Tuesday, January 13, 2015



26. Asoke Chattopaddhyaya:

1. Buddhism is not a non-existent religion in India. As you have stated correctly, it exists in form(s) which its original proponent might have problems accepting, had he been alive today.

2.       I do not agree with you that “Buddhism declined in India….due to lack of a unified conception of a transcendental principle.” Buddhism declined because it had already become a spent force, having been integrated into the Brahminical tradition (an avatara of Vishnu, the last one before Kalki); also because it merged with Chinachara (tantric tradition from Tibet etc.) with esoteric practices, which may appear revolting to our sensibilities.

3.       In fact, Nagarjuna, the one Buddhhist philosopher who could unite the Buddhist practices with a proper (almost Vedantic) transcendental principle called shunyavada, appeared just before its decline.

4.       You contend that we inherited a theistic conception of Buddhism from the colonial rulers. What they understood was from books / manuscripts stolen from Tibet by two Bengalis viz. Sarat Chandra Das and Haraprasad Sastri. There were others. But the punthis brought back by these and others mainly catered to Mahayana Buddhism, while Sri Lanka and Thailand was practicing Hinayana Buddhism (or Theravada) for centuries.

5.       You can say that the Vipassana form of meditation, currently in vogue among the elite, was popularized by Sri S. N. Goenka as he learnt it from his Thai teacher.

6.       Regarding remnants of older Buddhist practices, or traces of it or its cultural lineage, we need a Kosambi today to interpret them. Nothing short of a dedicated band of scholars, closely linked with another band of field workers, can unravel the linkages, or Buddhist icons now part of folk heritage in remote villages and hamlets. That this cannot be an easy task may be understood from the contradictory accounts of various “dharma thakurs” in Western parts of West Bengal as Buddhist and as Jaina by Haraprasad Sastri and others.

7.       I am not that familiar with the history of south India and hence cannot comment on your thesis as put forward in pages 3-5. But there is always danger of reinterpretation of older religions in modern terms. Just think of what happened to Rammohan Roy and his Brahmo Samaj. Now, that is an example of a dead religion. My point is – it is dead precisely because it was not rooted in history. Common people could not identify with it. The great Raja and his disciples, were too hasty in interpreting ancient texts according to their own (limited) understanding. They had no choice, exactly as Hobbes or Laplace or Descartes at one time did not have any choice faced with the onslaught of Newtonian paradigm in natural history and the lack of any philosophical base extant in consonance with it.

I have my own ideas regarding how Advaita Vedanta became Hinduism, disregarding all the syncretic, heterodox traditions which constitute the latter, although there is nor has there been at any point in history (except as exceptional times e.g. the time of Adi Sankara for example), when one could identify Hinduism with one single (dominant) philosophical school. Even Sankara, the so-called Mayavadi / Monist, has composed such beautiful devotional slokas that it would be foolish to say that he always believed in his own monistic theory.

There was never any problem between existence of such contradictory schools of thought, and the social structure. Many have tried to rationalize this puzzle. But what we see post Plassey, or rather post Macauley, is a complete overhauling of the old order. All local buffers were destroyed one after the other. The idea of a single nation – India – was born, at the cost of such destruction. I would also put Gandhi as one of the engines of this change.

What we must accept today is that we cannot go back in time. Adoption of villages as the ideal model of existence will not work anymore. Newer technologies, ICT, media, entertainment industry, global financial market with its derivatives, futures and dematerialized accounts, create and destroy wealth of nations by its own logic. Today, religion (and philosophy) is a commodity as any other entity. So, we must be careful how we want to “use” Buddhist thought.

Historiography is another matter. Unraveling the past may help finance capital plan its next assault on uncharted territories. So, it may assist in such research programs actively.


