(18)What was innovative about Buddha's teachings - a brief explanation in light of the religious situation in India at the time.

Buddha Buddhist Columns & Dharma Talks

[Introduction to Buddhism, Life of Buddha (Shakyamuni) as seen through local photographs] ⒅
What was innovative about Buddha's teachings - a brief explanation in light of the religious situation in India at the time.

Previous Article⒄Buddha's powerful rival, the "Rokushigedo"-Indian freethinkers who rejected Brahmanism and advocated a new ideology."In the previous section, I have discussed the religious situation in India and Buddha's rival, the Six Master Soto.

In this article, I will finally discuss what was innovative about Buddha's teachings in the context of those Indian religious situations.

The Four Noble Truths: The Four Fundamental Truths of Buddhism. The Buddha teaches the path to the destruction of suffering and the path to salvation.As I told you in the article "The Buddha's Teachings," Buddha first preached his teachings at the first Dharma wheel at Sarnath. The five companions who heard his teachings were instantly enlightened. To us moderns, the teachings of the Four Noble Truths are so simple that we wonder if we can really be enlightened by them, but to them they were truly amazing and revolutionary.

I would like to look again here at what is different about Buddha's teachings from conventional thought, and what teachings opened the eyes of the five companions. This article is also an introduction to Buddhism, so I will not go into the academic details. However, I would like to make some important points.

So let's get started.

(1) Criticism of Brahminism's ritual supremacy and self-inflicted theory


⑽The historical background of India where Buddhism was born - What is the history and worldview of the ancient Indian religion of Brahmanism? And a word about the caste system."As I discussed in the article "Brahminism", Brahminism is an Aryan-centered religion.

And at the heart of its teachings is the Brahmin's prayer to the gods. Through these rituals, they would seek the grace of the gods and seek salvation in this life and the next. And ordinary believers emphasized adherence to a code of life based on the Brahminical code. This is morally good conduct and leads to a good hereafter.

Against these basic tenets of Brahmanism, the Buddha first offers criticism.

'Human reincarnation is not for the gods to decide. We receive good or bad rewards according to our own actions. Those who do good get good rewards; those who do bad get bad rewards."

In other words, Buddha says that human reincarnation determines where we go as a result of our own actions. This is the so-called "self-reward. We must accept the consequences of our own actions (karma). No matter how much we pray to God, it has nothing to do with salvation.

In India at that time, Brahmin rituals were the most important "matter of life and death". If this was neglected, a terrible afterlife awaited. No, it was a time when people thought that bad things might happen right now.

But Buddha insisted, "That is not true. Brahmin rituals do not solve life's problems," he insisted.

Well, this is innovative.

And it is important to note here that the Buddha's argument is fundamentally different from the "immorality theory" of the Rokushigedo Pūrana and Pakuda, as I discussed in my previous article. They, too, opposed the ritual supremacy of Brahmanism, saying, "There is no such thing as morality of right and wrong. Whether one kills or does good deeds has nothing to do with one's afterlife," but the Buddha emphasized the importance of morality. He showed that encouraging the good and discouraging the bad are essential for a peaceful life.

(2) Criticism of the Brahmin caste system

Dhoby Ghats in Mumbai (workplaces of the laundry caste. (Caste problems continue even today)

And one of the most often mentioned criticisms in Buddhism is the caste system.

Brahmanism had a pyramidal class system with the Aryans as the ruling class. This is the caste system. This caste system consists of four classes: Brahmins (religious people) at the top, Kshatriyas (royalty, nobility, and warlords), Vaishyas (common people), Shudras (indentured servants), and the severely discriminated outcasts (untouchables).

'One is born into a fixed caste and cannot be assigned to a different caste or job. Everything is determined by the deeds of previous lives. If each one lives true to his caste, he has fulfilled his life and will be reborn in a better place in the next life." This is the caste's view of life.

However, this caste system was crumbling in the East Indian region where Buddha was located, and there was growing dissatisfaction with the fixed caste system.

Amidst these social conditions, the Buddha uttered some famous words. Here it is.

By birth you do not become a lowly man. By birth one does not become a Brahmin. By one's deeds one becomes a Brahmin, and by one's deeds one becomes a Brahmin.

Iwanami Shoten, Nakamura Hazime's translation of Buddha's Words, I, chapter 1, snake, 7. The Lowly Man, p. 35

How about this? This is how we can see Buddha's innovation, isn't it? The Buddha clearly states that each caste is not determined by birth, but by the "deeds" of each individual.

