How Indians invented the universal religion

One of my favorite podcasts is Two for Tea, which tends toward “centrist-edgelordism”. The latest guest is, Armin Navabi, who I have nicknamed the Ayatollah. Armin is literally one of the most logical people I have ever known of, at least in the domain of those who are not visibly already extremely at one end of the spectrum. His views on religion come from this rationalist perspective, and that is where I part ways with him because I don’t see rationality as powerful a force as he does in shaping human behavior.

But in this post, I want to disagree with something Armin said in relation to the history of religion: that universalism and post-tribal religion was invented by Christianity and the Abrahamic tradition. This is clearly false.

From Ashoka’s Edict 13, put down in the 3rd century before Christ:

Now, it is the conquest by the Dharma that the Beloved of the Gods considers as the best conquest. And this one (the conquest by the Dharma) was won here, on the borders, and even 600 yojanas (leagues) from here, where the king Antiochos reigns, and beyond where reign the four kings Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander, likewise in the south, where live the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni.

The usual interpretation is that Ashoka was a partisan of the Buddhist school. But whether he or wasn’t (some revisionists claim that the Buddhists coopted him), the fact is that Ashoka was involved in the proselytizing of Indian religious views to non-Indians. This gave rise in the subsequent generations to Indo-Greek kings, such as Menander, who seem to have patronized Buddhism. Again, revisionists might suggest that Menander was not a Buddhist himself, and what did it mean to be Buddhist anyway in the 2nd century B.C.? But, we know that Buddhism arrived in China in the 1st century A.D., almost certainly from Central Asia.

My overall point is that even before the death of Jesus Christ (assuming someone who fit that general description lived, which is the majority consensus), Buddhism was already an international religion. By the time of the birth of Christ, it was probably as important a cultural force in Central Asia, among Iranian-speaking peoples, as it was in India.

This post though is not to engage in “but everything was invented in India!” To be honest, I think the emergence of Buddhism and Christianity as portable universal religions was probably somewhat inevitable in Eurasia during the Iron Age. I don’t discredit the idea that some forms of Buddhism may have had an influence on early Christianity, as the Persian Church was coextensive with a large population of Buddhists in Central Asia, and before the identification of Christianity with the Roman Empire in the 4th century arguably Persia was more congenial to the religion. But the cross-fertilization of religious ideas occurred in many directions.

But, I do wonder at the emergence of universalism within India in particular, because this is a region now renowned for its acceptance of particularism. Buddhism was one of many religious and philosophical movements that rebelled against the traditional religious structures and beliefs of India, which eventually gave rise to Hinduism. The genetic record seems to suggest that jati (caste) and ethno-social segregation has a deep history in South Asia.  Perhaps then a universal religion like Buddhism developed early within India due to a Hegelian dialectical process.

Universalism as an ideology takes root where it is most needed to counter-act ideologies of particularism?

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74 Replies to “How Indians invented the universal religion”

  1. Muslims deny this but some scholars have posited that Sufism was born out of Islam’s early encounters with Buddhism in Khorasan.

    I think you are correct in describing Buddhism as a universalist reaction to the proto-Hinduism being propagated by Brahmans in the Gangetic plains.

    The faith was born in the Bihar region, and along with Bengal, Punjab, and Sindh, grew to become the most popular religion in those areas (which uncoincidentally are those areas described as outside Aryavarta by the Brahmans).

    From what I’ve heard Buddhism wasn’t able to gain majority status in “inner” India due to timely reformations to Hinduism originating in the south, though I’m unclear about this.

    Following the Brahman coupe and murder of the last Mauryan Emperor, Buddhism’s lost its state patronage in the north, and its followers were subject to some form of persecution by the new regime. Its after this takeover that the definition of “Aryavarta” is expanded to include the now absorbed Bihar and West-Bengal.

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  2. Muslims deny this but some scholars have posited that Sufism was born out of Islam’s early encounters with Buddhism in Khorasan.

    christopher beckwith posits that a lot of the institutional framework of modern islam comes out of its engagement with the persian east. in particular, the abbasid period is well known for the interjection of eastern ideas. two primary things beckwith & other central asianists says is due to the central asian buddhism:

    – the vihara as the prototype of the madrassa

    – the hadith tradition as developed in bukhara as part of the local buddhist exegetical traditions

    i find the first more persuasive in beckwith’s work cuz the contingent steps are laid out. i think a lot of the intellectual influences may be parallelism that come out of most complex societies.

    there are discussions about the influence of buddhism (which was a small but known eastern cult in places like alexandria) on early forms christian monastic asceticism. but again, i think asceticism is pretty common in these iron age societies as a reaction to stratification and excessive focus on materiality.

    Following the Brahman coupe and murder of the last Mauryan Emperor, Buddhism’s lost its state patronage in the north, and its followers were subject to some form of persecution by the new regime. Its after this takeover that the definition of “Aryavarta” is expanded to include the now absorbed Bihar and West-Bengal.

    i was careful to speak in vague generalities in this post because i think we need to be careful about imposing too many confessional boundaries. the unfortunate reality is that indian historiography before islam is very patchy, and i think a lot of it is almost certainly propaganda of some sort by later actors.

    i think it is clear that there were broad civilizational affinities of indian elites, whether they were orthodox or heterodox (e.g. rejected the vedas). over time this coalesced into the confessions we know of. outside of india buddhism was the ‘indian religion,’ and pretty easy to distinguish from other sects. within india i think things may have been more fluid for a lot longer, as the fully flushed out religion we term hinduism developed organically in rxn to the heterodox sects, and eventually, islam, and even colonialism (though i think it is hard to deny something like wha we’d recognize as hinduism wasn’t found by the gupta period).

    anyway, i am asking people to not get too bogged down into stupid semantic wars on this thread. mostly no one reads those judging by the responses.

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  3. also, re: sufis and buddhism. this makes sense from a western perspective because of the parts of buddhism which are particularly popular in the west.

    but, my main caution on all this is that from 500 BC on much of the eurasian zone between the mediterranean and india were a broad interaction sphere. galenic medicine made it india via the arabs/persians (still practiced in tibet). indian ideas probably migrated west, as there are historically attested indian philosophers who arrived during the classical period, and it seems that the persians also served as intermediaries.

    i think as a matter of ontological/metaphysical truth the ‘perennial philosophy’ is not right. but, all of the ‘great religions’ outside of confucianism probably drank at the well of circulating currents of ideas that were in wide and non-exclusive currency. e.g., some gnostics were pagans, some were christians, and some were other things, like schismatic zoroastrians.

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  4. Brahmins and Buddha

    Aggañña Sutta: On Knowledge of Beginnings (From the Pali canon).

    “Then the Lord said to Vasettha: Vāseṭṭha, you two are Brahmins born and bred, and you have gone forth from the household life into homelessness from Brahmin families. Do not the Brahmins revile and abuse you?’ ‘Indeed, Lord, the Brahmins do revile and abuse us. They don’t hold back with their usual flood of reproaches.’ ‘Well, Vasettha, what kind of reproaches do they fling at you?’ ‘Lord, what the Brahmins say is this: “The Brahmin caste is the highest caste, other castes are base; the Brahmin caste is fair, other castes are dark; Brahmins are purified, non-Brahmins are not, the Brahmins are the true children of Brahmā, born from his mouth, born of Brahma, created by Brahma, heirs of Brahma. And you, you have deserted the highest class and gone over to the base class of shaveling petty ascetics, servants, dark fellows born of Brahmā’s foot! It’s not right, it’s not proper for you to mix with such people!” That is the way the Brahmins abuse us, Lord.’