27. P. Madhu:

'Culture' is always eclectic. I don't think a pure 'Buddhist' culture can be traced back in Kerala. Naming cultures by religious denominations is anachronistic. Buddhism is multiple, transforming. Arguments among ideologues is something like the academics sometimes involve in idle philosophical talks over the constructs and concepts they have created! That is nothing 'cultural'. Say for instance- 'sunyata' of Buddhism or Buddhi of Buddhism- what is their cultural relevance? Do they influence everyday life?

hen, if we argue- Buddhist culture is ethically superior- that argument has little meaning! What is ethics? Often the ethical questions are framed latter- most of our ethical questions are sourced at colonial moralism. Is ethical or moral superior to non-ethical, non-moral 'other' now being constructed by articulating 'buddhist culture'.

There are still 'buddhist cultures' (culture among those who technically follow 'buddhist religion') in Sri Lanka, Tibet... among neo Buddhists, .. most of the surviving 'buddhist' culture is not significantly different from 'hindu culture' it is contrasted with.

Giving religious orientation to cultures and expecting them to have some sort of pure-religiosity is absurd... especially, it is more absurd when we trace it back to medieval or ancient past... Gurus or teachers are masters of eclecticism! If we call a culture based on the Gurus- & their teaching- it will be too much intriguing! Each one has his/her mix of ideals & doctrines.

It is a recent phenomenon- that people have fixed religious identities... Then how can we presuppose a huge-civilizational- massive one culture vs another? Why should one indulge in such a truth game? Often such truth games are games of colonial modernity- naming heroes & villains! It is neither historically or philosophically sound to engage in such a naming game.


28. Giorgio Martino:
......here in Europe Buddhism is growing and developing a lot....adapting to situations and circumstances....and connecting with science also. I begin to see, at least here,s o many movement that make connections between western science and "trance" states as presented in Buddhism to access a deeper knowledge of the human and the artificial...and brain-human interface etc.....
 Last year, when in New York, I visited a Japanese professor (neuroscience) at Rockefeller University. He is in the Soka Gakkai movement for Nichiren Buddhism and he was involved in "making connections" between researchers in the university....I think he was using Buddhism to make people speaking without barriers...we'll see what happens...and as possible I check about Neurobuddhism!
 In few years Buddhism in all his forms will be a strong political issue: the more Islamic fundamentalism will grow up, the more we'll see a growing of a surprising alive and strong Buddhism. And we know China will try to do something bad..


29. A. Kanthamani:

Even if one assumes that brain-mind interface matters, as remarked by Professor Georgio Martino, it is difficult to prove that Buddhism could be foisted, either as a religion or as a non-religion (anti-castist format), on neuroscience, so much so that the term Neuro-buddhism is strikingly a misnomer- as far as I know it has not proven its mettle, in spite of some sort of convergence. This will generate images like Neuro-Hinduism and so on. This will naturally force  Sasidharan to seek a re-justification of the neologism 'Cultural Buddhism' .


30. Girishkumar T. S:

Culture as I understand is refined human existence. I base myself on the Vedopanishadic knowledge tradition to say so; refinement here shall be a process purificatory, sphutikarana in Sanskrit. To make this explicit, one can depend on Maharishi Akshapada Gautama and his 3rd Century BC text, Nyaya Sutra that insists that knowledge worth the name must have the property of affecting the knower. Knowledge that does not affect the knower to refine and purify him is not worthy of knowing.  Buddha as I understand was strengthening the Vedopanishadic knowledge tradition, as that was the demand of that time owing to various circumstances that I hesitate to name as a decadence. Apart from Catur Arya Satya, Ashtangamarga and Pradityasamutpada, Buddha himself gave hardly direct siddhantas, theories. The philosophical tradition was carried on by Acaryas who took after Buddha, initially in local dialects, but subsequently they also embraced Sanskrit. These philosophers established their own development, and later considered themselves distinct from Vedopanishadic knowledge tradition: until Sankaracarya demonstrated their Vedopanishadic roots a thousand years after. 

Now it may be of interest to see the passiing and somewhat standing impact of such things in varying societies, though for Buddhism, the theory of momentariness is yet another Siddhanta.

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