This is the summary of a debate that I had in social media, some time back. The topic of debate was ”Why did Buddha object the authority of the Vedas’.
Question: –What is the reason behind Buddha’s objection to the authority of the Vedas? Was it due to his understanding that Vedas are man-made?
Answer: – No! Buddha had never rejected the authority of Vedas in their pure form.
“The Buddhists have been equally deceived with Brahmins, in the estimate they have formed of the character of the Rishis. The power attributed to these revered sages by Buddhists is scarcely inferior to that of the Arhats, which we shall have to notice at greater length by and bye. By Sinhalese authors, they are represented as being possessed of superhuman attributes. In seeking to obtain Nirvana, it is great advantage of having been a Rishi in a former birth……………… But Buddha denied that the Brahmans were then in the possession of the real Veda. He said that it was given in the time of Kasyapa (a former supreme Buddha) to certain Rishis, who, by the practice of severe austerities, had acquired the power of seeing Divine Bliss. They were Attako, Vamako, Vamadevo, Wessamitto, Yamataggi, Angiraso, Bharaddwajo, Wasetto, Kassapo and Bhagu. The Vedas that were revealed to these Rishis were subsequently altered by Brahmans, so that they are now made to defend the sacrifice of animals, and to oppose the doctrine of Buddha. It is on account of this departure from the truth, that Buddha refused to pay them any respect”
Reference: – ‘The Sacred books of Buddhists compared with history and modern science’ by ‘Robert Spence Hardy’, Page 30-31. (Major contents are from original sources like ‘Mahavagga’, ‘Suttanipata’, etc) & Brahmana Dhammika Sutta.
Let us re-read some lines from the above quote.
“He said that it was given in the time of Kasyapa (a former supreme Buddha) to certain Rishis, who, by the practise of severe austerities, had acquired the power of seeing Divine Bliss. They were Attako, Vamako, Vamadevo, Wessamitto, Yamataggi, Angiraso, Bharaddwajo, Wasetto, Kassapo and Bhagu”
‘Acquired the power of seeing Divine Bliss’ clearly indicates that Buddha had never rejected the infallibility and authority claim of the Vedas, instead he approved that claim.
Question: – Then why did he oppose the Vedas?
Answer: – Because according to Buddha, Vedas deflected from their original values and meaning, and these deflected parts were used by Brahmins to give validation to some heinous rituals like animal sacrifice.
Question: – Did Buddha approved the existence of afterlife?
Yes. Of course. Though Buddha opposed the Vedas, his teaching contain many many Vedic elements.
“Buddha following the Brahmanical theory, presents hell for wicked and rebirth for the imperfect. A heaven is also recognised. ”On the dissolution on the body after death, the well doer is reborn in some happy state in heaven” (1). Sometimes heaven and hell are looked upon as temporary states before rebirth happens”(2)
1. Maha Parinibbana Sutra. i, 24. (Cited from ‘Indian Philosophy’)
2. Indian Philosophy, S Radhakrishnan, Volume 1, page 374-5.
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