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Nirvana and Hinduism


Azidonis
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93,

Last week, my History professor was kind enough to tell the class that Nirvana was the goal of Hinduism. I thought this to be Moksha, but at the same time I couldn't think of many Hindu writings I've read that used the word Nirvana, even though it has roots in Sanskrit.

I've always thought of the word Nirvana as a Pali word for Moksha, or liberation. Any thoughts?

93 93/93


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James
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'Nibbana' is the Pali version with 'Nirvana' being the sanskrit. It comes from a verb meaning 'to blow out/extinguish', like blowing out a candle.

I have only seen it used in Buddhism but the Hindu writings are extensive and although moksha - liberation is the usual epithet it may well appear somewhere. Perhaps you Prof. can quote a reference for you?

In Buddhism it refers to blowing out the Three Fires of greed hatred & delusion of separate self.

Regards


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Azidonis
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93,

I plan on asking her today about it. It was something stated in Friday's group by the Teacher's Assistant, so she wasn't present. It alarmed me though, and since the professor does have a Doctorate in history I'm sure she can provide something further.

93 93/93


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 Anonymous
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From the introduction of SRIMAD BHAGAVAD-GITA ( http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/intro.html):

"Not only is the Bhagavad-Gita pre-Christian; but it is also pre-Buddhistic as well. That the Bhagavad-Gita is pre-Buddhistic can be determined by the fact that no where is there any reference to Buddhism. Whereas in the Buddhist scripture Niddesa written in 4 B.C. in the Pali Canon is found reference to the worship of Vasudeva and Baladeva, who are Krishna and Balarama respectively. Although some scholars surmise that the mention of nirvana six times gives them reason to assume that this might be contrary. The word nirvana is always compounded with the word brahma as in brahma-nirvanam meaning identified with the Ultimate truth or with the word paramam as in nirvana-paramam meaning identified with the Supreme. In Buddhism the word nirvana is used to mean extinguished or dissolved in terms of loss of separate existence. As the word nirvana by itself is also used in the Mahabharata in the sense of extinction it can be determined that the Buddhists received this concept of nirvana from earlier Vedic scriptures. "


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 Anonymous
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Coincidentally, we visited this Buddhist temple and monastery www.hsilai.org just this last weekend, and occasionally visit this Hindu temple http://www.hindutemplesoutherncalifornia.org/, both here in Southern California. We always spend much of the time during these visits chatting with the lay people in attendance when we visit, who we find to be quite lovely and intelligent almost without exception, while at the time extremely superstitious. It is an oddly inconsistent blend.


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 Anonymous
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Many Hindu scholars often like to claim a greater antiquity to their scriptures than can be believed. There is also on their part a frequent mix-up between Veda and Vedanta. Veda itself is often assumed by these scholars to be synonymous with Hinduism. The Gita does not predate Buddhism by any stretch. While the basic story behind it which it uses could have been in existence before, the version that we know today contains many inherently Buddhist conceptions which even concern the role of Krishna, who himself seems to be modelled on the Buddha in several of his aspects. It is more than likely the version we know today was compiled under a definite sense of acknowledgement (or even competition) from Buddhism.


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 Anonymous
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"the_spurious_simon_iff" wrote:
Many Hindu scholars often like to claim a greater antiquity to their scriptures than can be believed. There is also on their part a frequent mix-up between Veda and Vedanta. Veda itself is often assumed by these scholars to be synonymous with Hinduism. The Gita does not predate Buddhism by any stretch. While the basic story behind it which it uses could have been in existence before, the version that we know today contains many inherently Buddhist conceptions which even concern the role of Krishna, who himself seems to be modelled on the Buddha in several of his aspects. It is more than likely the version we know today was compiled under a definite sense of acknowledgement (or even competition) from Buddhism.

Isn't it possible that the Buddha was looked for - that the Hindu community was conditioned through stories and prophecy to look for an incarnated Buddha because of the stories of Krishna? This happened with Jesus in the Jewish community that was born, raised and made ready by their culture for an imminent apocalypse and an accompanying messiah figure.

I won't deny that there are many cross cultural/relgious idea's in Hinduism and Buddhism, but rather than seeing this as arising from competition, I'd rather see it in terms of useful cultural economy. No-one invents new words for concepts that are already known just for semantic identity seperatism and some idea of a purity of source. That's just not how things commonly arise in their natural historical setting.

Is there anything more concrete than following an archetypal paper trail and arguing that one breeze or another caused the wind to blow? Something like carbon dating of historical MS for instance? That would be far more satisfying evidence!


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Tiger
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Isn't it possible that the Buddha was looked for - that the Hindu community was conditioned through stories and prophecy to look for an incarnated Buddha because of the stories of Krishna?

The historical Buddha was a man that practiced the traditional systems at his disposal and His word was Anatman countering the Hindu concept of Atman.


