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June 16, 2013


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"Although the early Upanishads had already been completed even before the rise of Buddhism, there is no mention of them in early Buddhism."

Not true. The most accessible summary of the evidence is Gombrich's "What the Buddha Thought". Early Buddhists clearly were familiar with and influenced by a number of ideas found in the earliest Upaniṣads. Such is obvious reading the Tevijjā Sutta and the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad side by side. Which is what Gombrich did.

Citing a single source as representing a consensus across a field of study is a bit weak. A proper survey of up-to-date Buddhist studies literature would show that if there is a consensus it is that Buddhists *were* influenced by Brahmins.

We don't know much about the Buddha. But Buddhism clearly was influenced by Vedics. After all their gods feature throughout our literature: Sakka and Brahmā can only be from Vedics. Furthermore the adoption of adjectives like brahman and ariya are a dead give away. However Jainism was also an influence according to Gombrich and others.

But some of the other main evidence is that the biography of the Buddha - right down to the names we know him by - are tuned to Brahmin sensibilities. I've written this up here: https://www.academia.edu/4866512/Siddhartha_Gautama_Whats_in_a_Name

One of my published papers argues for an influence from Zoroastrianism also. Others have noted influences from what must have been animistic cultures from the area as well - in cults that involved tree devas and water spirits for example.

Buddhism is a rag bag of ideas, and that process and interaction and assimilation continues throughout Buddhist history. Very little is down to internal innovation.

Jainism is pretty ridiculous:

"[...] Jains don't eat root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, roots and tubers, because such root vegetables are considered to be 'ananthkay'. 'Ananthkay' means one body, but containing countless lives. However, a root vegetable such as potato, though from the looks of it is one article, is said to contain multiple lives ('ekindriya') in it. Also, tiny life forms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because the bulb is seen as a living being, as it is able to sprout."

"Mushrooms, Fungus and Yeasts are forbidden because they are parasites, grow in non-hygienic environments and may harbour other life forms."

"Honey is forbidden, as its collection would amount to violence against the bees."

"Strict Jains do not consume food which has been stored overnight, as it possesses a higher concentration of micro-organisms (for example, bacteria, yeast etc.) as compared to food prepared and consumed the same day. Hence, they do not consume yogurt or dhokla & idli batter unless they've been freshly set on the same day."

"Jains do not consume fermented foods (beer, wine and other alcohols) to avoid killing of a large number of microorganisms associated with the fermenting process."


"In the times of Mahavira and in the following centuries, Jains criticized Buddhists and followers of the Vedic religion or Hindus for negligence and inconsistency in the implementation of ahimsa. In particular, they strongly objected to the Vedic tradition of animal sacrifice with subsequent meat-eating and to the hunting."


This effeminate, superficial obsession with ahimsa-literalism tells me the Jain worldview didn't even come close to the wisdom of the Middle Way, let alone inspiring it.

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