    The beginnings of jainism, buddhism etc in the periphery of aryavarta is probably not a coincidence.

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  5. the idea of the aryavarta illustrates the power of the idea in india.

    the two great classical purely indigenous north indian empires were both based in magadha on the edge of aryavarta.

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    1. The Magadha Empire(s) originated in Bihar and expanded into the Gangetic plains and Bengal, though their rule was detested by the Brahmans as the former weren’t born of and didn’t practice proper Vedic traditions.

      The Mauryan Empire also originated outside Aryavarta, but in the Punjab, where after consolidating much of the Indus region, Maurya traced the familiar conquest route in South-Asia, marching east and annexing the Gangetic plains, before his descendants would push the empire further south.

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      1. “The Mauryan Empire also originated outside Aryavarta, but in the Punjab, where after consolidating much of the Indus region, Maurya traced the familiar conquest route in South-Asia, marching east and annexing the Gangetic plains, before his descendants would push the empire further south.”

        Mauryan Empire was based in Magadha.

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        1. Right but it didn’t originate in Magdha.

          Similar to the Mughal Empire being based in Delhi but originating in Afghanistan.

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  6. “against the traditional religious structures and beliefs of India, which eventually gave rise to Hinduism. “

    Interesting that you think that “Hinduism” starts with the rise of Puranic lores. Why would you classify the religion followed in the Vedic period to be distinct?

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  7. Why would you classify the religion followed in the Vedic period to be distinct?

    not distinct. but different.

    you can call it whatever you want. for semantic clarify though you need to bracket it somehow.

    the judaism of the 5th century bce was very different from the judaism of the 5th century ad (i consider rabbinical judaism more of a sister religion to christianity, not a parent).

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    1. Yes but the question here is why do you imply that Hinduism was invented later to Buddhism, in the quote below

      “against the traditional religious structures and beliefs of India, which eventually gave rise to Hinduism. “

      The Judaism of 5th century BCE May be different that the older version, but you still group them as Judaism.

      I’m asking because I’m have very poor clarity on the ontology of Hinduism.

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      1. I’m asking because I’m have very poor clarity on the ontology of Hinduism.

        when it comes to religion i’m a nominalist.

        to be clear, for various reasons (e.g., non-indian sources have copies of texts) from what i know we know more in detail about what was going on with ‘buddhism’ 5th to 0th period. these sources are a bit later and probably anachronistically project things…but it was forming then.

        what was going on in hinduism before sankara? the chronology seems vague. even sankara seems to be +/- 1000 years.

        we DO know what happened with buddhism in china, and the rxn of native religions. they co-opted elements of buddhism as if they adapted. my assumption is a similar dynamic happened with hinduism, which was coming together in elite form in different strands, philosophical (vedanta) and devotional.

        The Judaism of 5th century BCE May be different that the older version, but you still group them as Judaism.

        actually, i don’t. i didn’t want to confuse you. i prefer ‘hebrew religion’ or something like that. or religion of the jews. or cult of Yahweh.

        judaism as a confessional religion makes more sense during the greco-roman period.

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        1. Something I’m reading now,

          https://www.amazon.com/Prehistory-Hinduism-Manu-V-Devadevan/dp/3110517361

          Its a take on religious identity in India, traces it to the 12th century deccan that we first see that vaishnava/shaiva/jain/buddhist start to become hereditary identities rather than purely confessional. The author comes from a literary background and has read the primary sources quite extensively, which makes for a compelling description of the economic and political context of these changes.

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          1. Girmit, I tried to research Manu V Devadevan:
            https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-temple-was-not-a-vedic-institution-manu-v-devadevan/article26149218.ece

            I am very skeptical of the constructionist view. I would rather that Kushal, Shrikant Talageri, Nilesh Oak or others make this argument since they know way more than I do about this (from my interactions with them).

            A lot of what Manu V Devadevan says is true. But that does not mean constructionism is true.

            Can the Agamas and Padma Purana (the section on temple construction) and Kalpa Vedanga really be separated from the Vedas?

            How do we know how old temples are? We can guess how old some temples are. But we don’t know if there were temples before that.

            I don’t understand his point about “Godmen”. What does he consider Gareeb Nawaz, Kabir, Lal Ded/Nund rishi, Janardan Swami/Eknath, Chaitanya, Nanaka, Shankaracharya, Maadvacharya, Ramanuja, Sarmad Kashani, Mian Mir, Shirdi Sai Baba, Swami Samarth, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi, Yogananda/Satyananda/Yukteshwar to be? What did he consider Buddha and Mahavira to be?

            All were high profile by the end of their life times.

            Perhaps he does not regard the sages of Krishna’s time to be actual people. In the narrative stories of Krishna’s life time there were many great sages who were high profile.

            I don’t understand why he considers high profile Gurus to be a new phenomenon rather than a repeat of phenomenon from the time of the 11 great sages that Buddha mentioned.

            I find his theories on monks to be puzzling. Many have been renouncing the world for a long time. They are called Sadhus, Vanaprasta, Sanyasis, Avadhuta. Isn’t this a continuation of an old tradition?

            Most of the ancient sages were householders with wives. Including the less than 20 major saints from which almost all the Vedas and ancient scriptures emanates. Householders have played an important role since the beginning. What has shifted?

            Why does he think that SAARC was poor 600 AD? It is possible that SAARC was far richer per capita and had a much higher population than people now believe 600 AD or 1000 BC. We simply don’t know. If SAARC was richer per capita in 600 AD or 1000 BC than historicans now speculate . . . then literacy and average societal intelligence might have been higher than historians now estimate too.

            Any study of the past that does not account for consciousness, meditation and the ability of brains and nervous systems to exhibit psychic phenomenon is deeply incomplete.

            My own hypothesis is that SAARC per capita GDP fell significantly after 600 AD. Partly because of the loss of old technologies related to the brain and nervous system. Physical health, mental health and intelligence might have decayed.

            Perhaps circa 1000 AD Jnaana, Raaja Yoga and Karma Yoga maargas were de-emphasized and Bhakti (devotion) was emphasized. Bhakti doesn’t require physical health, mental health, intelligence or education. In a period of declining per capita income why would it be surprising that Bhakti becomes emphasized?

            But why would this be a change in Hinduism? The four maargas have been around for a long time. Both Krishna and Buddha described them in detail. Why would a change in emphasis between them be a change the Dharmic system?

            If I could ask the author questions, I would ask him to name all the Kannada sages, saints and writers going back to the beginning of recorded literature. And what their paramparas taught.

            My personal observation is that Kannada culture was deeply influenced by Madhvaachaarya. Who were the high profile Kannada sages that preceded Madhvaachaarya?

            I would agree with him, however, about temples being less important in ancient times. I don’t recall temples playing a role in the Valmiki Ramayana.

            On the other hand the Vedangas were discussed during the debate between Hanuman and Ravana. One of the most important Vedangas is Kalpa.

            For me a major change would be new spiritual/religious texts or new teachings or new technology. Is there any evidence of this post Buddha?

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      2. p.s. to be clear: in east asia it looks like the customary traditions of the chinese and japanese were stimulated into more organized form by the sangha. the buddhist community. religious daoism makes almost no sense without the stimulative power of buddhism.

        this organically integrated organized religious community which was also international, portable, and propagative, seems to be a major innovation of buddhism. it predates the christian and islam, which have similar organizations.