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Azidonis
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93,

In his book "The Language of Yoga" by Nicolai Bachman, he gives the following definitions:

Moksa - liberation, freedom
Nirvana - extinquishing, liberated from existence, "without wind" or "blown out"
Brahman - energy of creation

The book, as far as I can tell, does not contain the word "Brahma", though the correlation should be obvious enough.
It also does not contain the word "Nibbana" which makes sense if the word is of the Pali language. This book is about Sanskrit.

It makes one wonder though, if Nibbana is Pali, why the Sanskrit form of Nirvana is used in general reference to Buddhism. Perhaps it has to do with individual schools.

I haven't gotten a chance to ask my professor yet. I bought a truck a couple weeks ago, and had to pick it up from the shop. Tomorrow I do plan to ask her.

Religious Studies degree is fun, even if it won't make me tons of money...

93 93/93

Edit: Post number 420 o.O


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 Anonymous
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"Tiger" wrote:

Isn't it possible that the Buddha was looked for - that the Hindu community was conditioned through stories and prophecy to look for an incarnated Buddha because of the stories of Krishna?

The historical Buddha was a man that practiced the traditional systems at his disposal and His word was Anatman countering the Hindu concept of Atman.

His word? *muse*

I think it's perfectly legitimate to recast and reinterpret things in the past... for instance the way we view the egyptian gods isn't the same as an ancient egyptian would have percieved them... and that's fine, and can be useful, but we should recognise when we're doing this though.

There isn't really any evidence to suggest that the historical Buddha thought he had a 'word', is there Tiger? 😉


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 Anonymous
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"Azidonis" wrote:
93,

It makes one wonder though, if Nibbana is Pali, why the Sanskrit form of Nirvana is used in general reference to Buddhism. Perhaps it has to do with individual schools.
93 93/93

Edit: Post number 420 o.O

It may have something to do with a lot of the Pali Canon being written on very fragile palm leaves?


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 Anonymous
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"Azidonis" wrote:
93,
It makes one wonder though, if Nibbana is Pali, why the Sanskrit form of Nirvana is used in general reference to Buddhism. Perhaps it has to do with individual schools.

It would have to do with the overriding popularity in the west of the schools from Tibet that we're born out of the North Indian stream of buddhism which had an emphasis on the Mahayana sutras. The Mahayana sutras being written in Sanskrit not Pali


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gurugeorge
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Bit of a minefield this, as there are many who would have you believe in the venerable ancientness of "Hindu" or "Vedic" culture (it was believed in Crowley's day). I'm extremely dubious of all that.

It's worth bearing in mind that the Buddha didn't speak Pali, he probably spoke a language called Maghadi/Magahi.

Both the Pali versions and the Sanksrit versions of the Sutras/Suttas were written down several hundred years after the Bubba's death, and in fact the Pali is slightly the younger of the two. So as usual, of course, we have no real idea whether they represent what he said or thought, or even if he existed at all.

The Sanskrit versions were the MAIN versions for Buddhism in India for centuries; they are what were transmitted to China and Tibet, and they were the backbone of the long-lasting Buddhist civilisation (and "university" education) in India, but they've only survived mostly in Tibetan and Chinese translation since Islam TOTALLY destroyed Buddhism in India (and that's one of the blackest marks on that religion's history). The Pali version just happened to survive because its users lived in a (relatively speaking) backwater, down South.

"Hinduism" is a fairly recent (mediaeval) invention, contrary to Hindutva propaganda (and the propaganda of ISKCON and others, including Westerners, who follow that line of verging-on-fascistic modern Hindu nationalism). Civilisations in the Indus valley go back a long way, for sure, and the individual deities such as Siva probably do have a long history; but there was no unified "Vedic" religion - all that stuff is just made-up history. The Vedas aren't all that old, were probably parochial, not universal; and most of the Upanishads are younger than Buddhism. Indian religion before Buddhism was not unified, at least not in the sense that Buddhism was; it was a grab-bag of paganisms, just like the West before Christianity (with Buddhist culture eventually at some point being equivalent to Greek culture, as a sort of vague focal point).

IOW, "Hinduism" is what happened after Buddhist civilisation, which was the first actual unified religious civilisation in India, was destroyed. It's a reconstruction of what was imagined to have existed before the deceased Buddhist culture. But everything after that time was strongly influenced by remnants of Buddhism. So Shankaracharya and others - basically the Advaita interpretation of Vedanta - is sort of like vaguely-remembered Buddhism nativised to a pagan Indian civilisation that was rebuilding itself after the Buddhist civilisation had been destroyed by Islam, and then Islam's advances somewhat reversed.

The Baghavad Gita is not an ancient text at all, it's a mediaeval invention that was part of this deliberate attempt to create a unified cultural religion subsequent to Buddhism. It's strongly influenced by Christian memes too, obviously.

