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Buddhism to blame for India's ills
By Francois Gautier
The Indian Express Monday, September 25, 2000


Buddhism offered a simple way out of human misery to anybody, whatever their status. This may explain why at the beginning of our era, the entire northern and eastern. India was practising Buddhism. Unfortunately, after Buddha's death, his followers gradually made Buddhism a religion of rigid tenets, do's and don't, which not only
diminished its popular appeal, but also harmed India. This harm has two facets: non-violence and maya.

Many Buddhists like to believe that Buddhism disappeared from India, because it was slowly "swallowed" back by Hinduism at the hands of the vengeful Brahmins. But the truth could be entirely different. Hinduism of the Vedas and the Gita always held ahimsa as one of its highest spiritual values, but at the same time understood that
violence can sometimes be necessary to defend one's borders, women and children. Which is why, until Buddhism made non-violence an uncompromising, inflexible dogma, India's borders were not only secure, but extended from Afghanistan to Kanyakumari.

But when Ashoka embraced Buddhism, one sees that soon thereafter the first invasion -- that of Alexander the Great -- submerged the subcontinent: India's great protecting armor, which had worked for millenniums, had been breached. As the first Muslim invasions started submerging India in the seventh century, Hinduism was able to initially withstand the violent onslaught of Islam, thanks to its tradition of Kshatriyas, but contrary to what history books say, Buddhism was literally wiped off the face of India in a few centuries, as it refused to oppose any resistance.

For the Muslim soldiers, Buddhists, who adored statues and did not believe in Allah, were as much infidels as the Hindus, and they razed every single Buddhist temple (and also Jain, as the ruins below Fatepur Sikri have proved) they encountered, burnt all the precious libraries and killed tens of thousands of monks, without encountering any resistance. This is why you cannot find a single trace of Buddhist structures today in India, save for a few stupas, which were too cumbersome to be destroyed.

The second unfortunate legacy which Buddhism gave to India is maya. "Everything is illusion, everything is misery, misery, misery, Buddhists said -- and still say today -- and the sooner you get out of it by attaining nirvana, the better. But Hinduism had always taught that the Divine is concealed in all things, animate and inanimate, and that every aspect of life has to be conquered by the spirit: even the Asura is a fallen angel, doing unknowingly God's work. Hence Hinduism had addressed itself to all aspects of life, from the mundane, as brilliantly shown in Khajurao, to the subtle spiritual planes which stand one after the other above mind. In contrast, Buddhism came and said: "Just leave matter and take refuge in Buddha". And as result, because Buddhism has had a subtle influence on Hinduism, India started disdaining her physical envelope, her very body
and material sheath, India's yogis started withdrawing more and more in their caves, its people neglecting their surroundings, its leaders forgetting about beauty. And the result is there today for everybody to see: an ugly India, full of trash and refuse, with very little sense of aesthetics left; cities unplanned, polluted, crowded, hideous; a people who says it worships its mighty Himalayas and sacred Ganges, but which has allowed the
former to be nearly completely deforested and the latter to be so polluted, that sometimes it is not even fit for bathing.

And Indians cannot put all this on account of poverty, because its rich people are probably the most guilty, often not caring for anything and anybody beyond their own doorstep. It is true that Buddhism has nearly completely disappeared from the subcontinent but its rigid spirit endures in subtle ways: Mahatma Gandhi was
no doubt influenced by Buddhist non-violence when he refused Churchill's proposal in 1943 for a Commonwealth status after the Second World War, if India collaborated with the Allies' efforts against Japan and Germany; or when he constantly gave in to Muslim intransigence, thereby precipitating India's Partition. Today, we see that the enemies of a dharmic India often use Buddhism as a weapon, whether it is the much hyped Ambedkar, who advocated conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, or Indian intellectuals such as Praful Bidwai and Arundhati Roy, who borrow from Buddhist thought to show why India should not have the atom bomb.

We see also, in a country like Shri Lanka, a very militant Buddhism, chauvinistic in its promotion of Sinhala interests and anti-Hindu in its persecution of Sri Lankan Tamils. We notice too that new avatars of Buddhism, such as the remarkable Vipasana movement of Shri Goenka, have not fully lost their anti-Hindu slant and are still
proposing a very rigid non-violence. Western historians like to call Emperor Ashoka "the Great" and India chose at Independence his three lions trademark as its symbol. But was he that great? He went from being an extremely cruel emperor to a rigidly non-violent one, not a very balanced mental attitude for a religion which always
promotes the "middle path".

Western historians call Emperor Ashoka "the Great" but was he that great?

 


   

 

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