As in the earlier criticism of ritual supremacy, here, too, the Buddha emphasizes his own "action. This is not only a criticism of Brahmanism, but also a refutation of Gauthara's determinism (fatalism) of Rokushigedo

Man's life is not determined by birth. Man can be changed by "deeds," Buddha asserts. This statement must have resonated with many people living in East India. It must have been gospel, especially for the emerging merchants and intellectuals who had risen to prominence on the strength of their own wisdom and talent. This teaching was a sufficient affirmation of their raison d'etre. They had been looked down upon simply because they were "not Brahmins or Kshatriyas. But they had learned from Buddha that they could create their own lives by their own actions, regardless of their rank.

However, there is a caveat to this teaching. That is, "Buddha did not reject the caste system entirely. Buddha lived only in the context of the Indian world. In such a context, he did not say that all people are equal and all caste should be abolished. As you would expect, Buddha does not say such radical things. The equality that Buddha refers to is only equality beyond class in the religious sense, and socially, such a system could not be completely ignored. Buddha was neither an egalitarian nor a revolutionary who transformed society.

(To begin with, there was no concept of egalitarianism or even revolutionaries back then as there is today. This is only what we, as moderns, saw through our desire for Buddha to be so. For more information.A History of Buddhism in New Asia 01 India I: Background to the Emergence of Buddhism.and by F. C. Almond.The Discovery of Buddhism in Britain."(See also.)

In any case, we can see Buddha's innovation in that he added a harsh critique of the caste system.

(iii) Brahmanism's denial of the Atman (Self).

At the Ganges River in Varanasi, the holy city of reincarnation

⑽The historical background of India where Buddhism was born - What is the history and worldview of the ancient Indian religion of Brahmanism? And a word about the caste system."As I mentioned in the middle of my article on Brahman, Brahmanism emphasizes two opposing principles: Brahman (the Truth of the world) and Atman (the Self). The Atman, roughly speaking, is the unique spirit soul of each of us, and Brahmanism believes that this Atman is the one who repeats reincarnation.

But Buddha also denies this atman.

Buddha said, "There is no unchangeable spirit called Atman. Everything comes into being through karma, and everything perishes through karma. Therefore, the Atman is also a transient being.

It is difficult to understand what is going on here, but this is where the Buddha's fundamental philosophy, the "Law of Engi-no-Dharma," comes into play.

The Dharma of karma is the idea that everything arises from a myriad of causes and effects. For example, suppose we have a loaf of bread. What is this bread made of? Wheat, water, butter, eggs...the ingredients alone are varied, but for it to exist as bread, someone's hands must be involved. And if you think about the process of cooking, you have to build a fire, arrange things, and so on... Oh, and what fuel do you need to build a fire? What about cooking facilities? No, if the person who cooks it had never come into the world in the first place, bread would never have been made. No, wait, neither would the person who invented bread! Ah, then there would have to be humanity itself! Ah! I can't stop now!

So you can see that just having a piece of bread in front of you is a terrible accumulation of causality.

Therefore, Buddhism believes that the existence of something is a complex combination of innumerable causes and effects.

The combination of these elements is constantly shifting and changing. In other words, "all things are impermanent.

Everything is in transition. No matter how much things seem to remain the same, nothing stays the same. And the same is true of the atman. The atman cannot be a unique entity that never changes.

This is the Buddha's argument.

The question of why the claim that the atman is not immutable is innovative is a rather complicated one, so I will not discuss it here. However, it is important to keep in mind that the criticism of Atman, which is the basis of Brahmanism's reincarnation, is an important point.

(iv) Buddha's "no note" over Sanjaya's skepticism.

I talked about Sanjaya in my previous article, but let's review it here again.

He was known to give elusive answers to all kinds of questions, which he could neither answer nor not answer. For example

Will there be an afterlife?"

If I thought that there would be an afterlife, I would tell you so, but I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think it's different. I don't think it's not so. I don't think it's not so, and I don't think it's not so.

Sanjaya's style was to avoid making judgments and to avoid giving definitive answers. This way of thinking was called "argument as slimy and elusive as an eel," and was a kind of agnosticism. He advocated the cessation of judgment on metaphysical questions such as "Is there a reward for good and evil?

Sanjaya's approach to the metaphysical problems of reincarnation and the moral law as taught by Brahmanism can be considered groundbreaking in that he took a new approach to the problem of cessation of judgment.