In fact, it should be pretty obvious from reading the Pali suttas that Buddha's context was nothing like some grand "Vedic culture" as that is touted in modern Hindu stuff - Buddha's context was some weird, hokey-pokey tribal s**t that doesn't look at all familiar. He was a king's son was he? Probably a "king" in some sort of mud hut. Just consider his two teachers - those two names and their teachings don't seem to have any place at all in the history of the much-touted "Vedic" culture, yet we are to believe they were the "go to" guys for mysticism in his day? It just doesn't hang together.

And while I'm laying about me: earlier than all this, and earlier than Buddhism, the "Aryan invasion" notion, in both boo and hooray versions, is probably bullshit. Yes there was some blending of older indigenous cultures with newer migrant, horse-using cultures from more northern parts of the world. But there was likely no invasion, but just gradual migrations and intermingling of cultures, perhaps some war, but no grand take over (not like the much later Islamic invasion, which really did cut a swathe through India).

Incidentally, "Aryan" just meant "noble" - as in "The Four Aryan Truths". Curious little sidelight there.

So anyway, "Nirvana" was a goal in "Hinduism" because "Hinduism" was a nationalistic rallying-point-invention arising from the ruins of a then-recently-deceased and quite ancient Buddhist civilisation; a rallying-point invented by people who wanted to unify in order to push back Islam, but didn't want to return to Buddhism (which after all had failed to resist Islam), but to something they imagined existed before it.

All the histories of all the great religious cultures - Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Daoist, Confucian, etc., etc. need to be revised to get away from their pompous self-images, and their more recent uses as ideological hobby-horses by both their own cultural representatives and "useful idiot" Westerners.

All the above IMHO and FWIW and YMMV and other flame-retardant acroynms 😉


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ianrons
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Nice post old chap 🙂


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Azidonis
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"gurugeorge" wrote:
Bit of a minefield this, as there are many who would have you believe in the venerable ancientness of "Hindu" or "Vedic" culture (it was believed in Crowley's day). I'm extremely dubious of all that.

It's worth bearing in mind that the Buddha didn't speak Pali, he probably spoke a language called Maghadi/Magahi.

Both the Pali versions and the Sanksrit versions of the Sutras/Suttas were written down several hundred years after the Bubba's death, and in fact the Pali is slightly the younger of the two. So as usual, of course, we have no real idea whether they represent what he said or thought, or even if he existed at all.

The Sanskrit versions were the MAIN versions for Buddhism in India for centuries; they are what were transmitted to China and Tibet, and they were the backbone of the long-lasting Buddhist civilisation (and "university" education) in India, but they've only survived mostly in Tibetan and Chinese translation since Islam TOTALLY destroyed Buddhism in India (and that's one of the blackest marks on that religion's history). The Pali version just happened to survive because its users lived in a (relatively speaking) backwater, down South.

"Hinduism" is a fairly recent (mediaeval) invention, contrary to Hindutva propaganda (and the propaganda of ISKCON and others, including Westerners, who follow that line of verging-on-fascistic modern Hindu nationalism). Civilisations in the Indus valley go back a long way, for sure, and the individual deities such as Siva probably do have a long history; but there was no unified "Vedic" religion - all that stuff is just made-up history. The Vedas aren't all that old, were probably parochial, not universal; and most of the Upanishads are younger than Buddhism. Indian religion before Buddhism was not unified, at least not in the sense that Buddhism was; it was a grab-bag of paganisms, just like the West before Christianity (with Buddhist culture eventually at some point being equivalent to Greek culture, as a sort of vague focal point).

IOW, "Hinduism" is what happened after Buddhist civilisation, which was the first actual unified religious civilisation in India, was destroyed. It's a reconstruction of what was imagined to have existed before the deceased Buddhist culture. But everything after that time was strongly influenced by remnants of Buddhism. So Shankaracharya and others - basically the Advaita interpretation of Vedanta - is sort of like vaguely-remembered Buddhism nativised to a pagan Indian civilisation that was rebuilding itself after the Buddhist civilisation had been destroyed by Islam, and then Islam's advances somewhat reversed.

The Baghavad Gita is not an ancient text at all, it's a mediaeval invention that was part of this deliberate attempt to create a unified cultural religion subsequent to Buddhism. It's strongly influenced by Christian memes too, obviously.

In fact, it should be pretty obvious from reading the Pali suttas that Buddha's context was nothing like some grand "Vedic culture" as that is touted in modern Hindu stuff - Buddha's context was some weird, hokey-pokey tribal s**t that doesn't look at all familiar. He was a king's son was he? Probably a "king" in some sort of mud hut. Just consider his two teachers - those two names and their teachings don't seem to have any place at all in the history of the much-touted "Vedic" culture, yet we are to believe they were the "go to" guys for mysticism in his day? It just doesn't hang together.