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      3. Hinduism has evolved considerably. One reason to use Buddhism as a dividing point between the “Vedic religion” or “proto Hinduism” and what we would recognize as Hinduism today is because the rough time period leading up to, during, and after Buddhism led to significant changes to Hinduism.

        The main living mainstream philosophical school of Hinduism — Vedanta — had its key texts, the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras, composed during this broad time period.

        The notion of Varna-ashrama-dharma and the four paths set forth in the Gita found a way to synthesize the old ritualistic Vedic religion with the contemplative shramana traditions (to which Buddhism and Jainism belonged). Hinduism basically absorbed Buddhism and Jainism in some sense by imitating it. It also allowed the later-arriving Bhakti movement to be incorporated into the religion.

        Culturally, things like vegetarianism are also an influence of Buddhist and Jain ethics into Hinduism.

        It’s not some sacrosanct dividing line though, and both the Muslim conquest of the subcontinent and British colonialism affected Hinduism, as well.

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        1. Why do you believe that the Gita and Upanishads did not precede Buddha?

          Do you believe that the Upanishads did not predate the Gita?

          Brahma Sutras are traditionally thought to be composed by Badarayana (or Veda Vyaasa). However my view is that the Brahma Sutras were later edited to incorporate new schools of thought.

          However part of the Brahma Sutras likely significantly predate Buddha’s birth and likely are near contemporaneous with the Bhagavad Gita, and the early compositions of the Mahabharata and 18 Mahapuranas.

          The Mahabharata, Valmiki Ramayana and 18 Mahapuranas might have been edited over a period of thousands of years. Many traditional scholars (not indologists) believe this.

          “The notion of Varna-ashrama-dharma”
          I suspect that the notion of Bramacharya, Grihasta and Vanaprasta precede the time of Rama.

          The four Varnas were regarded as ancient during the time of Rama.

          “and the four paths set forth in the Gita found a way to synthesize the old ritualistic Vedic religion with the contemplative shramana traditions (to which Buddhism and Jainism belonged).”

          Buddha described the four major paths (wisdom, service, devotion, raja yoga {brain and nervous system}). It is implied that this sorting into four preceded Buddha.

          Krishna described many paths (maybe 17 mentioned in the Gita?). Later commentators sorted these paths into four broader clusters.

          To clarify there are not four paths. There are millions of paths. But they can be loosely classified into four big bundles.

          Many paths from all four bundles are described in Veda, Vedanga, Agama, Samkhya, Jain texts that precede Krishna . . . and likely precede Rama in many cases.

          “Hinduism basically absorbed Buddhism and Jainism in some sense by imitating it. It also allowed the later-arriving Bhakti movement to be incorporated into the religion.”

          I don’t follow. Some of the old Jain texts are as old or older than the oldest Vedic Samhitas, Samkhya texts, Vedanga and Agama texts.

          In my view the Vedas and Agamas and Samkhya texts (mostly lost) and Jain texts belong to a single family with great cross pollination. Traditional Hindu scholars carefully study ancient Jain texts (and Samkhya texts) for a reason.

          Yogic scholars also study Jain texts.

          The oldest texts on Yoga that we have might be Jain texts. Ancient Vedic references to Yoga include:
          —Rig Veda 10.136 about Kesin
          —Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
          —Chandogya Upanishad
          —Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana (This is technically a Brahmana and Arayanyaka)
          —Yoga Yajnavalkya

          Ancient Samkhya texts referenced Yoga too. Yoga is a subset of Samkhya.

          Agamas described Yoga in great detail in the Agamas long before Buddha’s birth.

          Jain texts (and Vedic, Agama, Samkhya) also reference Jnaana.

          Jain, Vedic, Agama, Samkhya texts also reference karma yoga or service.

          Jain, Vedic, Agama and Samkhya texts also reference bhakti.

          Buddha greatly contributed to already existing traditions. Buddhism is considered the youngest of the 10 darshanas.

          If you want to claim that Jainism is the source of the Vedas, Agamas and Samkhyas . . . that is a legitimate perspective. However Buddha came much later than Jainism, Vedas, Agamas or Samkhya.

          Many Jains believe that Jains gave Vedas to the world. And that the non Jain Vedas were not perfectly retained over time and have mistakes.

          I don’t like the term “imitating.” Many sages taught these philosophies. And they interacted with each other. It was cumulative and iterative.

          For thousands of years over a thousand religions coexisted. It is hard to sort them precisely into categories such as Jain, Buddhist, Samkhya, Shaivite, Shakta, Yoga, Nyaya etc. They have a shared tradition.

          “Culturally, things like vegetarianism are also an influence of Buddhist and Jain ethics into Hinduism.”

          Again, I would not agree. Some see Buddhism as reformed Jainism. You can say that these influences came from or were heavily emphasized in Jain philosophy. But they greatly predate Buddha’s birth.

          Almost all if not all of Buddha’s main disciples were Brahmins. Some say all 500 Arhats at the First Buddhist council were Brahmin. No wonder they were vegetarian. Non Veg was concentrated in other Varnas.

          Another reason Buddhism is regarded by some as reformed Jainism is because Mahariva claimed that Kapila was his disciple when Mahavira was born as Marichi. Buddha claimed to be Kapila in a past birth. Directly tying Jainism, Samkhya, Buddhism together.

          ” It also allowed the later-arriving Bhakti movement to be incorporated into the religion.”

          Bhakti has been a major stream for thousands of years. What maybe can be said is that great spiritual masters came who inspired people to follow Bhakti.

          “Muslim conquest of the subcontinent and British colonialism affected Hinduism, as well.”

          Yes. Do you believe that this influence happens through great masters and gurus (Shirdi Sai Baba, Vivekananda, Aurobindo)?

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    1. (Including Chinese & Japanese ones)

      don’t spread bullshit. the chinese and japanese universalisms were all triggered by indian buddhism, which had a transmuting effect on on daoism and confucianism.

      much of the metaphysical lexicon of the far east was a synthesis of indian categories with attempts at mapping upon native sinic understandings (neoconfucianism is arguably a product of this, but don’t tell neoconfucians!).

      the similarity of buddhism to christianity for early chinese and japanese was such that they thought catholicism was a variety of pure land buddhism and mary guanyin.

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      1. Razib,

        If this subject is of interest, you could interview Father Cyprian (one of the leaders of the Christian Ashram movement . . . a Camaldolese order within the Benedictine of the Roman Catholic Church.)

        They integrate Catholicism with Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism (and others such as Confucism to a lesser degree). In particular they believe that the gospels and new testament scriptures cannot be understood in their fullness without studying eastern philosophy and eastern mysticism.

        It would take 20 pages to describe their philosophy in detail. I e-mail father Cyprian my questions about deep christian theology and he helps me map old Greek, Latin and Hebrew words and concepts into Sanskrit and eastern philosophy. I usually ask him for three answers {his opinion, liberal catholic doctrine, conservative catholic doctrine} to my questions.

        Father Cyprian has seen a major change in India (now lives in California) over the years. It would be interesting to get his take.

        Once we discussed Sarva Dharma. (Most in the east claim all religions and paths and true and lead to the truth). We agreed that most in the east claim this knowing almost nothing about other paths (or sampradayas, panths, paramparas in Sanskrit). Father Cyprian perceptively noted that many in the east claim to support Sarva Dharma and think they know about other faiths without knowing.

