August 02, 2007

Buddhists Blown Up in Thailand and a Blow-up Buddha in New York

The title of this post is very dark, but that's just because this situation in Thailand could use more attention. Here are some brief notes from around the infobahn:

The powers that be in Gujarat have decided that Buddhism and Jainism are not merely branches of Hinduism. This ruling happened because of the recent and continuing conversions of dalits. The nationalist Hindu government wanted to say that the conversions weren't actually conversions. But maybe the law saying that Buddhism didn't exist would paradoxically protect Buddhists from persecution? Funny how India keeps trying to swallow up its problem child.

“If Buddhists are treated as part of Hinduism, then all its followers in China, Japan and much of South-East Asia become Hindus,” said Girish Patel, a noted social activist.

More death and mayhem in southern Thailand. Does this make it on the news in Europe and other parts of Asia? Because I sure haven't seen anything in the American media about it, except the occasional buried article in some of the bigger dailies. But then again nothing about Africa except a few bits about Darfur make it through the Iraq filter here either.

rubinmuseumbuddha.jpgAnd here's a cool exhibit at the Rubin Museum: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama. (Pictured: a blow-up reclining Buddha from the exhibit.) In case you didn't realize it, the Dalai Lama equals Buddhism. Also, every article that mentions the Dalai Lama has to compare him to Pope Benedict, to the latter's detriment. I don't think this happened as much with John Paul II. I think people expected more from Benedict, that he would wake the church up to the modern world. The next Pope should be from Latin America or Africa. Interesting process, picking the Pope. And the Dalai Lama. We'll see what kind of mainstream press Buddhism gets when that happens. Maybe the kid gloves will come off.

- Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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Shantanu's picture

It is historically inaccurate to confine the sharamic traditions to just Buddhism and Jainism. The Shramans were an eclectic combination of many different sects of Indian soceity. A majority of the Shamans came from the Brahminical clergy of ancient India. There were other sects like Ajivikas who also subscribed to the asceticism of the shramans. This is very clear from the most common surname of modern day Brahmins - Sharma. 'Sharma' comes from the root word 'Sharman' or 'shraman' and this is a very common Brahminical surname in India. The 'Sharma' claims are descendents of the 'Shramanas'.
It is also clear that Jain Basidis and Brahmin agraharams have coexisted in India for a very long time. This can be evidenced in the old Jain and Hindu centres in southern India like Moodabidri, Sravanabelogola and Karkala. Basically they share common cultural icons. Several Buddhist lineages also found the vedantic tradition more persuasive and accepted themselves in the Brahmincal fold. The modern day Gaud Saraswat Bramins were the descendents of Gaudapada who came from a Buddhist lineage of masters and ultimately came to an understanding of Vedanta. The Gaud Saraswat Brahmins are descendents of Buddhists in India.

In historical India, a jain and a Brahmin share closer cultural ties with Buddhist as compared to any other sect, caste or clan. All these talk of casteism and dalitism is an attempt to drive a wedge against this historical truth.

Bal Patil's picture

As the Secretary-General of the All Indian Jain Minority Forum actively pursuing the Jain religious minority right under the Constitution on par with the national religious minorities in India, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Zoroastrian (Parsee) I have campaigned against the Gujarat Anti-conversion bill treating buddhists and Jains aspart of Hinduism. I am happy that the gujarat Governor has taken the right step of returning the Bill.

As Mr.Girish Patel has rightly noted treating Buddhists as part of Hinduism would have ipso facto converted global Buddhists to Hinduism.

