Workshop on Cultural Buddhism.
The workshop on Cultural Buddhism was a great experience of hearing different views on Buddhism and cultures from academics and activists, especially from students. "Only the Buddhist can talk on Buddhist" did not happen here. The workshop gave a chance to each and everyone who have even a single thought about Buddhism. Here the message was spread that anyone who is not Buddhist are also open to speak, learn, understand the principles of Buddhism without restrictions. I felt that was the best of it. The critics were also welcomed, who showed us (Buddhist practitioners) the path to think on new lines which are required. I thanks the organisers for initiating such a great dialogue by bringing together the Buddhist activists and academicians from different parts of India.
The open discussion like this was very good. A detailed discussion on Buddhism and Ambedkar to be happen in the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, is indeed a bold attempt. This shows there some people around to act daringly. Personally I enjoyed discussions on Buddhist archaeology of Kerala, by amature researchers, though I missed many points due the deliberations in Malayalam language.
Chanda M. Bagde:
This was my first experience of hearing on Buddhist culture of Kerala, as an outsider. I am very much impressed by the freedom allowed to express different opinions. Organiser's statement that it is the sufferings of people that motivate them to think about cultural Buddhism seems to be catching.
i am writing this from sights of unbearable heart choking scenes of my mother's suffering. i understand the importance of the great master understood all our suffering like none other. that was a daring compassion unmatched in human history. he can't be limited to any nation, religion, philosophy, or even to any species.. his understanding has no match to the understanding of any divinities we know. it is pure compassion far far beyond i may be capable of understanding it in my births may be till end of the cycle. that greatness is yet to be captured. arguments of identity politics & evidences towards its claim & using buddha for that .. i think is a too small step ..yet great... though far little than a drop compared to ocean. yet, understanding our existential limitations i apprecite the good intended initiative of sasi & friends.
Really enlightening learning experience on the whole way of life called cultural buddhisms in plural. The workshop revealed that there are multiple and divergent buddhisms in the present within a region aiming for liberation and social transformations of various sorts at various micro locations of culture. The cliched questions raised from some stock quarters also reveal that infiltration and internal blast strategy is still practiced by elitist groups who are antagonized by the movements at the bottom. There is a sustained need to continue such annual conferences related to cultural buddhisms in Kerala in particular. It could be a great cultural, epistemological and ethical struggle for survival in the current contexts of Sanatana Varnasrama Dharma and its various avatars.
The Navayana Cultural Buddhism: Neither Buddhist nor Ambedkarist
Hegemony is leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others. As a part of the academia, I can’t accept any sort of hegemony. The Navayana or Cultural Buddhism presented here is chiefly aimed at countering the Brahmanical hegemeony to establish the Buddhist hegemony. The Navayana is a glorified and mystified Buddhism and Pseudo-Ambedkarism meant to suit some political leanings. It should be rejected in the following academic and historical grounds.
- It is against Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s pure academic purports.
- It denies the basic texts and tenets of Authentic Buddhism of the 4th Councils and Pitaka Texts.
- It is against the historical Buddhism, which was purely a missionary religion based on the first mystical man-God, Gautama Buddha. A missionary religion seeks its growth and propagation just by denying the others.
Cultural Buddhism goes against Baba Saheb Ambedkar
Most of the presentations, especially Dr. Rajesh Karnkal’s sought to the Aryan Invasion theory to refute the Brahmanical hegemony, which is totally against Baba Saheb.
First Objection: True Ambedkar on Aryan Invasion Theory.
I would like quote an eminent Dalit columnist Chandra Bhan Prasad to my justification.
Time we learnt true teachings of Baba Saheb:
I had thus, in my very childhood, an introductory lesson on Ambedkar. Three images formed in the mind when I thought of him:
- A man who drafted the India’s Constitution.
- Author of Arya-non-Arya thesis.
- A person who re-igniter the dhamma chakra.
