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Sunday, May 10, 2015

THE UPANISHADS AND TEACHING OF SRI BUDDHA - PART 2

Two levels of reality as per Sri Buddha:-

Like Upanishads, Buddha has admitted two levels of the same truth/reality[1] and expressed about them directly or indirectly in certain occasions. Let us quote a frequent claim of Buddha from Brahma Jwala Sutta.

“These, O brethren, are those other things, profound, difficult to realize, hard to understand, tranquillizing, sweet, not to be grasped by mere logic, subtle, comprehensible only by the wise, which the Tathagata, having himself realized and seen face to face, hath set forth; and it is concerning these that they who would rightly praise the Tathagata in accordance with the truth, should speak.[2]

In this Sutta, it is said that there is ‘something’ that is very difficult to understand, beyond the logic and comprehensible only to the wise. This assertion indirectly points to the two levels of the reality. One of them is comprehensible only to the wise and difficult to comprehend by the ‘others’. Buddha has achieved it, as per Brahma jwala sutta. I.e., Buddha has ‘realized[3]’ that, which is difficult to comprehend for the un-wise and who uses logic to apprehend things and theories. So the Buddha was not in the plane of reality in which ‘others’ reside. Buddha is in a higher plane. Then in which plane of reality, the common man, (who are not competent to achieve the reality that Thathagata has achieved) resides. Of course, they will be in a lower plane to which Buddha has achieved. Thus there must be two level of reality[4].

The second proof for the existence of two planes of reality is the indication about the ‘nama-rupa’. The Thathagata had discoursed about nama-rupa (Name and Form) many times. As per this, the objects that we see in the mundane world exist just as nama-rupa. Everything in the world is in constant flux. They are in ‘coming into’ and ‘passing by’ state always. So they have no ultimate existence. They are devoid of essence. Because of these reasons the mundane world is expressible only in name and form (nama-rupa). In the ultimate sense the mundane world is surely in the low plane of reality. Then where is this continuously changing mundane world is rooted? There must be such an ultimate plane of reality upon which the mundane plane exists and here, we again get two planes of ultimate reality[5].

The Upanishads also says that the external world exist as name and form only. Upanishads give a simile for this. There are many things made up of clay like pot, bowl, etc. But we know, the pot and bowl are mere names decided by their form, and the thing by which the pot and bowl were made up of is clay. So clay is the root or substratum of all things that are made up of clay, and by knowing clay we will know the essence of everything made up of clay. This indicates that the cause (clay) and effects (pot, bowl, etc.) are same and the transformation happened to the cause is able to indicate by a name, by noticing the form of transformation. This transformation is known as ‘effect’. In fact, cause is not different from effect. This is the idea narrated in the Chandogya Upanishad between the conversation between Uddhalaka Aruni and his son Svetaketu.

“Through which, the unheard of becomes heard, the un-thought of becomes thought of, the unknown becomes known?’ (Svetaketu asked,) ‘O venerable sir, in what way is that instruction imparted?’

“O good looking one, as by knowing a lump of earth, all things made of earth become known: All transformation has speech as its basis, and it is name only. Earth as such is the reality.”

“O good looking one, as by knowing a lump of gold, all things made of gold become known: All transformation has speech as its basis, and it is name only. Gold as such is the reality.”

“O good looking one, as by knowing a nail-cutter, all things made of iron become known: All transformation has speech as its basis, and it is name only. Iron as such is the reality. O good looking one, thus is that instruction.”

The idea of nama-rupa is mentioned in many other parts of Upanishad collection. It is such a well established doctrine and this also indicates that there are two planes of ultimate reality.

The root of nama-rupa as per Buddhism and the Upanishads:-

Which is the root of nama-rupa, as per Buddhism? This question also answers to another unavoidable question - ‘where the mundane world has its seat?’ In this case, the Upanishads are clear on their stand that Brahman is the substratum of the external world and objects, known by the nama-rupa. According to Buddha, in the Kevaddha sutta, Avidya/ignorance is the root of nama-rupa.

