Saturday, November 23, 2013


The very reason for selecting Buddhism or post buddhisms of various sorts in the contemporary world (from cyber buddhism to womanist buddhism in the US as in bell hooks) for academic discussion in the present is part of a political emergency.  The imminent danger of pseudo majoritarian Hindutva pro-fascism is forcing the academia and media to probe alternative and indigenous modes of democratic and ethical philosophies and praxes that people can relate to; culturally and politically. As Ambedkar invoked the Buddha to develop his own path of Indian enlightenment and an indigenous model of social democracy and inclusion, the intelligentsia in the world and India in particular are politically and ethically engaging with this whole way of life and struggle that challenged and critiqued caste and Brahmanism as early as BC 6th century in north India.

 A critical understanding of buddhisms is possible only through a deconstruction of Hindu Brahmanism and de-linking from the Meta-referential structure of Hindutva and Brahmanical ethos.  The neo buddhist movements in western India and the new dalit movements in Kerala have shown that the people at the bottom are able to engage with the philosophy and praxis of the compassionate one even after 2500 years in their own local, ingenious and plural ways.  Buddhism was able to came back to its land of birth from where it was completely erased by the 14th century by caste Hindusism through genocidal violence and bloody persecution; because of its deep cultural roots and ethical legacies in the whole way of life of the people or the subaltern (literacy, health care, self defense traditons abound...). As Ambedkar prudently pointed out the outcasts of India, the Avarnas are heirs to this egalitarian and ethical traditions that resisted internal imperialism of caste and Varna and the hegemony of the Vedas.  It can not be reduced to any "identity politics" but a realisation of historic facts and cultural realities by the excluded and marginalized people at the bottom.
De-locating buddhisms from these cultural grass roots and the people; and their whole way of life and struggle against cultural elitism, ethnic supremacism and hegemony proper is socially reactionary, politically anti democratic, culturally hegemonic and epistemologically violent. Intellectuals imbibing Savarna social values who de-link Buddhism from the people and their lived realities in the past, present and future (if possible) are serving the hegemonic purpose of defusing the political and ethical edge of buddhisms as counter hegemonic practices and alternative visions or liberative ideologies/world views.

 Teravada was defeated like this by disengaging it with the basic teachings of the Buddha and making it more "abstract, detached, liberal and philosophical" along with the personified abstractions of Boddhisatvas and sub deities in the iconological realm.  In this regard the intervention of Nagarjuna and other Mahayana scholars proved to be politically fatal as far as the grass root level life engagement of Buddhism was concerned.  Any attempt for such disengagement with the cultural politics and cultural history of buddhisms, its still living and breathing roots, though buried/erased; and a celebration of the Buddha as a universal philosopher and a cosmic messiah need not be radically critiqued and checked for the purposes of the people and their lived realities.  Because the history of Buddhism in India proves that Tathagata who denied the very existence of God and the spirit was made into a God by the Mahayana school and Hindu Brahmanism was able to absorb it easily through Vajrayana practices ensuing this paradigm shift.  Thus the politics, ethics and cultural history of buddhisms in India are vital and inescapable in any academic debate on Buddhism proper or its disguised minor manifestations all across Asia and the world today.

No comments:

Post a Comment