A few years back, I found out, much to my chagrin, that I had been taught a wrong lesson. The lesson we had learnt was that we (the Dalits) the non-Aryans had been invaded, tormented and enslaved by the caste-Hindu upper caste who were Aryans. Ask any Dalit today (a Dalit with doctorate on Dr Ambedkar and/or a Dalit school dropout) aviyt Dr Ambedkar’s Aryan invasion theory and most will tell you that Baba Saheb was right when he talked about the Arya invasion theory. But how much truth is there? In his book Who Were the Shudras Vol 7, Dr Ambedkar dismisses the Aryan race with absolute contempt. On page 85, he concludes by saying (while dismissing the Aryan race theory) that:
- The Vedas do not know any race referred to as the Aryan.
- There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus who were supposed to be natives of India.
- There is no evidence to show that the distinction between Aryans, Dasas, and Dasyus was a racial distinction.
- The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryans were different in colour from the Dasas and Dasyus.
In the same book (page 86), Dr Ambedkar writes:
“Enough has been said to show how leaky is the Aryan theory expounded by western scholars and accepted by Brahmins. Yet, the theory has such a hold on the people that what has been said against it may mean no more than scotching it. Like a poisonous snake, it must be killed.”
On page 100, Dr. Ambedkar writes: “In the face of the discovery of new facts set out in this chapter, the theory can no longer stand and must be thrown on the scrap heap”
It is a real puzzle that Dr. Ambedkar’s followers believe in the Aryan race theory which he himself rejected. To him, Aryan is a linguistic term and not a term for race. Worse still, Dr. Ambedkar’s followers believe that it was Dr. Ambedkar himself who propounded that Aryan race theory!
Source: The Pioneer, Sunday, 14 April 2013, Chandra Bhan Prasad (a Dalit, bor September 1958) is an Indian journalist and political commentator. A frequent writer on Dalit issues he also acts as an advisor to the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI).
Second objection: True Ambedkar on the disappearance of Buddhism.
“The disappearance of Buddhism from India has been a matter of great surprise to everybody who cares to think about the subject and is also a matter of regret. But it lives in China, Japan, Burma, Siam, Annam, Indo-China, Ceylon and parts of Malaya-Archipelago. In India lone, it has ceased to exist. Not only it has ceased to live in India but even the name of Buddha has gone out of memory of most Hindus. How could such a thing have happened? This is an important question for which there has been not satisfactory answer. Not only there is no satisfactory answer, nobody has made an attempt to arrive at a satisfactory answer. In dealing with this subject people fail to make a very important distinction. It is a distinction between the fall of Buddhism and decline of Buddhism. It is necessary to make this distinction because the fall of Buddhism is one, the reasons for which are very different from those which brought about its downfall. For the fall is due to quite obvious causes while the reasons for its decline are not quite so obvious.
There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans. Islam came out as the enemy of the “But’. The word ‘But’ as everybody knows is an Arabic word and means an idol. Not a many people however know what the derivation of the world ‘But” is. ‘But’ is the Arabic corruption of Buddha. Thus the origin of the word indicates that in the Moslem mind idol worship had come to be identified with the Religion of the Buddha. To the Muslims, they were one and the same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went.
Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afganistan, Gandhar and Chinese Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia. In all these countries Islam destroyed Buddhism. As Vincent Smith points out:
“The furious massacres perpetrated in the many places by Musalman invaders were more efficacious than orthodox Hindu persecutions, and had a great deal to do with the disappearance of Buddhism in several provinces (of India)”.
Not all will be satisfied with this explanation. It does seem inadequate. Islam attacked both Bramhanism and Buddhism. It will be asked why should one survive and the other perish. The argument is plausible but not destructive of the validity of the thesis. To admit that Bramhanism survived, it does not mean that the fall of Buddhism was not due to the sword of Islam. All that it means is that, there were circumstances which made it possible for Bramhanism and impossible for Buddhism to survive the onslaught of Islam. Fortunately for Brahmanism and unfortunately for Buddhism that was the fact.” (The Decline and Fall of Buddhism, 5th Chapter of Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar).
Cultural Buddhism goes against the basic texts and tenets of Authentic Buddhism.