“Once upon a time, Kevaddha, there occurred to a certain brother in this very company of the brethren, a doubt on the following point: “Where now do these four great elements – earth, water, fire, and wind – pass away, leaving no trace behind ?”

The Bhikkhu seeking the answer went to the great kings, king of kings. i.e, Sakka, great gods and finally to the Great Brahma. But everyone was helpless. Then the Great Brahma send the Bhikkhu to the Gotama, the Buddha and the exalted one answers to the Bhikkhu thus:

“Now the question, brother, should not be put as you have put it. Instead of asking where the four great elements cease, leaving no trace behind, you should have asked:

Where do earth, water, fire, and wind,
And long and short, and fine and coarse,
Pure and impure, no footing find?
Where is it that both name and form,
Die out, leaving no trace behind?

On that the answer is: “The intellect of Arhatship, the invisible, the endless, accessible from every side --

‘There is it that earth, water, fire, and wind,
And long and short, and fine and coarse,
Pure and impure, no footing find.
There is it that both name and form
Die out, leaving no trace behind.
When intellection ceases they all also cease.’

Thus spake the Exalted One. And Kevaddha, the young householder, pleased at heart, rejoiced at the spoken word.”

The name and form do not find footing in the ‘Intellect of the Arhatship’ and when intellect ceases, everything cease, Kevaddha Sutta says. So when name and form exists, and so do the external world, its footing should be on the Intellect (which contains ignorance) of common man, before he acquire Arhatship. Here a question arises. What is the specialty of the ‘Intellect of Arhatship’ compared to the intellect of others who have not attained the Arhatship? Obviously both person's Intellect can’t be same. Since the nama-rupa is in mundane world, the nama-rupa must die out in ‘something’, that is trans-mundane. Nama-rupa cannot die out in anything that is not trans-mundane. So the ‘Intellect of the arhatship’ must be transcendental, trans-mundane and beyond the realm of logic and senses.

The mundane world and the objects contained in it are composed of the four primary elements, viz earth, water, fire and air. Kevaddha Sutta says that the four elements do not find their footing in ‘Intellect of Arhatship’. This implies that prior to attaining arhatship, for a bhikkhu, four elements (and mundane world) have their root on the intellect, or on something that co-exist with intellect, of the Bhikkhu. But a Bhikkhu’s intellect is not like the Intellect of the Arhat. The former has the intellect with ignorance co-exists with it. Due to this, the four elements and the mundane world find their foot on the ignorance. However, when the Bhikkhu attains Arhatship, the ignorance cease to exist and only pure intellect shines forth from the Arhat (Bhikkhu). Then the mundane world, nama-rupa and the four elements die out.

This whole discussion means, prior to arhatship attainment Nama-rupa has its root in the ignorance/avidya of the Bhikshu. But Avidya cannot exist alone because it is a dependent factor; an unreal factor. All unreals have to depend on a real. So Avidya must exist with an ultimate reality (Nirvana). When avidya becomes exhausted and die out, then Nama-rupa also cease to exist and only Intellect shines forth then.

What will happen after the mundane world and four elements die out in intellect? We may assume that, from the time of Arhatship achievement, nothing more found their foot on the Intellect (of Arhat). Only pure Intellect shines forth. Arhat experiences / realizes supreme bliss, thereon.

If we replace the ‘Intellect of the Arhatship’ with Consciousness, we will get the doctrine of Upanishads[6]. It is stated in many Upanishads that external world and everything has its existence in Brahman. (The thing to note here is that, when we suppose the Brahman as the substratum of everything, we get an Absolutist theory and when we suppose Intellect as the substratum of everything, we get an Idealistic theory).

