Bauddh Dharma

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Revision as of 03:39, 17 October 2017 by Deval Sancheti (Talk | contribs) (Vedic interpretation in Buddhism)

By Himanshu Bhatt

Gautama Buddha’s teachings of four noble truths and eight-fold noble paths form a religion called as Buddhism. Buddhists are known historically as Baudh, Saugāta, Muktakachhas, and Murdhabhishikta.

Noble Truths & Paths

These four noble truths are:

  1. Dukha - It refers to the existence of suffering in the world.
  2. Dukha-samudhaya - It refers to the cause for suffering.
  3. Dukhanirodha - It refers that it is possible to stop suffering.
  4. Dukha-nirodha marga - It refers to the ways out of the suffering.

The eight-fold noble paths are:

  1. Samyagdrsti - It means right views.
  2. Samyak-sankalpa - It means right resolve.
  3. Samyak-karmanta - It means right conduct.
  4. Samyagjiva - It means right livelihood.
  5. Samyag-vyayama - It means right effort.
  6. Samyak-smrti - It means right mindfulness.
  7. Samyak-samadhi - It means right concentration.

So "the kinship of the religions of the country stems from the fact that Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs look back to Hinduism as their common mother."[1]

Brahman in Buddhism

See also: Brahman

Brahmā as perfection

It has been hard to determine whether the Buddha's philosophy is atheistic, non-theistic or that it indeed does emphasize on the unity with Brahman like mainstream Hinduism does. Examining Buddhist scriptures and decifering between the words Brāhma (e.g., Brahman) and Brahmā[2] has been hard. Referring to differentiation them, Buddhist scholar B. R. Barua says, "The cases where the Absolute is clearly meant ought to be carefully distinguished from others where Brahma is referred".[3]

While "Brahmā" in Buddhist scripture, like Vedic scriptures, also refers to the non-eternal demigod, "Brāhma" (Brāhman) is believed by scholars to refer to the eternal perfect being, and the highest stage any person can achieve is labelled as Brahmā. For example in addition to Buddha's Dharma being called "Astānga Mārga"[4] and Dharmayāna, it is also addressed "Brahmayāna" because the aim is to lead one to perfection of Nirvana. As the Samyutta Nikaya says, V, 5-6, "This Aryan eight-fold Way may be spoken of as Brahmayāna or as Dhammayāna.[5] Again the Buddha Dharma is equated with Brahma when "...he has become dharma, he has become brāhman." It is said that the cultivation of compassion in its purest form is "called the divine life in this world (Brahman item viharam idhmahu)."[6]

In this context Brahmā is interpreted to mean divine. In the Suttanipata, 656, the Buddha says that he who has won the three-fold lore like self-denial, holy life and control and who will never be reborn is Brahmā.[7] Buddhism is compared to Brahmā in other scriptures like the Majjhima Nikaya[8] where the Dharmachakra of wheel of law is also called the Brahmāchakra.[9][10] The word Brahmachakra was nothing new and it was first mentioned in the Upaniṣads and it is believed the Buddha having received Vedic knowledge, used the term.[11] The Majjhima-Nikaya also says that the Buddha is 'Brahmapatta' or "one who has attained Brahman".[12], thus outlining that when Buddha became perfected by achieving Nirvana he also became Brahmā.

For the ultimate happiness of Nirvana, it is written that "one who has attained Nirvāṇa" it is said, "may justifiably employ theological terminology[13][14] As one attains Nirvaṇa they have the knowledge of enlightenment. So further, in Buddhist scriptures, "Brahmajala" refers to the best knowledge achieved.[15]

Later Buddhist scholars connect the state of Nirvāṇa with Brahman. Buddhaghoṣa in his Digha[16] says that the "Tathāgata or Buddha is dhammakaya brahmakaya dhammabhuta brahmabhuta."[17] This statement translates as, "For the Tathāgata is synonymous with dhamma and brahma and he who sees the dhamma sees the Buddha..."[18] Bhavaviveka uses the term Brahma-Abhyāsa, meaning "practicing Brahmā" which refers to the Buddhist trying to become one with Brahmā.[19]

