Hinduism - Lesson 14

Buddhist Dissent

The key insight of the Upanishads is the identification of atman with Brahman. Buddhists deny both atman and Brahman.

Lesson 14
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Buddhist Dissent

IX. The Voice of Dissent: The Brahminical Challenge

A. Anatman (No-Self)

1. The Five Aggregates of life changing

2. Impermanence of everything

B. Pratitiya Samutpada (Interdependent Arising)

C. Mahasanghikas

1. Claim that Buddha is divine

2. Siddhartha Gautma was not the only Buddha

3. Mahayana vs Teravada Buddhism

X. The Emergence of Popular Bhakti Movements in India

  • Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world and one of the oldest. It is about 12% of the world population and about 95% are in India. Hinduism is difficult to define. There is evidence of civilization in the Indus valley as early as 2800 BC. The sacred literature that is the basis for Hinduism was created and developed over hundreds of years. It was originally transmitted orally and was eventually written down.

  • Introduction to fundamental ideas and literature that are basic to the Hindu religion. The first lecture given for this class is not available at this time. This lecture begins on the class outline at II, C.

  • Discussion of the influence that the Vedic tradition has on Hinduism. 

  • Mahavakyas is made up of two words meaning, “great utterances.” The creation stories are a collection of different stories with various themes. The world is created by a divine figure dismembering themself and their body becomes the world. The caste system has a racial element to it based on some of the creation narratives in the RgVeda.

  • The Upanishads are one strand of the Vedas. Brahman refers to the all-pervading reality in the Upanishads, not the Brahmin caste. The question throughout the Upanishads is, “Who or what is Brahman?”

  • Brahman is the ultimate reality of the universe. Our atman is encrusted with karma and stuck on the wheel of Samsara. A Hindu's goal, in the process of being reincarnated through thousands of lifetimes, is to rid themselves of karma so they can achieve moksa, oneness with Brahman.

  • Maya is the ability of the gods to create the world and give it the appearance they choose, thereby concealing the true nature of Brahman. Karma is the principle that what you sow, you alone reap.

  • A Hindu must work off their karma to be released from the wheel of Samsara and achieve moksa when their atman becomes one with Brahman. Yoga was developed as a way to achieve the goals of the Samkhya philosophy. Hindus see God as a material cause of the universe, not an efficient cause.

  • The Mahavakyas are “great sayings” that give you insights into core teachings of Hinduism. The Brehed Aranyaka Upanishad shows that Hindus believe that diversity can come through oneness and not be an “other.”

  • Sankara says that Brahman is unknowable and we can't perceive any of his qualities. The rope-snake metaphor is often used by Hindus to discuss the difference between perception and reality.

  • Hindu writers often use metaphors to illustrate and teach the essentials of the Hindu philosophy. In their writings, they refer to these metaphors in a way that assumes that you know and understand them.

  • The purpose of this lecture is to see the structure of Hinduism at a glance. Hinduism operates and a philosophical level and a popular level. Hinduism attempts to resolve the relationship between knowledge, works and devotion. The four stages of life and the caste system determine much of cultural structure of Hinduism. Hindus worship many Gods.

  • The three major dissent movements that area a challenge Hinduism are Buddhism, Janism and materialism. Hinduism is adept at absorbing other movements. Buddhism claims that there is a teaching that makes it possible for you to reach the state of Nirvana which is liberation from all suffering. The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama. The content of his teaching is the four noble truths and the eight-fold path.

  • The key insight of the Upanishads is the identification of atman with Brahman. Buddhists deny both atman and Brahman.

  • The Bhakti marga is branch of Hinduism that emphasizes a spiritual journey undertaken by a devotee that will culminate in a state of union with God or mutual indwelling of the deity and the bhakta.

  • The Hindu gods have identifying characteristics that make them easy to recognize when you see them in temples or other settings. The Trimrti are the three major gods of India which are Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Brahma is not often visually represented, so Vishnu and Shiva are seen the most. Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer. Vishnu has 10 incarnations or avatars. These are partial incarnations and don’t represent the fullness of Vishnu.

  • The Siva icon always has the presence of the Trishal, which is a sacred weapon of destruction. There is also the nag (cobra), damaru (drum), third eye, Ganges river flowing out of his head. The dancing Siva has a damaru in one hand and a flame of fire in the other that represents creation and destruction of the world. He also has dreadlocks and the trunk of an elephant.  The third eye of siva is what Hindu women have on their forehead. The Siva Lingum is the most dominant icon in north India.