“It is this heart (intellect), and this mind that were stated earlier. It is sentience, ruler ship, secular knowledge, presence of mind, retentiveness, sense-perception, fortitude, thinking, genius, mental suffering, memory, ascertainment, resolution, life-activities, hankering, passion, and such others. All these verily are the names of Consciousness.”

“This one is (inferior) Brahman; this god Indra, this is Prajapati; this is all these gods and this is these five great elements, viz earth, air, ether, water, fire; and this is all big creatures…… those that are born of egg, of wombs, of moisture and of the earth, viz horses, cattle, men, elephants, and all creatures that moving or flying, and in addition, whatsoever is immovable: all these are impelled by consciousness; all these have consciousness as the giver of their reality; the universe has consciousness as its eye, and consciousness is its end. Consciousness is Brahman.[7]

In the first stanza it is said that all of the mental phenomena, that falls in the domain of consciousness includes the Intellect[8]. The second stanza says that what all we sees in the world have their root in consciousness, which include the Intellect as per previous sloka.

In the Upanishads Brahman and Intellect are distinguished separately, by Advaitins. But not so, with other Vedantic schools. The above Aitareya sloka have been rendered in a different meaning in some translations.

This god Brahma, and this god Indra, …… these five great elements (earth, air, ether, water, fire), …… creatures born from the egg, from the womb, and from perspiration, sprouting plants, horses, cows, men, elephants, and whatever breaths, whether moving or flying, and in addition, whatsoever is immovable: all this is led by Intellect, and is supported on Intellect. The world is led by Intellect. Intellect is the support. Intellect is the highest reality.[9]

This is a different rendering of meaning from the non-advaitic standpoint and we know that there were different opinions on the exact teaching of the Upanishads as to whether it is professing non-duality or duality. This example indicates that the difference merely did not confine to the non-dual – dual aspect. Instead differences have been cropped into other areas also.

Here we may safely suggest that, Buddha might have been initiated into the Vedic teaching in the early days of his boyhood and studentship because that was the common custom among the nobles. This brings him in touch with the Upanishad doctrine. So there are ample reasons to propose that the Buddha may have substituted the unchanging Consciousness of Upanishads with the Intellect because the ‘unchanging character’ of the former is not in line with his doctrine of dependent origination[10]. Intellect cannot be argued as unchanging, making his theory safe and intact. On the other hand, the Buddha made the consciousness in complementary with the nama-rupa[11].

Anyway there is no hard and fast distinction between the Upanishadic doctrine regarding nama-rupa and Buddha’s doctrine about nama-rupa and its footing on the Intellect. Both are similar in the outlook and the minor difference, if someone feel, are due to the peculiar presentment of the doctrine in the Buddha’s discourse.

Buddha on indestructible consciousness:-

Potthapada Sutta is very interesting in many respects. It comments about the ten uncertainties to which Buddha did not answer and the soul – consciousness theory of the heretics is also touched upon. Then there is interesting long discussion on Consciousness and it states; passing consciousnesses. At the end of the passing consciousnesses Buddha assumes a ‘summit of consciousness’ which will not pass away, instead will remain unaffected.

In Potthapada Sutta, Buddha states several states of consciousness which passes away after the attainment of a higher level consciousness than current one. This process goes on as follows:-

1st, Consciousness due to the detachment[12].
2nd, Consciousness born of concentration[13].
3rd, Concentration of the bliss of equanimity.
4th, Consciousness of the absence of pain and ease.
5th, Consciousness of being only concerned with the infinity of space.
6th, Consciousness of everything being within the sphere of the infinity of cognition.
7th Consciousness of unreality as the object of his thought.

And at the end come the description about the final consciousness, which ends in a trance.