And in response to this skepticism, the Buddha teaches that "no note" is to be made.

Buddha, like Sanjaya, did not answer metaphysical questions such as "Is there an afterlife?", "Is there an ultimate existence?", and "What is death?". He does not answer yes or no. Just silence. But this is where Sanjaya differs.

The Buddha first explains that what we human beings should do is to practice for salvation (liberation), and that there is no need to get involved in metaphysical issues. The Buddha explains this in the following dictum, "The Parable of the Poisoned Arrow.

If a person is shot with a poisoned arrow, the first thing to do is to pull it out and treat it for poison. This is not the time to think about who shot the poisoned arrow or who made the poisoned arrow. That is what we should do.

The Buddha did not stop merely at skepticism, but clearly laid out the path to enlightenment from there. This is where he differs from Sanjaya. This is why Sāriputta and Moggallāna, who were Sanjaya's disciples, were so moved to enter Buddhism.

This "going beyond skepticism" also means going beyond Azita's materialism. His materialism is a very rational way of thinking, which is exactly what we have in common with modern people. When we die, we are nothing. You just return to matter. There is no afterlife." In a sense, this is just another way of saying that the afterlife, which we can never know, is nothing. Ultimately, we do not know. Even in the unknown future, Buddha shows us the way to go, "Do what you must do now.

This is why Sanjaya's transcendence of skepticism is so significant for us moderns.

(*This brings up the question of what it means to preach "Pure Land" in the afterlife in later Mahayana Buddhism, but that is a different issue. I will talk about that sometime in the future, but for now, I hope you will keep that question in a corner of your mind.)

(5) Buddha who clarified the causes of suffering in life and the path to salvation.

The Four Noble Truths: The Four Fundamental Truths of Buddhism. The Buddha teaches the path to the destruction of suffering and the path to salvation.As I discussed in the article "The Four Noble Truths," Buddha taught about the causes of suffering in the world and how to be liberated from it.

The world is a world of suffering (Kutai), the cause of which is our vexations (Zittai), and we can be saved by destroying our vexations (Mettai), and this path is the correct practice of the Eight-Fold Path (Doutai).

The five companions immediately attain enlightenment through this teaching of the truth . but if you have followed me this far, you already know what I mean. This truth is also a critique of Brahmanism and overcomes the idea of the Rokushigedo and the Way of the Buddha.

The first point is that he attributed the cause of our suffering life to our own vexations. This is clearly different from Brahmanism. He also firmly indicated the path to salvation through good deeds, that is, through the eightfold path, which is to say, through the destruction of the afflictions.

This is fundamentally different from the amoralism of Pūrana, Pakuda, and others. From a rational point of view, they teach, "There is no such thing as morality. But even if this were true, what we should do for salvation is not clear at all. The greatness of the Buddha lies in the fact that he clarified what we should do.

Buddha also made it clear that salvation is not a matter of surrendering to Brahmins, gods, or other beings outside of oneself, as in Brahmanism, but rather that salvation is a matter of one's own self alone. (This may make the Jodo Shinshu teaching of surrendering to Amida Buddha's salvation seem very un-Buddhist, but that is not entirely true. I will discuss this again in due course.)

In any case, for Buddha's companions, this teaching was a revolutionary teaching unlike any other that had ever emerged in India. That is why they were shocked by Buddha's words. And perhaps they were also surprised by the very figure of the Buddha who spoke these words. After all, there must have been something in Buddha that made them feel that his words were true. I think there was something in Buddha that made them feel that his words were true, something that gave him an authority that made them say, "Because he says this, there is no doubt.

Sarnath Buddha (Buddha image representing the first turning of the wheel)


Now, we have seen five points about what was innovative about Buddha's teachings.

Of course, there are many other teachings about Buddha's teachings besides this one, and the scholarship will be even more rigorous.

However, as an introduction to Buddhism, I believe that the above five points are the major keys to understanding Buddhism.

What was innovative about Buddha's teachings and what attracted people to them is a very important question. As I have said many times, Buddha did not create his teachings from scratch. Buddha's thought and way of life were born from the background of the times and from friendly competition with various rivals.

I hope that this article has been of some help to you in this regard.

From the next article we will return to the life of Buddha. From here we will be in the latter half of Buddha's life. Now that we have grasped the historical background of India and the innovations of his teachings, it will be very exciting to see his rapid progress. Please continue to stay with us.

Next Article.

Click here to read the previous article.

Related Articles