(16)What is Shamon - Buddha's Companions and Rival Freethinkers and the Unique Religious Situation in India at that Time

India Buddhist Columns & Dharma Talks

[The life of Buddha (Sakyamuni) as seen through local photographs] ⒃
 The emerging thinkers of ancient India, the Shamon - Buddha's companions, rival free thinkers, and the unique religious situation in India at that time.

Previous Article⒂Why Buddhism spread so rapidly in India: the birth of a great power distancing itself from Brahmanism and the rise of an emerging merchant class."In the previous section, I discussed the historical background of the period in which the Buddha lived. As I mentioned in this article, the spread of Buddhism was not due to the power of Buddha alone. The social factor that the times demanded Buddha was also a powerful factor.

And in this historical context,There were many people who, like the Buddha, brought their own ideas and religions to the world.We also discussed this in our previous article.

In this article, I will discuss these rivals of the Buddha. The best way to find out what was innovative about Buddha's teachings is to compare them with other teachings.

However, this article will not delve into difficult ideological issues, but rather will follow the flow of thought in a cursory manner, so please feel free to enjoy the article. It is important to look at the content of the ideas academically, but first of all, it is important to grasp the general flow of history.

So let's begin with a look at the unique religious situation in India during the Buddha's time.

Appearance of the freethinker "Shamon

In my previous articles, I have tried to speak in my own words, but in this article, I would like to share with you some of my own thoughts on the following topics, written by Hazime NakamuraA History of Indian Thought.I would like to quote from the following and other sources, as well as my own words from them. The quoted passages are so easy to understand that I hope you can get a feel for the atmosphere of the article as it is.

In the first half of the following quote, a commentary that serves as a review of the previous article is discussed. Here, Dr. Nakamura explains how the soil for the acceptance of Buddha's teachings began to emerge in East India. And from there, we will look at the birth of a new religious figure called "Shamon" and the emergence of a renowned free thinker, RokushiGedo. So, let's get started.

The Aryans who had settled in the upper Ganges gradually moved eastward and settled in the middle reaches of the Ganges, and with them came remarkable social and cultural changes.

First, there was a great deal of intermixing between the Aryans and indigenous peoples. The new ethnic groups that were formed no longer adhered to the traditional customs and rituals of the Aryans, but behaved freely as they wished.

They ignored Vedic culture and used a corrupted Aryan slang (Prakrit). The regions where they settled were fertile and produced large quantities of agricultural produce, which made their material life rich and easy, and as their goods became plentiful, they gradually developed a thriving commerce and industry, establishing many small cities.

At first, these small cities were the center of a number of small states, some of which were aristocratic or republican, but they gradually tended to be annexed to larger states ruled by kings. The capitals of the larger states prospered, and grand cities were built there.

The four kingdoms of Kosala, Magadha, Avanti, and Vaṃsa were the most powerful at that time. In these great states, kingship was greatly extended and royalty was regarded as the highest form of humanity, but Brahmins did not have the same prestige as before.

In addition, commerce and industry were highly developed in the cities, and as the money economy progressed, enormous wealth was accumulated.

Even if he is a slave, if he is rich in treasure, rice, gold, and silver, royalty, Brahmins, and common people alike will rise first, sleep later, do his work willingly, do what pleases him, and speak pleasant words to him" (MN. vol. 11, p. 85).

The old class system was collapsing. On the other hand, as material life became more affluent and comfortable, people indulged in material pleasures, and the phenomenon of moral decadence became more pronounced.

In the eyes of those who lived in this atmosphere, the old Vedic religion was nothing more than superstition. In response to the new trends of the times, materialists, skeptics, hedonists, fatalists, and others emerged to debate the issue.

On the other hand, there were also many practitioners who became weary of a life of enjoyment and became ordained and devoted themselves to zen meditation. The new thinkers who emerged during this period are called śramaṇa or samaṇa samon.

Conveniently for them, freedom of thought and freedom of expression were extremely tolerated in those days. The kings and cities of the time often held debates among philosophers and allowed them to freely discuss their views without being punished for expressing any opinions. The heretical theories of the time are summarized in the Sacred Books of Primitive Buddhism as the Sixty-two Discourses, in which the names of the philosophers Pūrāṇa, Pakuda, Gosara, Niganta, and Nātaputta are mentioned along with their respective theories, and two others, Ajita and Sanjaya, are also included and are called the "Six Masters. These were the leading thinkers of the time.

The doctrines that emerged during this period are generally regarded as "heretical" in India. This is because they denied the authority of the Vedic scriptures. At the time of its emergence, Buddhism was nothing but one of these heretical theories.

*Lines have been broken as necessary to make it easier to read on PCs, smartphones, etc.

Iwanami Shoten, Nakamura Gen, History of Indian Thought, p. 39-41

The "shamon" (shimana) appears in the middle of this quote. In the above quote, it is written as "one who makes a commitment," but it is not the same as the word used in Dr. Shizuka Sasaki'sThe Birth of Buddhism.is described as "a person who strives". The Samon have emerged as different from the Brahmins, the traditional religious figures of India. For a more detailed explanation of how they differ from Brahmins and what they strive for, please refer to Nakamura Hazime's bookFreedom of Thought and Jainism."Let's look at it from the

The Shamon was the counterpart of the traditional spiritual leader, the "Brahmin," and later the Shamon and the Brahmin became the two major types of spiritual leaders in Indian society. (omitted).