The Buddhist canons are formed out of the 4 historical councils of Buddhist monks respectively Rajagriha, Vaisali, Paliputra and Kashmir. The Pitaka texts have been finalized by the four council through the process of sankachattayanam or thorough inspections and recitations by and in the Sanghas. Thus, there is no scope of any interpolation in them, as Dr. Rajesh proposed. Later in the modern days the three major sources of editions of these texts have been collected and finalized by authentic men relying solely on Buddhist traditions. If there any problem still exists with the Buddhist texts, the vibrant sectarianism of mutually quarrelling Buddhist groups is the single reason. As Henry Hackman (Buddhism as a religion) points out no Brahmanical renderings of Buddhist texts are so far available, but Brahmanical writins are available in Buddhist traditions. Thus the only reliable source extant now on Buddhism is the Pitakas. They expose that Buddhism in its inborn nature was against Sudras, Dalits and women. Let me provide some hints therein.
Buddhism of Buddha going against Sudras and Dalits.
I use here the Caryapitaka and Jatakas of Khuddaka Nikaya of Sutta Pitaka and Nidana Kathas of Vinaya Pitaka.
- The oldest Buddhist monks are of two kinds: Brajman parivrajakas and Anna-titheeya parivrajakas. The first from Brahmin clans and the rest from kshatriya and Vaisya clans. The first Buddhist council was conducted at Fajagriha by the 499 men of different places who have direct linkage with Buddha including his son Rahula. And among them 25 were the disciples of first lineage. Among the 25 not a single man was a non-Brhamin. Among the rest of 499, no man is from other than the first three varnas. When upali, a prime Buddha disciple was questioned by a Vaisya man he along with Ananda and Kasyapa simply answers that “thus spake the lord!!” These and the like show Brahmanical hegemony is accepted in Buddhism.
- Buddha himself says that he is the 25th of the 26 Buddhas. The first was named Dipankura Buddha, the last Maitreya Buddha. All the 24 previous Buddhas were from Brahmin Kulas.
- Now, here, an interpretation is possible that the Brahmin word means only the wise and not a caste. But, the Pitakas resist this interpretation. Buddha answeres in the nidana Katha, why had he not born in the Sudra varna and out-castes. “Buddhas not only on such castes which could be able to lead the then societies. So they should not be born out of Brahmin or Kshatriya Kulas”. (What does navayana say about the Buddha who not yet came?) These sort of casteic sayings are found in all the Buddhists canons. Also same was said about the bodhisattvas. (Buddhist Studies, Vimala Charan Law, Chapter 4).
Buddha ruling against Women
Just consider the 8 laws specially made for women monks, astonishingly we could find that Buddhism in its roots is against women and promotes Gender discrimination. These laws are evolved when Gautami, te step-mother of Buddha herself approached Ananda to include them too in the Sangha. The 10th Khandaka Chullavagga of Sutta says that a full night discussion between Buddha and Aanda occurred and the 8 Garudharma resulted. At the end of the secret discussion Buddha remarked: “O, Ananda, if the renounced women had not been given permission to enter the Sangha to live according to the injunctions of Tathagata at your request, the holiness of my creed would surely last for more 1000 years. And no, it would last hardly to 500 years.” Let us consider few laws.
The First Law: a Bhikkuni, even she had completed 100 years after the Upasampata (a kind of limited membership) she should stand up when Bhikku, even if he may of a single day experience, enters the gathering.
The Third Law: Upasota (a Confession during every 14 days) is must for women in lieu of their possible mental and physical mistakes.
The Fourth Law: Pavarana (in 14 days interval) is to be done by the women monks strictly in the presence of male monks.
The Seventh Law: A Bhikkuni can neer scold or ridicule a Bhikku at any instance.
The Eighth Law: A Bhikku can make a Bhikkuni disciplined and not vice versa.
And finally Buddha declared: “In any life of Buddha, a female birth is impossible. Only with a fore-skinned penis like a sword in its case, a Buddha could be born.”
The Buddhahood is highly impossible than Brahminhood.
Many of the scholars here said that all are eligible to become Buddhas simply by adopting Navayan. But Buddha himself negates this simplified Buddhahood. Dasa paramis – Ten essential virtues are needed to attain Buddhahood ranging from Dana to Upekha. To accomplish each one 30 births are needed. Then 30x10+300 Brahmin or Kshatriya lives have to be passed on to attain the tushitavasta the exclusive condition of Buddhahood!! However, even in a suspected portion of Manusmriti anyone can attain Brahmin birth by 7 consecutive human births.
