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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======


Click on underlined words to open paragraph

A Message from His Holiness The Dalai Lama
A short Buddhist outlook on life.

Your Holiness (Dalai Lama)
What is the best religion?


By Swami Ranganathananda
The Ramakrishna Math (Belur Math)
Through Buddha, India established silken bonds of fellowship
and love with the people of Asia. The process forms one of
the arresting episodes of human history.

From The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
If God be apart from the Self He must be a self-less God, which is absurd. God, who seems to be non-existent, alone truly exists. Whereas the individual, who seems to be existing, is ever non-existent. Sages say that the state in which one thus knows one’s own non-existence (sunya) alone is the glorious supreme knowledge.

Buddhism, The fulfillment of Hinduism
By Swami Vivekananda
Our views about Buddha are that he was
not understood properly by his disciples.

An article by Swami Ranganathananda
The Ramakrishna Math (Belur Math)

The lamp that was lit in India in the sixth century BC lit the hearts of millions and millions of people in Ceylon (Sri-Lanka), Central Asia, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, and Indonesia in the succeeding centuries. Through Buddha, India established silken bonds of fellowship and love with the people of Asia. The process forms one of the arresting episodes of human history.

The Indian Tradition Before Buddha

When Buddha appeared on the Indian scene, India had already lived a life of over two thousand years comprising the Mohenjodaro or pre Vedic, the early Vedic, the later Vedic and the Upanisadic periods of her history. The first two of these periods were characterised by remarkable civic and social developments and religious and philosophical questionings. A high level of material and civic culture is evident in the Mohenjodaro period. A spirit of dynamic faith and enthusiasm is evident in the Rg-Vedic period. Life was joyous and free, and in a context of communion of men and women with nature and its gods arose the inspiring poetry of the Rg-Veda, the earliest book of the human race. And in the midst of the enjoyments and delights of social existence, the finer spirits of the age were asking searching questions about life and death, about nature, man, and the gods, thus laying the foundations of a dynamic and comprehensive philosophy which was to find its full development in the Upanisad a few centuries later. The Rg-Veda had unequivocally formulated the unity of the Godhead in the famous declaration -'Truth is one, Sages call it by various names', and had sensed the wider unity of God and man and nature.

While these developments of thought were taking place, the Vedic Indian culture, confined till then to the north-west, was expanding steadily to the east of India and slowly getting fused with the culture, religions and social forms of the people of the new territories. The need for organising the vast and complex social whole was being increasingly felt and was met through a non-violent social policy and method, which found gradual formulation in the Varana (Caste) theory of social classification with the Brahmin, the man of God, at the top, the Kshatriya, the man of valour (including the ruling class), next the Vaisya, the agricultural and commercial group, as the third, and the Sudras, the unskilled labour force, as the fourth.

Originally a natural division of labour, neither rigid nor watertight, this varna system slowly developed rigid features in the later Vedic period, with the Brahmin at the top forgetting his divine vocation and developing into a privileged social class, intent on retaining his power over the rest. He began to use the complicated system of rituals and sacrifices, with complex theologies in their support, to maintain his privileged position, and claimed increasing social power through his supposed power over the gods. This is the period of the later Vedic literature, (the Brahmanas), a period marked by an increasing complication of religious life and distortion of social values.

Importance of the Upanisads

But very soon protests arose against these distortions, both in the field of philosophy and in the field of society. A new spiritual earnestness and philosophic temper began to inspire large groups of the finest minds, both men and women, and Indian thought entered into the fourth or the Upanisadic period of her history. In voicing their protest against barren ritualism, in advocating morality as the foundation of spiritual life, in defining spiritual life as the realisation, in this very life, of the divinity inherent in man and the transcendence of the finite ego, and in proclaiming the unity and solidarity of all existence in the non-dual spiritual Absolute or Brahman (Supreme Reality), the great sages of the Upanisads reversed the cramping tendencies of the earlier Brahmana literature and paved the way for the emergence of the two creative personalities - Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the teacher of the Bhagavad Gita, in the pre-historic period, and Bhagavan Buddha, the Light of Asia, in the historic period of Indian history.

The Lofty Spirituality of the Upanisads

The Upanisads or Vedanta represent the highest development of Indian spiritual thought. The Upanisads were not interested to frame a creed or propound a dogma. They sought, and sought with a persistence rare in the history of philosophic thought, for that changeless Reality in the changing facets of man and nature, and discovered the One in the many, the Brahman ot the Atman, the unity of the Self in man with the Self in the universe, the ‘One without a second’. (Mundaka Upanisad, 3-1.6) This Mount Everest of experience, they further proclaimed, is the goal of human existence, the birthright of every being, and the path to it lies through the steady pursuit of ‘Truth, right effeort, right knowledge, and brahmacharya or self-control’. (Mundaka Upanisda 3-1.5).

