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on-going discussions on Buddhism

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Tue Aug 04 1998 - 09:12:16 PDT

Dear friends,
I came across some references to Buddhism in the ongoing discussions
members have had on
"tirumAlai".
They seemed to me to imply that Buddhism ceased to flourish and prosper in
India because it came under doughty attack from Sankara and the
post-Sankara Vedantins.

While discussing this same topic in a different context some time ago with
a scholar-friend of
mine here in Madras I learnt that this historical view is incorrect.

It is held that Vedantins in and around the time of the Vedantic
renaissance (variously dated by historians between 3 B.C. and 5 A.D)
directed their attack more against the doctrines of Sankhya and MimAmsa
than against Buddhism! And this in spite of the fact that Buddhism rejected
Vedic authority out of hand while both Sankhya and MimAmsa were an integral
part of the Vedic tradition!

I learn that the "real warriors" against Buddhism were not Vedantins but
"tArkikA-s" --- those adept in "tarka-sAstrA" (formal and symbolic logic)
known to be a branch of "nyAya" --- one of the 14 "angA/upanga-s" or
accessories
of Vedic curriculum.

The real heroes of the battle-royale were not Sankara Bhagavatpada or the
Azhwars or Sri.Ramanujacharya but UdayanAchArya ( a "tArkika-n") and
Kumarilabhatta (a "mImAmsaka-n").

To the "mImAmsakA-s" the Buddhist's summary rejection of Vedic ritualism
was the proverbial red rag waved under the nose of a raging bull !
Kumarilabhatta, it can be seen, has written copiously criticising the
Buddhist's distaste for Vedic ritualism. He and UdayanAchArya were chiefly
responsible for the failure  of Buddhism to acquire a large following in
the country.(Scholars mention here the texts of "tarkapAdam" of
Kumarilabhatta and
the "bauddhadhikAram" by UdayanAchAryA).

The Vedantins came much later and there was no need for them to launch
another assault on Buddhism whose influence on the common people of India
was already waning.

On the contrary the Vedantins were actually more keen to expose the flaws
in the
systems upheld by the  opponents of Buddhism viz. the Vedic "mImAmsakA-s". 

(Which leaves one wondering what might have happened if the Buddhists, the
MimAmsakas and the Vedantins had all been contemporaneous! Would the
Vedantins have then joined forces with the Buddhists against the MimAmsakas
or
vice versa ? Interesting question of history, isn't it? Someone could
possibly take it up for a PhD thesis!) 

So please make no mistake about this singular fact of the history of our
philosophy
: Vedanta had more scores to settle with "mImAmsam" than with Buddhism. The
decline of Buddhism in India was caused more by "mImAmsam" and "tarkA"
rather than by Vedanta. (By implication, Buddhism as a philosophical system
was (and perhaps still is) not very robust in its logical premises.) 

Now Saint Tondar-adi-podi too, by all accounts, lived somewhere between the
6th and 7th century. He must have been a thorough Vedantin in outlook
judging by all those fine and liberal sentiments he expresses with such
exquisite felicity in his "tirumAlai". I am therefore tempted to conclude
that he had more against the "mImAmsaka/sankhyA" ethos of his times than
against the un-Vedic philosophy of Buddhism. He was not so much the
crusader against an alien faith such as Buddhism as he was the
"anti-establishmentarian" trying to expose the moral and social rot of his
age. He was an "insider-rebel" trying to cleanse his own house. He was'nt
one of those religious rabble-rousers spitting fire and hatred at  faiths
coming in from "outside".

Although it would be downright unfair to stereotype the mystic "AzhwAr", I
dare say he was more of religious "reformer" than "fundamentalist".

This fact must be kept in mind, please, whenever we venture to discuss
Buddhism, Vedanta and the periods antedating and post-dating them.

I only bring it up here for the information of members who I thought might
be
interested to know about the genealogy of various ideas, doctrines and
literature in the Vedic mould.

adiyEn,
sudarshan