Connection of Buddha with the Vedas
Buddha says that he has taken the 10 essential virtues of Dana, Sila etc. From his study of the Vedas in previous births. Then how could he deny study of the Vedas in the current birth of Gautama. In the first Khuddaka text itself a strange story appears that Buddha was directed by Brahman to preach Dhamma among people. Before that he hesitated to preach among common people for the single reason that he has achieved the Buddhahood painfully. Devadatta, the cousin of Buddha, who was a scholar of the Vedas made “Dasavattuni” – 10 things avoided by a Buddhist leader, like meat and liquor which are against Vedic injunctions.
Cultural Buddhism goes against historical Buddhism
Violence on Buddhism
Dr. Rajesh’s hypothesis of Ppusyamitra’s murdering of Buddhist monks is unhistorical. Pushyamitra Sunga (185 BCE to 151 BCE) has been recorded as being hostile to Buddhism, burning Sutras, Buddhists shrines and endorsing the massacre of monks. Although such issues remains disputed, Belgian historian and Hindu scholar Koenraad Elst writes:
“The story is in fact given in two near contemporaneous (2nd century AD) Buddhist histories, the Asokanvadana and the Divyavadana; the two narratives are almost verbatim the same and very obviously have a common origin. This non-contemporary story (which surfaces more than three centuries aften the alleged facts) about Pushyamitra’s offering money for the heads of Buddhist monks is rendered improbable by external evidence: the well-attested historical fact that he allowed and patronized the construction of monasteries and Buddhist universities in his domains, as well as the still-extant stupa of Sanchi. After Ashoka’s lavish sponsorship of Buddhism, it is perfectly possible that Buddhist institutions fell on slightly harder times under the Sungas, but persecution is quite another matter.”
Buddhist historian Etienne Lamotte has observed: “To judge from the documents, Pushyamitra must be acquitted through lack of proof.” (“Popular Controversies in World History: Investigating History’s Intriguing Questions”, by Steven L. Danver, P.98, isbn = 9781598840780).
These are to be considered as the main causes for the disappearance of Buddhism around the world:
- White Huns,
- Muhammad Bin
- Mahamud of Ghazni,
- Muhammad of Ghor,
- The Mongols,
- Timur (Tamarlane),
- Persecution by Muslims and conversion to Islam.
Violence by Buddhism
Violence by Buddhism refers to acts of violence and aggression committed by Buddhists with religious, political, and socio-cultural motivations. A popular misconception of Buddhism is that it is among the religious traditions least associated with violence, but there is a robust history of Buddhist-related self-flagellation, suicides, torture, and wars. Within the monastic traditions alone, there are over sixteen hundred years of Buddhist violence in Asia. (http://en.wikipeda.org/wiki/buddhismandviolence).
At last I would like to draw your attention to a revolutionary approach towards Buddhism, keeping all these facts in mind: and that is Critical Buddhism.
Critical Buddhism is a branch of Japanese Buddhist scholarship which aims to reform Buddhism through critical examination of its practices and philosophy. Many individual schools of Buddhism are criticized by other practitioners as spiritually insincere or not attached to the original teachings of the original Buddha, including Soka Gakkai, the Nichiren Shoshu, the Dhammakaya Movement, and participants in the Dorje Shugden controversy. The navayana or cultural Buddhism presented here may have some brilliant future if it turns its fresh eyes on to this Critical Buddhism.
I submit this piece of academic writing to the pleasant and peaceful mind of scholars assembled here to say something differently to reject the mainstream history and ideology for the sake of common good to all the downtrodden classes of mankind.
