Continuities/Discontinuities between Hindu and Buddhist Veneration of Objects Deemed Sacred
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Table of Contents
Reassessment of Traditional Religions
Continuities/Discontinuities between Hindu and Buddhist Veneration of Objects Deemed Sacred
The peoples having one origin and one community, they also have one ultimate end, God, whose providence, goodness, and purpose of salvation extend to all until the elect meets in the holy city, may glory God will illuminate and where the people will walk in his light (Klostermaier, 2014). Consequently, people await from the various religions the answer to the obscure riddles of the human condition: what is a man? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is good, sin, pain, happiness, death, the last judgment?In the declaration,it takes into account some of the world’s major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, and this study discusses the continuities or discontinuities between Buddhist and Hindu veneration of objects deemed sacred.
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Hinduism is generally considered a mystical religion. Hinduism is more a “symposium” of religions than religion itself. It has no historical origin with a charismatic founder. Its sources are the mystical and mythical speculations contained in the so-called revealed books and traditions, which have evolved and expanded like a snowball that becomes a mountain. This also consists of their longevity (Schonthal, 2016).
Hinduism could be called the religion of dharma (law of universal harmony), which contains the following fundamental elements.The Brahman-atman relationship (the cosmic and the personal principle): man’s end is to lose oneself in Brahman (Taylor et al., 2016). The law of Karma-samsara (the law of the repercussion of one’s actions upon the fate of rebirth or reincarnation): This law lasts until it is not completely purified. The social practical consequence of the Varna (Varna) of which three superiors (Brahmana, sacrificers [Brahmins or priests], depositaries of Vedic knowledge; Kshatriya, warriors; Vaishya, producers, and the lower fourth (shudra, servants), besides the without caste. The notion of redemption or salvation consists essentially of the liberation (Mukti) of samsara (cycle of birth) and Maya(the multiplicity of illusionary appearance) and immersion in Brahman (Andersen, 2014).
The three ways of liberation, out of which two behaviours are distinguished in Hinduism. First of all, there is a behaviour called monkey behaviour, exemplified in the behaviour of the monkey cub, which has been active since birth and that clings closely to the mother to find refuge and protection. This behaviour implies two ways: the way of knowledge (jnana-marga), which teaches to know one’s own reality and how to distance oneself from the world, and the way of action (karma-marga), which implies ritual actions and disinterested social behaviours (Eliot, 2018).
The second behaviour is that of the cat, exemplified by the passive kitten that finds refuge in maternal protection and which implies a commitment to devotion: the path of love (bhakti-marga). Whereas in the first two ways liberation is the fruit of knowledge (vidya) and personal initiative, in the third, this is as much a gift from above as a conquest of man.Liberation is, in any case, a complete fusion of Atman with Brahman, it is a loss in the cosmic self.
While the first two pathways belong to the higher social classes, which can access knowledge and liberation through the work of gurus or yoga masters (meditation), the third pathway is open to everyone even to shudra and to women and men, one lives and manifests in popular religion (Gallois, 2017).
Three major Hindu religions can be distinguished: Vixnuism, with the veneration of the solar god Vixnu; Shivaism, with the veneration of the god Shiva; Shaktism, with the veneration of female deities. Particularly live the devotion to Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, who represents a true holy protector for those who resort to his intercession (Klostermaier, 2014). In Bhagavad-Gita the path of devotion is above all a behaviour of devotion to Krishna: Fix your mind on me. Be my devotee, sacrifice to me, lean before me, and after you have exercised yourself, devoted to me, you will reach me.
As you can see, Hinduism is a mixture of religions, a mixture of human and social reunions, books and sacred traditions, philosophies and conceptions of the world, dharma, and ways of liberation. One of its constant is profound religiosity. Hindu is religious by intrinsic conviction. For him, the divine is as real as breathing air. Though deeply immersed in this cosmic flow, he tends existentially to full liberation in God, provided that his union with the Supreme Being is understood. And to that end, it commits all the energies of its being. The pathways of knowledge, meditation, renunciation, ascetic action, and devotion are the instruments for achieving this mystical contact with God (Broo, 2016).