Coming close upon the age of the Upanisads, wherein the foundations of the subsequent developments of culture and religion in India had been laid, Buddha stands closest to the spirit of the Upanisads. In fact, it is not possible to appreciate the life and teachings of Buddha adequately without understanding the spirit of Upanisads. There are at least a few Western scholars who appreciate this fact. One such author whom I would like to quote, one who has made a sympathetic study of Buddha, is Edmund Holmes. In his book, The Creed of Buddha, he writes:

"To understand Buddha without understanding the Upanisads is to miss the significance of Buddha and his teachings. The understanding of the Upanisads is absolutely essential, for it is against that Himalayan thought background that we can realise the significance of the new advances that Buddha made in the thought and practice of the great philosophy. Buddha accepted the idealistic teachings of the Upanisads- accepted it at its highest level and in its purest form- and took upon himself as his life's mission to fill the obvious gap in it. In other words, to make the spiritual ideas, which had hitherto been the exclusive possession of a few select souls, available for the daily needs of mankind. If this conclusion is correct, we shall see in Buddhism, not a revolt against the 'Brahminic' philosophy as such, but an ethical interpretation of the leading ideas of that philosophy- a following out of those ideas, into their practical consequences in the inner life of man."

There are a few points in the teachings of Buddha which have always been points of controversy, wherein great interpreters have differed from one another. The most important of these two : first, the well-known Anatta or anatma doctrine, the teaching that there is permanent soul. This teaching is so pervasive of Buddhism that we can take it as part and parcel of the original Buddhism. The second is with regard to the nature of the Ultimate Reality. When man attains Nirvana, what does he realise and what happens to him? Does he attain something positive or something negative?

In the case of the soul, it is something composite, impermanent, and ultimately insubstantial, so on the case of the world, it is also impermanent and insubstantial but with regard to the Ultimate Reality realised in Nirvana, Buddha did not say that it also is impermanent and insubstantial. He did not say anything about it at all. He was silent about it, as he was also silent about the nature of the individual in the state of Nirvana, and evaded giving direct answers to questions relating to them.

Buddha preached the famous doctrine of the Middle Path between the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to insight, enlightenment, and peace. Craving, he declared, is the root of all tension and sorrow- craving for both worldly and heavenly pleasures. This arises from spiritual blindness. Through spiritual education in the noble eightfold path of morality, meditation, insight etc. man becomes liberated from ignorance, craving and sorrow. He achieves supreme enlightenment, and transcends his separate limited individuality and overcomes the round of birth and death, which is Samsara, in the realisation of the truth of Advaita, the non-dual Self.

This Buddhist discourse is famous as the Dharmachakra-Pravartana discourse, the turning of the wheel of Dharma. Dharma had become static and lifeless. Buddha, through this discourse, set it in motion and it continued to move for centuries together, flooding India and Asia with ethical and spiritual education.

The Dharma continued to spread peacefully first in India and then gradually to Ceylon in the south and to the countries to the west and north-west of India under the patronage and zeal of Emperor Asoka, who sent missions to all these countries and enunciated India's foreign policy as the gift of spiritual wisdom through peace and fellowship. His rock and pillar edicts, scattered over his empire, which included modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and portions of Central Asia, proclaimed the principles of toleration and kindliness, goodness and compassion. From the north-west, the Dharma spread to China six centuries after Buddha's death, and later to Tibet. From China it spread to Korea. And from China and Korea it entered Japan in the seventh century AD and in the succeeding four centuries. From the towns of the eastern coast of India, energetic missionaries carried the Dharma to the countries of Burma, Thailand, Indo-China and Indonesia.

Today, the world needs the healing touch of the message of Buddha, a message of renunciation, compassion and service.

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A Message from His Holiness
The Dalai Lama

A short Buddhist outlook on life.

  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self
    Respect for others and
    Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realise you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.
  20. I also know that dreams really do come true and you have my best wishes and my best efforts in those.

Dalai Lama

Your Holiness (Dalai Lama)
What is the best religion?



From The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Question: Is God apart from the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Self is God. ‘I am’ is God. This question arises because you are holding on to the ego self. It will not arise if you hold on to the true Self. For the real Self will not and cannot ask anything. If God be apart from the Self he must be a self-less God, which is absurd. God, who seems to be non-existent, alone truly exists. Whereas the individual, who seems to be existing, is ever non-existent. Sages say that the state in which one thus knows one’s own non-existence (sunya) alone is the glorious supreme knowledge.

You now think that you are an individual, that there is the universe and that God is beyond the cosmos. So there is the idea of separateness. This idea must go. For God is not separate from you or the cosmos. The Gita also says:

The Self am I, O Lord of sleep,
In every creature’s heart enshrined.
The rise and noon of every form,
I am its final doom as well.
-Bhagavad Gita, Ch.10, Verse 20.

Thus God is not only in the heart of all, he is the prop of all, he is the source of all, their abiding place and their end. All proceed from him, have their stay in him, and finally resolve into him. Therefore, he is not separate.

Question: Research on God has been going on from time immemorial. Has the final word been said?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mouna (silence) is Iswara-swarupa. Hence the text : "The Truth of Supreme Brahman proclaimed through Silent Eloquence."

Questioner: Buddha is said to have ignored such inquiries about God.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: And for this Buddha was called Sunyavadin (nihilist). In fact Buddha concerned himself more with directing the seeker to realise Bliss here and now than with academic discussion about God, etc.

