"But the Buddha is not a Hindu!"
But the Buddha is not a Hindu!
I often mention the Buddha and write about him. He has attracted me since my childhood days. A young person who has read one of the articles in my Blog wrote to me wanting to know more. I directed her to some books and shared some pdf files. After that she wanted to know whether I was a Buddhist or Hindu! Surprised I pursued the question and received the reply, "But the Buddha is not a Hindu!"
Such is the knowledge that permeates in society. Buddha is a Hindu, born of Hindu Kshatriya (ruling class) parents. His name is Siddhartha, his father’s name Sudodhana, and his mother Maya Devi. He came at a time when there was a lot of emphasis on rituals and the inner path was forgotten.
Born in India, he was destined to renounce the world. His father therefore kept him immersed in riches and entertainment so he would be attached to the world. But destiny has its way and one day the young lad had the opportunity to tour the outside world where he noticed anomalies. The young Prince witnessed and was troubled by disease, old age, and death. He could perceive the temporary nature of the world and therefore renounced it in search for the truth. This too is a familiar thing in Hindu society. It is a Hindu tradition.
He tried out many paths that did not yield result. At last he sat with resolve under the Bodhi tree and achieved enlightenment. Two Hindus from Odisha met him and offered him food. They became his first disciples.
Buddha revived the Sanatan Dharma that is the Heritage of India. He was not the first. There were 27 Buddha's (enlightened ones) before him, all belonging to the Sanatan tradition. The word Buddha is a Hindu word.
Till his death Buddha never classified his teachings as a separate religion but clarified that it was a personal path to be followed by those individuals who seek enlightenment. His monastic path never deviated from Hindu tradition of renunciation and seeking. His followers were Hindus.
However, as is won't, a movement took over, reinterpreted his teachings, and established Buddhism as a religion full of rituals, tantra, mantra, and deities. The exact things Buddha had warned against. Only certain monks, a minority, tried to keep his teachings alive.
The Hindus should not stay away from the Buddha thinking his is a separate religion. Swami Vivekananda was a great fan of the Buddha and his meditative pose imitates him.
Buddha is a Vishnu Avatar. Hindus never have anything against him. It was the conduct of the later monks who deviated from the path and adopted tantric practices that fell afoul of societal norms that was resented.
I have met the Hon'ble Dalai Lama, many Buddhist monks, tried to learn anapana meditation from one very senior monk who passed away before I could complete, and visited monasteries in Sikkim and Odisha. There is absolutely no talk about any difference.
India has always had reformers. Apart from the Buddha there is Guru Govind Singh of the Sikh movement, Sri Chaitanya of the Bhakti Movement, Sri Ramakrishna of the Ramakrishna Movement, Sri Aurobindo of the Supramental Descent Movement. There are also spiritual stalwarts like Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadutta, and Krishnamurty who spell out the personal path. Do we say these are not Hindu movements? There is no such thing as Chaitanyaism or Ramakrishnaism, or Aurobindoism. Hinduism is dynamic and is ever evolving. Reforms are the strength of Hinduism. Sects provide for focused community supported practice.
Today there is an effort to see the followers of Buddha in a different light by many factions, as also the Sikhs, for political reasons. People should be wary. Such efforts lead to disharmony and violence. They also prevent the seeker from finding his/ her path, and that is a matter of great concern. Let us move towards unity and not encourage such moves.