In Hinduism, the primacy is given to the spiritual life as a constant pursuit of spiritual salvation. In this context, the elevation of the moral life is underlined through the exercise of human virtues such as respect for men and nature, kindness, honesty, asceticism. From this also derives his tolerance for other recognised religions more or less adequate ways of salvation. That is why in Hinduism there is always a behaviour of assimilating the positive elements of other religions (Broo, 2016). Take, for example, the Neo-Hindu movement of the Ramakrishna Mission (founded in 1879 by the disciples of Shri Ramakrishna), which regards the founders of other religions as incarnations of the one deity (Eliot, 2018). This is why Jesus Christ is also admired as a significant divine avatar with an extraordinary moral and religious doctrine. Doing so, however, Hinduism does not consider itself as an alternative to Christianity, but assimilating the Christian religion, presents itself as a global and not partial religion and therefore superior to Christianity itself (Klostermaier, 2014).
The most relevant socio-religious boundary of Hinduism – which later becomes a cultural datum that permeates the entire environment – is that of caste: Hindu homo religiosus is also homo hierarchical with a still-today socio-religious incommunicability between the various castes. Consequently, the concept of love and service to one’s neighbour is very limited, while socio-economic discrimination, not only tolerated but also religiously justified, is widespread (Bulkeley, 2016).
Beyond the conception of the substantive equivalence of all religions, all substantially valid in manifesting the one divine reality, another difficulty in interreligious dialogue with Hinduism stems from the lack of attention to the historical dimension of salvation. Christianity sees in Christ’s historical event God’s supreme salvific manifestation of humanity. Consequently, Christian salvation is not an escape from existence, but a supreme valorisation of personal history, which finds not its annulment but its fulfilment in eternal life also in its cosmic and corporeal dimension (Gallois, 2017).
We list other limits of the Hindu conception: a certain idolatrous polytheism especially in the popular religions; the lack of the concept of creation, whereby the eternal world returns cyclically upon itself; the absence of the notion of person as absolute value: each man seems to have no identity of his own, reduced to an appearance of himself, none or a hundred thousand; The idea of sin is also lacking, as a personal and voluntary act of offence against the goodness and love of God (sin is either a mistake that can be repaired on its own or it is a given that is received without personal responsibility);the lack, therefore, of the requirement of a redeeming saviour; The pursuit of salvation, on the other hand, is not a communal but essentially individualistic fact.
In light of the above, the evaluative synthesis of Hinduism’s conciliar statement Nostra Aetate is also positive:Thus in Hinduism men search the divine mystery and express it with the inexhaustible fecundity of myths and with the penetrating attempts of philosophy, they seek the release of the anxieties of our condition either through ascetic forms of life, whether in deep meditation or in refuge in God with love and intimacy (Colfer, 2015).
Buddhism is generally called an ascetic religion. If Hinduism is a mythical religion, Buddhism is a historical religion. If the Hindu has the mind’s gaze turned to God, the Buddhist has turned it to himself. Buddhism stems from the ascetic and spiritual tradition of Buddha, a historical character who lived, such as Lao Tzu and Confucius, between the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The sacred texts of Buddhism (sixty books) are contained in the Pali Canon (Pali language).Bulkeley (2016) also called Tripitaka (or three baskets) written in its present form around the 1st century AD. This contains the basket of discipline (Vinaya) with the rules of the Buddhist order; the basket of doctrine (sutta) with the discourses of the Buddha; and the basket of philosophy (Abhidharma) with the commentary on its doctrine (von Rospatt, 2013). There is also the Sanskrit Canon.
