The tragic irony of Buddhism is that it was born in India but flourishing in South East Asian Countries. Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thai land are a few countries where it has been thriving. The state religion of Tibet is Buddhism but Tibet has been swallowed by China is a tragic story in Indian History. The Dalai Lama has been touring all over the world crying coarse for the autonomy of Tibet. His pitiful plaintive anthem falls on the deaf ears of Chinese imperialism. However, he is considered to be a legitimate spokesman of Buddhism.
This ancient religion is known for its merciness, pity, and compassion. It preaches love for all beings of the world. The unique virtue of Buddhism is that its doctrines are so adorable that even people who profess other faiths all over the world accept them as worthy of being followed. But the tragic irony is that such a religion has virtually disappeared from India. It is not merely a cause of concern but a matter of dispute also among the historians as to why and how it has gone off from Indian scene.
As regards the origin and growth of Buddhism, there remains an opinion that Buddha was born among the non-Aryan tribe of Kikatas and as the son of Suddhodhana in Kapilavatsu. He attained Samadhi in Gaya under a Bodhi tree. King Asoka was a firm believer of Buddhism and it is he who organized a team of religious ambassadors to disseminate the doctrines of Buddhism. When it was patronized by Asoka and other Mauryan emperors, the Buddhism must have been widely prevalent all over India. Even now a number of broken and maimed statues of Buddha being unearthed in Tamil Nadu on the one hand in the south and even in Afghan city of Kandahar in the North bear evidence to its pan-Indian existence.
The volume under review makes an intensive study of this historic religion in a manner unbiased. As a veteran scholar and eminent professor of religious studies, both in India and the USA, Dr. Lal Mani Joshi has given a scholarly outline of Buddhalogy and its link with Hinduism or Indology. A tendency among a few scholars of vested interest is that Buddha was a Hindu reformer and Buddhism is a Hindu sect. This travesty of truth is not only disproved in this volume but also the author has established the fact that Buddhism belongs to pre-Christian era and its primary virtues have been assimilated and absorbed by Sanatana Dharmics of Brahminic tradition.
This process of absorption went on continuously until Buddhism is totally annulled by the so called Hinduism in Indian soil. Charles Eliot and Dr. Rathakrishnan have said that Brahminism had killed Buddhism in a fraternal embrace. In Arnold Toynbee’s words, it is exactly the persecution of Buddhism by Brahmanism.
Swami Vivekanada and Dr. S. Rathakrishnan have spent a great deal of their time and energy in the study and propagation of Buddhist ideas. But in Dr. Joshi’s opinion, these two great intellectuals have done their work in a slanted way. Their biased view is that Buddha is one of the makers of Hinduism. Swami Vivekanada has even said that Buddha was the greatest Hindu philosopher, seer and a karma yogi. Nothing is farther from truth than this unauthorized statement. Both in theory and practice, Buddhism is entitled to be treated as different and distinct from what is known as Hinduism which was once called as Sanatana Dharma.
The fact remains that Buddha’s teachings had greatly influenced even the Vedantic and Vaishnava forms of philosophy, religion and ethics. After assimilating the enviable tenets of Buddhism, and after annulling that religion, the Brahmans, perhaps as a recompense and as a delusive trick declared Buddha as an incarnation of God Vishnu and Buddhavatara has been given the last place in the hierarchy of God’s incarnations.
The very attempt of relating Buddhism to Hindu religion is ridiculous. As Dr. Joshi says there were no Hindus in the sixth or fith centuries B.C. anywhere on the earth much less in the north eastern Hindustan. To say that Siddharta was a born Hindu is therefore entirely non-sensical. He was born in a non-Vedic society and brought up in a non-theistic system which goes back to the thoughts and beliefs of Kailamuni, a non-Aryan human sage and seer.
Surprisingly the term ‘Hindu’ was non-existent when Buddhism was in its full swing. To indicate the indigenous Vaidikas, it is the Muslims who used the term Hindu because of the reason that they were the earlier inhabitants of Hindu, the country where the river Sindu flows. This term Hinduism had to wait for a few centuries to be widely used by the English writers.
In elaborating the biased opinion of Swami Vivekananda, Dr. Joshi observes that the Swami went the wrong way when he sought to argue that since Hinduism is largely based upon Buddhism, therefore, the Buddah was also a Hindu. But still he was right in maintaining that Hinduism is post – Buddhistic but he was not right in insisting that true Buddhism was Vedantic.
At length it has to be appreciated that Dr. Joshi has given his findings after many years of deep study and research in the area of Buddhist – Hindu interactions in classical India. All the seven chapters of the volume bear ample testimony to the erudition and eminence of the author. The lengthy bibliography of about three hundred and fifty titles bear evidence to the deep rooted scholarship of the author and authenticity of the work he has rendered. The foot notes almost in every page of the book ensures the veracity of the source material. The Tamil readers of the volume will be interested to know that the author has quoted the poetic encomiums paid to Lord Buddha by a Tamil poet Seethalai Sathanar of the 2nd century A.D.
Both the chapter headings and the index have been so thoroughly prepared that any reader can easily locate not merely the quotable quotes but also the vital points of reference. The eminent publishers Munsiram Manoharlal deserve our appreciation. This moderately priced sizeable volume is worthy of being fit in the shelves of any library worth its name.
DISCERNING THE BUDDHA, Lal Mani Joshi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi – 55. Price: 600