Brahmacharya itself is a term used often to denote chastity and the way of the monk, both Śramana and Vedic. Buddha himself declared that the perfected religion he was preaching has always existed as a Brahma-faring path:

"Even so have I, monks, seen an ancient way, an ancient road followed by the wholly awakened ones of olden time....Along that have I done and the matters that I have come to know fully as I was going along it, I have told to the monks, nuns, men and women lay-followers, even monks, this Brahma-faring brahmacharya that is prosperous and flourishing, widespread and widely known become popular, well made manifest for gods and men."[20]

Like its sister-religion Jainism, Buddhism emphasizes that while one is in the state of Nirvāṇa, he is said to dwell in Brahman. A perfected human is said to "dwell in Brāhman".[21]

English Sanskrit
Knowing Brāhma, one is a Brāhmin and
Brahmā, has attained the Brahmanirvāṇa
whose body of liberation has deliverance
and release; the deliverance which is calm
and the santata.[22]
brahmavid brahmano brahma brahmanirvanam aptavan
muktimokso vimoksango vimuktih santata sivah

Vedic interpretation in Buddhism

Buddhism does not deny that the Vedas in their true origin were sacred but it holds that they have been amended repeatedly by certain Brahmins to secure their positions in society. The Buddha declared that the Veda in its true form was declared by Kashyapa to certain ṛṣis, who by severe penances had acquired the power to see by divine eyes.[23] In the Buddhist Vinaya Pitaka of the Mahavagga (I.245)[24] section the Buddha names these rishis, and declared the Vedic rishis "Atthako, Vâmako, Vâmadevo, Vessâmitto, Yamataggi, Angiraso, Bhâradvâjo, Vâsettho, Kassapo, and Bhagu"[25] but that it was altered by a few Brahmins who introduced animal sacrifices. The Vinaya Pitaka's section Anguttara Nikaya: Panchaka Nipata says that it was on this alteration of the true Veda that the Buddha refused to pay respect to the Vedas of his time.[26] By the practice of Ṛṣis severe austerities had acquired the power of seeing with divine eyes. They were:

  1. Attako - Ashtaka
  2. Vamako - Vamaka
  3. Vamadeo - Vamadeva
  4. Vessamitto - Viswamitra
  5. Yamataggi - Jamadagni
  6. Angiraso - Angirasa
  7. Bharaddwajo - Bharadwaj
  8. Vasseto - Vasishta
  9. Kassapo - Kasyapa
  10. Bhagu

Also in the "Brahmana Dhammika Sutta"[27][28] of the Suttanipata section of Vinaya Pitaka[29] there is a story of when the Buddha was in Jetavana village and there were a group of elderly Brahmin ascetics who sat down next to the Buddha and a conversation began.

The elderly Brahmins asked him, "Do the present Brahmans follow the same rules, practice the same rites, as those in the more ancient times?"
The Buddha replied, "No."
The elderly Brahmins asked the Buddha that if it were not inconvenient for him, that he would tell them of the Brahmana Dharma of the previous generation.
The Buddha replied: "There were formerly ṛṣis, men who had subdued all passion by the keeping of the sila precepts and the leading of a pure life...Their riches and possessions consisted in the study of the Veda and their treasure was a life free from all evil...The Brahmans, for a time, continued to do right and received in alms rice, seats, clothes, and oil, though they did not ask for them. The animals that were given they did not kill; but they procured useful medicaments from the cows, regarding them as friends and relatives, whose products give strength, beauty and health." So in this passage also the Buddha describes when the Brahmins were studying the Veda but the animal sacrifice customs had not yet began.

In the Mahāvagga,[30] the Buddha declares:

The one who annihilates the sins in himself,
who is not proud, who is passionless, whose spirit is humble,
who has comprehended the Vedas and is chaste,
for whom no joy exists in the world,:
that one is lawfully called a brahman.

The Buddha was declared to have been born a Brahmin trained in the Vedas and its philosophies in a number of his previous lives according to Buddhist scriptures. Other Buddhas too were said to have been born as Brahmins that were trained in the Vedas.