And while I'm laying about me: earlier than all this, and earlier than Buddhism, the "Aryan invasion" notion, in both boo and hooray versions, is probably bullshit. Yes there was some blending of older indigenous cultures with newer migrant, horse-using cultures from more northern parts of the world. But there was likely no invasion, but just gradual migrations and intermingling of cultures, perhaps some war, but no grand take over (not like the much later Islamic invasion, which really did cut a swathe through India).

Incidentally, "Aryan" just meant "noble" - as in "The Four Aryan Truths". Curious little sidelight there.

So anyway, "Nirvana" was a goal in "Hinduism" because "Hinduism" was a nationalistic rallying-point-invention arising from the ruins of a then-recently-deceased and quite ancient Buddhist civilisation; a rallying-point invented by people who wanted to unify in order to push back Islam, but didn't want to return to Buddhism (which after all had failed to resist Islam), but to something they imagined existed before it.

All the histories of all the great religious cultures - Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Daoist, Confucian, etc., etc. need to be revised to get away from their pompous self-images, and their more recent uses as ideological hobby-horses by both their own cultural representatives and "useful idiot" Westerners.

All the above IMHO and FWIW and YMMV and other flame-retardant acroynms 😉

93,

Wow... just... wow.

Thank you, George.

Incidentally, I imagine my work to be similar to that which you referred near the end of your statement, mainly about the re-working of history. I firmly believe that not only has history been muddled in many ways (by the victors, as they say), but that much of the original "flavor" has been lost, as some other posters have pointed out.

One of the things I would love to do with this Religious Studies degree, is to go back and take all of the actual information an publish it into an "in your face" work. This would include accounts of those such as yourself and others, based on actual facts that we have gained over the years.

In short, I would love to work at dispelling the mysteries and restoring the mysticism of all the world's religions. Quite a daunting task, I suppose, but it would probably keep me employed if I got good enough at it. 🙂

93 93/93


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gurugeorge
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"Azidonis" wrote:
"gurugeorge" wrote:
Bit of a minefield this, as there are many who would have you believe in the venerable ancientness of "Hindu" or "Vedic" culture (it was believed in Crowley's day). I'm extremely dubious of all that.

It's worth bearing in mind that the Buddha didn't speak Pali, he probably spoke a language called Maghadi/Magahi.

Both the Pali versions and the Sanksrit versions of the Sutras/Suttas were written down several hundred years after the Bubba's death, and in fact the Pali is slightly the younger of the two. So as usual, of course, we have no real idea whether they represent what he said or thought, or even if he existed at all.

The Sanskrit versions were the MAIN versions for Buddhism in India for centuries; they are what were transmitted to China and Tibet, and they were the backbone of the long-lasting Buddhist civilisation (and "university" education) in India, but they've only survived mostly in Tibetan and Chinese translation since Islam TOTALLY destroyed Buddhism in India (and that's one of the blackest marks on that religion's history). The Pali version just happened to survive because its users lived in a (relatively speaking) backwater, down South.

"Hinduism" is a fairly recent (mediaeval) invention, contrary to Hindutva propaganda (and the propaganda of ISKCON and others, including Westerners, who follow that line of verging-on-fascistic modern Hindu nationalism). Civilisations in the Indus valley go back a long way, for sure, and the individual deities such as Siva probably do have a long history; but there was no unified "Vedic" religion - all that stuff is just made-up history. The Vedas aren't all that old, were probably parochial, not universal; and most of the Upanishads are younger than Buddhism. Indian religion before Buddhism was not unified, at least not in the sense that Buddhism was; it was a grab-bag of paganisms, just like the West before Christianity (with Buddhist culture eventually at some point being equivalent to Greek culture, as a sort of vague focal point).

IOW, "Hinduism" is what happened after Buddhist civilisation, which was the first actual unified religious civilisation in India, was destroyed. It's a reconstruction of what was imagined to have existed before the deceased Buddhist culture. But everything after that time was strongly influenced by remnants of Buddhism. So Shankaracharya and others - basically the Advaita interpretation of Vedanta - is sort of like vaguely-remembered Buddhism nativised to a pagan Indian civilisation that was rebuilding itself after the Buddhist civilisation had been destroyed by Islam, and then Islam's advances somewhat reversed.

The Baghavad Gita is not an ancient text at all, it's a mediaeval invention that was part of this deliberate attempt to create a unified cultural religion subsequent to Buddhism. It's strongly influenced by Christian memes too, obviously.

In fact, it should be pretty obvious from reading the Pali suttas that Buddha's context was nothing like some grand "Vedic culture" as that is touted in modern Hindu stuff - Buddha's context was some weird, hokey-pokey tribal s**t that doesn't look at all familiar. He was a king's son was he? Probably a "king" in some sort of mud hut. Just consider his two teachers - those two names and their teachings don't seem to have any place at all in the history of the much-touted "Vedic" culture, yet we are to believe they were the "go to" guys for mysticism in his day? It just doesn't hang together.