Permit me to give a few links to my articles on Jain minority right on which I have had the privilege to speak and present papers in international conferences in the USA, Japan, the UK:

http://jaina.in
http://sabrang.com/cc/archive/20...ec06/ forum.html.
http://www.indiancatholic.in/new...ad.asp? nid=5566
http://americanbuddhist.net/node/4092

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/
Bal Patil on Hinduization in Gujarat
The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006 defines Buddhists and Jains as Hindus.
Date filed: 15-02-2007

http://www.herenow4u.de/Pages/ en...AndRenewals.htm
The Rise, Decline And Renewals Of Sramanic Religious Traditions Within Indic Civilisation
With Particular Reference To The Evolution Of Jain Sramanic Culture
And Its Impact On The Indic Civilization
(A Paper presented in the Conference on Religions in Indic Civilisation in New Delhi, December, 18-21, 2003, Organised by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in collaboration with International Association for the History of Religions and India International Centre.)

It would be useful to discuss the current religio-Hindutva environment in India and the historiographical context in which these two Sramanic-Indic religions – Jainism and Buddhism – arose in ancient India. There has been near irreparable damage done to the religious identity of these two major religions by a conscious attempt at "Hinduisation" of these faiths or appropriation within the "all-Hindu" fold, in large measure attributable to a Vedic-Brahmanic influence. Prior to independence and the adoption of the Constitution, the ideologues of a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu state), including Veer Savarkar, consciously appropriated anti-Brahmanic religions like Jainism and Buddhism as part of Hinduism.
Thereafter, right from India's birth as a republic and our adoption of the Indian Constitution, a significant section of the Jain community has been disturbed by their inclusion along with Sikhs and Buddhists in Explanation II of Article 25 of the Constitution within the "Hindu" definition, done, ostensibly, to carry out certain reforms of religious institutions.

On January 25, 1950, a delegation of Jains met the then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and other central leaders to draw their attention to the anomalous position of Jains under sub-clause (b) of Clause 2 of Article 25 and a petition was submitted to him. Jawaharlal Nehru clearly assured the delegation that Jains were not Hindus and their separate status would be preserved.

Six days later his principal private secretary, AV Pai replied to the petition where he said: "It is clear that Buddhists are not Hindus and therefore there need be no apprehension that the Jains are designated as Hindus. There is no doubt that the Jains are a different religious community and this accepted position is in no way affected by the Constitution."

Addressing a public meeting in Allahabad on September 3, 1949, Nehru had said: "No doubt India had a vast majority of Hindus but they could not forget the fact that there are also minorities, Moslems, Christians, Parsis and Jains. If India was understood as a "Hindu Rashtra" it meant that the minorities were not cent per cent citizens of the country" (The Statesman, September 5, 1949).

A careful reading of Article 25 as a whole makes it crystal clear that there is no reference to the Hindu religion except with regard to Hindu religious institutions of a public character in sub-clause (b) of Clause (2). It is also clear that the provision for social welfare and reform or throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus also specifically refers to the Hindu religion. It is therefore impossible to fathom what constitutional purpose the founding fathers had hoped to serve by construing the reference to Hindus to include a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion. Why was it necessary to drag in these three – the Sikh, Buddhist and Jain religions – and club them together with the reference to Hindus?

Apart from a few exceptions, most histories and encyclopaedias of world religions fail to mention Jainism as an independent religion. There are pervasive misconceptions about the origin of Jainism, about its relation to Vedic-Brahmanic Hinduism, about Mahavira being the founder of Jainism, about Jainism being an offshoot of Buddhism or Hinduism, or a reformist sect of Hinduism. There are misrepresentations galore. Jainism is overshadowed by Hinduism and Buddhism and, if noticed at all, is mentioned in passing as one of the ancient Indian religious movements subsidiary to Buddhism.

It is a well-attested historical Indological fact that Buddha was a junior contemporary of Mahavira (the 24th Jain prophet erroneously called the founder of Jainism) during the sixth century BC. Moreover, no less a person than Indian Buddhist, Bhikshu Dharmanand Kosambi (father of the eminent scholar-historian-archaeologist, DD Kosambi) has written, on the basis of Buddhist scriptures, that Buddha was for some time a disciple of Mahavira in the initial stages of his search for an ascetic/renunciatory discipline. But finding the Jain renunciatory practice too severe, Buddha left to search for his own Middle Path.
Hermann Jacobi also believes that "Jainism goes back to a very early period and to primitive currents of religious and metaphysical speculation which gave rise to the oldest Indian philosophies. They (the Jains) seem to have worked out their system from the most primitive notions about matter."

