Kokoro 5 Tola Dragonetti

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    BRAHMANISMANDBUDDHISM:TWOANTITHETICCONCEPTIONSOFSOCIETY

    INANCIENTINDIA

    FernandoTolaandCarmenDragonetti(InstituteofBuddhistStudiesFoundation,FIEB/CONICET/Argentina)

    Introduction

    Brahmanism and Buddhism gave rise in India to two forms of society stronglyopposed. The philosophical principles maintained by Brahmanism and Buddhism, theirconceptions of man and of the destiny of man, which were the foundation of those twoantithetictypesofsociety,hadtobealsoequallyopposed.1 BuddhismmeantinfaceofBrahmanismaprofoundsocialchange,whichcouldbecalled revolutionary, if it were not that this term is generally associated with violence,violencethatwascompletelyalientoBuddhism.Letusexpress this in termsofAlbrechtWeber,thegreatGermanIndologist(1825-1901)2,inourtranslationfromGerman:

    Buddhismis,initsorigin,oneofthemostmagnificentandradicalreactionsinfavorof the universal human rights of the individual against the oppressing tyranny of thepretendedprivilegesofdivineorigin,ofbirth,andofclass. Buddhismistheworkofasingleman,Buddha,whointhebeginningofthe6thcenturyB. C., in Eastern India, rose up against the Brahmanical hierarchy, and, thanks to thesimplicityandethicalforceofHisTeaching,provokedacompleteruptureofIndianpeoplewiththeirpast. In faceof thehopelessdistortionsofallhuman feelings that theBrahmanicalestateandcast-systembroughtwiththem,infaceoftheardentdesireofliberationnotonlyfromearthlyindividualexistencethatadoptedforthegreatpartofthepeopleonlysopainfulandoppressing forms,butalso from theeternallychangingsystemof reincarnations, suchaswassupposedbytheteachingoftransmigrationofsoulsinconditionsofendlesssufferingandtorture,teachingwhichhadgraduallydeveloped,takingtheplaceofthemoreancient,simplebeliefinimmortalityinfaceofallthatroseupthatmanwithHisMessageabouttheequalrightofallmen,withoutdistinctionofbirth,classorrank,andevenofsex,and

    1Cf.F.Tola,TresconcepcionesdelhombreenlafilosofadelaIndia,inPensamiento(Madrid),Nm.

    165,Vol.42,enero-marzo,1986.

    2On Weber and his work see E. Windisch, Geschichte derSanskrit-Philologie und indischen Alter-

    tumskunde,Strassburg,1917,pp.319-355and361-364andpassim;ValentinaStache-Rosen,GermanIndologists,NewDelhi:MaxMuellerBhavan,1981;SanskritStudiesintheG.D.R.,Berlin:HumboldtUniversity-Institute of Asian Sciences, 1978; Revista de Estudios Budistas REB, No. 8, 1994-1995,Mxico-BuenosAires,pp.116-124and125-127(REBcanbealsoreadinwww.dharmatranslation.org).

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    aboutLiberationfromtheindividualexistence,whichcanbereachedbyall,soonorlater,onlybymeansofthecorrectknowledgeandthecorrectbehavior.3

    The well deserved interest provoked by the greatness and deepness of BuddhistPhilosophyandtheloftycharacterofitsEthicsmaybethecauseofgenerallynotgivingdueattentiontowhatBuddhismrepresentsinthefieldofsocialandindividualrights. In this article we shall deal with the most important oppositions between bothphilosophicalandreligiouscurrentsof thoughtwithspecial reference to the two typesofsocietytheyoriginatedinAncientIndia.

    Brahmanism

    When around the year 500 before thebeginningof theCommon EraBuddhismaroseinIndia,4Brahmanismdominatedthereasamagnificentandcoherentreligious,ethi-cal,philosophicalandsocialsystem.BrahmanismisthecontinuationofVedism,theculturebroughttoIndiabyIndo-EuropeansorAryansaround1500beforetheCommonEra,whentheyinvadedIndiaandcreatedIndianCulture.BrahmanismisinitsturnthepredecessorofHinduism,whichtakesformthreeorfourcenturiesbeforetheCommonEra.5Thuswehaveareligiousline-Vedism,Brahmanism,Hinduismwithmoreorless35centuriesofexis-tence,whichpresents,ofcourse,thechangesandtransformationsofanysocialphenome-non,maintainingnotwithstandingafundamentalunityandidentitythroughallofthem.

    TheShruti

    Brahmanism had its supreme foundation in the Shruti, a word derived from theroot_RU-,tohear,andwhichdesignatesaSacredKnowledgeorallytransmittedbytheBr2hmans from generation to generation. We can translate this word by Revelation,sinceitpointsouttoaspecialfeatureofShrutitowhichweshallreferafterwards.Shrutiisconstitutedbyaseriesoftexts:theVedas(RigVeda,SamaVeda,YajurVedaandAtharvaVeda), theBr2hma5as, the "ra5yakas and the Upanishads.6Theyarebelievedtocontain

    3Buddhismus,inBluntschli'sStaatswrterbuch,1857,p.279[=A.Weber,IndischeStreifen,Osnabrck:

    BiblioVerlag,1983,I,p.104].

    4F.TolayC.Dragonetti,LafechadelParinirv25adeBuda,inRevistadeEstudiosBudistas(Mxico-

    BuenosAires),No.7,Abril,1994,pp.89-106,wherethediversedatesproposedforthe Parinirv25aoftheBudaareexamined.

    5Cf.JanGonda,DieReligionenIndiens,IVedaundltererHinduismus,Stuttart:W.KohlhammerVerlag,

    1960,andIIDerjngereHinduismus,ibidem,1963.H.vonGlasenapp,DieReligionenIndiens,Stuttgart:A.KrnerVerlag,1943.