And while I'm laying about me: earlier than all this, and earlier than Buddhism, the "Aryan invasion" notion, in both boo and hooray versions, is probably bullshit. Yes there was some blending of older indigenous cultures with newer migrant, horse-using cultures from more northern parts of the world. But there was likely no invasion, but just gradual migrations and intermingling of cultures, perhaps some war, but no grand take over (not like the much later Islamic invasion, which really did cut a swathe through India).

Incidentally, "Aryan" just meant "noble" - as in "The Four Aryan Truths". Curious little sidelight there.

So anyway, "Nirvana" was a goal in "Hinduism" because "Hinduism" was a nationalistic rallying-point-invention arising from the ruins of a then-recently-deceased and quite ancient Buddhist civilisation; a rallying-point invented by people who wanted to unify in order to push back Islam, but didn't want to return to Buddhism (which after all had failed to resist Islam), but to something they imagined existed before it.

All the histories of all the great religious cultures - Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Daoist, Confucian, etc., etc. need to be revised to get away from their pompous self-images, and their more recent uses as ideological hobby-horses by both their own cultural representatives and "useful idiot" Westerners.

All the above IMHO and FWIW and YMMV and other flame-retardant acroynms 😉

93,

Wow... just... wow.

Thank you, George.

Incidentally, I imagine my work to be similar to that which you referred near the end of your statement, mainly about the re-working of history. I firmly believe that not only has history been muddled in many ways (by the victors, as they say), but that much of the original "flavor" has been lost, as some other posters have pointed out.

One of the things I would love to do with this Religious Studies degree, is to go back and take all of the actual information an publish it into an "in your face" work. This would include accounts of those such as yourself and others, based on actual facts that we have gained over the years.

In short, I would love to work at dispelling the mysteries and restoring the mysticism of all the world's religions. Quite a daunting task, I suppose, but it would probably keep me employed if I got good enough at it. 🙂

93 93/93

Sounds like a great ambition!

But academia is sorting these things out gradually anyway. If I could be bothered (and if I could remember all the search paths I've taken over the past 30 years!) I could support my rough reconstruction with quotes from fairly mainstream academics in the relevant fields.

As with all things in academia, there are contrary opinions, but at least these questions are open and being debated.

There are all sorts of surprising things being debated now in academia - e.g. "Laozi" may not have existed (the "Laozi" may originally have meant something like "compilation of old folks' wisdom" from the Kingdom of Chu - and let's be honest about it, did it EVER look like it was the work of one hand?).

And, most definitely (and in agreement with both Crowley's and Motta's opinions) after extensive amateur investigation for the past 3 years, I've come to the conclusion that "Jesus Christ" was never a living human being, and the cute, overblown myth we know isn't myth that accreted around a real human being, it's myth all the way down.

Well, actually, tbqh it's still vaguely possible that the myth accreted around a man, but if it did there's absolutely NOTHING left of that man's ideas or teaching, since EVERYTHING in the NT canon can be attributed either to reworking (Midrash) of Jewish scripture, or to other philosophies like Cynicism and Stoicism; and nearly all elements of the Jesus biography are similar to the elements in the biographies of earlier figures in Scripture, or pagan deities, etc. - or even elements in popular novels of the day! So there's nothing much left that could be construed as authentically original and evidentiary.


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Azidonis
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93,

"gurugeorge" wrote:
Sounds like a great ambition!

But academia is sorting these things out gradually anyway. If I could be bothered (and if I could remember all the search paths I've taken over the past 30 years!) I could support my rough reconstruction with quotes from fairly mainstream academics in the relevant fields.

They are sorting them out, but I can help somehow, I'm sure. I just have to find the right set of people that are working on this stuff.

As with all things in academia, there are contrary opinions, but at least these questions are open and being debated.

Ya

There are all sorts of surprising things being debated now in academia - e.g. "Laozi" may not have existed (the "Laozi" may originally have meant something like "compilation of old folks' wisdom" from the Kingdom of Chu - and let's be honest about it, did it EVER look like it was the work of one hand?).

I find that to be very interesting. I also find it interesting that my collegiate level history book still gives three possible dates for the life of Siddartha Gotama. Along with this, my Sacred Texts class brushed upon the possibility (or rumor) that Lao Tze was one of the gurus that actually taught Gotama. I was also interested to learn in my Sacred Texts course from my professor (who has a Master's in Christianity, I believe) exactly why the dates are a bit construed. He gave Jesus' birth, which wasn't exactly the turn of the B.C. to C.E., and for some reason I never knew that. He explained about the way dating had changed when they believe he existed, and instead of changing many centuries worth of dates, they simply changed Jesus' birth and death dates.

