Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/fs/package.module.fs.php on line 258

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 31 in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/router/package.module.router.php on line 465

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 30 in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/router/package.module.router.php on line 465
Buddhism Archives - Page 3 of 5 - varnamvarnam | Page 3
Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /nfs/c03/h02/mnt/56080/domains/varnam.nationalinterest.in/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160
Tag Archives | Buddhism

The Buddha and Dr Führer

Even though the popular version of history says that Siddhartha was born in Lumbini in present day Nepal, there are a bunch of folks from Orissa who want to prove that the Buddha was born in Kapileshwar village in Orissa. This version is not just a emotional outburst of some fanatics, but of some archaeological experts. This is based on an Asokan inscription which is believed to be a fake. 

This search for Buddha’s birth place has quite a history; Rohan L. Jayetilleke’s lengthy article gives a good summary of current research. One interesting tale seems to be the discovery  a stone coffer found in 1898 by the British planter named William Peppé. The documentation on the rim  said that it belonged to Buddha and was burried by the Sakya clan. Charles Allen has a new book,The Buddha and Dr Fuhrer: An Archaeological Scandal, which tells the story of this discovery.

A comprehensive final chapter assesses the validity of the Peppé dig using carbon dating. In dealing with recent discoveries in the region, and with modern interpretations of the evidence, Allen covers the grim, yet hilarious battle, between India and Nepal over the true location of the Buddha’s birthplace. Unlike the respective tourist boards, he concludes that we don’t yet know where exactly the Buddha was born and raised, though Allen favours the Nepalese claim that the ruins of Tilaurakot by the river Banganga are the site of Kapilavastu. And he vouches for the authenticity of Peppé’s discoveries.[The Buddha and Dr Führer]

Comments { 1 }

The Mystery of the 5th Century Sarnath Buddha

When it comes to Buddhist art, one of the first thing that comes to mind is the Gandharan form which developed when Classical Greece met Buddhism in the Af-Pak region; it was a Big Bang moment in Buddhist art. Less mentioned is a major breakthrough which happened in 5th century Sarnath — the place where Buddha gave his first sermon — when a new style of representing Buddha was created. The origins of this style still remain a mystery.

Compared to other representations of Buddha, the Sarnath Buddha (see pic) is quite different. He is seen wearing a see through dress which covers his torso and has no folds; most other styles show dress with folds. The second point is not quite clear in the photo, but the left knee is a bit bent. Third, his genitals are hidden. Also, the eyes look down and he looks feminine. This unique style spread to rest of the Buddhist world — to China, to Vietnam, to Cambodia.

To put this in perspective, look at Bala Buddha (125 CE), one of the important anthropomorphic representations of Buddha, found in nearby Mathura. The statue is 9ft tall and he is staring right at you. Also his genitals are not hidden; the pose is quite strong and powerful. He wears a underskirt and exposes his torso. This is not surprising since Ananda Coomaraswamy found that the inspiration for the Bala Buddha came from the Hindu iconography for the Yaksha. You can see similar pose for a 5th century Vishnu as well. Now if you go back to the Sarnath Buddha (see pic) you can see that all the manliness has been drained out.

What exactly happened to trigger such a change? Was there a political situation which caused Buddhists to change their representation or was it in response to an ascendant Hinduism? (Note that while this change was happening, the Gupta empire was in political turmoil). Is this a feminine representation to come up with something like the ardhanari concept? Or is this a boyish look to appeal to women or queens who were Buddhists ?

Or is there any other theory?

Notes:

  1. Recently I attended a lecture by Prof. Robert L. Brown of UCLA on this topic. This post comes from the lecture notes.
Comments { 2 }

Briefly Noted: The Buddha (PBS)

For someone interested in Buddha’s life, there are numerous books ranging from the ordinary (Deepak Chopra’s Buddha) to the brilliant (Thich Nhat Hanh’s Old Path White Clouds). When it comes to movies or documentaries, I have seen more on the Dalai Lama (Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun) than the Buddha himself; Siddhartha is summarized quickly in programs like Michael Wood’s The Story of India.

In this new PBS documentary, he gets two full hours — highly insufficient to understand his work in detail, but just sufficient to piqué your interest. The documentary combines video, cartoons, and Buddhist art to narrate Siddhartha’s biography.The miracles and the super natural elements are not left out; you get the traditional story. The documentary also finds some time to briefly discuss meditation and mindfulness and why it is effective. It is combined with commentary by Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks, Prof. Robert Thurman, a bunch of American Buddhists I have never heard of.

The PBS website for the program, as usual, is a treasure trove of information. Checkout the dynamic timeline or the Educational Resources

Comments { 0 }

Apsidal Shrines

Last year there was news of discovery of a 2000 year old Shiva temple complex in Uttar Pradesh, one of the oldest in India. Besides the age, what was interesting was the shape: the temple was apsidal. It was widely believed that the apisdal shape had Buddhist origins and was used by Hindus later. Historians like Romila Thapar have argued that if Hindu temples had such shape, they were converted Buddhist chaityas or shrines

This theory, in fact, cannot be credited to Marxist historians; they evolved out of a colonial myth. Colonial archaeologists, who found that the written record of India was imperfect, resorted to studying the history of art. This study, they hoped, would give a better historical record as well help understand the relation between various Indic traditions.

