Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Bundokji
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Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by Bundokji »

Friends,

What are the similarities and the differences between Brahmanism as known during the lord Buddha's time and the Abrahamic religions?
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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DNS
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by DNS »

Bundokji wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 2:03 pm Friends,
What are the similarities and the differences between Brahmanism as known during the lord Buddha's time and the Abrahamic religions?
Definitely some similarities, imo.

In the ancient Hebrew religion (pre-cursor to modern Judaism), there were animal sacrifices, just like in Brahmanism.

The Hebrew religion had a caste system, that still survives somewhat in modern Judaism. Only the Levi tribe and descendants of the Levi tribe could be temple priests, officiating over sacrifices and rituals. Below them were the rest of the Israelites and below them were/are the goyim (gentiles).

Some people have speculated that "Abraham" means "A-brahmin" and that Abraham was an Indian brahmin, but there is no conclusive or archeological evidence for this.

Historians have hypothesized that the Israelites (of biblical times) were not that monotheistic. They believed that YHWH was their god, the god of Israel, but felt that there were other gods, for other nations. Later, during the start of the Common Era (roughly around the birth of Jesus), the god of one nation became the God of all nations.

And then Christianity and Islam developed or evolved out of Judaism, so they too are similar, considering their Israelite roots with Abraham.
dharmacorps
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by dharmacorps »

It may be that we know more about Abrahamic religions than we do the Brahminism of the Buddha's time, since it is no longer practiced, or has changed substantially. It is not equivalent to modern day Hindu practice although some remnants probably exist.
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by Spiny Norman »

dharmacorps wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 7:54 pm It may be that we know more about Abrahamic religions than we do the Brahminism of the Buddha's time, since it is no longer practiced, or has changed substantially. It is not equivalent to modern day Hindu practice although some remnants probably exist.
True. The other issue I see is that in the suttas Brahminism looks like a stereotype of contemporary religious authority, something for the Buddha to challenge and prove inadequate.
It reminds me a little of the way Jesus is portrayed challenging the Pharisees in the New Testament.
Buddha save me from new-agers!
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by Coëmgenu »

In the old Brahmanical religion, God creates through speaking ("born of the mouth of Brahma") and Elohim is depicted in one of the two creation stories in the Bible as creating through speaking. In the other, he is named "YHWH Elohim" and he creates though directly shaping mud (presumably with his hands) and then breathing life into it (presumably with his mouth/lungs), unless I'm quite mistaken.

The OP was not comparing Abrahamic religion to Buddhism directly, but if it did, I would say that the category of "Abrahamic religion" is more like Buddhism than, say, "Christianity" or "Judaism" or "Islam" or "Mandaeism" or whatever else we want to include. Why? There are multiple Buddhist religions with a lot in common between them that are, arguably, not the same religion at all. This is similar to how Christianity is Abrahamic, Islam is Abrahamic, and Judaism is Abrahamic, but all of these three are quite distinct and are not each other. Just as "Abrahamic henotheism/monotheism" over time stopped being a particular religion and started being "a particular religious worldview" within which other religions could arise, over time, Buddhism stopped being a particular religion and starting being seen as a religious milieu, a religious backdrop, in front of which arise new Buddhist religions. Pure Land is not Chan is not Nichiren is not Theravada, but all of these are called "Buddhism" in the present, because "Buddhism" as a category is actually very general and vague in the way that it is used in the West to group all of these diverse religions that feature characters from Buddhist stories.

Returning to the subject of comparing the two: many Hinduisms (since so-called "Brahmanism" is simply an ancient form of modern Hinduism) are pseudo-monotheistic. One great God creates the world with its pantheon of lesser gods who are but mere manifestations of the prime mover, be he Śiva or Viṣṇu or Prajapati or whoever.

Another similarity comes with the appearance of the ancient Semitic/Mesopotamian belief in the "deep waters" in which the serpents like Tiamat/Tehowm dwell (which also appears in ancient Egyptian religion). In the Bible, God is depicted in victory over Tiamat much like Marduk was once said to be victorious. Particularly, Tehowm (a Hebraic reflex of "Tiamat") is depicted as under the waters with darkness upon her face. The story of Elohim binding Tiamat does not show up in the Genesis account, but instead in a third fragmentary creation account that is preserved in the Psalms. Here is a version from an Aramaic spell-bowl:
The dragon of chaos moved and rocked the creation, whereupon God brought it to rest and made the world stable again by proclaiming "IAO."
"IAO" is a Hellenic transcription of "YWHW." In yet another version, Elohim proclaims "IAO IAO IAO IAO," speaking his name four times for the four corners of creation, and pins the dragon of the deep under four seals so that she can never rise again.

From a more orthodox source:
12. But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
13. It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14. It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15. It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16. The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
(Psalm 74:12-17)

More reading (this requires a Google account to view): https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15699/j ... .2015.2780

Ancient primordial waters appear in various Indian creation accounts, including in the Aggaññasutta in the Pali Canon: this earth being a mere coagulation on the surface of these ancient waters. Interestingly, though the Hindus have Anantaśeṣa lurking in the deep of the dark waters, Buddhists have a parallel figure who is basically good and doesn't hang out in the bowls of creation. He simply offers the Buddha some shade with his cobra-like hood. So Buddhism is utterly missing a Semitic/Mesopotamian "dragon of the deep" character.
At one time, Thomas the Bodhi-Wizard was teaching in the rosewood pavillion in the park by the Kmart. Summarizing, he concluded: "The gist is to be unconscious of conceptualizations." "What about the concept of 'concepts versus non-concepts?'" asked Frampton the Initiate. "Ooooh you think you're so clever," responded Thomas, "but when I was porking your mother last night, she achieved a non-dual gnostic bliss that transgresses the binaries of even your foolish question. Do not question the Bodhi-Wizard."