In the Buddhist scripture, Majjima Nikaya, Buddha himself tells us about his ascetic life and its ordinances, which are in conformity with the Jain monk's code of conduct. He says: "Thus far, Sariputta, did I go in my penance. I went without clothes. I licked my food from my hands. I took no food that was brought or meant especially for me. I accepted no invitation to a meal." Buddhism scholar, CAF Rhys Davids has observed that Buddha found his two teachers, Alara and Uddaka, at Vaishali and started his religious life as a Jain.

In Digha Nikaya's Samanna Phal Sutta, the four vows of Lord Parshvanath (who flourished 250 years before Mahavira's liberation) have been mentioned. The Anguttara Nikaya Attakatha contains references to Boppa Sakya, a resident of Kapilavastu, who was Buddha's uncle and who followed the religion of the Nigganathas i.e. Jains.

In my Civil appeal No.4730 of 1999 in the Supreme Court of India before a Three-Judge Bench In 2005, the Supreme Court of India declined to issue a writ of Mandamus towards granting Jains the status of a religious minority throughout India. The Court however left it to the respective States to decide on the minority status of Jain religion[2]

In the judgment, the Supreme Court opined[3]
"Thus, 'Hinduism' can be called a general religion and common faith of India whereas 'Jainism' is a special religion formed on the basis of quintessence of Hindu religion."

I am pursuing this matter in the Supreme Court of India for the expunction of certain obiter dicta observations. In the meanwhile in another two-judge decision of the Supreme Court of India said:

"dated August 21, 2006, in the case of Committee of Management, Kanya Junior High School Bal Vidya Mandir, Etah, UP vs Sachiv, UP, Basic Shiksha Parishad, Allahabad, UP & Others, delivered by judges, SB Sinha and Dalveer Bhandari, emphatically states:
"(The) Jain religion indisputably is not a part of Hindu religion. The question as to whether the Jains are part of the Hindu religion is not open to debate. Jains have a right to establish and administer their own institution..."

- BAL PATIL, Secretary-General, All India Jain Minority Forum, New Delhi,
Ex-Member, Media Expert Committee, Govt. of India,
Ex- Member, Maharashtra State Minority Commission, Govt.of Maharashtra, Mumbai.
Ex-President, National Society for Prevention of Heart Disease & Rehabilitation,
Co-Author: JAINISM (Macmillan Co 1974). with Colette Caillat, (Member Institut de France, Paris,) & A.N.Upadhye, (ex-President, All-India Oriental Conference,) Author: SUPREME COURT'S VOLTE FACE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT (Published by Govt. of Maharashtra, 1980) Author:Jaya Gommatesa! Foreword by C.Caillat (Publisher :Hindi Granth Karyalay, 2006, Mumbai) My translation of Dr.L. Alsdorf's German Beitraege zur Geschichte von Vegetarismus und Rinderverehrung in Indien is presently being edited for publication by Dr. Bollee, Indologist. My translation of Dr.Asdorf's French Les Etudes Jaina, Etat Present et Taches Futures is published by Hindi granth Karyalay, (2005) Mumbai. as The Jaina Studies Present State and Future Tasks edited by Dr.Willem Bollee. Participant and speaker in the 7th Jaina Studies Workshop on Jaina Law and Jaina Community, Centre for Jaina Studies, SOAS, University of London, & Dept of Indic Religion, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, University of Lund. Participated and presented a paper on the Evolution of Sramanic Jain Tradition and Its Impact on Indic Civilisation & Religious Fundamentalism in the XIXth World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religion, Tokyo, Japan, 2005.