The Origins, Assumptions and Superstitions of the Buddha’s thought

During the time of Gautama Buddha, there were two religious systems which predominated the landscape of India, namely Hinduism and Jainism . Gautama when he renounced his wealth, position and family and began his spiritual quest, encountered many philosophies. He came across vedic ritualistic Hinduism , upanishadic vedantic philosophical Hinduism, Jainism and Atheism.

Vedantic philosophers taught that God is both personal and impersonal, but cannot be described. They used around twenty three negations to describe God. Their description of ultimate reality was ‘neti, neti’, which means ‘not this, not this’. They believed in Atman or the soul in man and the reincarnation of soul in accordance with ones karma. Buddha rejected their concept of God and the Atman(self), but accepted the doctrine of karma.

The Jains, who followed the teachings of Mahavira, also called “Thirthakara” or “Path finder”. Mahavira rejected the concept of God and practiced extreme fasting, compassion, non-violence(ahimsa) and meditation, to mention a few, to attain enlightenment. He also believed in the doctrine of karma and rebirths. Buddha accepted a lot of his teachings like non-theism, compassion, non-violence, meditation etc but did not practice extreme fasting and other extreme disciplines.

Buddha called his new path, the “middle way” as opposed to the teachings of sensuality of materialistic atheism on one side and extreme asceticism of Hinduism and Jainism on the other.

Though the Buddha tried to be more practical in his approach and claimed to reject what is not obvious, he nevertheless accepted the doctrine of karma and rebirths with some modifications from the religious environment around him. He also believed that meditation could lead to enlightenment, though he does not give any acceptable explanation for that assumption. Meditation, dharma, karma and rebirths were not new concepts the Buddha introduced. These were there in the his contemporary religious scene of his age and he accepted them with some modifications of his own.

A few of his assumptions are as follows :

1. The reality of the physical world, though he did not believe in a creator God. He believed in the effect but denied a first cause.

2. Reality of the thought world corresponds with the reality of that which is seen, but still denying a creator without whose design it is an impossibility.

3. Karmic law, moral law without a belief in the moral law giver.

4.Reality of suffering and a defining suffering as the problem of humanity

5. Meditation as way of attaining enlightenment

6.The concept of rebirth and it’s causal relationship with karma and desire

7. Transmigration of consciousness from one body to another during rebirth

8.Suffering implies absence of an all loving, all powerful, all knowing creator God. Denying God in spite of the presence of joy and enjoyment.

These assumptions of the Buddha were simply superstitious and nothing less. He was his own authority and he accepted and rejected as he thought best. He did not give any acceptable reason why anyone should accept these assumptions of his.

Can anyone even give an acceptable proof for karmic law and rebirths? Can anyone prove that meditation will lead to enlightenment and how meditation and other teachings will lead to enlightenment? Why should anyone believe that craving and attachment will lead to rebirth? Why should anyone even believe the central teaching of the Buddha that  “all of life is suffering”? People experience both joy and suffering .Though there is a molecule of truth in saying that desire is the root cause of all misery, it does not explain all misery and sufferings humans experience. The Buddha’s view is highly reductionist and superstitious. It is even sad to notice that it became more and more superstitious as it traveled far and wide into Indo-China, Tibet, China and Japan .

References:

1. Buddhism and Christianity, Rev.Ahmed Shah

2.101 Questions about Buddhism, John Renard

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Samuel Inbaraja

Samuel Inbaraja is from Pondicherry, India. His is a follower of Lord Jesus Christ. He is a doctor by profession. His ministry includes teaching, preaching, evangelism, mentoring, apologetics, giving, etc. His hobbies include blogging, sports, music, cooking, photography, and travelling.

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  • Steve

    The Buddhadharma from its beginnings explained very well the origin and the cessation of all misery, suffering, and stress of not just all human beings, but all beings without exception.

    The way that you can prove that meditation will lead to enlightenment is to conduct the experiment. But in order to do that, you must have a very good, well-informed teacher.

    Yet I doubt that could ever be your intention because the information present here seems only done for the purpose of creating a straw-man to tear down for the purposes of making a weak position appear more appealing. In other words, it seems that the nature of your apologetics is to tear down all other alternatives so that you might gravitate toward a weak reading of the Christian tradition—which despite the best efforts of Christians, I refuse to believe is subordinate to Buddhism; in other words, I refuse to believe that Buddhism is better than Christianity despite misrepresentation on behalf of Christians on the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. This post does not help my quest in refusing to believe that Buddhism is better that Christianity. The ignorant insistence of error on behalf of or in the system of another just makes your position look sad.

  • Samuel

    Dear steve,
    If you read Jainism you will see a lot of stuff similar to Buddhism. Have you ever read about Jainism?

    The Buddha did not claim exclusivity for his message nor that it explains everything, nor that he knew everything. According to his own words, he had only one aim and that was to eliminate suffering. His conclusion that suffering was the problem which should be eliminated, did not originate from personal experience of great suffering. He saw others suffering and concluded that he should not face those things. He was raised as a protected child .He was not exposed to suffering of the average man. ‘The four passing sights’ set him thinking. That made him search for answers. The rest is there in the blog.
    For more on the four sights, please click link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_sights

    My point now is his experience was not a first hand experience of suffering which led him to search for a solution. His was a second exposure to suffering. I would say he was shocked to see the reality of suffering and wanted to avoid it forever. He had avoided a lot of suffering by being in the palace. Now he saw something that he could not be protected from by his affluence and wealth.

    I need not meditate because I don’t believe in the association between karma, rebirth, craving and meditation. That association is pure superstition, which prevailed in the Buddha’s cultural milieu. Meditation as a solution is part of the big picture of Buddhism. Without believing in the other stuff, there is no reason for anyone to meditate.

    Which school of Buddhism do you follow? Why did you select that school over the other Buddhist schools?