[Note: Sri Ramana Maharshi would often make remarks, which the superficial critic might take to be agnostic or theistic, just as has been done by superficial critics of the Buddha. For instance, Sri Ramana Maharshi might say: Why worry about God? We do not know whether God exists but we know that we exist, so first concentrate on yourself. Find out who you are.'

There was no agnosticism, since Sri Ramana Maharshi, like Buddha, spoke from perfect knowledge. He was simply placing himself in the position of the questioner and advising him to concentrate rather on what he knew than what he merely believed in. Sometimes he would tell people not to trouble whether there is God or not or whether realisation implies unity with God or not but simply strive to realise the Self, and when that was achieved they would know. Theorizing about it would not help them.]

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Buddhism, The fulfillment of Hinduism

By Swami Vivekananda
The first disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
Talk delivered at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 26-09-1893

I am not a Buddhist, as you have heard, and yet I am. If China, or Japan, or Ceylon (Sri Lanka) follow the teachings of the Great Master, India worships him (Lord Buddha) as God incarnate on earth. You have just now heard that I am going to criticise Buddhism, but by that I wish you to understand only this. Far be it from me to criticise him whom I worship as God incarnate on earth. But our views about Buddha are that he was not understood properly by his disciples.

The relation between Hinduism (by Hinduism I mean the religion of the Vedas) and what is called Buddhism at the present day is nearly the same as between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew and Shaakya Muni was a Hindu. The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay, crucified him, and the Hindus have accepted Shaakya Muni as God and worship him. But the real difference that we Hindus want to show between modern Buddhism and what we should understand as the teachings of Lord Buddha lies principally in this: Shaakya Muni came to preach nothing new. He also, like Jesus, came to fulfil and not to destroy. Only, in the case of Jews, it was the old people, the Jews, who did not understand him, while in the case of Buddha, it was his own followers who did not realise the import of his teachings. As the Jew did not understand the fulfillment of the Old Testament, so the Buddhist did not understand the fulfillment of the truths of the Hindu religion. Again, I repeat, Shaakya Muni came not to destroy, but he was the fulfillment, the logical conclusion, the logical development of the religion of the Hindus.

The religion of the Hindus is divided into two parts: the ceremonial and the spiritual. The spiritual portion is specially studied by the monks. In that there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the lowest may become a monk in India, and the two castes become equal. In religion, there is no caste; caste is simply a social institution. Shaakya Muni himself was a monk, and it was his glory that he had the large heartedness to bring out the truths from the hidden Vedas and throw them broadcast all over the world. He was the first being in the world that brought missionarising into practice- nay, he was the first to conceive the idea of proselytising.

The great glory of the Master lay in his wonderful sympathy for everybody, especially for the ignorant and the poor. Some of his disciples were Brahmins. When Buddha was teaching, Sanskrit was no more the spoken language in India. It was then only in the books of the learned. Some of Buddha’s Brahmin disciples wanted to translate his teachings into Sanskrit, but he distinctly told them, "I am for the poor, for the people; let me speak in the tongue of the people." And so to this day the great bulk of his teachings are in the vernacular of that day in India.

Whatever may be the position of philosophy, whatever may the position of metaphysics, so long as there is such a thing as death in the world, so long as there is such a thing as weakness in the human heart, so long there is a cry going out of the heart of man in his very weakness, there shall be a faith in God.

On the philosophic side the disciples of the great Master dashed themselves against the eternal rocks of the Vedas and could not crush them, and on the other side they took away from the nation that eternal God to which every one, man or woman, clings so fondly. And the result was that Buddhism had to die a natural death in India. At the present day there is not one who calls himself a Buddhist in India, the land of its birth.

But at the same time, Brahminism lost something- that reforming zeal, that wonderful sympathy and charity for everybody, that wonderful leaven which Buddhism had brought to the masses and which had rendered Indian society so great that a Greek historian who wrote about India of that time was led to say that no Hindu was known to tell an untruth and no Hindu woman was known to be unchaste.

Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism, nor Buddhism without Hinduism. Then realise what the separation has shown to us, that the Buddhists cannot stand without the brain and philosophy of the Brahmins, nor the Brahmin without the heart of the Buddhist. This separation between the Buddhists and the Brahmins is the cause of the downfall of India. That is why India is populated by three hundred millions of beggars, and that is why India has been the slave of conquerors for the last thousand years. Let us then join the wonderful intellect of the Brahmins with the heart, the noble soul, and wonderful humanising power of the Great Master.
Related articles
Buddhism in China, Japan and Korea
Sankhya versus Yoga
The Sankhya system does not believe in any God
This philosophy (Jaina) is most intimately connected with
the Sankhya philosophy. The fundamental principles of the
Buddhist philosophy also depend upon the Sankhya theory.

Amazing Science
A Buddhist University, 5th Century
The ruins of Nalanda University, Bihar, India
Religions in Brief

The Nature of Reality

Consciousness-the three states
Freedom and Bondage

Direct Path

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