  • The Brahminical branch teaches that works and devotion lead to true knowledge (Upanishadic vision, tat twam asi). Bhaktis say that knowledge and works should lead to devotion.

  • The Ramayana is an epic account of India. It is the story or epic of Rama and Sita, and is the origin of the tradition of Suti. Mahabharata is the epic of India. It’s the longest collection of poems in the world. The Bhagavad-Gita  is the most important part of the Mahabharata. It talks about both the dharma of caste and the dharma of denial and renunciation.

  • Gurus integrate different parts of the marga system. Paramahamsa Ramakrishna declared the unity of all religions. He claimed to have visions of Hindu gods and Jesus Christ and Mohammed and that all religions lead to the same ultimate reality, sat chit ananda. Swami Vivekananda was the most well-known follower of Ramadrishna and brought his message to the western world. He accepts tat twam asi, the great insight of the Upanishads, but thinks that everyone, not just Brahmans can perceive that unity. (The last point of the lecture was cut short due to a technical limitation.)

    You may download the text of Vivekananda's speech by clicking on the Handouts link in the upper left corner.

  • These are nine of the major holidays celebrated in India. Sankara has been called India’s greatest philosopher. Sankara emphasized universals and Ramanuja emphasized the particulars, similar to Plato and Aristotle in Western thought. Sankara has greater status as a philosopher, but Ramanuja has had a great influence on how the masses practice Hinduism.

    The chart Dr. Tennent refers to near the end of the lecture is the “Three Vehicle Structure of Hinduism,” which is labeled Lecture 6 in the complete class outline pdf document on the class page.

  • Brahmabandhav Upadhyay was an upper jati Brahman teacher who converted to Catholicism. He attempts to explain Christianity by using Advadic motifs. Brahmabandhav is an example of how a Brahman can address the Brahminical community using a Brahminical line of reasoning.

  • There are opportunities for preaching the gospel and planting churches, but there are significant challenges. There is a difference between being unreached and being unevangelized. Homogenus unit principle is one factor that makes it difficult for the gospel to spread in India. It’s important to send people to unreached groups and use a strategy that is effective for those groups.

In-depth survey of philosophical and popular Hinduism’s historical and theological themes. Exposure to current strategies being used to bring the gospel to Hindus and how Christian theology is being formulated in the Indian context.

Dr. Tennent occasionally uses pictures of Hindu gods or other visual resources in his lectures. You can download a document with these pictures by clicking on the Hindu Deity Pictures link. 



Dr. Timothy Tennent
Buddhist Dissent
Lesson Transcript


And we're going to develop some of the concepts of that at this point. So keep this chart always in your mind. By the way, if we were to have developed Buddhism, Buddhism has the same basic three vehicle structure. Amazingly, you've got, as we already saw, the classical Buddhist philosophy with the the Theravada Buddhism, the monastic Buddhism, you have the Mahayana, which is the descent movement, the laity, which creates the Buddhist firm, and then you have a third tong, the wheel of Dharma is chosen, which we're not going to mention this class, but just to let you get a taste for this, I call the Vajrayana on the Thunderbolt vehicle. And that's and that's why you get like, things like Tibetan Buddhism in China. So essentially Hinduism and Buddhism can both be understood quite in a very logical way through this three vehicle structure. I think it's a very helpful way to look at it. So once you understand that we look at we're looking at three major strands, then you have a place to hang everything within all of us diversity. So what we're doing now, we have explored a good bit of this metal. We've explored at least the first part of this. And then they were going to jump over and we're going to be able to explore the way of devotion and we get into kind of popular Hinduism and what that actually looks like. Okay. But before we launch into that, let me just review briefly any questions on this last page of the handout. How is classical Buddhism distinct from Hinduism? And let's just see if this makes sense to us after our discussion. Number one Hinduism six Moksha as the final end. Buddhism refuses moksha out of compassion for others.