And, most definitely (and in agreement with both Crowley's and Motta's opinions) after extensive amateur investigation for the past 3 years, I've come to the conclusion that "Jesus Christ" was never a living human being, and the cute, overblown myth we know isn't myth that accreted around a real human being, it's myth all the way down.

I'm still up in the air on Jesus being an actual person. My current persuasion is that he did not exist.

Well, actually, tbqh it's still vaguely possible that the myth accreted around a man, but if it did there's absolutely NOTHING left of that man's ideas or teaching, since EVERYTHING in the NT canon can be attributed either to reworking (Midrash) of Jewish scripture, or to other philosophies like Cynicism and Stoicism; and nearly all elements of the Jesus biography are similar to the elements in the biographies of earlier figures in Scripture, or pagan deities, etc. - or even elements in popular novels of the day! So there's nothing much left that could be construed as authentically original and evidentiary.

What gets me is that if Jesus did indeed exist, would he not have expounded an actual system for his people? I mean, one can say his word was Agape, and that is fine. What interests me is the lack of an actual system. OF course, this does not include a system designed for human beings to worship another human being.

93 93/93


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Tiger
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There isn't really any evidence to suggest that the historical Buddha thought he had a 'word', is there Tiger?

Perhaps not a word; must have picked that idea up in some theosophical writing or maybe i'm reinterpreting things. However there is the doctrine of anatta (pali) anatman (sanskrit) Sunnata (pali) Sunyata (Sanskrit) at least I think.


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Palamedes
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Gurugerge, I have to disagree with some of your statements. First of all, although as you correctly state that Pali is younger language than Sanskrit, the oldest Buddhist literature is in fact composed in Pali. The fact that Buddha's speeches were not written down immediately should be taken with a grain of salt: in India memorization of the sacred texts has been a preferable practice (for example, the Vedas have been transmitted orally throughout millennia) and the culture honours spoken word over the written one generally speaking. Still, the first texts composed in Sanskrit occur only at the beginning of the common era, roughly speaking five centuries after Buddha's life. Islam did destroy a good deal of material Buddhist culture in India and Buddhism did disappear from India after the arrival of Islam, but it would not be correct to assume that Mahayana texts were preserved only in Chinese and Tibetan translations. This is true to some degree but there is a huge Buddhist literature still preserved in Sanskrit. As for the Bhagavad Gita, it is not quite a medieval text as you suggest. Most of the scholars put it one or two centuries before or after the common era. Barbara Stoller Miller, in her translation of the text suggest that "it took form around the first century A.D." Alex Michaels (in Hinduism: Past and Present, Princeton University Press, 2003) suggests "second century A.D." (59), and Lars Fosse in his translations states that "most scholars think the oldest parts may go back to the third century BCE, whereas theistic portions may stem from the middle or end of the second century BCE" (xix). I have never encountered a view that would suggest that Gita is a medieval text, not even an early medieval text. But there is no doubt that whenever the text was composed, the Buddhism was already there in India.


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gurugeorge
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"Iskandar" wrote:
Gurugerge, I have to disagree with some of your statements. First of all, although as you correctly state that Pali is younger language than Sanskrit, the oldest Buddhist literature is in fact composed in Pali. The fact that Buddha's speeches were not written down immediately should be taken with a grain of salt: in India memorization of the sacred texts has been a preferable practice (for example, the Vedas have been transmitted orally throughout millennia) and the culture honours spoken word over the written one generally speaking. Still, the first texts composed in Sanskrit occur only at the beginning of the common era, roughly speaking five centuries after Buddha's life. Islam did destroy a good deal of material Buddhist culture in India and Buddhism did disappear from India after the arrival of Islam, but it would not be correct to assume that Mahayana texts were preserved only in Chinese and Tibetan translations. This is true to some degree but there is a huge Buddhist literature still preserved in Sanskrit. As for the Bhagavad Gita, it is not quite a medieval text as you suggest. Most of the scholars put it one or two centuries before or after the common era. Barbara Stoller Miller, in her translation of the text suggest that "it took form around the first century A.D." Alex Michaels (in Hinduism: Past and Present, Princeton University Press, 2003) suggests "second century A.D." (59), and Lars Fosse in his translations states that "most scholars think the oldest parts may go back to the third century BCE, whereas theistic portions may stem from the middle or end of the second century BCE" (xix). I have never encountered a view that would suggest that Gita is a medieval text, not even an early medieval text. But there is no doubt that whenever the text was composed, the Buddhism was already there in India.

I bow to your greater knowledge of these topics Iskandar. Mainly I wanted to get people away from the Theravadin propaganda about the Pali canon they have preserved. The picture isn't like: the Buddha spoke in Pali (which as I'm sure you know was originally a Northern Indian dialect) and they faithfully recorded his Pali words (which is the impression you'd get from reading all but the most scholarly of Theravadin stuff).