“So from the time, Potthapada, that the Bhikkhu is thus conscious in a way brought about by himself (from the time of the First Rapture), he goes on from one stage to the next, and from that to the next until he reaches the summit of consciousness. And when he is on the summit, it may occur to him: “To be thinking at all is the inferior state. There better not to be thinking. Were I to go on thinking and fancying, these ideas, these states of consciousness, I have reached to, would pass away, but others, coarser ones, might arise. So I will neither think nor fancy anymore.” And he does not. And to him neither thinking any more, nor fancying, the ideas, the states of consciousness, he had, pass away; and no others, coarser than they, arise. So he falls into trance[14]. Thus is it, Potthapada, that the attainment of the cessation of conscious ideas takes place step by step.”

The steps that Buddha described are almost similar to the steps of Yoga and Meditation practice, existed before him, and elaborated by Buddhist masters. In the summit of consciousness, the trance, into which the Bhikkhu falls in, may be akin to the state of Samadhi, as told by Yogins. In the Upanishads, consciousness is equated with Brahman in many places.

This summit of consciousness is not at all akin to the consciousness that is complementary to the nama-rupa. Then, is this akin to the consciousness mentioned in the Upanishads? No way to get an answer because such a question is not touched upon. Not just this question, but in the bulk collection of the discourses, that Buddha had with disciples, the word ‘Upanishads’ is mentioned nowhere!



[1] Corresponding to the Paramarthika and Vyavaharika Satya of Advaita Vedanta.
[2] Ironically enough, in Tevigga Sutta, Sri Buddha says, ‘Because none of the Brahmins have seen the Brahman face to face, how can we believe that there is such an entity?’. This teaching has lost its all weight as he himself says that he realized something which is beyond the grasp of logic and can realize only for the wise. Or was Buddha really criticizing the Upanishadic Brahman in Tevigga Sutta?
[3] Buddha did not achieve this highest truth, instead he realized it. That mean, he did not attain anything from outside to get into this highest level. He just realized something which is already present in him! Upanishads also says everything is divine and we have to ‘realize’ it.
[4] “The teaching of Buddha is based on two truths, the mundane and the ultimate. Those who do not know the distinction between these two truths do not understand the profound meaning in the teaching of the Buddha.” (XXII. 15 6)
[5] The two planes of ultimate reality are mere logical. It is not a real distinction. There are no two levels for the Ultimate reality. Ultimate reality is single.  
[6] In Buddhist Suttas nama-rupa and consciousness are complimentary. One cannot exist without the other.
[7] Aitareya Upanishad. III.i.2-3. (This is a translation from the Advaitic standpoint).
[8] Purely psychological factors are mentioned in the Upanishads.
[9] ‘A history of Indian Philosophy: The creative period’ – S K Belvalker and R D Ranade.
[10] Buddha cannot propose an unchanging consciousness in which nama-rupa find its foot because that will shake his very theory of ‘constant flux’ and ‘momentariness’. Whenever the Buddha talked about consciousness, the Thathagata made consciousness in complimentary with the nama-rupa, without which it cannot exist and sustain, thus keeping his dependent origination theory intact. When we assign intellect as the root of nama-rupa, there is enough gap to escape from the eternalism.
[11] “What must there be , in order that there may be name and material form? Whence come name and material form? – consciousness must be in order that there may be name and material form; from consciousness come name and material form. – What must be there In order that there may be consciousness? Whence comes consciousness? Name and material form must be, in order that there may be consciousness; from name and material form comes consciousness. Then my disciples, the Bodhisatti Vipassi thought: consciousness conversely depends on name and material form: the chain goes no farther.” --- Mahapadhana Sutta, Digha NIkhaya.
[12] “……Then that idea, (that consciousness) of lusts that he had before passes away. And thereupon there arises within him a subtle, but actual, consciousness of the joy and peace arising from detachment, and he becomes a person to whom that idea is consciously present.”
[13] “……Then that subtle, but actual, consciousness of the joy and peace arising from detachment, that he just had, passes away. And thereupon there arises a subtle, but actual, consciousness of the joy and peace born of concentration.”
[14] Trance means ‘ecstatic delight’.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

