Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Coomaraswamy: On The Conformity Between Hinduism & Buddhism

Seated Buddha 

(2nd century CE)

The idea that Buddha was against the Vedic order and Brahmanism is a myth created by modern scholars. In his 1943 book Hinduism and Buddhism, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy argues that Buddha’s original teachings do not contain any idea which might be viewed as a denunciation of the Brahmins. Here’s an excerpt from Coomaraswamy’s book (page 45): 

“The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from the Brahmanism in which it originated; the more profound our study, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in what respects, if any. Buddhism is really unorthodox. The outstanding distinction lies in the fact that Buddhist doctrine is propounded by an apparently historical founder, understood to have lived and taught in the sixth century B.C. Beyond this there are only broad distinctions of emphasis. It is taken almost for granted that one must have abandoned the world if the Way is to be followed and the doctrine understood. The teaching is addressed either to Brahmans who are forthwith converted, or to the congregation of monastic Wanderers… but nothing that can be described as a "social reform" or as a protest against the caste system. The repeated distinction of the “true Brahman" from the mere Brahman by birth is one that had already been drawn again and again in the Brahmanical books.”

It is commonly assumed that Buddhism was a revolt against the Vedic order and Brahmanism. Coomaraswamy rejects this idea as a myth created by scholars who “do not know their Vedas.” In his book, he argues that Buddha had arrived to strengthen the existing order, not to reform or overthrow it. Buddha did not aim to create a new order; his goal was to strengthen the Vedic and Brahmanical orders.

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