There has been a widespread campaign that Buddhism is a part of Hinduism and, of late, this has been much intensified by saying that Hinduism and Buddhism are twins and a part of the same belief.
This is not true, though Hinduism and Buddhism had originated in the Indian subcontinent
and though one may bring up the argument that Lord Buddha was once a Hindu
and had borrowed many facets of Hinduism. These arguments intensified over time as it was seen that Buddhism was gaining increasing importance in Indian society, especially among Dalits and other downtrodden communities.
In fact, Hinduism during the Vedic period showed its ugliest face in its traditions, cultures and social practices. To combat this situation many alternate philosophical thoughts have been brought up.
Among these philosophical thoughts Lord Buddha offered a practical philosophy that could offer solutions or address miseries of the entire world and, this has been influenced and spread to the entire South Asia and to the Far East over time under the able leadership of Asoka.
Ambedkar described the history of India as a conflict between Hinduism and Buddhism; in such a situation, the propaganda that Hinduism and Buddhism are one and the same is unfortunate.
Hinduism and Buddhism are distinct religions and cultures. They are different in many ways that define who they are and what their faith is. Hinduism was not founded by any sort of prophet, whereas Buddhism was founded by the Buddha. Hindus believe in the Vedas, but Buddhists do not believe in the Vedas or any other Hindu holy book; they do not believe in the existence of souls, or God.
Buddhists must believe that the Buddha, Sangha, and Dhamma are the three most important requirements on the eightfold path, or the principal teachings of the Buddha. Hinduism has many different paths of self-realization. Buddhists have no priests or rituals like the Hindus do.
Also, in Buddhism, any follower can achieve Nirvana, but in Hinduism only Brahmins, or priests, can achieve moksha, the Hindu equivalent of Nirvana.
Another large difference is that Buddhists do not believe in the caste system, the main factor in Hinduism.
The Vedic religion made three main attempts to counter and actually annihilate Buddhism. The first one was that the Buddha, the social revolutionary, was made one of the incarnations of God; the second attempt was sending Hindus as infiltrators into Buddhist camps polluting the Buddhist philosophy and culture; the third and the most dangerous attempt was the killing of countless Buddhist monks; several thousands of Bhikkunis were forced to become prostitutes and were sent into brothels.
Thousands of Bouddha aramams were converted into Shaiva and Vishnu shrines, and the women therein were made into Devadasis. Thus Hinduism not only destroyed Buddhism but also merged the Veera Saiva and Veera Vaishnava cults into it.
Many social revolutionary bodies which were fighting against caste and Varna systems were also made to merge with Hinduism, and, this practice is still continuing.
Many people confined Buddhism only to peace, yoga and meditation which are only a part of its practice. The reasons for emergence of Buddhism were the prevailing realities in socio-economic and political lives of people in those days, and this fact is being overlooked.
In Ambedkar’s view Buddhism was the greatest revolution, greater than the French Revolution; 2500 years ago the Buddha declared liberty, equality and fraternity as the tenets of Buddhism.
The Buddha was a revolutionary and intellectual way ahead of Karl Max who fought for the liberation of the working class.
Buddhism took a new shape when Baba Saheb Ambedkar took to it. Before that in South India Ayothi Das led a movement in the name of Sakhya Sanghas and it was a moral inspiration to Ambedkar.
His greatest book, ‘Buddha and His Dhamma’, has become a guide to the vast number of his followers. This gives a fitting answer to the people who say that the Buddha is the last avatara of Hindu gods.
The history and historiography say that Siddhartha converted to Buddhism after seeing an old man, people suffering from physical ailments and a funeral procession.Even some of the Buddhist monks preach the same.
But, this is only a fabricated story that gained popularity over centuries. In reality, at the time the Sakhyas, the clan from which Siddhartha hailed, decided to wage war against the Koliyas, a rival clan, over proprietary rights across the Rohini river which flowed as the territorial boundary of the two clans, Siddhartha opposed the decision to wage war as he was a man of peace, and the elders awarded a punishment to him as was the law at those times.
The punishment was that he either had to desert the kingdom, in which case his father’s wealth would be confiscated, or he had to take part in war. For this punishment the consent of the king of Kosala was required but under the prevailing circumstances Siddhartha chose to leave the kingdom as he had already opposed war and his father had nothing to do with his actions.
Hence Siddhartha started exploring the realities of life and found ways for Nirvana. He not only found an alternative to Vedic Hinduism but also uprooted the Vedic culture as well as Hinduism.
Since then Hindus had been waiting for an opportunity to suppress the revolt that was Buddhism and revive Hinduism. Even today a slanderous propaganda is being spread that Buddhism is part of Hinduism which was disproved long ago by the writings of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and other eminent scholars.
It is the social responsibility of Buddhists to reveal the truth as this misconception has almost eroded Buddhism in India by showing it as just an offshoot of Hinduism.
(Courtesy: The Hans India 10th May, 2012)