        The translations of Christian scripture and theology in China and India extensively uses Taoist, and Dharmic words and concepts. This is partly an effort by eastern tilted Catholic leaders to interpret Catholicism through an eastern lens.

        The current official position of the catholic church is that eastern scriptures are completed in the gospels. Which implies that eastern scripture and mysticism are part of the official theology and tradition of the catholic church.

        Father Cyprian is unusually knowledgeable about the various different paramparas within the Dharmic family (over a thousand religions inside it) and Taoism . . . which makes it easy for me to communicate with and understand him.

        ++++++++++++++++++++

        “the similarity of buddhism to christianity for early chinese and japanese was such that they thought catholicism was a variety of pure land buddhism and mary guanyin.”

        This was by design. Many thought that catholocism was another of the many Dharmic or Toaist paramparas.

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        It is important to remember that many of the Hindu religions (such as Advaita Vedanta and Trika Kashmiri Shaivism and Nath Sampradaya) are much closer to Mahayana Buddhism than they are to hundreds of other Hindu religions. [Hinduism is a collection of thousands of religions that are loosely grouped into ten major families.] Similarly some Hindu religions are closer to Sufism than they are to hundreds of other Hindu religions.

        The 1955 Hindu marriage act defines Hindus as follows:
        ——Any person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew is a Hindu unless it is proved that he may not have dealt with the instance with hindu customs, rites and rituals of this act.
        ——Buddhist, Sikh or Jain, or any person belonging to any developments or forms of Hinduism like Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj, Virashiva, Lingayat, etc.

        I am unclear about whether scheduled classes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes (SCs, STs, OBCs) are defined as Hindus are not.

        ++++++++++++++++++++

        How do you define “proselytizing”? Do you define joining additional paramparas and Gurus without negating the old to be “proselytization”?

        Which Buddhist paramparas asked their members to negate and denounce their old Gurus and paramparas? I would be very curious to find out.

        I am not sure that Bodhidharma (who greatly influenced Mahayana Buddhism and brought it to many parts of east Asia) was trying to proselytize as the term is currently understood. Bodhidharma might have been a south Indian, was a master of Tantra and Yoga (raaja, mantra, hatha and laya Yogas), is reported to have had many unusual abilities of the brain and nervous system, and has deeply influenced spirituality within India, China and Tibet. Ditto with Naagaarjuna, and the 84 Maha Siddhas (in practice there are hundreds since there are many lists of 84 with different people on them).
        ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        I am not sure what you mean by “Hinduism”. “Hinduism” was significantly altered by four major events:
        ——Buddha’s 11 major saints (most eastern tradition comes from less than 20 saints and people associated with them). Some might refer to this as the 7 ancient sages (who also play a major role in Sumerian religion and culture)
        ——Rama’s life time and immediately afterwards
        ——Krishna life time and immediately afterwards
        ——Buddha life time and immediately afterwards

        Modern Hinduism is what emerged from Buddha. Most of the over 1000 religions of Hinduism were greatly influenced by Buddha.

        I am not aware of any other major evolution since the time of Buddha. Buddha is the last more or less universally accepted “avataar.”

        You mention Sankaracharya. His Guru’s guru is Gaudapaada of the Advaita lineage. I don’t understand the difference between Gaudapaada’s seminal text Maaṇḍukya Kaarikaa, also known as Gaudapada Kaarikaa and what is now called Buddhism.

        Perhaps the difference is that Gaudapaada described Buddha’s teachings as consistent with Vedic Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads; and Agamas, and other ancient scriptures.

        Buddha brought visibility and transparency to formerly secretive and horded technology and knowledge.

        Buddha also described 31 subtleties in heavens or consciousness or meditation (Samadhi in Sanskrit) and inspired spiritual seekers to transcend all of them. The most subtle of these might be described by Buddha in an easier to understand way than pre Buddhist texts explained them. [This is my view anyway.]

        Buddha also declassified Yoga and Tantra (technology) through the Yoga Chara.

        Recently the CIA declassified 700,000 documents from their psychic classified operations. They had a lot of success replicating psychic phenomenon, The CIA declassified documents definitively state that these special brain/nervous system abilities are real and replicable. CIA officer and physicist Russell Targ ran a program that used Buddha’s Yoga Chaara with great effect. [Other CIA operations used other Yogic texts such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.]

        Modern neuroscience, Chinese and silicon valley are trying to unlock the 31 heavens of Buddha and Buddha’s Yogachara.

        Can anyone define, understand or write about “Hinduism” or eastern philosophy without a deep understanding of this?

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      2. I have no idea of which idea originated where & then moved in which direction so to me all Eastern belief systems with Universal values are equally respectable. The point here is people in these regions recognized these values & accepted them.

        I was trying to point to the ways Eastern ideals affected Western beliefs & ideals in my earlier response.

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  8. It would take 20 pages to describe their philosophy in detail.

    anan, i think you emailed about him?

    anyway, after three sentences, i googled ‘cyprian perennialism’ and got this hit: http://imgdr.massmind.com/uploads/massmind/__subsites/cyprianconsiglio/file/the%20ground%20we%20share(1).pdf

    i am quite familiar with religio perenni and traditionalism a la guneon.

    i will check the email you send and perhaps start a discussion. i find perennialists very interesting, though very wrong ;=)

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    1. This is one of Father Cyrian’s articles.

      I think “Perennialism” was invented by academics who talked with Swami Vivekananda. Although I might be wrong.

      I think that many different theories and traditions are grouped together under “Perennialism”. It is kind of like saying Dharmic or Hindu.

      Here is another way to map it. We have scientific evidence for psychic phenomenon that we can’t yet scientifically explain. Here are three hypotheses to explain psychic phenomena:
      ——there is a materialistic biological explanation which science will eventually unlock
      ——different brain and nervous systems from around the world interact iteratively with each other creating what appears to be a global neural network. Meditators interpret this as a type of universal consciousness. But it really emanates from the collective interactions between brain and nervous systems from around the world.
      ——our brains can interact with something akin to universal consciousness.

      Would perennialism be explanation number 3?

      My own view is that much of what is classified as mysticism, religion, spirituality in the world can be explained by explanations 1 and 2. Once science can understand explanations 1 and 2 we can explore the idea of universal consciousness.

      Whether universal coniousness can be scientificly proven or not should not matter to meditators. Meditation is still a method to sharply boost physical health, mental health broadly defined and intelligence broudly defined.

      Explanations 1 and 2 are just extensions of intelligence.

      “i am quite familiar with religio perenni and traditionalism a la guneon.”

      I am not.

      0
  9. (Razib, apologies if this comment counts as a semantic point, which may lead to a useless dispute. Please feel free to delete it if you think so.)

    I know we don’t have a solid grasp of Indian history before the Muslim era (and it’s scratch even during that era), but it’s hard to buy the theory of Buddhism being suppressed in a casteist (Brahmin-orchestrated) elite revolt against the Mauryas. Given that Buddhism received imperial patronage until well into the Gupta period, I’d imagine that the powers that be were largely agnostic to religious disputes.

    The fact that the progenitor of the Sunga dynasty was a Brahmin who murdered the last Maurya doesn’t mean much. High ministers often had the most incentive and opportunity to mount coups like this, and high ministers were overwhelmingly likely to be Brahmin, not just in that era but down to our modern times. Interpreting this as a Brahminist revolt against Buddhism is lame, without more solid evidence.