THE UPANISHADS AND TEACHING OF THE SRI BUDDHA - PART 1

Approving or reformulating the theories of the thinkers of anterior period, is not at all a fault of the thinkers or philosophers of the posterior period, because thought development is a continuous and dynamic process. Thought cannot mature within a short span of time. Thought need time to perfect itself. Thought of a single person or a handful of people may develop rapidly at an astonishing pace. But thought of a society or a circle of thinkers cannot progress that much easily. As new ideas arise in the circle/society, supporters and detractor will sprang up here and there. Then there happen vigorous debates and challenges among them. Amidst these heated contests and controversies, the theory or theories that stand high will pass to the next generations. There such theories will undergo the same course of contest and controversies which its predecessor idea/ideas had underwent. This process will continue endlessly unless the culture or civilization never interrupted by an internal or external disasters. And fortunately Indian civilization, culture and philosophy are unaltered since its inception and have not succumbed to any external threats so far. It successfully overcame every obstacles posed by the detractors.

All of the Indian philosophical streams are not exclusive to each another. But in fact, they are in a mesh. They are interrelated in the most natural way because they have co-existed and co-operated since the dawn of Indian civilization. They had undergone severe debates with one another to test the calibre and agility of their doctrine. Though this debates, they came to realize the weak and strong points of their own system and in order to fix the drawbacks of the system, they have not refused to accept certain contents of the opposite theories, into their own system. Then a synthesis follows. This is a common trend existed in the Indian philosophic circle. Common ideas are to be found in every philosophic doctrine. The differences between them, being minor, did not damage the underlying unity of the Indian philosophical systems.

It is often believed that Sri Buddha totally despised the Vedic teaching and set up a new religion[1]. But to say, Buddha set up a new religion, is totally baseless. Of course Buddha vehemently opposed the sacrificial outlook of certain Vedic rituals, but at the same time he was very much inclined to the knowledge based portions and teachings of that Vedic collection known as ‘The Upanishads’. Buddha has not uttered even a word against the Upanishads. In fact, most of the Buddha’s teaching and doctrines can be traced back to the Upanishads. Both the Upanishads and Buddha were similar in their opposition to certain ritualistic practices and the main doctrine of Upanishads being ‘tatvamasi’, do not draw strict boundary between different varnas[2].

As we see in the following pages, many of the teachings of Sri Buddha are derived from the Upanishads. It is quite non-controversial because nobody can formulate a full-fledged doctrine, like that of Sri Buddha, which has no anterior existence, either in part or full, in the other religious or secular texts. In fact, Sri Buddha explained the teachings of Upanishads in a new outlook and terminology. The core teaching of Buddha is almost akin to the Upanishads teachings. 

Dependent origination (Pratitya-samutpada):-

Sri Buddha always tried to avoid giving affirmative or negative answers to certain (metaphysical) questions in order to avoid the extremes of eternalism and annihilationism, and to walk strictly through the Middle Way. As an example, for the question ‘Does the self exist after death or does it not exist?’, Buddha gave a thick silence as the reply because he knew that if he give ‘Yes’, it will interpret as promoting the ‘Eternalism’. On the other hand, if he give ‘No’, he will be promoting the annihilation theory. So he remained silent.

Buddha knew that what all exist in this mundane world, does not exist ultimately, and also, they did not non-exist totally. Then what is happening to them? The answer of Buddha was ‘they change from one state to another state continuously’. In other words, they are always ‘becoming’. Depending on the previous conditions, new one arises. And after that another one arises. In short, everything in the mundane world is in dependent nature and thus devoid of ultimate existence. They are expressible only in Name and Form (nama-rupa). This was the position of Buddha regarding the mundane world. He always tread through the Middle Way, which effectively denied eternal and annihilation theories.

