Was Buddha Anti-Vedism?


Rebuttal to those Neo-Buddhists anti-Hindu tree huggers who say That the Buddha was anti-varna (caste) and Anti-Vedism-Anti Ritual

“The Buddha said,

‘What the noble ones say is the truth, what the others say is not true. And why is this? The noble ones understand things as they are, the common folk does not understand. Furthermore, they are called noble truths because they are possessed by those who own the wealth and assets of the noble ones. Furthermore, they are called noble truths because they are possessed by those who are conceived in the womb of a noble person.”


At the end of his life, the Buddha unwittingly got involved in political intrigue when Varsakara, a minister of the Magadha kingdom, asked him for the secret of the strength of the Republican states. Among the seven unfailing factors of the strength of a society, he included “sticking to ancient laws and traditions” and “maintaining sacred sites and honoring ancient rituals”.

— Digha Nikaya 2:73

So, contrary to his modern image as an anti-Vedic “revolutionary”, the Buddha’s view of the good society was near Brahmanic Vedism. Far from denouncing “empty ritual”, he praised it as a factor of social harmony and strength. He wanted people to maintain the ancestral worship of the Vedic gods, go to the Vedic sites of pilgrimage and celebrate the Vedic festivals.

Of most of the hundreds of men recruited to the Buddha’s monastic order, we know the provenance, hence the caste. More than 80% of the hundreds of men he recruited, were from the upper castes. More than 40% were Brahmins.

The Buddha himself was a Ksatriya, son of the President-for-life of the proud Sakya tribe, and a member of its senate. His lay patrons, who had their personal or their feudal subordinates build monasteries for the Buddha, included most of the kings and magnates of the nether Ganga region. Indeed, this patronage is the main reason why Buddhism succeeded in becoming a world religion where most other contemporaneous sects dwindled and disappeared.

The successor-Buddha prophesied for the future, the Maitreya, is to be born in a Brahman family, according to the Buddha himself. When the Buddha died, his ashes were divided and sent to eight cities, where the elites had staked their claims purely in caste terms: “He was a Kshatriya and we are Kshatriyas, so we are entitled to his ashes.”

Clearly, his disciples, after undergoing his teachings for forty-five years, were not in the least hesitant to display their caste in a Buddhist context par excellence. Finally…

“After all Bodhisattvas were not born in despised lineage, among pariahs, in families of pipe or cart makers, or mixed castes.’ ‘The Bodhisattvas appear only in two kinds of lineage, one of the warriors (Kshatriya) or if not, only then Brahmanas ’”
—Lalita Vistara

 – Shonan Talpade
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