to do with Buddhism in Kerala as Itsing pointedly refers to this play being staged in Buddhist Viharas. May be Chakyar, also be a Buddhist story narrator, as the similarity with the term Sakya suggests, and also as pointed out by many scholars…Ajay refers to Sabarimala- does the saranam signify Buddhist legacy?
25.  T. S. Girishkumar:
Here, at this moment, let me make a distinction (temporarily though for functional reasons), between Buddha, and Buddhism as it is often spoken. Let me treat it as Philosophy and not religion, though it is often treated as one and the same through a mistake as I see it. Another thing what is interesting at once is, that this question comes from a University named after Sankara, where, it makes one travel through time to see how Sankaracharya becomes intimately involved with Buddhism, and then, Buddha himself. India and what is Indian, becomes the substratum to whatever discussions done in Philosophy; and Buddha and Buddhism is not an exception, the Upanishadic philosophy remains inescapable to discussions on and in India, and to isolate Buddhism from this bearing, to think in terms of some thing like culture which is more complex shall be daring. Let complexities not confuse, let confusions not become celebrations to speak of something big as unknown to presume it as something big because of its unknowability.
Nonetheless, to initiate discussions shall be doing philosophy, not to contemplate of what can be the outcome, doing is philosophy and not counting on what may come out of it. 
26.  P. Madhu:
Certainly, we escape from the dimension of ‘inner’ world when we restrict our questions to culture & history! – It appears that we assume as if that (inner tradition- interiority) does not exist – (do historians & culture theorists recognize an inner dimension to human life?- mostly they assume it to be constituted by external calculations!) Ironically, Buddha represents that ‘inner tradition- interiority’(Of course that inner tradition is not ‘philosophy’, ‘metaphysics’... it is not even religion.. it is inner authenticity! Our thinking- especially academic thinking- long before lost track of such an authenticity!- for us there are only ‘interactional games’- no authenticity beyond it! )
The problem with this sort of discussion is that it is committed to the external only– culture history aspect! That restricts us from understanding Buddhism. This restriction pre supposes a lot! What it hides is a tremendous lot- what it projects is merely- our aspiration to project ourselves to external world as radical! This is a methodological bottleneck! Such discussion will take an interesting dimension- but not an authentic dimension. Here we will discuss about a ‘Buddhism’ existing out there having some historical role with some other cultural forms existing out there!....
Another important dimension such discussion misses is the epistemological beauty of Buddhism. What existed out there culturally as ‘Buddhisms’ – hardly has any connection with its epistemological sophistication...  it is like ‘popular-marxism’ disconnected to the Marxist epistemology! Buddhist epistemology- is incomparably path-breaking & richer than Marxist or that matter any other western epistemologies... That dimension cannot be brought in when we concentrate on historical or cultural forms of Buddhisms!
27.  A.Kanthamani:
When you propose to take us through 'cultural' imagery of Buddhism, with a view to reconstruct the said imagery, it is not so much clear why should you denude the 'religious side' to make it convenient to turn to the 'cultural' side. May be you want to score on the cultural side, but then the question remains: why can't you allow the retention of the ideological side and consider its relevance to the contemporary world. Nothing seems to be lost. Why should you insist that only the cultural image matters sans religious image?  Since nothing seems to be lost, the onus remains on you to define what exactly you mean by 'cultural Buddhism'. Buddhism as such savours contemporary milieu without a blush, and if so what is the fun in singling out the cultural for a deep investigation. Of course you feel a liberating moment but it is not altogether sanguine. I suggest that you reframe your question as: is Buddhism as a religion as well as an ideology relevant to the world at large? The simple answer is that it is so. It must be so even without the pruning. You are not averse to history after all. Culture must include history and it is always better not to succumb to prejudices.
I think I have been severe in my criticism. As Professor C. Rajendran insists that we start with a definition. I should agree with him. Anyhow I will not hesitate to appreciate if you turn a good leaf. With a lot of encouragement.
28. P. K. Sasidharan:
I feel that what we understand as culture includes religion and spirituality. Since culture includes all that human activities and imaginations, the idea of cultural Buddhism does not denude religious Buddhism. If we go by religious Buddhism, there is all chance of giving an impression of being exclusive with certain superiority claims over other religions, in a competitive world of religious diversity and conflicts. Scholars are there to hold that Buddha’s teachings are more than religious as well as theoretical. The cultural expressions that have been inspired by Buddha’s thoughts do not seem too follow a specific philosophy or religion. Since the domain of culture is characterized by conflicts of interests and competitive ideologies, what seems to be more appropriate for the present day world is to seek possibilities for better arguments and visions suitable for engaging with problems of the time, from Buddhist cultural expressions, including Buddhist religions. I appreciate your rephrasing of the question of debate. It may be giving a specific twist to the discussion. That way it is well and good. As I said earlier, when Argo Spier  proposed another version, different ways of thinking on Buddhist cultures are to
be welcomed. To be sensitive towards Buddhist cultures seems important. Is it a theoretical or political imperative?
29. M. Dasan:

Nice to know that it is generating debates.. Let us continue. Buddha emphasized the need to be critical of his own precepts. So why not we? The need is not to revive Buddhism. It is not at all possible. The experience has shown that it too had many divisions. Can we at least follow the major precept not as religion but as a way of life? Anyway let all those who are interested in, assemble and listen to each other. I will be one of those.
 30. U. Jayaprakash:
During the British Period in India, to become a follower of Buddhism was not only a matter of being political but also cultural. It was political because, the opting for Christianity became a matter of opting a higher status and means of living in order to avoid Hinduism.  It was cultural in the sense that it alone provided an alternative  social set up based on hierarchy. Thus opting Buddhism was considered as a matter of imbibing the spirit of renaissance (awakening or enlightenment) that emerged out of societal crises then prevailed. However, when the Indian Constitution and Parliamentary Democracy became a fact, the question of having a revolutionary alternative social set up became unimportant.
31. P. K. Sasidharan:
It is interesting to get some insights on Buddhist consciousness prevailed during the colonial period. It needs to be traced further.

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