Among Upanishads, the famous ‘Madhu vidya’ is in the oldest Brihadaranyaka Upanishad[3]. It is taught by the sage Dydhyach[4]. Though this teaching is elaborate in the Upanishad, this doctrine’s origin is in Rigveda. ‘Madhu-vidya’ teaching is multifarious. But the main theme is that, everything in the world is interconnected with one another. Let us quote from the commentary of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Sankaracharya.

“Because there is mutual helpfulness among the parts of the universe including the earth, and because it is common experience that those things which are mutually helpful spring from the same cause, are of the same genus and dissolve into the same thing, therefore this universe consisting of the earth etc., on account of mutual helpfulness among .its parts, must be like that. This is the meaning which is expressed in this section…[5]

Another learned scholar comments upon Madhu-vidya as follows:-

“…… Sage Dadhyach who is introduced in the Brihadaranyaka, as having held the doctrine of the mutual interdependence of things, because all of them are indissolubly connected in and through the Self. To quote from the ‘History of Indian Philosophy Volume II’, all things are in mutuum commercium, because they are bound together by the same vinculum substantiate, namely, the Self. The earth, says Dadhyach, is the honey of all beings, and all beings are the honey of the earth, just because the same lustrous and immortal Self inhabits them both. The fire is the essence of all things, and all things are the essence of fire, just because the immortal self is the essence of both. Similarly, are the wind, the sun, the space, the moon, the lightning, the thunder, the ether, and even law, truth, and humanity the essence of all things whatsoever, and all things are the essence thereof, inasmuch as the same law, the same element, the same indissoluble bond connects them both…[6]

It is a repeating theme in Upanishads that phenomenal world (and the objects exist there) has its seat in Brahman. Brahman (with Maya) is its cause and all others are its effect. And this cause and effect is different (in the case of Nama-Rupa) and same (in the case of Essence). By knowing the nature of Gold (cause), we can grasp the nature of every ornament (effect) that is made up of Gold. In the same way, by knowing the Brahman (cause), we can understand everything arise from it (effect). All that arose from Brahman exist only as just nama-rupa, name and form. Nothing in the external world has independent existence. Instead they depend on each other and live in a relative existence. Everything has its ultimate existence in the transcendental/nirguna Brahman only.

Anatman/No-Soul theory:-

This is one of the natural outcomes of dependent origination theory. As per dependent origination theory, there is no ‘is’ or ‘is not’, no ‘being’ or ‘not being’, but only ‘becoming’. Everything in this world is changing continuously. Since a permanent and unchanging Atman cannot fulfill the ‘constant flux’ parameter, dependent origination theory give birth to the no-atman (Anatman) theory. According to this, there is no permanent entity, in the phenomenal world, that does not undergo change. This was Buddha’s firm doctrine. But there is a doubt shrouded here. Does Buddha propound the ‘anatman theory’ regarding the relative, mundane world only? Or was he applying this theory for both the mundane and trans-mundane (transcendental) plane[7]?

If Buddha’s position was former, i.e, there is no unchanging principle named Jivatman (or simply Atman) in human (relative plane of reality), then we must say that it is in accord with the Upanishads, if we admit that the central theme of the Upanishads is non-duality between Jivatman (Atman) and Paramatman ( Brahman)[8]. In fact, the Upanishads also propound that there is no ultimate individual soul (Jivatman/Atman) in human. Our thought about an unchanging entity like Atman in us and presumption that it is the true ultimate reality/Atman, is due to the avidya or ignorance in us. Buddha also suggested that there is no Atman inside us permanently. What we feel as Atman is a collective idea that our bodily functions give birth (i.e, Soul is a term that we gives for the combined operation of five skandas[9]) and this thought can be annulled by practicing eight fold path and realizing the four noble truths. Here Buddha clearly admits that ‘people may feel something, like an Atman, in them and they may experience this thing as unchanging’. That is, Buddha was not rejecting that ‘the people will not feel anything like Atman in them’. Instead Buddha was asserting that ‘the people may feel something like a Jivatman in them, but that conclusion is utterly wrong’. This was Buddha’s position[10] and this is similar with the Upanishad teaching.