    My sense is that a lot of Buddhism seeped into Hinduism so much so that modern (or even medieval) Hinduism can properly be considered a descendant of both Buddhism and the older Dharmic+Vedic tradition. That’s why my folks, for example, have been committed vegetarians for as long as we know, and have followed the monastic Shankaracharya order, which I think owes a lot to the older Buddhist tradition.

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    1. Hinduism was competing with Buddhism.

      Vedanta borrowed a lot of the philosophy from Buddhism and improved on it in some ways. I think the life expounded in the Gita is far more accessible to householders than Buddhism.

      Even the term ‘Nirvana’ was borrowed into the Gita from Buddhism.

      Mainstream Hinduism’s ability to copy from Buddhism, helped it to displace Buddhism.

      And before people argue about the dating of the Gita. There are many later interpolations. The Javanese Gita preserved in Indonesia is smaller than the one we have today in India.

      It’s a pity Buddhism could not adapt to the times. There are some major flaws in Buddhism from a pragmatic point of view. e.g. lifelong celibacy of the monks leading to catholic priest like pedophilia.

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      1. Hinduism would have “coped” with Buddhism any which way because unlike Buddhism/ Zoroastrianism it didn’t depend on the royal houses for its survival. Buddhism died because of loss of real life power , not necessary because of the theological co-option.
        If Islam displaced Zoroastrianism, it was not because of theological issues . In the subcontinent Hinduism died in West and East because Hindus left Hinduism for better “real” life opportunity not necessary due to theological/spiritual betterment or whatever. An ideology/religion without political power will loose followers over time.

        We sort of give a lot of weight to supposedly the elements of the religions (philosophy etc ) and less to more materialistic aspect (wealth, political power) which are much more important whether a religion survives /dies.

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        1. Saurav we don’t agree.

          I don’t think religion is well understood by liberal arts academics. Religion is about deep meditation and mysticism and use of parts the autonomic nervous system (and its subset the parasympathetic nervous system and her subset the vagus nerve). The body creates psychedelics during meditation that cause a rapture. They also unlock subtle intelligences, higher IQ and psychic abilities. Breathing and heart beat also slow in meditation.

          Seeking the truth with concepts with concepts and surface level thoughts is science. Seeking the truth without concepts and surface level thoughts is religion. The goal of religion is to transcend all theisms or atheism.

          4+
          1. “I don’t think religion is well understood by liberal arts academics.”

            Agree, there is a distinction within religion between pundits and yogis. Intellectual understanding if religion doesnt necessarily confer experiential transformation.

            They also unlock subtle intelligences, higher IQ and psychic abilities”

            Not sure about all this, but at the very least it can make one happier and more functional.

            “The goal of religion is to transcend all theisms or atheism.”

            This is a major goal, arguably tge major, of dharmic religions. Not sure about abrahamic ones.

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        2. Saurav,

          Punjabis, Sindhis, and Bengalis didn’t leave Hinduism, they were largely never Hindu to begin with. If anything, their transition was from Buddhism to Islam.

          Ask yourself why despite being under Muslim rule together, only the East and West of the subcontinent left Hinduism for “better opportunities”?

          1+
          1. I think this is an exaggeration tbf and projecting modern identities into a past. As we explored with Prof Devji lots of the modern nomenclature simply is not applicable as one goes back further in time

            2+
          2. I think you are overstating the actual extent of conversion to Islam in both these regions. A lot of the Muslim demographic preponderance in these regions is because of more rapid population growth among certain peasant castes.

            Punjab was majority non-Muslim till 1911, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punjab_Province_(British_India)#Religion

            The same is actually true for Bengal as well. Till 1901, the population was a pretty even split (22 million Hindus, 24 million Muslims).

            Both these regions experienced a rapid growth of Muslim population under colonial rule. Note that the literary traditions of both these regions are heavily Hindu or Sikh, even though they have a Muslim political history.

            This might explain why Pakistan (due to Punjabi dominance) has to try and inherit a literary tradition from India. Bangladeshi Muslims are currently ok with a Sanskritic literary tradition, but this will probably change in the future.

            3+
          3. Vikram,

            Wrong.

            Both Punjab and Bengal were solidly majority Muslim in the pre-modern era. Their numbers appear artificially low in the British census because these regions were grouped with external majority Hindu regions (Himmachal Pradesh and Haryana for Punjab, Bihar, Assam, Hill-states, and parts of Orissa for Bengal).

            I don’t know about Bengal, but Punjab’s literary tradition is historically dominated by Muslims (they’re the ones who pioneered it). Don’t confuse decades of Sikh political dominance with centuries of Muslim cultural dominance.

            Also, I find it amusing that Hindus will on one hand say the Perso-Islamic cultural tradition is foreign to India, but also say Pakistanis are “taking Indian culture” when they adopt it.

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          4. “Punjabis, Sindhis, and Bengalis didn’t leave Hinduism, they were largely never Hindu to begin with.”

            If you mean by punjabi /sindhi kings who happened to be buddhist, than its no parameter considering many of the kings of these regions before Islam used to follow buddhism and there were others followed hinduism. The Shahi Kings of Afghanistan which ruled Punjab after losing to Ghazni were hindus for example. The Chach of Sindh were hindus. Buddhism for all practical purpose was never the majority at any region in India, where the “others” (who were later described as Hindus) always the majority.

            I agree to your other point that Punjabi literature was dominated by muslims and Punjab/bengal being muslim majority before 1911 census (which doesn’t give the whole picture) . In Bengal i guess the Hindus had made enough literary contribution to the language to be seen as “Hindu”. Not dissimilar to how today the Punjabi language is seen as “Sikh” language, considering after Nanak and all most literary contribution came from them.

            1+
          5. “Ask yourself why despite being under Muslim rule together, only the East and West of the subcontinent left Hinduism for “better opportunities”?”

            Also on this, again correlation does not imply causation, In deep south in India, Kerala which has one of the most strict Brahminical caste system and has 45 percent minorities. There were no Buddhist here. Always Hindus.

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          6. “If anything, their transition was from Buddhism to Islam.”

            Am skeptical of this given how many Hindus (and Sikhs) there were even in 1947 in these places, but am open to changing my mind if you have sources on this.

            5+
      2. Karan, I don’t think “Buddhism” or “Hinduism” existed as comprehensive faiths. There were over a thousand religions. Some more Mahayana in emphasis. Some more Vishnu Vaishnav. Some more Shakta. Some more Tantra. More more Teravada. Some more Rama Vaishnav, some more Siddha Siddhanta (18 Siddha . . . this is closer to Mahayana), some more Dattatreya etc. Someone such as Naagarjuna would likely have had devotees and followers from many different Paramparas.

        You can say that different Paramparas, Sampradayas competed with each other to a degree. But they competed for their own religion–which was one of over a thousand. Not for a collection of over a thousand religions.

        And even the competition between the paramparas was of a different nature. Shankaracharya won debates with over a hundred Sampradayas or religions. He was the head of over a hundred religions. Yet he did not change them and wanted them to prosper as they were.

        The Gita describes many different paths to self actualization. Maybe 17 Yogas? I would need to count. Each path was oriented towards a person with a different temperament and preference. Some suited to householders or Grihastas. Some to Sadhus.