On further investigation, you're right re. the Sanksrit/Pali priority thing, my memory was fuzzy. But the main take-away point is there were SEVERAL languages involved in the early days, not just Pali - there were VARIOUS dialects in which the teachings were preserved (another one has been recently re-discovered, Gandhari or something?) and they were partly connected with different regions of India and different sub-schools of Buddhism; it JUST SO HAPPENS that the Pali version is the OLDEST SURVIVING COMPLETE version. But the Sanskrit Agamas that were transmitted to China have just as much claim to authenticity as the Pali Nikaya versions.

If there were a standard Tipitaka as established at the First Rehearsal one might expect its texts to be fixed in their actual wording, and therefore in their language. This, however, does not appear to have been the case. The followers of the Buddha were drawn even during his lifetime from many different countries and spoke, if not completely different languages, at least different dialects. It has been shown that the early Buddhists observed the principle of adopting the local languages wherever they taught. Probably they owe much of their success in spreading the Doctrine and establishing it in many countries to this. The Buddha himself is recorded to have enjoined his followers to remember his teaching in their own languages, not in his language, nor in the archaic but respectable cadences of the Vedic scriptures of the Brahmans. The recensions of the Tipitaka preserved in different countries of India therefore differed in dialect or language from the earliest times, and we cannot speak of any 'original' language of the Buddhist canon, nor, as it happens, have we any definite information as to what language the Buddha himself spoke.' At the most, we can say that the recension in the language of Magadha may have enjoyed some pre-eminence for the first few centuries, since 'Magadhisms' have been detected even in non-Magahi Buddhist texts. This may have reflected the political supremacy of Magadha. - A K Warder, Indian Buddhism

Isn't scholarship wonderful? The more you read, the more complicated it gets 🙂 But that's just right - things are seldom as clear cut as we would like them to be!


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Palamedes
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Oh I totally agree with you gurugeorge. I would just like to add that, as we all know, pretty much every group attempts to claim its own authenticity through an argument that has to do with origins. I like the way Mahayana argues its own case. Nagarjuna - who is largely responsible for formulating the notion of emptiness in philosophically sound terminology and who is in the linage of almost every Mahayana school - was, according to a legend, teaching a group of monks and one day he noticed that two of them were not human beings. They turned out to be nagas (snake related beings able to transform their form) who invited him to their kingdom under the sea. There he was led to a library of texts that contained the original (hah!) teachings of the Buddha that were considered too advanced for his contemporaries, so they were preserved there among nagas to wait the ripe moment - in this case, the wait was about five centuries. Nagarjuna memorized these texts, returned from under the ocean, and started teaching Mahayana. Later the Vajrayana, tantric Buddhism, adopted the same manner of justifying their teachings (which, in this case, started appearing about one thousand years after the Buddha's life). They also started 'discovering hidden texts' containing the 'original' teachings of the Buddha, destined for the occasion when the time was ripe. So I think that this tendency is not something that is peculiar either to Theravadins, or the Hindus, or pretty much any group. But I do consider that the first generation of Buddhist scholars in the West really misrepresented it in accordance with the Protestant lenses, so that they cast Therevada in the form they themselves idealized, turning Buddhism into some rationalistic philosophy with Spartan ethics. They were really condescending towards Mahayana ('soiled by theism,' 'too much influenced by Hinduism,' etc.), and Vajrayana (or Lamaism, as they called it) was for them pretty much 'devil worship' and superstition. Funny how the things changed, so that now it is the exact opposite: Tibetan Buddhism is the most popular in the West and Theravada the least. An while on the subject, it is rather annoying that both scholars and practitioners in the West are much more open towards accepting the magical side of Vajrayana than about accepting and trying to understand the magical traditions in the West. Similarly, when Dalai Lama suggests to his western disciples that they should not so much try to convert to BUddhism but instead try to find in their own tradition some similar teachings, everyone starts thinking about Christianity, as if that is the only spiritual tradition in the West! Luckily, in the last two decades, there has been an incredibly vital development in the study of Western Esoteric Traditions, that the picture is slowly starting to change.


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James
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Interesting discussion - thanks so far!

Just to add to the liturgy of 'received' texts by Buddhist masters you can add to Nagarjuna who founded the 'Middle Way' school ( sorry can't spell Majama..Migamik..oh well you know what I mean!) the origins of the Yogacara school.

Asanga, older brother to Vasubandhu, ascended to Maitreya Buddha in the Tushita heaven to receive the teachings that would form the basis of the Yogacara - Consciousness only school - Three Bodies of Buddha, Eight Consciousness' of Buddha (Nine according to Paramartha - couldn't agree about anything) and so on. It's all a bit 'Kenneth Grant' really and is a great tradition much more compelling that just sitting down and tossing off another sutra.

