Buddha was born in the times when Hinduism had floundered from its roots and had degenerated into mindless rituals and blind faith. But that is exactly the milieu in which great incarnations happen – when dharma becomes dogma. When no longer Dharma – which is the set of rules which was designed to lead you to Moksha – frees people, but binds them further into the matrix of the mind.
“ yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata abhyutthanam dharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham “ said Krishna famously in the Gita. Whenever Dharma declines and adharma raises, I will happen – time and again. Interestingly in another place when Krishna mentions the word Dharma “Sarva–dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja aham” – Give up all Dharmas and surrender unto me, he uses the plural “Dharmas”. That refers to all other paths that have arisen over the course of time as aberrations and dead ends. But in the previous statement he uses the singular Dharma – which is Sanatana Hindu Dharma. The science of liberation. The science of liberation is not a set-of-rules. But it is a finger that points you in the right direction.
If society is leaning too much left, the finger points you to the right. If society is moving right, the finger points to the left. But calling Sanatana Dharma as a “left pointing religion” or a “right pointing religion” is a mistake. A costly mistake that most Hindus make and certainly the dogma based western and communist historians who are only used to arbitrary and fixed do-s and don’t-s based religions.
Coming back to the Buddha, the land that he was born into was replete with wrong understanding of the Vedas and rituals. And hence the finger of the Sankhya Muni pointed people to move in the direction of the inner self. The fact that Buddha did not talk about God is interpreted by people to mean that he was an atheist. Far from it. He didn’t talk about God because the word was much misused and misunderstood in the times he was born in.
Much like Kapila, founder of his Gaddi – the Mahanirvani Peeta, Buddha went back to the basics – to the Sankhya philosophy. The pure dry truth of the self and liberation. It was needed to root out the extraneous practices that had taken over Sanatana Hindu Dharma.
Buddha was initiated into Sanyas into the Mahanirvani Akhada and his teachings are replete with terms and concepts from Sankhya. His name itself – Sakhya muni, is a modification of the term “Sankhya Muni”. His state of liberation – Nibbhana, is the pali version of Kapila’s Nirvana. The place he was born in fact was called Kapilavastu after the great sage Kapila. After his enlightenment experience, his first teaching happened in Sarnath, Varanasi which is the seat of the Mahanirvani Akhada.
Buddhists literature, such as the Jataka tales, state the Buddha was Kapila in one of his previous lives. (See Āryaśūra; Justin Meiland (Translator) (2009). Garland of the Buddha’s Past Lives. New York University Press. pp. 172, 354. ISBN 978-0-8147-9581-1).
As Buddhist art often depicts Vedic deities, one can find art of both Narayana and Kapila as kings within a Buddhist temple, along with statues of later Buddhist figures.
The Great Failed Experiment
Apart from ignoring deity worship and fire rituals to commune with nature and the divine, Buddha also talked against the warrior class and violence and pointed to people that they need to move towards a less violent society. But taking his words as absolute rather than a response to the current context, subsequent generations made a dogma of his teachings. And thus the stage was set for the worst nightmare than this land has faced in all its existence – The Islamic invasion.
It was Buddha’s glorification of Sunya – of emptiness, of inaction, and the rejection of all desires and his downplaying of the need to defend oneself that made India weak. Weak as a military power, weak as a producer of goods, weak in its self image and so on. The life negative streak that Buddha began took many centuries to take effect. But by the time of Shankara’s period, it had completely ruined the nation.
Buddha’s experiment to go back to the Basics of non violence and oneness was a failure. And we can see that in the ease with which the Muslim invaders come into this great land that has survived for tens of thousands of years before. And from there the collapse of the culture to the cunning attacks from the British was but a small step.