- Dona Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html"Brahman, the fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a deva: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. The fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a gandhabba... a yakkha... a human being: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.
The British people take pride in calling themselves Aryans. There is a spiritualized Aryanism and an anthropological Aryanism. The Brahmans by enunciating a system of Griha Sutras called those people only Aryans who lived in the territory known as Bharatvarsha [ancient Sanskrit name for India]. Those who did not conform to the sacred laws were treated as Mlechas [barbarians].
Buddhism is a spiritualized Aryanism. The ethics of the Bible are opposed to the sublime principles of the Aryan Doctrine promulgated by the Aryan teacher. We condemn Christianity as a system utterly unsuited to the gentle spirit of the Aryan race.
For Muller, the Buddha, removed from Asia and transported to England, is not Asian and therefore need not be bounded by Asian custom. The Buddha is a figure of European culture, like a Greek god; and as the newest member of this ancient pantheon from which Western civilization emerged, he should be worshipped accordingly.
Kuling, 11 August 1937
To the Leader of the German People,
Mr Adolf Hitler
The scientific civilization of our time is borne by the Aryan race, but the religious culture of the past has its culmination in Buddhism, whose founder, Buddha Shakyamuni, was also of Aryan origin.
[Taixu goes on to highlight certain Buddhist virtues]
I believe that the Germanic people, now united under the Fuhrer, have wondrously developed three characteristics: knowledge, conformity, and courage. Thus only Buddhist religion, in which these three characteristics are primary virtues, can be the religion of the Germanic people. And only that most excellent scion of ancient Aryan stock, Shakyamuni, the Holy, can be the religious people of the Germanic people, that most excellent scion of ancient Aryan stock.
[NOTE: Judging from the date of the letter, it is likely that Taixu was not yet aware of the full political implications of the Third Reich. Moreover, it is very likely that this letter was prompted by the crisis facing China at the time: namely, the invasion by Japan on 7 July 1937.]
zavk wrote:Hi all
This question about the Aryan identity of the Buddha was something that had piqued my interest too. I do not have knowledge of scholarship about the shared heritage of the Indo-Europeans as such. However, I have looked into the ways in which the notion of 'Aryanism' became associated with general perceptions of Buddhism. There are some interesting accounts of how the notion of 'Aryanism' was deployed in discussions of Buddhism. I don't have the material with me at the moment so I will post again with those examples.
The emergence of knowledge about the 'Indo-European' and the related notion of Aryanism has to be situated within its ideological context. This knowledge emerged in a time of colonialism, the same period when 'Buddhism' developed as an object of knowledge in the West. This was also a time of significant advances in the science of philology. Connections were made between the classical Indian language of Sanskrit and the classical languages of Europe, and hence consolidating the category of 'Indo-European'. Due to various cultural, social, political, and ideological factors, theories of language groups developed into theories of racial groups. The study of root verbs became a study of bloodlines.
Let me clarify that my aim here is NOT to denigrate philology. I do not have the expertise to even attempt anything like that. Nor am I challenging scholarship about the 'Indo-Europeans'. Without firsthand understanding of this body of scholarship, I fully accept the possibility that the ancient people of India coud share certain bloodlines with the ancient people of Europe. I am NOT contesting this knowledge as such. What I wish to do, rather, is to reflect on how this knowledge was adopted. That is, I wish to reflect on the EFFECTS of this knowledge. Because regardless of whether this category of 'Indo-Europeans' is historically accurate or not, it had turned around a particular understanding of Aryanism and was also implicated in a certain science of race and colonial politics.
In other words, I'm NOT questioning the truthfulness/falseness of this set of knowledge but whether this set of knowledge had been put to use in skilful or unskilful ways: I am reflecting on whether the EFFECTS of this set of knowledge are kusala or akusala, and whether the reverberations of these effects can still be felt today or not.
To give a quick summary of the ideological impetus behind the development of the discourse of Aryanism:
By charting the 'noble' history of ancient India, European colonial powers saw Indian civilisation of the time to be in a state of degeneration and decay. It was the idea that Indian civilisation had lost its 'noble' past. The Aryan nobility which the Indians had abandoned was now better embodied by European civilisation. (It is worth noting that early Western knowledge of Buddhism--which still casts a long shadow over us today whether we like it or not--was filtered through such assumptions) So the notion of a shared Aryan 'noble' bloodline played a part in justifying colonialism. Regardless of whether one is today a postcolonial subject or not, I think it is clear that there is much about colonialism that is akusala, and that the unskilful effects of colonialism are still reverberating through both the societies of the former colonisers and the formerly colonised (or 'colonize' in American spelling).
(Note: this is not to say that scholars of the time were inherently 'bad' or 'misguided' or anything like that. It is simply the case the production of knowledge is always influenced by the prevailing ideological assumptions and political imperatives of the time. It is even the case today with, say, knowledge about climate change for instance. And because of these ideological assumptions and political imperatives, any set of knowledge could lead to skilful or unskilful effects, regardless of the intentions of those producing the knowledge.)
I will post again with examples of how the notion of 'Aryanism' was taken up in discourses about Buddhism.
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