        What I find unique about the Gita is that many different paths are precisely and concisely described. The Gita is a short compendious. {To understand 17 paths from other scriptures would involve far more study, text and effort.}

        The Gita suggests choosing one of the suggested paths or another not mentioned, giving freedom to the seeker.

        I am unaware of any strong evidence that the Gita did not significantly precede the birth of Buddha. Many marxist Indologists and historians make this case. I don’t agree.

        Krishna uses the phrase “Brahma Nirvana”. Krishna did not invent the phrase. Similarly Buddha did not invent the phrase Nirvana but used a word that his contemporaries would understand.

        Nirvana as a concept likely preceded both Buddha and Krishna.

        “Vedanta borrowed a lot of the philosophy from Buddhism and improved on it in some ways.” This is true. Buddha had enormous influence over most of the Hindu religions–including the Jains and the Bonpo.

        I think the view of most schools is to achieve Samadhi. In the words of Vivekananda religion starts with Samadhi. Everything else is pre religion.

        After Samadhi or consciousness an infinite journey begins.

        Among Buddha’s major contributions are:
        —declassifying Tantra (technology) and Yoga (of many different types)
        —elaborating on and declassifying the four different paths (Wisdom, Service, Devotion, Raja Yoga {brain and nervous system})
        —Describing 31 levels of consciousness, the most subtle of which are not described in nearly as much detail (or at all) in other eastern texts
        —Directly affecting the brain and nervous systems of those around him and teaching them how to affect the brain and nervous systems of third parties

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    2. Numinous,

      Brahmans detested being ruled by the Buddhist/Jain Maghda and Mauryan empires (called them mlecchas and shudras). Regarding Sunga’s murder and coupe against Maurya;

      As P.G. Bagchi notes, “the discontent of the Brahmans… found a fitting weapon in Sunga, himself a Brahmana”. Following the coupe, “Sunga had to justify his position by destroying Buddhist monasteries and restoring the sacrificial ceremonies of the Brahmanic faith on the other”.

      E.J. Rapson states, “Sunga was not content with the peaceful revival of Hindu rites, but indulged in savage persecution of Buddhism, burning monks and slaying monasteries from Magdha to Punjab”.

      This follows a general trend of Hindu persecution of Buddhists in the post-Mauryan period. A Chinese chronicler notes thousands of Buddhist temples being destroyed by Hindus, from Kashmir to Bihar. A Buddhist Indo-Greek ruler in modern-day Pakistan was able to repulse these attacks emanating from India furthering Buddhisms popularity in the region.

      Note that just like later Muslim conquests and destruction of Hindu temples, the specifics in these Buddhist-persecution accounts are thought to be exaggerated (its unlikely thousands of Buddhist monasteries were actually destroyed and all monks killed).

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      1. “A Buddhist Indo-Greek ruler in modern-day Pakistan was able to repulse these attacks emanating from India furthering Buddhisms popularity in the region.”

        LMAO the way he wrote this says it all. He talks as if modern India and the pure land – Pakistan existed in those times.

        Attacks emanating from India LOL.

        This man has serious cognitive dissonance and denial resulting from his aversion to Hinduism and India.

        So much so he fantasises about a pre islamic Punjab which was minority Hindu. He cannot accept the fact that a huge chunk of his ancestors would’ve been Hindu like his fellow punjabi Hindu and Sikh brethren. Punjab was where much of the Vedic literature was written. It’s really pathetic to distort the truth just because of ego issues.

        This is not to say that there was no persecution of Buddhists by Hindus there was. Both in the North and south.

        There were Buddhists in Kerala and Tamil Nadu who were persecuted and cajoled to convert back to Hinduism.

        Large areas of Andhra Pradesh were also Buddhist like Amaravati and Vishakapatnam.

        Buddhism got wiped out of India because of an aggressive form of Hinduism and Islam.

        3+
        1. The Aryans themselves call Punjabis mlecchas. Post-Vedic accounts consistently place Punjab outside of Aryarvarta, a place where Brahmanism is largely ignored. I’m just agreeing with what they said (as well as modern scholars like Eaton).

          I won’t pretend I’m some disinterested 3rd party in this stuff, I’m not. Despite not being Muslim, I do have some Pakistani-priors based on my upbringing (though my positions aren’t ones that Pakistanis typically take).

          But I think any honest reading of this thread shows its those with the Hindu-priors who are desperately trying to ignore history in order to preserve their cultural mythos. There hasn’t been a single substantive rebuttal to what I’ve said here.

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  10. “I think the life expounded in the Gita is far more accessible to householders than Buddhism.”

    I read in Gurcharan Das’s ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’ that the character of Yudhishtira and his dharma were sort of a Hindu/Vedic archetype versus the Buddhist one that were gaining ground in that period.

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    1. Prats in the Buddhist cannon accepted by Mahayana and Theravada Buddha claims to have been Kapila and Rama in past lives. I am unaware of Buddha claiming to have been Krishna (please correct me if I am wrong.)

      Could this account for Buddhism’s close connection to Samkhya, Samkhya’s subset Yoga and the Ramayana?

      Is Buddhism less connected to the Mahabharata?

      0
  11. “The Sindhi and Punjabi epics all feature Muslim heroes and heroines. aren’t Heer Ranjha Muslims?”

    I was referring to literary tradition, not oral folklore.

    “Both Punjab and Bengal were solidly majority Muslim in the pre-modern era. Their numbers appear artificially low in the British census”

    The numbers I provided for Bengal are only for West Bengal and Bangladesh. For Punjab, the population of Haryana and Himachal was only a fraction of the core regions in the Doabs before independence.

    “Don’t confuse decades of Sikh political dominance with centuries of Muslim cultural dominance.”

    These cannot be confused because the latter did not happen. Virtually all the written literature in Punjabi comes from Sikhs. No wonder, it is them who are most attached to the language today, and Muslims in Punjab have adopted Urdu.

    “Also, I find it amusing that Hindus will on one hand say the Perso-Islamic cultural tradition is foreign to India, but also say Pakistanis are “taking Indian culture” when they adopt it.”

    Not sure how adopting a language with Sanskrit grammar and majority vocabulary is ‘Perso-Islamic’. The real Perso-Islamics in Pakistan (Pashtuns) are having a pretty difficult time getting along with the establishment.

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      1. Grammar is critical in classifying language not ‘religion’. Hindi does have some Perso-Arabic embellishments, but it is an Indian language created ultimately by the sweat and toil of Indians.

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          1. Urdu and Hindi are both standardized registers of Hindustani. This is the linguistic consensus. Calling Urdu a “dialect” is factually incorrect.

            As for Punjabi literature, Baba Farid was writing poetry in the 12th century.

            From Wiki:
            “One of Farīd’s most important contributions to Punjabi literature was his development of the language for literary purposes.[9] Whereas Sanskrit, Arabic, Turkish and Persian had historically been considered the languages of the learned and the elite, and used in monastic centres, Punjabi was generally considered a less refined folk language. Although earlier poets had written in a primitive Punjabi, before Farīd there was little in Punjabi literature apart from traditional and anonymous ballads.[10] By using Punjabi as the language of poetry, Farīd laid the basis for a vernacular Punjabi literature that would be developed later.[11]”
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fariduddin_Ganjshakar

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    1. Vikram,

      I’m not sure if you are intentionally lying, or just dumb.

      All Bengal census results from the British include Orissa, Jharkahand, Bihar, Assam, and Hill-States in some combination, included with Bengal. The British note that Hindus are 2/3 of the region, but concentrated in the western (non-bengali) states. In Bengal proper, Muslims are 2/3 of the population.