The Upanishads says that the thought about an individual Soul (Jivatman/Atman) in human, is a product of avidya/ignorance[11]. By acquiring knowledge and practicing meditation, the people can get rid of the ignorance and then subsequently from the clutch of individual soul concept. He then realizes the supreme soul, Brahman. Likewise Buddha advocated his followers that ‘there is no real Atman inside body and if they feel so, they have to practice the noble eight fold path to get rid of that feeling’. The similarity in the stands of the Upanishads and Sri Budhha is indeed clear. 

Now come to the former stand. Was Buddha advocating that there is no supreme soul (Paramatman or any such equivalent concept) beyond the realm of mundane world, by rejecting the individual Atman? Actually, the rejection of the individual soul does not warrant the rejection of the supreme soul, especially since the Buddha have asserted many times that he had attained a highest level of existence, which is difficult to comprehend, beyond the realm of logic and only wise can attain[12]. Furthermore the state of Nirvana is oft said to be akin to the Brahman, though opposition views are also raised. Yet both the Brahman and Nirvana is a state where the aspirant can enjoy supreme bliss. The path that leads to this bliss is also somewhat same in both traditions. Upanishad lays importance to austerity, knowledge, discrimination, reflection (reasoning) and meditation. Buddhist way also includes many of these in a different style like understanding the four noble truths, practicing the noble eight fold path, meditation, self control, etc.

There are practical difficulties to reject an ultimate reality because relative, by default, indicates the existence of an Absolute. Without an absolute, relative cannot exist and sustain. While Buddha admit the changing character of the external world, he must have posited an absolute, without which relative cannot sustain. On the other hand if we think, all that exists is relative only, then we cannot distinguish and recognize relative as relative. Further more if there is no ultimate reality, then a Bhikshu will always be in the loopof Samsara; he will never attain Nirvana.

Yamakami Sogen points to the ultimate reality that Buddhists posits in later times,

While condemning as rank heresy, the theories of a universal creator and of an individual soul (hinatman), Buddhism not only acknowledges the permanence of the noumenal ego, but actually enjoins its adherents to train themselves in such a manner as to be able to attain union with the Great Soul of the universe, the technical term for which is Mahatman. The locus classicus for this injunction is a well known passage in Asanga’s Mahayanasutralankara sastra where it is recommended to the aspirant to Buddhahood to look upon the Universe as a mere conglomeration of conformations (samskaras), devoid of an ego and fraught with suffering, and to take refuge from the bane of individualism in the mightily advantageous doctrine of Mahatman.[13]

Also Buddha is often said to be propounded that, Buddha has attained a state of existence which is difficult to comprehend for the common man, who are un-wise[14]. But Buddha is not ready to explain the details because of the metaphysical character of the ‘existence’. Buddha’s teachings usually confines to the experimental world.