    6Jan Gonda, Vedic Literature, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1975, and M. Winternitz, A History of

    IndianLiterature,Vol. I, Introduction,Veda,NationalEpics,Pur25as and Tantras,NewDelhi:OrientalBooksReprintCorporation,1972.

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    theultimatecriterionofTruth,theanswertoallthequestionsthatmancanposetohimself,thesolution to theenigmasofexistence,as thecreationof theuniverseand theoriginofcreatures, the norms that must regulate the relations among men and the organization ofcommunities in which they group together, the description of the ceremonies and riteswherebyGodshavetobeworshippedinordertoobtaintheirbenevolenceandprotection,andwherebytheOrderintheUniverseandinhumansocietyismaintained. There is also the belief that the texts that constitute the Shruti have not beencomposedby any human, divineor transcendentbeing.They exist sinceabeginninglesseternity,7absolutelyautonomous,notdependingonanythingoranybody,gettingfromtheirtotal independence their utmost and glorious validity. By their own power they revealthemselves to predestined men, the rishis, the sages, the seers, and poets of the AncientIndia,ineachnewcreationoftheUniverseinthebeginninglessandendlessseriesinwhichalternatetheuniversalcreationsanddestructions.8 At the beginning of Vedism-Brahmanism-Hinduism (as well as in the Judeo-Christianand Islamic Traditions) there is aText, a Book, of a mysterious nature, whichfixesthelimitsofhumanknowledge,andrestrainsitwithinitsboundaries.Therespecttothat Text, the adhesion to it, and the submission to its authority determined ones ownbelongingtoBrahmanism. ThetextsthatconstitutetheRigVedawerecompiledandorganizedintheforminwhichweactuallyknowthemprobablyaround600beforetheCommonEra,havingexistedinanindependentformsinceseveralcenturiesbeforethatdate.InthatepochtheotherthreeVedasmighthavealsobeencompiledandorganized.Asregards the Br2hma5as and the Upanishads, they were compiled or composed in the next centuries. The text of the Rig Veda, since the very moment of its compilation, was carefully preserved in order to avoid any change or alteration in it. The other texts of the Shruti were also preserved although not in the same degree the Rig Veda was.9

    Brahman

    Brahmanismiscenteredonametaphysicalconstructionofgrandioseprojections,productofthebeliefs,speculations,reasoningofmanygenerationsofthinkers.Brahman10is the Absolute, the Truth of the Truth, the Being, Unique and without a second, the

    7Cf.F.TolaandC.Dragonetti, An2ditva orbeginninglessness inIndianPhilosophy, inAnnalsof the

    Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. LXI, 1980, pp. 12-14, and El an2ditva (inexistencia decomienzo)enlaFilosofadelaIndia,inRevistaVenezolanadeFilosofaNo.13,1980,pp.140-143.

    8Cf. L. Gonzlez Reimann, Tiempo cclico y eras del mundo en la India, Mxico: El Colegio de

    Mxico,1988.

    9Cf.JanGonda,VedicLiterature,pp.16-18.

    10Cf. P. Oltramare, L'histoire des ides thosophiques dans l'Inde, Tome Premier, La thosophie

    Brahmanique, Paris: E. Leroux Editeur, 1906, pp.73-75; H. von Glasenapp, Die Philosophie der Inder,Stuttgart:AlfredKrnerVerlag,1958,pp.147-155,382-383.

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    Substanceofprivilegedstatus,whichexistsinseetperse,astheensrealissimum,asthedeepestfundamentofreality,beyondreasonandword,andwhichcanbereachedduringanextra-ordinary Yogic experience, i.e. in the course of a mystical trance. It is an abstractneutralconcept,devoidofanyconnotation,characteristicorquality. The Brahmanical thinkers strove to free Brahman from any thing that could insomewayconnectItwiththeempiricalrealityorwithanycreationofhumanmind,inordertomakeIttheOther,inthegreatestextensionandprofundityofthisterm. At thesame time, theyacknowledged that todesignate Itwecanonly relyuponourempiricallanguage,whichdistortswhatitexpressesandisinsufficienttodescribewhatisbeyondthereachofthesenses;inordertoattainIt,wecanonlyresorttothemeansthatourweakandfrailhumanconditionoffersus. """"tman

    Brahmanismpostulatedalsotheexistenceofthe"tman,11thespirit,thesoul,theindividualconsciousnessinallitsauthenticpurity,thetrueI,thetrueman,identicalwithBrahmaninessence,attributesandmystery.AfamousUpanishadicformulationexpressesthatidentity:tattvamasi,YouareThat.

    Substantialismandunity

    Becauseof itsnotionsofBrahmanand"tman,Brahmanismisasubstantialandunitarysystemof thought.12Under thealwayschangingandimpermanentreality thatoursenses reveal to us; under the phenomenism in which that reality fades away; under thecomplexweftofcausesandeffectswhichhumananalysisfaces;underthepluralityandthemultiplicityinwhichmanisimmerse,thereexistsforBrahmanism-aninalterable,uniqueandoneSubstance,origin,supportandendofall.

    BecomingBrahman

    The Vedic Epoch was vital, vigorous and youthful.13 Man hoped to live onehundredyears,surroundedbyhisprogeny,inpossessionofabundantmaterialwealththathisGodsgenerouslygrantedhimwhenheknewhowtopleasethemwithhisprayersandofferings.Afterdeath,theVedicIndianlongedforreachingtheWorldofYama,theRuleroftheKingdomoftheDead.Thisworldwasasplendidparadisewheremanrecoveredhisbodyingoodhealthandwithoutwounds,withwhichhecouldenjoythepleasureshehad

    11Oltramare,op.cit.,pp.75