      Regarding Punjab, again, you’re just wrong. Haryana and Himmachal were quite populated, especially relative to West Punjab, which had quite a low population for its size. Muslims were estimated at 80% in the Sikh-Punjab Empire, and similar to Bengal, around 2/3 of British Punjab excluding the non-Punjabi areas.

      Regarding Punjabi literature, the vast majority of it was written by Muslims (the tradition being pioneered in the 12th century by Sufis). Sikhs had a brief period of literary prominence, but again are absolutely dwarfed by Muslim works. Its not even close. Post 1948 its started to equalize a bit, but that’s a modern phenomenon due to Pakistan’s creation. Also, all Punjabis in Pakistan speak Punjabi, they just also speak Urdu.

      Regarding Urud, you’re being intentionally dim. Its the high literary tradition of Pakistan today, but created and propagated by Muslim Empires in pre-modern India (which are rejected as foreign by Hindus today).

      0
  12. CPS India is a far-right Hindu publication that spends its time stoking fear about the rising populations of Muslims and Christians. They are not a credible source, certainly not to the point I’d take their word about how they parsed the British census data to modern boundaries. It doesn’t say anything about Punjab either.

    Regarding Urdu, call it what you want. Hindi, Hindavi, again.. The “Hindustani” language derived from a combo of Indo-Aryan dialects spoken in West-UP, infused with Perso-Arabic vocabulary and propagated by Muslim Empires as the lingua franca across India. The culture it informed and produced artistically is proudly rejected by India.

    Regarding Punjab literature, there is overwhelming consensus on this issue, your belly-aching aside. You may as well be arguing that Muslims produced most of the Gujarati literary tradition.

    0
    1. Their data is consistent with census data from India and Pakistan post partition.

      “Regarding Punjab literature, there is overwhelming consensus on this issue, your belly-aching aside.”

      Overwhelming consensus ? Please cite your sources. There isnt a single piece of noteworthy written literature from medieval Punjabi that isnt Sikh. The Muslims worked in Persian, as they work in Urdu today.

      The official language of the Mughal and earlier dynasties was Persian. They werent promoting ‘Hindustani’ or anything. Hindi was made an official language and medium of education by the British.

      4+
  13. INDTHINGS:

    This follows a general trend of Hindu persecution of Buddhists in the post-Mauryan period. A Chinese chronicler notes thousands of Buddhist temples being destroyed by Hindus, from Kashmir to Bihar.

    To the best of my knowledge, Buddhism entered China for the first time a good 2 centuries, possibly more, after the demise of the last Mauryan emperor. Which Chinese chronicler are you talking about? Name please?

    And in fact, by the time the Chinese encountered Buddhism, the Shungas were themselves long gone and much of India was on the verge of being conquered by the Kushanas.

    I did read about Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) making a note of the north west (Gandhara, Kashmir, etc.) looking like it was devastated, but that was because of the Hunnic invasions.

    (I briefly refreshed myself about the Shungas, and I’ll admit you may be right about their persecution of the Buddhists, though evidence is a bit iffy about how long that persecution lasted. The dynasty itself survived just over a century.)

    You make some good points, but you play so fast and loose with facts that it’s hard to pick the wheat from the chaff in your comments.

    8+
    1. Good luck to you and Vikram getting sources.

      There is a certain consistency in the frequently repeated (and usually baseless) appeals to authority from our Pakistani friends. One cannot help wondering if this is the result of unconscious cultural biases deriving from an obvious pedigree.

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    2. Excerpt from Monobina Gupta’s review of D.N. Jha’s text, “Jha observes that the “invectives” against Buddhists and Jains were often channelled through violent and aggressive actions. For instance, the writer cites Hsuan Tsang (seventh century) who wrote about the Huna ruler Mihirakula, a devotee of Shiva, destroying 1,600 Buddhist stupas and monasteries, besides killing thousands of monks and laity.”.

      Its quite easy to say I play “fast and loose” with facts, but please give an example of where you think I’ve made an error if you feel that’s the case.

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      1. Indthings I am confused.

        You are quoting Hsuan Tsang or Xuanzang. [After whom the character Tang Sanzang from “Journey to the West” is modeled . . . one of my favorite books]

        Can you elaborate on Hsuan Tsang’s description of Khingila, Toramana and his son Mihirakula and their faith in greater detail? Many marxist post modernist historians try to distort old documents to push their agendas.

        Khingila, Toramana and his son Mihirakula were Alchon Hun rulers. They had their own “sun” based faith with which I am not familiar. In India they would have called it “Surya” to make sense of it. Much the way Parsi temples are called Agni temples in India today and the way Parsis are sometimes called Agni worshipers. Do you consider all Parsis to be Hindus? Even the first generation immigrants to SAARC fleeing Muawiyah’s genocide in Persia?

        Later in life Mihirakula appears to have been inspired by Dharmic traditions (including possibly Buddhism) and become a Dharmic spiritual aspirant with an affinity to Shiva.

        If you consider the Alchon Hun and Chionitae to be Hindus circa 400 AD, do you consider Serbs, Greeks, Iraqis and Iranians circa 400 AD too? Wouldn’t the Hindu connection with the later be closer to the connections with the Alchon Huns and Chionitae? {Milan could you share your thoughts?}

        I am not exactly a fan of what the Alchon Hun and Chionitae did to Turan, Iran and SAARC. I thought it was an invasion against the Dharmic peoples (Hindus/Buddhists)? Are Hindus responsible for Alchon Hun attacks against fellow Hindus?

        Many of the sites destroyed were the holy ancient Tirthas of what you might call Hindus.

        Later on the Alchon Hun or Chionitae at least partly integrated into the Dharmic family and I think this is why SAARC, Turin and Persia don’t discuss the Alchon Hun that much.

        Recently I was asked my view of the Hun and Kushan by one of India’s top academics. And how they were different from Islamist Jihadis. I said that the Hun eventually joined the Dharmic people so their invasion didn’t matter much. Islamist Jihadis were the first major foreign power that did not quickly join the Dharmic family after arriving.

        Some muslims (Sufi and Irfan) joined the Dharmic family . . . but Islamist Jihadis did not.

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    3. Did Buddhism come to China before Bodhidharma (and Buddhabhadra)?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma#Lineage

      Tao-hsuan describes Bodhidharma as a south Indian Brahmin. But I don’t know if this is true or not. There are other accounts.

      Bodhidharma was from all accounts an exceptional spiritual master and likely deeply respected by many orders and people during his life time.

      “Which Chinese chronicler are you talking about? Name please?”

      Agreed. I would like to know this. Is this a Chinese chronicler two centuries before Bodhidharma?

      Many orders in those days learned and employed martial arts, subtle intelligences (Siddhis). They use to fight wars to protect the dharma. I am not super familiar with them.

      Forget about 1800 years ago, even more recently the Akhara (who organize the Kumbha Mela) have engaged in fighting.

      One example of an Akhara is the Mahanirvani Akhara. Tibetan Vajrayani Mahayana Buddhists are part of the Mahanirvani Akhara and are associated with the Kumbha Mela through Mahanirvana Akhara. Mahanirvana Akhara is associated with Kapila and Samkhya. Perhaps this accounts for their close Mahayana connection?

      Is it possible that wars were fought between Siddhi (brain and nervous system) enhanced martial artists from various orders? Maybe.