This is the whole ethical thing. Hindus has a non ethical base, but it was ethical and compassionate. I put in prison at a certain level because again, this is a ethics without any ontological base. Three Hinduism affirms ultimate reality and Atman and Brahman. Buddhism denies any ultimate reality, including upon our Brahman Hinduism, at least in part of its expressions, affirm self mortification and extreme asceticism. Buddhism betrays itself as the middle way between the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-denial. Hinduism, in its classical form, embraces the superior role and knowledge of the Brahmin caste in mediating the terms of liberation. Buddhism, at its root, is anti rabbinical dissent movement challenging the stranglehold of the prominent Brahmin caste and the terms of liberation. Hinduism accepts many paths or markets to liberation from Sahra Buddhism, IX develops specific eightfold path or prescription to follow if one is to achieve enlightenment. Now, one little comment last point that is technically true that the Eightfold Path never really changes in any form of Buddhism. The way it gets changed is that rather than a person arduously working along these paths and each step along the eightfold path has what they call fetters and various things that stop you. And you have to get over that. And so it's not it's not like something you can do in an afternoon. So this happened. This happens in many, many lifetimes and so forth. So the body sort for ideal comes into it and says, okay, you're at this point right here, you recite the name of We have a Buddha, for example, and you will be brought all the way to there. It's like, go to go collect 200, you know, go immediately. There you get it. You know, you can go past all the hotels and all that without paying any rent.


You just go and collect your 200. That kind of thing is a very exciting possibility because this bodhisattva has already gone through all that and he can help you in other cases is not quite that way. And there's other kinds of way this is permeated. And they would like the Zen or whatever will say the meditation. These various other can help you, but only if you submit to certain meditation forms. There's all kinds of different schools of Buddhism, there's several different schools of Buddhism, but none of them really deny the basic fact that you've got to get to the eightfold path, the whole diversity of paths you want to use it. That term is really how to get through the one path of any questions or comments about this. Okay, then let's pass out the next handout and we're going to begin to develop a once in A on how. Jane. Jane. Jane Addams descent is based on a particular doctrine of ahimsa. Ahimsa is a doctrine of an extreme view of nonviolence. And so the Jains believe that the Hindus are not actually taking their own message in terms of nonviolence. So they don't believe there's any possibility you should have any violence toward anything. So they will like care for rats and stuff in India and very bizarre. But what they advocate is that rather than things you do, creating bad karma, that the way to get rid of your karma is not through like good action or positive actions the way we would determine in this middle path, but through inaction in action creates positive results. So it creates challenges along that axis of the karma and how we act or don't act in the world. I decided that we really didn't have time to develop Jainism as another example to dissent because it's not really significant for the developer of Hinduism.


I just want to get a general. Yeah. Yeah. That's fair enough. We're finally moving over to the third part of the chart. In India today, the majority of Indians, I would say significant majority of Indians are influenced by some form of religious bhakti, as the word bhakti is referring to a devotional form of Hinduism. The word bhakti is a Sanskrit word, which is normally translated into English as devotion. There's all kinds of people who say, that's not a good translation. I'll let you give it your own thought on this. Essentially, the root word is pudge. P h, a j, and the noun that that word represents is where we get various kinds of ideas, such as belonging to or worshiping arise from that. So the term bhakti marga means the way of devotion, the path of devotion, but it often has the notion of sharing in or being in relationship with a deity, a particular deity. Now this creates a very powerful relational conception. And I'm convinced in studying Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, that the original classical version of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, all three deny that anyone can know God in a personal way. Today you have major branches of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism who argue that you can have a personal relationship with God. Now, what's that? Tell us. That tells us. That is it tells me my thinking on this is that it reveals an inherent weakness in the original casting of the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim vision. And people have a longing in their heart to know God. I believe this is part a general revelation. I personally believe in the concept of propriety of Angelica, that God prepares us to receive the Gospel prior to our reception of it. Jesus has no one comes the Father, and then one comes as the Father draws them.


The whole idea of being drawn by God implies a process. And I like the fact that if we understand God's prior action in someone's life and my view, it reinforces the emphasis on God's sovereignty. So this should not be any problem for one's view of election or reform theology. If you're reformed, in my view, because election, if nothing else, is an example of God's prior action on your behalf. So if you emphasize solely on the historical agent of transmission, the person, a witness is the person, be a person, be becomes a Christian that creates the acts as if I am the acting agent. You responded to my action. You become a Christian. That can put an overdue emphasis on myself as the agent. I believe in the importance of the agent. Okay. But if you acknowledge the fact that God's been working prior to you walking into the door or when you witness a share, this puts the whole thing in, including your acts in the context of God's sovereignty. So I believe that people long in their hearts to there are several universal problems who recognize that there are centers. To some degree, they recognize the need, the desire and longing to know God. So what you find in Islam, especially with the Sufi movement, with Hinduism, with the bhakti movement, with Buddhism, with the bodhisattvas ideal, is that you have this major concessions made to establish a avenue through which people can express this. Now, there's different ways to interpret that. You can interpret that as a stepping stone to the gospel or yet another counterfeit of this of the enemy to keep somebody from really coming to the real thing. Okay, that's fine. Accept that. But whatever the case, I think we can recognize that this longing, this desire to know God is an important thing to recognize.