So where is the difference between the two? Socially, a Brahmin is a person born into a Brahmin family, and as a member and successor of that family, he inherits and honors the Brahmin rituals.

Contrary to this, any person of any class can become a Shamon. In other words, one can become a shamon by one's own personal decision.

Brahmins were keepers of the old traditional thought, whereas Shamon was a freethinker for his time.

Brahmins have been in charge of rituals since ancient times and have a strong magical nature. In contrast, Shamon devoted himself to philosophical knowledge or mystical meditation and stillness in an attempt to attain liberation.

Buddhist practitioners were originally shamon. That is why Buddhist monks are called "shamon" in East Asian Buddhism.

*Lines have been broken as necessary to make it easier to read on PCs, smartphones, etc.

Shunju-sha, Nakamura Gen, Nakamura Gen Selected Works [Definitive Edition] Vol. 10: Freedom of Thought and Jainism, p. 22-23.

Well, when you look at it this way, it is very easy to understand what a shamon was like.

What is also important is that these emerging thinkers were able to discuss freely without being suppressed. As mentioned in the above quote, this trend was particularly strong in the East Indies at that time, and they even allowed public debate in the king's lap. This is an amazing thing when you think about it.

The mainstream religion of the time was Brahmanism, and state administration and commerce were based on the Brahmanic worldview. However, Shamon and his followers criticized it head-on. It is no exaggeration to say that they are "dissidents. It is a clear challenge to the existing order. Normally, repression would have been the order of the day. In the history of the world, such repression has been repeated many times.

However, the regime showed no sign of oppression in response to this challenge. In fact, they seemed to welcome the new trend. In fact, as I have mentioned, the East Indian royalty, aristocrats, and new merchants were looking for new ideas that would break through the existing order. Therefore, they set the stage for countless new thinkers to operate freely and engage in friendly competition. Thus began the age of warring schools of thought, in which talented rivals competed against each other.

And one of those who lived through that warring age was our very own Buddha. The Buddha literally fought against the teachings of countless emerging thinkers and religious figures.

In addition, this kind of ideological warfare is both a battle and a mutual influence.

In other words, when you ask the other person, "Isn't that theory of yours wrong? When you ask the other person, "I think this...," you must be familiar with the content of the other person's thought at that point. After being well versed in the other person's thought, the self-definition of "my thought is not 00" is born. To put it simply, in order to assert, "You say this world is a world of pleasure, but I don't think so," one must first have a thorough knowledge of the definition of "this world is a world of pleasure. Then you can say, "I don't think so, but the world is a world of suffering.

This may seem obvious at a quick glance, but in fact this is often overlooked. This is because it is often thought that Buddha was an overwhelming presence and that he alone created Buddhism. Of course, Buddha realized the truth of the world through long practice and meditation, but this was not born out of nothing. He took in the various ideas and religions that existed at the time, and it was through this battle of ideas that he arrived at the truth. In a sense, it was because of the existence of these rivals that he was able to refine his thought. In this sense, the significance of the large number of shamon at that time is very significant.

Among these shamon, six thinkers known as the RokushiGedo were particularly influential. The word "Gedo" may not have a favorable image in Japan, but here it is used simply to mean "teachings outside of Buddhism.

In the next article, I will discuss this RokushiGedo, which had a strong influence on the Buddha.

By knowing their thought, we can see more clearly that "Buddha is not a 00". When defining something, "~~ is not 00" is closer to a more accurate understanding than "~~ is 00".

Suppose that "man is an animal that uses tools. But this is not sufficient. This is not sufficient, because there are other animals that use tools besides humans. On the other hand, let us say that "man is a snakeis notHow about if we say, "This is a good idea. This is reasonable. In the same way, "man is not a bird," "man is not a gill-breather," "man is not a 00," and so on ad infinitum, and the accumulation of all of them becomes the definition of man. Therefore, rather than saying "Buddha is a 00," it is better to look at "Buddha is not a 00" to get to know Buddha better.

But perhaps some of you may be wondering, "What is the use of knowing that?

But in fact, this is exactly what the fundamental ideas of Buddhism, such as the "idea of karma" and the "idea of the "karmic relationship" are all about.Kuu.This is a way of thinking that is also connected to the concept of "there is no such thing as there is, and there is no such thing as there is not. It is a difficult to understand Buddhist thought that "neither is there nor is there not," but this is exactly what is being emphasized here.."~~ is not a 00."It is a way of thinking. As soon as we define something as "being a zero," we get caught up in that definition and narrow the scope of our thinking. Instead, Buddhism seeks a larger understanding of the world that is not bound by any framework.

In this sense, the "~~ is not 00" way of thinking is very important.

I have strayed a bit from the life and historical background of the Buddha, but I hope you can see why I have taken up Buddha's rivals here.

In the next article, we will look at the Buddha's greatest rivals, Rokushigedo

Next Article.

Click here to read the previous article.

Related Articles