The Mahāsupina Jātaka[31] and Lohakumbhi Jataka[32] declares that Brahmin Sariputra in a previous life was a Brahmin that prevented animal sacrifice by declaring that animal sacrifice was actually against the Vedas.

Further, the Suttanipata 1000 declares that 32 mahāpuruṣa lakṣana[33] that Buddhism uses are declared in the Vedic mantras.[34] Brahmayu was a well-versed Vedic follower of the Buddha who by reading the four Vedas saw that the Buddha was auspicious as per his 32 symbols.[35]

Main Reasons for Buddhism's Decline in India

Buddhism had always been a monastic or ascetic religion with almost very few lay followers, and so when Islamists had invaded the Indian Subcontinent, and persecuted all Hindus (Buddhists, Jains, Shaivas, etc), due to the loss of Buddhist institutions such as their temples and universities, the outlawing of Hindu asceticism, and the slaughter of Hindu (including of Buddhists) clergy, they had no resources to continue their tradition, and Buddhism waned.

The Taliban of Afghanistan destroying the Buddhist Bamiyan structures of ancient Afghanistan in the early 21st century is no different than how Islamists destroyed Buddhist structures.

See also


  1. Religions of the World S. Vernon McCasland, Grace E. Cairns, David C. Yu
  2. It means the demigod.
  3. P. 72 Dr. B.R. Barua Birth Centenary Commemoration Volume, 1989 by Hemendu Bikash Chowdhury, Beni Madhab Barua
  4. It means eight-fold path.
  5. P. 77 Elements of Buddhist iconography by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, Harvard-Yenching Institute
  6. P. 419 Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Buddhism by Samir Nath
  7. P. 121-122 The Buddha Image: Its Origin and Development By Yuvraj Krishan
  8. Majjhima Nikaya I.60
  9. It means wheel of Brahmā.
  10. P. 64 Indian horizons, Volume 1 by Indian Council for Cultural Relations
  11. P. 47 'Buddha and Buddhist Synods in India and Abroad' By Amarnath Thakur
  12. P. 5 Sri Venkateswara University Oriental Journal, Volume 18
  13. It means dhammena so Brahma-vadam vadeyya."
  14. P. 20 The philosophy of religion: a Buddhist perspective by Arvind Sharma
  15. P. 52 The Pacific world: journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Volume 5
  16. iii.8
  17. P. 262 Philosophy, grammar, and indology:essays in honour of Professor Gustav Roth
  18. P. 18 'Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements' by Jayant Lele)
  19. P. 230 To See the Buddha: A Philosopher's Quest for the Meaning of Emptiness By Malcolm David Eckel
  20. P. 57 Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh, Upto 8th Century A.D. By Omacanda Hāṇḍā
  21. It means "brahmund saddhim samvasati" in sanskrit.
  22. P. 92 Chanting the names of Mañjuśrī : the Mañjuśrī-nāma-saṃgīti, Sanskrit and Tibetan texts By Alex Wayman
  23. P. 177 The sacred books of the Buddhists compared with history and modern science By Robert Spence Hardy
  24. P. 494 The Pali-English dictionary By Thomas William Rhys Davids, William Stede
  25. P. 245 The Vinaya piṭakaṃ: one of the principle Buddhist holy scriptures ..., Volume 1 edited by Hermann Oldenberg
  26. P. 44 The legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science By Robert Spence Hardy; " certain ṛṣis.
  27. Brahmana Dhammika Sutta II,7
  28. P. 94 A history of Indian literature, Volume 2 by Moriz Winternitz
  29. P. 45-46 The legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science. By Robert Spence Hardy
  30. P. xxx, Pāli grammar: a phonetic and morphological sketch of the Pāli language, with an introductory essay on its form and character By Ivan Pavlovich Minaev
  31. P. 577 Dictionary of Pali Proper Names: Pali-English By G.P. Malalasekera
  32. P. 30 The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births By E. B. Cowell
  33. These are the auspicious symbols of the Buddha.
  34. P. 121 The Buddha Image: Its Origin and Development By Yuvraj Krishan
  35. P. 371 Manual of Buddhism 1853 By R. Spence Hardy