Guiding Light: Sanatana Dharma And Buddhism

Guiding Light: Sanatana Dharma And Buddhism

Swami Brahmavidananda SaraswatiUpdated: Thursday, May 30, 2024, 08:09 PM IST
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Artistic Representation Of The Buddha | Pixabay

Last week, we celebrated Buddha Purnima. Buddhism is seen, today, as a separate distinct religion from Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma. It wasn't always so in Buddha's time. Buddha was looked upon as one of the teachers, an offshoot of Sanatana Dharma. Someone who started a sect or a tradition of teaching and initiated the order of monks. This is similar to how in today's world, we have the Ramakrishna Mission or Chinmaya Mission or Arya Samaj or Arsha Vidya Acharyas. These are not separate religions but teaching traditions. Great teachers having a certain Parampara, line of teachers, would become known within Sanatana Dharma. It was similar during Buddha's time too. While Sanatana Dharma or dharma Hinduism was all-inclusive, with validity to all human goals – wealth, pleasure and Dharma as the guiding framework, it was more broad-based than Buddhism, which was focused only on Moksha or Nirvana. There is also an idea Buddha invented an eightfold path, which is also not true. It's a derivative of some of the verses found in the sixth chapter of the Gita, which speak of moderation. So, when you look at it, Buddha, really speaking, was a teacher within Sanatana Dharma. In fact, even the first books of this philosophy were written 500 years after Buddha's Mahasamadhi. Much later, that too, for socio-political reasons, people started to look upon Buddhism as a separate religion as early as the eighth century. Although some of the later writers of Buddhism were negated by the great commentator Adi Shankaracharya Bhagavatpada, he treated Buddha himself with great respect, calling him respectfully names like Sugatah, the one whose knowledge is beautiful, Tathagata, the one who was understood that reality. So, we need not look at Buddhism or even Jainism for that matter, as a really separate religion, but as offshoots of the Sanatana Dharma traditions. All of them are based on Dharma and hence can be included into the Sanatana Dharma even if for socio-political reasons, they have a separate identity.

The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com

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