It is present in the Hindu heart. I've observed this over and over again in India, talking to Hindus. Hindus are no different than anybody else. I don't care how much of all this stuff they been they've drunk deeply with. The bottom line is they desire to know God. They want to be assured of their forgiveness. So this book, Deism rushes in, encouraged, really, I think, rushed into a void because the biomedical shackles were creating a hard clad system which would made it very difficult for people. So suddenly you have the emergence of marvelous, marvelous things such as this, the Bhagavad Gita, the song of our Lord, I mean the very idea of a song. We're now in a new category. Something different is happening here. The Bhagavad Gita, the Song of the Lord. Now you're having a warmth pouring into Hinduism. And part of what the Bhagavad Gita says is that now if one turns your thoughts toward Lord Krishna, Lord Krishna can save you. Lord Krishna can deliver you. This is a powerful new statement that we have not seen in Hinduism before. Geeta 411 Krishna says how several men approached me. Even so, do I welcome them for the path men take. Every side is mine. Oh Prasanna they're translating. Hear the word bhakti this devotion as he welcomes them. That's a very loose translation. It literally means in this context they participate with God. They enter into this connection with God, their relationship with God. And so here you essentially have the Lord saying, Come to me and I will. I will save you, I will deliver you, I will help you. I will deliver you. There's so many that we'll have to take time, maybe next time to develop this in more detail.


So the word bhakti eventually develops a whole new pathway. So you no longer have just the way of knowledge in the way of works, because the way of works is still part of the medical shackling, because it's still a Brahman would say to a sutra or a shoe drop. You be a good shoe dry, you serve me, you work in my household, you clean my house, you clean my toilets, you sweep the streets, you do all these things and hope for a better lifetime. Someday you'll be like me. So even if somebody is not part of studying the Vedas and the upon the shards and going through all that, the very fact that they are being told, in effect in their society to get on with their caste duties is a way of reinforcing the overall worldview of the botanical challenge. So this is really the first big break for the rabbinical shackling because. Now you don't have the Brahmans, only you have these deities that can circumvent the Brahmans. In fact, many times were hostile to the Brahmans. They will jump over the whole political thing and will say, People deliver, people help people, and they become brought into a relationship with God through it. So this develops this whole third path called the Buckley marga path of devotion, which I'm defining here on the handout, a spiritual journey undertaken by a devotee that will culminate in a State of Union with God or mutual indwelling of the deity. And the back to the doctor is the person who, you know, who's performing these devotional activities. The Bhakta is the person. Bhakti is the act. Bhakti is the act. This is a journey of devotion. That hopefully will culminate in some kind of either a union with God, which I know sounds very much like part of the mystical tradition in the West and many ways has parallels with that.


Some ways is very different than that, but kind of like the beatific vision kind of idea is definitely there, but not as much, but some kind of union with God in some way, or a mutual indwelling of the deity in the bucket or where they share in some way. This is kind of a devotional reinterpretation of Thomas say, rather than being merged as one ontologically we are coming together now in a way that relationally I am one with God, not in essence because they don't believe they don't accept this. There's only one essence. They're not going to accept that kind of ontology. They don't accept the fact that there's God and there's us. There's two different entities involved here, and yet we are entering the relationship in some way where mingling where they were in dwelling one another. So you have now in bhakti Marga, you have not only this conception of devotion, but normally the way it is done is that you focus on a single deity. So Krishna, or one of the avatars or incarnations of Vishnu or Shiva, one two Shiva's incarnations, one some deity you focus on and you devote yourself to that particular deity. And that is a sound and is deeply influenced by this Buddhist ideal, because that's exactly the way the Buddhist understood it, that if you devote yourself fully to Amitava Buddha, for example, the avatar about Buddha will in turn save you off of the eightfold path through the eightfold path and deliver you into salvation. So the Hindus accept the basic idea. They just bring it into this ontology. And now you've got the idea that if you devote yourself to Krishna, for example, Krishna can deliver you, Krishna can save you. That is certainly one of the major interpretations of this book, is that by devoting yourselves to Krishna, Krishna will deliver you and that in fact all deities are present in some way inside of In this case Krishna Krishna contains all other did so by worshiping Krishna.


