Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buddhism and Jainism in South India -7

Initially I thought this is a present day perversion of Buddhism;

there's a new wave of Indians—affluent, rational, metropolitan, English-educated individuals impatient of organised religion and willing to experiment with alternate spiritual forms—who are increasingly turning to the Buddha's teachings for anwers to their dilemmas. A far cry from Ambedkar and his Dalit followers who converted to Buddhism 50 years ago as a way of getting back at Hinduism and its hierarchy, these small bands of new-age spiritualists shy away from the very word 'Buddhist' with all its political baggage. Their Buddhism instead is more therapy than religion, a self-help practice that enables them to cope with the daily pressures of city life—nuclear families, generation gap, divorces, collapse of family support systems, relationships, pressures of jobs and joblessness, lifestyle diseases, teenage angst and loneliness—even as it unlocks their hitherto hidden potential.

Then I thought this perversion was there from the beginning in India. Buddhism changed a big chunk of marauding nomads of Mongolia and Tibet to celibate monks and defined their identities. In those regions most likely Buddhism acted the way it was expected to. But here in India it(along with Jinaism) was a mere utilitarian religion to rich merchants in the past. Though I think we can fairly guess why it didn't change their caste identity.

Buddhism and Jinaism are totally clueless about normal life. As a result while caste identity clearly defined ideals (or lack of it) for rich people in their worldly life, they could take time out and spend some time in non-worldly life of Buddhism and Jinaism. For not so rich people Buddhism and Jinaism were useless in the past as it is now.

Its present success with Dalits in India is rooted in the question of identity(as pointed in the article). That probably tells us that unclear or non-existent religious identities of East and SE Asia probably helped it to grow there. However, Srilanka is still a mystery. Maybe Brahmins never went there or too small in a number to have any say in social life. Likely, the society was structured around king and subjects. In societies where king ruled supreme his identity became that of his subjects (the spread of Christianity in Germanic lands). In Indian region king's position was always subordinate to Brahmins.

Seeing in the dark (Outlook)

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