Can't remember which Church Father but one one scandalized enough to write that the Gnostics seem to write a Gospel 'every other day!'.

One interesting point in this Hindu Buddhist crossover theme is one I've heard made by Prof. Richard Gombrich. He says much of the Pali Canon is in reaction to 'Hindu' teachings present at the time of the Buddha. That B. satirized these teachings and gave a Buddhist 'spin' to them. For example karma in Hinduism at the time just meant ritual actions that if properly performed would ensure good future re-birth. Buddha took this and said not ritual action but personal ethical action conditioned rebirth. Thus it was no longer any good living the life of a scoundrel and then paying a priest to do the 'necessary' to pave the way to future libertine incarnations. Buddha also took the idea of the three sacrificial fires to be found in temples and houses and said they were present internally as greed, hatred & delusion of separate self - this comes early on in the Fire sermon in Pali Canon. And so on...

Regards

Jamie


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gurugeorge
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"Iskandar" wrote:
An while on the subject, it is rather annoying that both scholars and practitioners in the West are much more open towards accepting the magical side of Vajrayana than about accepting and trying to understand the magical traditions in the West. Similarly, when Dalai Lama suggests to his western disciples that they should not so much try to convert to BUddhism but instead try to find in their own tradition some similar teachings, everyone starts thinking about Christianity, as if that is the only spiritual tradition in the West! Luckily, in the last two decades, there has been an incredibly vital development in the study of Western Esoteric Traditions, that the picture is slowly starting to change.

Great post, thoroughly agree, especially with the above. I recently read a truly fantastic new translation of Boethius "Consolation of Philosophy". I can't recommend this highly enough. This text is almost the foundation text of Western civilisation as we know it. It was a kind of condensed summation of the pre-Christian paganism (Boethius was supposedly, or at least nominally, a Christian, but there isn't even the slightest hint of Christianity in the text, it's totally pure Platonism, Aristotelianism, etc. - an exquisite, condensed summary of the best of pagan philosophy) and it's one of the most copied books in the West, all through its history. People mostly cottoned onto it through a Christian lens (which isn't all that bad in and of itself), but darned if it doesn't also have hints of "ladders" mysticism and even non-dual mysticism in it (as indeed does Platonism, and right back at the root of it, Pythagoras, Parmenides and Empedocles, all three of them both mystics and mages of sorts, as well as plain old clever thinkers - according to the mystic/academic Peter Kingsley).

We do have a rich mystical and magickal heritage, fully as ancient and venerable as any of the Eastern systems, it was just rudely interrupted for a couple of thousand years, and we lost the living lineages of transmission. But a lot of texts are still extant, and with the help of triangulation from the still-living Eastern traditions (and the pioneering practice efforts of people from Crowley to all the good folks studying Theravada and Vajrayana and Daoism and Zen and all that nowadays), it's all there ready and waiting to be revitalised. The growth in serious academic study of Western magickal traditions is a very encouraging sign.

What an extraordinary time we live in, when all these things are being uncovered, facts and truths about developmental histories - and so many marvellous and effective teachings available!


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steve_wilson
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Thanks all. My 2 pennyworth - Buddhism was the national religion of India for a while, and Buddhist terms entered Hindu discourse. The Sikh religion, founded 2000 years later, uses Buddhist terms fairly freely while remaining a "Hindu"-oriented religion with Sufi influence. Nirvana is used in Sikh religious discourse but seems to mean Moksha, one of the top early Sikhs who was not actually one of the Gurus was Bhai Buddha.
It is probable that what became Hinduism - that is, the national response to Islam whereby the "Dharmic faiths" began to create the idea of an orthodox set of traditions that corresponded to an unfamiliar concept of "religions" - included Buddhist terms in certain discourses, the way that Sindhi Hindus recognise the sanctity of Sikh gurus without accepting the Sikh faith. Even ISCKON recognise Buddha,but as an avatar.


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 Anonymous
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"Even ISCKON recognise Buddha,but as an avatar."

That's certainly the Hindu scriptural attempt at colonising Buddha. The far more common colloquial version of this anachronism is; "Buddha, oh yes, but he was born a Hindu you know..."


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steve_wilson
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One word missing from all this, though, is Jain. The arguments Buddha raised against ecxtreme asceticism imply he was on a Jain path before discovering his "third way". The chances are that the philosophical background was Jainism - certainly Buddha mentions Mahavir but not vice versa, implying Mahavir lived before Buddha. And since Jainism also uses the term Nirvana......
But I have to disagree that Buddha's father was some sort of mud hut. City based civilisations had been prevalent in the region for 1500 years. As for Jesus being a real person, read Eisenmann's "James, Brother of Jesus" to see who Jesus was - and what his mission actually was.
As for calling Buddha "Bubba", I will assume it was a misprint 🙂


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