P. K. Sasidharan:
Anandaraj’s allegation that the workshop on cultural Buddhism has been conducted with a hegemonic intent is misrepresentation of what has actually taken place. The actual event of the two-day workshop had been in continuation of the online pre-workshop discussions for about two years. The specific theme-paper of the workshop was widely circulated in advance, and the same was forwarded to Anandaraj, along with common invitation and updated responses. Unfortunately, the above criticism, which he circulated as pamphlet among the participants in the workshop hall does not seem to inform the ideas shared by the theme-note and the followed discussions. Most of the participants have experienced the workshop as a platform for articulating different, and rather contradicting, ways of understanding the idea of cultural Buddhism. Besides being an exploration into heterogeneous expressions of Buddhist culture, the idea of cultural Buddhism was also presented with a methodological presupposition of imbibing Buddhism as a liberating ideology, which suits for the present-day world. Its conceptual and practical feasibility are the points of contention. Nowhere has it been proposed as something called ‘Navayana Cultural Buddhism’. So the pamphlet seems to miss the target. From the point of the proposed idea of cultural Buddhism, the Navayana or Neo-Buddhism was also viewed as yet another form of religious Buddhism. Cultural Buddhism wants to seek the possibility of creating a Buddhist ideological space where one could make use Buddhist ideas, even while being a non-Buddhist religious practitioner, to engage with existential crises and cultures of power and violence. This being the thrust of the present exploration, the allegation that cultural Buddhism is meant for countering Brahmanical hegemony in order to establish Buddhist hegemony is simply a misrepresentation. Of course, Brahmanism forms one of the major points of analysis as casteism continues to work as the most important factor of social sufferings in India. There are also many other factors which cause sufferings, namely, neo-liberal economic exploitation, cultural imperialism, racism, ethno-centricism, national chauvinism, religious fanaticism, consumerism, greed, violence, discrimination, hypocrisy, state centric power politics, totalitarianism, eco-destructive developments, and many others. It is by keeping the possibilities of creative engagement with all such sources or conditions of human sufferings in view that the idea of cultural Buddhism is considered here. No doubt that it has its start off with a strong critical engagement with long and wider traditions of Buddhism. So it goes without saying that such a reconstruction of Buddhism may not be possible from the premise of a Buddhist monolith, which is projected as authentic and historical. Although uninformed about these thematic problems, Anandarajan’s pamphlet has to be engaged with rigour, and factual details are to be scrutinized.
P. K. Sasidharan:
P. A. Pouran’s remark (Blog post No: 94) that ‘weak therapies’ like Buddhism are inadequate to fight common man’s ills caused by globalisation, privatisation, liberalization, tourism, etc., is a very significant input in continuing the discussion on the viability of cultural Buddhism. Because, such a blunt rejection of any political implication of Buddhist ideas vis-a-vis the challenges against the threats posed by contemporary socio-economic orders seems to lead the discussion directly to the problem of seeking justification for the reconstruction of Buddhism as cultural Buddhism. Pouran has a definite suggestion that people should be mobilized to put up ruthless fight against those ‘evils’. However, he does not seem to be worried about whether the ruthless fighting would cure the ills or make them worse. If to think historically, the question how far it would be realistic to call for such heroism today becomes very pertinent. In other words, we need to think to what extent the presumed ‘strong therapies’ had/have been strong in history. Unlike earlier convictions, one may not be so innocent or gullible today to embrace the cause of revolutionary social transformation programmes inspired by the modern or scientific ideologies like liberalism, democracy, socialism, nationalism, and communism. Nor it is credulous to conceive that any sort of militarist or terrorist policies (including the state or economic terrorism) would be able to bring peace and well being for common man. Analysis of the conditions that defeated those strong therapies themselves reveals that they cannot be in a position to counter the maladies in existence. That is, the context in which the so-called strong therapies have become reinforcing source of maladies can no longer be overlooked. Perhaps, the significance of Buddhist ideas might be seen in relation to the context of such an analysis of conditions in which social maladies are getting generated and reinforced day by day. If the so-called strong/hard programmes are proved to be failure (weaker; to be precise) why should there be an unrealistic glorification of apparent heroisms? If strong remedies are found to be part and parcel of a complex vicious circle of power and violence, why should we go by some preconceived dichotomist notions of strong and weak programmes? Is there any alternative strong therapy other than those available in the market? Are they to be made use sans any rectification of their corruptions? Are the perceived weak/soft therapies really soft by all means? Is it possible to trace some elements that are potentially strong in the weak? Are they useful, at least, for the purpose of further strengthening or rectification of the strong ones, if not to replace them? It seems we are only left with the option of learning things with a longer historical perspective. The attempt for a reconstruction of Buddhism in the form of cultural Buddhism seems to have emerged from such a predicament. The present exercise of learning from the Buddhist cultural legacies is, thus, meant for reinventing the Buddhist perceptions of human sufferings and liberation.