[1] The Buddha’s opposition to the Vedas is regarding the animal sacrifices contained in the texts. Buddha has approved that ‘the original and unaltered text of the Vedas as Apaurusheya’.
“The Buddhists have been equally deceived with Brahmins, in the estimate they have formed of the character of the Rishis. The power attributed to these revered sages by Buddhists is scarcely inferior to that of the Arhats, which we shall have to notice at greater length by and bye. By Sinhalese authors, they are represented as being possessed of superhuman attributes. In seeking to obtain Nirvana, it is great advantage of having been a Rishi in a former birth…… But Buddha denied that the Brahmans were then in the possession of the real Veda. He said that it was given in the time of Kasyapa (a former supreme Buddha) to certain Rishis, who, by the practise of severe austerities, had acquired the power of seeing Divine Bliss. They were Attako, Vamako, Vamadevo, Wessamitto, Yamataggi, Angiraso, Bharaddwajo, Wasetto, Kassapo and Bhagu. The Vedas that were revealed to these Rishis were subsequently altered by Brahmans, so that they are now made to defend the sacrifice of animals, and to oppose the doctrine of Buddha. It is on account of this departure from the truth, that Buddha refused to pay them any respect.”
—“The Sacred books of Buddhists compared with history and modern science” by Robert Spence Hardy. Page 30-31.
[2] Many non-Brahmin philosophers were prominently featured in the Upanishads and in Buddhist Sangha. The Upanishad teaching that ‘in the ultimate reality level, everyone is same’ had influenced the elites of that period and we hear sudra king Janasruti getting philosophical knowledge from the ascetic Rakva in Chandogya Upanishad and Sathyakama Jabala, even belongs to an unclear lineage, gets knowledge from the guru.
[3] Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Section V. This is a long chapter and cannot quote here.
[4] Rigveda I.116.12
[5] Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Sankarabhashya. Section 5.
[6] A constructive survey of Upanishadic Philosophy – R D Ranade. Page 52.
[7] This becomes a major concern especially as the Upanishads propose two states of reality; Relative reality (like external world), and a non-dual Ultimate reality, Brahman. As per the Upanishads, everything in relative reality has no independent existence of their own and their existence is rooted in the absolute reality, Brahman. So… was Buddha saying that there is no relative reality, called Jivatman, or ultimate reality, called Paramatman or Brahman? Or was he saying just, there is no relative reality, Jivatman?
[8] There are scholars, who argue that the Upanishads propose not the non-dual nature of Jivatman and Paramatman, but duality between them. But this article takes for granted that the Upanishadic doctrine is based on non-duality.
[9] Material form, sensations, perceptions, volition and consciousness are five Skandas in Buddhism.
[10] “The Tathagata sometimes taught that the atman exists and at other times he taught that the atman does not exist. When he preached that the atman exists and is to be the receiver of misery or happiness in the .successive life as the reward of its own Karma, his object was to save men from falling into the heresy of Nihilism (Uccheda-vada). When he taught that there is no atman in the sense of a creator or perceiver or an absolutely free agent, apart from the conventional name given to the aggregate of the five skandas, his object was to save men from falling into the opposite, heresy of Eternalism (Sasvata-vada). Now which of these two views represents the truth? It is doubtless the doctrine of the denial of atman. This doctrine, which is so difficult to understand, was not intended by Buddha for the ears of those whose intellect is dull and in whom the root of goodness has not thriven. And why? Because such men by hearing the doctrine of Anatman would have been sure to fall into the heresy of Nihilism. The two doctrines were preached by Buddha for two very different objects. He taught the existence of atman when he wanted to impart to his hearers the conventional doctrine; he taught the doctrine of anatman when he wanted to impart to them the transcendental doctrine.” – Prajnaparamita Sastra, Nagarjuna.

“The existence of the atman and of the Dharmas (i.e, of the Ego and of the phenomenal world) is affirmed in the Sacred Canon only provisionally and hypothetically, and never in the sense of their possessing a real and permanent nature.” -- Dharmapala in his commentary on the Vijnanamatra-sastra. (Both quotes citing from ‘Systems of Buddhistic thought’, by Yamakami Sogen.)
[11] Brahman reflecting on avidya is the Jiva, while Brahman reflecting on Maya is the Isvara.
[12] Brahma Jwala Sutta.
[13] Systems of Buddhistic Thought – Yamakami Sogen. Page 24.
[14] “… Into the mind of the exalted one, while he tarried, retired in solitude, came this thought: ‘I have penetrated this deep truth, which is difficult to perceive and difficult to understand, peace giving, sublime, which transcends all thought, deeply significant, which only the wise can grasp… For man, who moves in an earthly sphere, and has his place and finds his enjoyment in an earthly sphere, it will be very difficult to grasp this matter…” – Mahavagga. i.,5,2.