The students rejoiced.
Bundokji
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by Bundokji »

Coëmgenu wrote: Fri Jun 10, 2022 9:43 am The OP was not comparing Abrahamic religion to Buddhism directly, but if it did, I would say that the category of "Abrahamic religion" is more like Buddhism than, say, "Christianity" or "Judaism" or "Islam" or "Mandaeism" or whatever else we want to include. Why? There are multiple Buddhist religions with a lot in common between them that are, arguably, not the same religion at all. This is similar to how Christianity is Abrahamic, Islam is Abrahamic, and Judaism is Abrahamic, but all of these three are quite distinct and are not each other. Just as "Abrahamic henotheism/monotheism" over time stopped being a particular religion and started being "a particular religious worldview" within which other religions could arise, over time, Buddhism stopped being a particular religion and starting being seen as a religious milieu, a religious backdrop, in front of which arise new Buddhist religions. Pure Land is not Chan is not Nichiren is not Theravada, but all of these are called "Buddhism" in the present, because "Buddhism" as a category is actually very general and vague in the way that it is used in the West to group all of these diverse religions that feature characters from Buddhist stories.
Thank you for the interesting input :anjali:

I was asking because Brahmanism was dominant during the Buddha's time and many suttas refer to Brahmans. Buddhist cosmology, up to the first Jhana, seem to resemble the cosmology of Abrahamic religions to a large extent, and as the Buddha was teaching Brahmans as the dominant religion of his time, he would have agreed with them about the teachings of kamma and rebirth. Both Brahmans and the Abrahamics pay allegiances to one god who is thought to be the highest, and Dr. David raised an interesting point about the similarity in the root of the name (Brahman and Abraham). In the Abrahamic religions, Mara (or satan) is in charge of kamma loka after humans descended to earth, another similarity with Buddhist cosmology and probably Brahmanism.

It is also interesting to contemplate how monotheism would eventually lead to hierarchical structures that replicates itself over time. In Hinduism, Brahmans are designated as the highest caste who resemble the priests, which is similar to the Israelites in Abrahamic traditions, and which evolved later into other offshoots and reformation movements. It would be interesting to know if Brahmanism had any beliefs in a savior similar to Christ.

YHWH is linked to Tetragram, and according to wikipedia, the name may be derived from a verb that means "to be", "to exist", "to cause to become", or "to come to pass". Buddhism seems to be the antidote to this considering that tetralemma were dominant in Indian logic, and that via negativa or Apophatic theology is known as a method to reach god or the divine.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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no_mind_redux
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by no_mind_redux »

Bundokji wrote: Tue Jun 07, 2022 2:03 pm Friends,

What are the similarities and the differences between Brahmanism as known during the lord Buddha's time and the Abrahamic religions?
Not many similarities. The seven deadly sins are very similar to Arishadvargas

Differences are plenty.

The one I find most striking is that subcontinental religions do not believe in evil (as in literal evil - Lucifer et al). They believe in lack of understanding, and wisdom being at the root of evil acts.

Also, subcontinental religions do not believe in burial. There is no "Second Coming" and thus no need to preserve remains. No armageddon. No four horsemen of the Apocalypse. There is an exception to this rule though - sometimes Hindu saints and Tibetan monks are buried - so that devotees can return and draw inspiration, strength and blessings.

God in subcontinental religions (barring Buddhism) is benevolent, kind and understanding (regardless of isolated passages in Gita and depiction of Goddess Kali wearing a garland made of skulls).

The significant difference (also applicable to Buddhism) is teaching of a many-layered religion. It is not one size fits all or even one teaching/scriptures fits all approach that Abrahamic religions have.

One set of scriptures for the masses (Puranas in Hinduism, Jataka and to some extent Dhammapada in Buddhism) and one for those who really want to delve into metaphysics (Vedanta in Hinduism and Suttas, Abhidhamma in Buddhism).

:namaste:

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Bundokji
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Re: Brahmanism vs Abrahamic religions

Post by Bundokji »

no_mind_redux wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:14 am The significant difference (also applicable to Buddhism) is teaching of a many-layered religion. It is not one size fits all or even one teaching/scriptures fits all approach that Abrahamic religions have.
Yes, i am becoming increasingly aware of that. While its commonly believed that the lord Buddha taught people according to their abilities, how these abilities differ remains speculative and not clearly formulated. At this stage of my practice, i would not rule out that the Buddha's teachings can be utilized to knowing god or Brahma, but that falls short of nobility. Such attainment, as it radically differs from the ordinary can be easily mistaken to be the highest. I have read some contributions on this forum that the DN is dedicated to teaching Brahmans.

So, it is not impossible that the casting system within Hinduism, Brahmanism and Abrahamic traditions is not completely nonsensical. It possibly indicates favorable conditions to knowing Brahma or god, and this does not necessarily contradict the Buddha's teachings.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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