Monday, March 27, 2017

Who's a Hindu? The Buddha? Wendy Doniger?

(, Feb. 24, 2017); Dhr. Seven, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

What's Wrong with Doniger’s Controversial Book The Hindus?
American Professor Wendy Doniger's controversial book The Hindus: An Alternative History has outraged Hindus around the world, insulting Indians and offending Hindus.

Doniger, 73, is a Jewish American Indologist and has been a professor at the University of Chicago since 1978.

Although she is a well-known authority on Hinduism, her book has had many factual errors pointed out. And her perspective of many things Indian, Vedic, and Hindu have been questioned time and again.

Hey, Wendy, I'm a Hindu! - Actor Julia Roberts
Published in 2009, The Hindus became the #1 bestseller in the non-fiction category in India despite [or more likely because of] a furor of criticism and protest from the American Hindu community.

In 2010, Mr. Aseem Shukla of the Hindu American Foundation debated various elements of the book with Doniger herself on his blog.

Historian Vishal Agarwal attacked Prof. Doniger's research chapter by chapter and pointed out numerous errors. In 2011, a New Delhi-based group, Shiksha Bachao Andolan, filed a civil lawsuit against Penguin, Donger's Indian publisher, and two other criminal complaints were lodged against the book.
Finally, on February 4th, Penguin decided to stop publishing it and agreed to pulp all remaining copies of the book officially stating that... More

Who is a Hindu?
  (, April 26, 2015)
Seven Features of Hinduism Recognized by Indian Courts
The Supreme Court of India defined the features of a Hindu in its 1995 ruling of the case “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal.”

In one part, it states that the court identifies the following seven defining characteristics of Hinduism and by extension of a Hindu:
  1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters... More
Not the Buddha
Buddha Gautama, Shakyamuni (Gandhara)
Well, right there, the Buddha would not qualify. For the Buddha was not a Hindu, nor were the Shakyians/Scythians his family clan.

But his father, King Suddhodana, may certainly have employed Brahmin advisors, counselors, chaplain, ministers, and astrologers. Any and every king of the day might have. First of all there was no such thing as "Hinduism" at that time.

Hinduism only came into being a few centuries ago with Sri Shankara, who systematized it into a formal "religion" or doctrine with universal tenets cobbling together many disparate traditions in India.

Shankara regarded the Buddha as foreigner whose Dharma was an outside influence on India, not something born in it. He was right. It came from the Northwest frontier where Brahmins were not the highest cast.

That place, Scythia or Saka Land, had its own ways. There was no actual "India" at that time either, although there may have been in the distant past pre-or-post Indus Valley Civilization if any emperor before the Buddhist Asoka had brought together warring kingdoms to make Mahabharata, "Great Bharat," a name used for what is today more or less thought of as "India."

There was at that time Brahmanism (the Vedic belief-system of the Brahmin priestly caste, which regarded Brahman as the "ultimate"), and the Buddha was not a Brahmin adhering or promoting the Vedas.

And although beautiful modern Hinduism may co-opt "Lord Buddha" as a god in the pantheon -- which is very nice as it facilitates good relations between the two great Dharmic traditions -- the Buddha himself in his lifetime rejected the Vedas.

What Brahmanism thought of as ideal, "temple priests" (brahmana) tied to texts, rote memorization, mantras, and tradition, the Buddha rejected. In its place he promoted the "wandering ascetic (shramana) ideal. And Buddhism and Jainism, both accepted by Hinduism today, are actually the two remaining examples of that protest movement.
  • The shramaṇa movements arose in the same circles of mendicants in ancient "India" [which was not yet "India" but a bunch of kingdoms and territories with uneasy and changing alliances who in no way thought of themselves as one country until and when one king or group conquered another] that led to the development of yogic practices, as well as the popular concepts common to all major Indian religions such as saṃsāra (the problem of the endless Cycle of Birth and Death) and moksha (final liberation from that cycle). More
And the Buddha stated unequivocably that he was not a god (deva), not an incarnation (avatar), and that he did not adhere to the central tenets of the Vedas, like things stated about the soul/self (atman) -- teaching the radical, unheard of "doctrine of no-self" (anatta) unique to buddhas.

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