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We can gather around the following statements the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, which expresses natural truths, not revealed from above: Buddha accepts the Hindu law of Karma-samsara (Andersen, 2014). It rejects, however, that of Brahman-atman, and thus of the existence of the cosmic self and the personal self, proposing instead the doctrine of the anatta (non-self). According to Buddha, the source of all evil, suffering, delusion and delusion is precisely the affirmation of self. This is the heart of Buddhist teaching. Buddha, therefore, diagnosed the source of suffering (dukkha), teaching the way out of this and into nirvana. In Benares’ famous speech, Buddha lists four noble truths (Singh, 2015).
a) The first is to consider that everything is suffering (dukkha): birth, sickness, death, being united with the unloved, being separated from the unloved, not having what is desired.
b) The second is to consider that the cause of dukkha is the thirst for existence, pleasure, satisfaction.
c) The third noble truth is the effort to abandon and completely withdraw from this thirst and to cease. To arrive at the cancellation of suffering, there is the so-called eightfold path, consisting of right understanding, right intention, the right word, right action, right life, right effort, right intention, and right recollection.
d) The fourth noble truth is to believe that once freed from this thirst (i.e. the liberation of karma and samsara), one enters into nirvana, which is a state of peace and purity, the complete extinction of the desire to live (von Rospatt, 2013).
The whole of Buddhist teaching is contained in the three jewels which are the Buddha, the Dharma (the doctrine) and the Sangha (the Buddhist community made up of monks and laity). Over the centuries three Buddhist traditions have developed, called the three vehicles.
There is primarily Hinayana Buddhism or Little Vehicle or Theravada (traditional), which represents the purest form of Buddhism (present in Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka) and in which the ideal of the Buddhist is the monk (Schonthal, 2016).The second great Buddhist tradition, which appeared at the beginning of our Christian era and diffused in China, Korea, Japan, is called Mahayana or Great Vehicle and is not reserved for just a few, but also open to the laity. The idea here is not the lone monk who moves undisturbedly towards nirvana with his total asceticism, but the bodhisattva, who, though having touched the border of nirvana, is still on earth helping his fellow men to reach freedom from suffering. In Mahayana, Buddhism salvation is not only the result of asceticism but above all the merciful help of the Buddha and the bodhisattva (Taylor et al., 2016).
Finally, there is Tibetan Buddhism called Tantrayana or Vajrayana or Diamond Vehicle, founded on the use of magic formulas (mantra) along with the forms of Buddhist meditation. Typical exponents of this Buddhism are the Lama (Andersen, 2014).
Notwithstanding the fact that Buddhism is essentially an interiorised asceticism, it is not lacking especially among lay people a number of ritual religious practices, such as the pilgrimage to famous temples and monasteries, meditation, the offering of wreaths, perfumes, clothing and food to the monks. In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism a true form of popular religiosity is practised towards the Buddha and his bodhisattva who represent the intermediaries for attaining nirvana (Singh, 2015).
In the Japanese Buddhist School, “Zen”, meditation is emphasised to attain adequate enlightenment of Buddhism (satori). Specifically, rather than an intellectual pursuit, the method is either to occupy the mind with a problem without logical solution (koan) or to remain seated trying to empty itself of one’s thoughts and out of temporality. Devotees are like birds that fly and sing free in the sky, or like fish in the sea do not meditate for a purpose (Andersen, 2014).
Buddhism is a way of salvation and liberation of man from his suffering. The emphasis on traditional Buddhism is placed on personal asceticism, not so much on foreign aid or from above. Each one is saviour and liberator of himself.Salvation consists of nirvana, which represents the only Omni-understanding and Omni beatifying reality, and which cannot be represented. Nirvana is the Absolute, but not a personal God. Therefore salvation is not a reality fulfilled in person. The analogy of negative or apophatic theology is often applied to nirvana (Taylor et al., 2016).
In this context, the reality of the Trinity and that of Jesus Christ are not understandable. Jesus Christ as a mediator is not a necessary figure for the Buddhist monk. The claim of their divinity further increases the Buddhists’ perplexity about this. The categories of Christian meditation (church, grace, sacraments, and prayer) lose meaning. Christ’s death and redeeming pain, too, are unknown realities and difficult to understand and accept. The eternal smile of the Buddha and the dramaticness of the Crucifix are the best syntheses of the two religious views. Buddhist salvation and liberation do not derive from without, from above, or from another, but lies in the ascetic effort of the individual (Schonthal, 2016).