This Marxist/Colonial explanation — that Hindu traditions replaced Buddhist shrines — actually makes sense if you follow a linear chronology. There is no dispute over the fact that there was a resurgence of Hinduism  inspired by bhakti and hence it can be logically argued that this resurgent Hinduism or traditions usurped Buddhist chaityas. Also, Buddhist shrines have been around since the 4th century BCE while Hindu apsidal temples make their appearance few centuries later.

There are three reasons why the Colonials and Marxists are wrong.

First, archaeology has disproved many cases. For example, one site where an apsidal temple was found was Barsi in Maharshtra. According to the British, a Buddhist shrine was converted to a Trivikrama temple, but later archaeological excavations found an apsidal brick temple with a wooden mandapa. The mandapa was not a later addition, but an integral part of the temple. A similar theory was proposed by the British for the Kapotesvaraswamy temple in Guntur and the Durga temple at Aihole, but both were disproved.

Second, this theory ignores another possibility – co-existence. In Nagarjunakonda valley, which was settled from third millennium BCE to sixteenth century CE, there is evidence of both Buddhist establishments and Hindu temples, both using the same plans in different areas. Besides this, Naga traditions too  used the same style. Between second century BCE and seventh century CE, there is a rise in apsidal Buddhist shrines in peninsular India. Hindus also constructed new apsidal temples. For example in Kerala, after 800 CE, numerous sanctums with apsidal plans were constructed, especially the ones dedicated to Ayyappa. All these show that  various branches of Hindu traditions shared style and space with a number of domestic and regional traditions.

Finally, a point regarding the origin of this style. The earliest elliptical shrines are seen in Vidhisha (second century BCE), Nagari in Chittor (first century BCE) and Etah, Uttar Pradesh (200 – 100 BCE). An apsidal mud platform was also found in Ujjain (500 – 200 BCE). That’s not it. At Daimabad (1600 – 1400 BCE), a complex with a mud platform having fire altars and an apsidal temple with sacrificial activity were found. Similarly at Banawali, a Harappan site on the banks on the Sarasvati bed, there were fire altars on an apsidal structure. Thus the elliptical shape had religious significance from a much ancient time and there is only tradition which still builds fire altars the way people in Banawali did.

References

  1. Himanshu Prabha Ray, The apsidal shrine in early Hinduism: origins, cultic affiliation, patronage, World Archaeology 36, no. 3 (2004): 343. (Thanks Ranjith)
  2. Michel Danino, Lost River: On The Trail of the Sarasvati (Penguin Books India, 2010).
  3. Upinder Singh, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, 1st ed. (Prentice Hall, 2009).
Comments { 6 }

Converting Tiger Woods

When it was discovered that Tiger Woods had a distributed harem, one of the issues that came up was his faith: Woods is Buddhist. Fox News anchor Brit Hume suggested that Tiger convert to Christianity and obtain “forgiveness and redemption.” The reason this conversion was needed is because Christianity offers a way for redemption from sin while Buddhism does not.

This can be quickly dismissed by blaming Hume’s ignorance of Buddhist philosophy, but that suppresses a larger issue hidden in that statement. To the question on if  Buddhism offers a way of forgiveness and redemption, the answer will always be no. According to Buddhist philosophy, there is no one to forgive you; you attain nirvana through spiritual practice without belief in constructs like Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

The issue here is not of theological difference, but of theological superiority and this argument has been made before regarding another Indic religion; it was a common theme among missionaries operating in India in the 18th and 19th centuries.

To see an example we need to go to go to Serampore (in Bengal) of 1799 where the Baptist missionary William Ward preached. He was an evangelical who believed that even unbelievers had to hear the Gospel to be saved from damnation. According to his colleague and mentor William Carey, Hindus definitely had knowledge of God, but it was not the same as attaining salvation by accepting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Ward, who had gone beyond the rituals of Hinduism, agreed with this. He was not one of those missionaries, who during Alexander Duff’s time, preached in street corners. He had learned Sanskrit from the Head Pundit at Fort William –  one Mrityunjay Vidyalankar. He had read Vedanta and even translated Vedanta Sara.

According to him Non-Christians — Africans, Indians, Greeks, Romans — all knew about God. That was not sufficient; only through divine revelation, you would know how to worship God. Hence the idolaters would never reach the Kingdom of Heaven and any religion which did not have this concept was irrational and absurd.

Three decades after Ward, Peter Percival who spent fifteen years in Tamil Nadu, did a similar comparison. He found that the goal of a Hindu was to merge with the sole, self-existing essential spirit. He then held this concept of an impersonal Brahman against Hinduism; the God mentioned in the Bible had personality, free will, and absolute power and hence that theism was more attractive.

You just can’t win.

In his staged apology for the media, Tiger Woods talked about his religion

Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.[Tiger Woods’ apology: Full transcript]

Tiger Woods also ignored the televangelist’s suggestion.

References:

  1. Dr G A Oddie, Imagined Hinduism: British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism, 1793-1900 (Sage Publications, 2006). 
Comments { 2 }