      Bodhidharma is reported to have been an exceptional martial artist. He and Buddhabhadra (another great Nikaya Buddhist master who preceded Bodhidharma by a generation) created the Shaolin Monastery.

      If there were wars between these meditator Siddhi enhanced martial arts orders . . . what started them and what happened?

      So much is lost in ancient history.

      3+
  14. “I did read about Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) making a note of the north west (Gandhara, Kashmir, etc.) looking like it was devastated, but that was because of the Hunnic invasions.”

    By the time the Chinese came around to India there was hardly any Buddhist persecution from the “Indian” side(that’s why Indithings conveniently skips that part, since it does not fit into the larger narrative he is trying to build, Aryan persecuted Dravidians–> Hindus persecuted Buddhist–> Muslims persecuted Hindus, all in all same-same)

    I am surprised that folks are still falling for his trope.

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    1. I said something similar above, but again, its quite cheap and easy to call something a trope, but another thing entirely to specifically point to an inaccuracy (which you haven’t done).

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  15. Comment thread in full bloom in the best traditions of Brown Pundits. Very enjoyable to say the least 🙂

    Happy Savarkar Jayanti chaps! How symbolic that his birth, Nehru’s death and BJP’s historic mandate fall in the span of a week. Maybe Lord Indra’s giving us a sign…

    10+
    1. I mean, taken together with 2014, these election results are unprecedented, so I think you can make a strong argument that Narendra Modi is the Avatar of Vishnu.
      .
      .
      .
      .
      This is satire, please nobody actually make this argument.

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  16. By the way, my views (as always out of my arse) are as follows:

    1) Punjabi is a form of Persian.
    2) Punjabis descend from Achaemenians
    3) Sindhis are a cross of Achaemenians, Scythians and Arabs
    4) Punjab and Sindh were an independent civilisation that occasionally ruled over Hindus but mostly did their own thing and were Buddhists until Islam
    5) Hindu persecution of Buddhism was avenged by Muslims, who kept Hindus in their place but occasionally destroyed Buddhist statues in friendly fire by mistake. Keyword is *friendly*
    6) Aryavarta was obviously a coinage of rampaging Aryan charioteers in their Rig Veda – a manual of drinking, gambling, casteism and general purpose debauchery.
    7) Islam brought peace but a little too much of it and that pissed the Brahminical patriarchs off because they preferred conflict and oppression. Baniyas of Punjab – basically Hindu interlopers from Rajasthan – bankrolled the brahminical patriarchs. Very slimy and Partition made sure they were sent back.
    8) Urdu was being slowly eroded by Brahminical and Baniya interests, who did not prefer that language of equality AKA Persian of the original Punjabis (cf point 2)
    9) Punjabi a descendant form of Persian was made fun of by Hindus and unfortunately Muslims started making jokes, meme videos and dancing to vulgar Bhangra songs in it too. But that came later (due to Hindu cultural invasion mediated by Sikhs – a halfbreed race of Indo Persians who allied with Hindus. Very sad.)
    10) Now Urdu is secure in Pakistan and BJP is planning to excise it from India, except Bollywood where Muslims are holding the fort (for now). Pakistan may need to develop a militia to invade Bollywood and save it from Hinditvas.

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    1. “Islam brought peace but a little too much of it”

      This is actually gold.

      In all seriousness, early Muslim interaction with Buddhists in South-Asia was quite violent. I also think its more accurate to say Punjabis/Sindhis/Bengalis practiced a religion mixing Buddhist, Hindu, and local/ancestor-worship elements.

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    2. The invention of the “Brahminical Patriarch” nonsense phrase was a critical moment in the degradation of political discourse of India.

      0
  17. “the judaism of the 5th century bce was very different from the judaism of the 5th century ad (i consider rabbinical judaism more of a sister religion to christianity, not a parent).” “i prefer ‘hebrew religion’ or something like that. or religion of the jews. or cult of Yahweh. judaism as a confessional religion makes more sense during the greco-roman period.”

    Razib: I admire your scholarship, but … The only good definition of Judaism that I can think of is that it is the religion of the Jews. I think it is now well established that the Jewish people has existed since antiquity as distinct population. The body of texts and practices that constitute their religion has changed dramatically and continuously since antiquity. So that is is trivially true that Judaism of the 5th century BCE is very different than the Judaism of the 5th century CE or the 21st Centruy CE.

    But, There is a continuity both of the people, and of their texts and practices. The first great trauma in Jewish history (at least any history that can be linked to the histories of other peoples was the Babylonian exile of the 6th century BCE. The redaction of the Torah (Pentateuch) and other biblical books was triggered by that experience. Was there an impact from Persian and Buddhist sources on that process? Look at the book of Isaiah. Chapter 1 through 39 are from the 8th Century BCE, 40 through 66 are from the 5th. There is a real change in the theology of the book from part 1 to part 2. In 45:7 God says: “I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil”

    Another national trauma, the destruction of the Temple and the failure of the two revolts against Rome, triggered the redaction of the first of the Talmudic texts — The Mishnah in the 2nd Century CE. Tractate Avot 1.2 cites a figure from the late 4th Century BCE, Simon the Just who is reported as having said that “the world stands upon three things: the Torah, the Temple service, and deeds of loving kindness”.

    Clearly the Roman destruction ended the Temple Service and rendered the purity rules that regulated it irrelevant. They survived only in fragments such as the requirements for menstruating women, the method of kosher slaughter, and funerary practices. (e.g. an observant Kohen [priestly lineage] will not attend a funeral if the casket is in the room). This is a major discontinuity. OTOH, In the book of Ezra, the bible says that Ezra (5th Cent. BCE) began the practice of public readings of the Torah. It has been a central part of Judaism since then. Of course deeds of loving kindness, such as visiting the sick, comforting mourners, and welcoming wayfarers continue unabated.

    The Mishnah cites its own trees of authority. A major source is Hillel, a rabbi of the 1st cent. BCE. His grandson Rabban Gamaliel the elder, was the patriarch during the final years of the Second Temple. Of him Acts 22:3 quotes Paul in the middle of the 1st century CE “I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel”. His great-great-grandson was Rabbi Judah HaNasi (The Prince), who edited the Mishnah. So six generations of rabbis from one family transmit and transmute the texts and practices from the Second Temple Era. Change yes. Continuity yes also.

    Christianity is not part of this process. It began inside Jewish communities but quickly left that world. Christianity claims no continuity with the Jewish people. It reads the Torah, but through the idiosyncratic lens of its own sacred texts. Many Jewish practices were abandoned, prominently, the dietary laws and the practice of male circumcision, and others were much modified like the Lord’s day replacing the Sabbath. I think the best metaphor for the relationship is Paul’s from Romans 11:17 “some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree”.

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  18. In every day dedication (sankalpa) in their rituals the south indian brahmins mention that we are in bhouddha avatara.

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    1. Is this in Andhra? A Brahmin colleague from Andhra told me they worship Buddha.

      I suspect Buddha was co-opted by Brahmins to gain converts back from Buddhism .

      But in reality Buddhism and Hinduism are completely different religions. One upholds caste system, the other condemns it.

      One promotes bhakti to God, the other eschews it.

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  19. Buddhism supposed “condemnation” of caste is exaggerated (post Ambedkar) . Even Lingayat-ism and Sikh-ism (Text wise) are more anti caste than Buddhism

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