Buddhism, like Hinduism, has no notion of sin. The only reality that needs to be liberated is samsara, the cycle of reincarnation. The only means to attain nirvana is not God’s forgiveness of sins, but the ascetic effort to extinguish the Brahma of existence and the satisfaction of pleasure.Therefore, the ascetic life of Buddhist monks is of exceptional human exemplarity: their poverty and chastity are a formidable testimony to man’s inner and spiritual strength to dominate and discipline his most profoundly human instincts. From this point of view, there is an existential point of contact between Buddhist asceticism and Catholic religious life (Andersen, 2014).
It must be pointed out here that in Mahayana Buddhism salvation is not only entrusted to the ascent of the singular but is also granted from above with the help of the Buddha and the bodhisattva. Hence the widespread devotional practice on the part of the laity expressed in the construction of temples, ritual offerings, etc. Moreover, for some Buddhist currents, Buddha is regarded as an authentic deity, with a function of mediation and thanksgiving. In Amidism, which developed in China and Japan from the fifth century AD, Buddha, also called Amida, is a true saviour from above. It takes faith in him to be saved. In fact, it is enough for people to pronounce the formula “Homage to Amida Buddha” to be certain that they will be reborn in the paradise of the West (von Rospatt, 2013).
In Buddhism, according to its various schools, the radical insufficiency of this changing world is recognised, and a way is taught to which men with a devout and confident heart are able to attain the state of perfect liberation or to reach the state of supreme enlightenment either by their own efforts, or with help from above.
Reassessment of Traditional Religions
We must not forget the meaning and value of the so-called traditional religions, present not only in Africa but also in the Americas, Asia and Oceania. Improperly called tribal or primitive religions, paganism, idol worship, witchcraft, animism, these are very open to the acceptance of Christianity.These have a “holistic” approach to life (Broo, 2016). Therefore, a positive change in your appreciation cannot be denied. If previously its limits were evident above all – such as polygamy, discrimination against women, human sacrifices, some degrading rites, rejection of twins, a continuing state of psychological fear of evil spirits – today, on the contrary, and rightly, one tends to emphasise positive values, such as the sense of the sacred, respect for life, the sense of community, the spirit of family, a spiritual view of life, the sacred aspect of authority, the symbolism (Klostermaier, 2014).
Referring to the African situation, John Paul II’s post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (September 14, 1995 = EA) saw in these values a providential preparation for the transmission of the Gospel:Africans have a profound religious sense, a sense of the sacred, and a sense of the existence of God the creator and a spiritual world. The reality of sin in its individual and social forms is very much present in the conscience of those peoples and felt is also the necessity of the rites of purification and atonement (EA n. 42) (Eliot, 2018).Later it also highlighted the importance of the family, the acceptance of life and children as a gift from God, the veneration of ancestors, respect for elders and parents, the keen sense of solidarity and community life (cf. EA No. 43) (Shaw, 2016).
According to Prof. Dosithée Atal Sa Angang, director of the Center d’Études des Religions Africanise de Kinshasa (Zaire), the category »life» can be considered the matrix of traditional African values: life received from above (religious dimension), shared and open life (dimension anthropological), sheltered and protected life (therapeutic dimension), respected and developed life (political dimension), accompanied and protected life (educational dimension). Life received from above is expressed in a profound sense of the sacred, of the existence of the Creator God and a living spiritual mode, present and in communion with history (Gallois, 2017).
Certainly, in traditional religions, there is no shortage of limits and needs, such as an excessive distance and inaccessibility to God, an exaggerated fear of spirits, the use of witchcraft, a certain reserve in contact with those who do not have the same family ties. The acceptance of values, the rejection of non-values and the purification of limits form the object of Christian evangelisation.Also in other contexts, such as in the Polynesian peoples, traditional religions bear positive human and religious values, such as faith in God the creator, ancestor veneration, strong family and social cohesion continually restored after each incident by their own rites of worship (Singh, 2015).
Faith, morality and worship are the three pillars of traditional religions. Traditional religions generally do not rely on revealed books, nor do they articulate with theoretical statements of a theological or philosophical nature. The richness of its contents and its numerous values are most often found in celebrations, tales, and proverbs and are transmitted through gestures, customs and behavioural codes. The moral code is considered to have been passed down from generation to generation and sanctioned by God through spirits.
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