Tuesday, December 17, 2013


How do we go about when we hear the English expression ‘Buddhism’? It seems to be hardly the case to make sense it in any other way rather than its popular connotations as religion and philosophy. Both are usually taken to be corresponding expressions of the Sanskrit words Dharma and darsana respectively. If so, can we have a different way of signification of ‘Buddhism’ other than in the sense of Buddhadharma (religious Buddhism) or Buddhadarsana (philosophical Buddhism)?  This question seems to be pertinent in the context of conceptual ambiguity that prevails in the ways of characterizing Buddhism in relation to Buddha’s own teachings and   the cultural traditions inspired by Buddha. The obscurantism of Buddhism becomes so much apparent when it is being subsumed under the so-called Hinduism. Even though religious Buddhism had its very long successful run in India, in the glorified discourse of Hinduism, Buddhism appeared to have only a self-defeatist stature. While what is said to be the tradition of philosophical Buddhism seems to have got its historical and theoretical credentials, estimation of its contemporary viability (arguments for its ideological imperativeness) appears to be insignificantly lesser and obscure.  Seemingly the cultural space for Buddhism in India today is simply a vacuum.  Nevertheless, its disguised presence seems to be so pervasive and vibrant, despite untold mutilations and disfigurements. A two-pronged strategy of appropriation and dejustification of Buddhist practices has hard on its way. Religious and philosophical significations of Buddhism do not seem to make much appeal for seeking justification for its popular inheritances and legacies. This might call for alternative ways of signification of Buddhism. Cultural Buddhism may be historically and politically viable form of signification.    
The divergent forms of cultural practices that are considered to bearing the traits of some kind of Buddhism appear to have been made frozen in such a way they get assimilated by what they want to challenge. Viewed from the context of cultural history of the Indian sub-continent, the conceptual frames of religion and philosophy seem to be inadequate to accommodate the divergent streams of cultural practices having distinct engagements and challenges. Hence we may propose here a more inclusive characterization of Buddhism, which could be having a more encompassing range of signification for embracing the entire cultural dynamics related to all that what can be termed as Buddhist traditions. Considering all that practices that are categorized as Buddhist Philosophy or Buddhist Religion as forming part of different aspects of cultural dynamics within the Buddhist traditions, a more liberal and non-freezing kind of signification of Buddhism could be categorized as ‘Cultural Buddhism’ 

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