You worship all deities. So this creates a much more practical way for a typical village Hindu to live out their lives. Because how in the world do you relate to 330 million different gods? You can't. It's impossible. How do you deal with the fact that you're not a Brahmin? So all of these insufferable obstacles get wiped away with bhakti ism because now you can say, okay, my family or my profession. This is our God. We worship this God. We devote ourselves to this God exclusively and this God will deliver us. It's essentially a form of modified monotheism or theism. Where they devote themselves solely to one God. And so it is without trying to be monotheistic in the ontological sense, it functions as a functional monotheism. So many, many Indians in India, despite everything we've said to this point about the medical worldview and all of that, many Indians are, functionally speaking, monotheistic. Now, there are many, many millions of Hindus that are functionally polytheistic as well, because now the way not now, but all through time, there are people who said to themselves, Indians are good about cover your bases. And so even though the bhakti movement they belong to may teach them you just force of Krishna and you don't worry about anything else. Most Hindus don't like to risk that, so they will go and perform Puja to a number of different gods. So many will have like five or six book things going on. So you basically keep everybody happy, keep all the gods happy so certain deities are famous for. Like Lakshmi famous for wealth or prosperity. Well, is it would be really good to sacrifice to break open a coconut, sprinkle some flowers over Lakshmi, because just in case.


Just in case. So that's a function of polytheism. So but this kind of real religion on the streets is definitely a part of this worldview. Yes. You're saying that we can worship any one God in doing that, nor have we done. That's right. Yeah. Right. There's some deities that are higher up on the, you know, chain of, you know, deities and others. And so with the Bhagavad Gita, the Geeta explicitly teaches this because if you read the Getty, you'll notice he has this vision of Krishna and he sees he takes on this transcendent form and he starts seeing all these deities inside Krishna. So he recognizes as well every deities inside Krishna. That kind of thing is explicitly taught the Geeta about Krishna. So Krishna has in many ways has a kind of a step up. But what's what happened is a whole nother literature flood of literature developed. I know you don't want to see any more literature because you like you're overwhelmed with the upon us knowledge, the Vedas and all that. But there's a whole nother flood of literature that emerged called the Piranhas. And the piranhas represent essentially what you just said. These are the individual exploits of this deity, this deity, this day, this deity. And so many of them will make this claim. They all just worship me and I'll save and all the rest. The Geeta is on a higher plane because even though this is in the Mahabharata, this is widely regarded as Shruti. I know that doesn't really make sense because we said to my body or to Smriti, but in practice many Hindus regard this as Shruti. So because of that, Krishna often has a higher place and the piranhas are viewed by like really classical Hindus.


The product looked down upon as like popular literature, but it has a very powerful effect in the villages. So in that sense, yes, I certain he can take on tremendous claims about if you worship me, you worship all deities at the temple. They have these videos playing like stories that were the gods fighting back and forth, like one big chariot from something that. Parameters. Well, based on what you just said, it could be the back of that gate itself. It could be the Ramayana. It could be the Mahabharata. It could've been Varanasi. It could have been any of those. It probably was one of those. But it's hard to say because they all involve battles of chariots. You know, you killed my son and now I'm going to kill you. I like that. Yeah, that could still be any of those. I mean, the joke that we tell all is about is Indian movies. Have you seen one in movies? In them all? There's always a man who chases a woman. And the woman always has a tree and looks down from the tree and all this, and they sing to each other. And it's always these massive dance scenes and all that. So when they put out the Life of Christ by Indian production, they had the scene where Herodias dances for the head of John the Baptist had seen the mark. And that singing, which is found only in Mark, I mean, it's alluded to in the place, but it really developed in Mark's gospel but not really central to the gospel story is 45 minutes of the movie that dancing otherwise within any movie names on it, you've got to have a dancing, so you've got to have chariots and people killing each other.


That's just part of the epic worldview.