Wednesday, 27 October, 2021

Swami Vivekananda on relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism

  • Chinmay Prasun Biswas
  • 24 September, 2021 12:00 AM
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Swami Vivekananda on relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism

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It is known to us that Swami Vivekananda addressed the World Congress of Religions in Chicago, the USA, on 11th September, 1893, but that was not the only day of his speech. The session continued for 15 days. On 26th September, 1893 he delivered a historic speech on relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism. Let us have a look at the synopsis of that historic speech.

This was Swamiji's statement: You have already heard that I am not a Buddhist but even after that I am. If China or Japan or Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) follows the teachings of the Great Master, India worships him as God incarnate on earth. Just now you have heard that I am going to criticise Buddhism, but I expect that you will accept it in the sense I have already told you. It is not at all my intention to criticise him whom I worship as God incarnate on earth but it is our views about Buddha that his disciples could not understand him properly. The relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism at present is almost to that between Judaism and Christianity. To be more specific, by Hinduism I mean the religion that has originated from the Vedas. Jesus Christ was i.e. born as a Jew and Sage Shakya was a Hindu. However, difference lies here that the Jews not only rejected Jesus Christ, rather they crucified him. On the other hand the Hindus have accepted Sage Shakya as God and worship him placing him on a high altitude. But the main difference between modern Buddhism and the real teachings of Lord Buddha are that we the Hindus want to show lies elsewhere i.e. Sage Shakya did not come to preach anything new. Like Jesus he also came to fulfil and not to destroy. There is difference that in the case of Jesus the elderly people i.e. the Jews could not understand him, In the case of Buddha his own followers could not realise the significance of his teachings. As the Jews could not understand the fulfilment of the Old Testament, similarly the Buddhist could not realise the fulfilment of the truths of Hindu religion. I repeat that Sage Shakya came not to destroy, but he was the fulfilment, the logical conclusion and reasonable development of Hinduism.

The religion of the Hindus is divided into two parts: the ceremonial and the spiritual. The spiritual portion is studied particularly by the monks. In that case there is no difference of caste. Man from the highest and the lowest caste may become monks in India. Then the two castes become equal. In religion there is no caste; it is simply a social custom.  Shakya Muni himself was a monk and it was his glory that he was wide hearted to extract truth from the hidden Vedas and spread it among people. He was the first human being in the world to preach religion.

His glory consists in his wonderful sympathy for everybody, especially for the ignorant and the poor. Some of his disciples were Brahmins. When Buddha was teaching Sanskrit then it was no more the spoken language of common people in India. Then it was confined only to the books of scholars. Some of Buddha’s Brahmin disciples intended to translate his teachings into Sanskrit, but he distinctly told them, “I am for the poor and for common people. I shall speak in their language.” Till today, most of his teachings are in the vernacular of India at that time.

Whatever be the high position of philosophy and metaphysics, so long the matter like death will exist in the world, so long the sound of wailing will spring up from human hearts out of extreme frailty, so long faith in God will continue. From the standpoint of philosophy disciples of that Great Master speedily rushed towards the eternal rocks i.e. teachings of the Vedas, but could not crush those; rather they removed that eternal God from common men who hold that god fondly within themselves. As a result, Buddhism naturally plunged into death in India.

At the same time Brahmins were also hampered in many ways. Buddhism brought massive change in an intention to reform society, that wonderful sympathy and kindness for all which greatly influenced Indian society. Even a Greek historian was led to write that no Hindu was heard to tell a lie or no Hindu woman was known to be unchaste.

Looking at the Buddhists on stage Swamiji started saying – O Buddhists, Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism nor Buddhism can survive without Hinduism. So, realise that our isolated ideas make it evident that without the intelligence and philosophy of the Brahmins, Buddhism cannot stand. Similarly, nor the Brahmins cannot move without the heart of the Buddhists. This separation between the Buddhists and the Brahmins is the root cause of degradation of India. That is why, India  has now become the land of three hundred million beggars and for this reason India has been enslaved by foreign conquerors for the last thousand years. Hence, let us cine and join the wonderful intellect of the Brahmins with the heart, noble soul and wonderful humanising power of the Great Buddha.  


The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes