Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

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Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:12 pm

At the moment I am reading "India: A Sacred Geography" by Diana L. Eck of Harvard University.

In Chapter 3 "Rose Apple Island: India in the Lotus of the World" Eck describes the Hindu view of the world's geography, including Mount Meru, Jambudvipa, and so forth in the middle of the Salt sea. The systems emanate from this central one, and are described as circles of increasing size encompassing seas of Sugar Cane Juice, Ghee (clarified butter) and so forth.
y
I recognized the names of the continents and subcontinents from the mandala offering prayer (I must admit I have not studied other works on Buddhist cosmology except in a cursory way). So, my question is, does the Buddhist conception of the structure of the world differ in any significant way from the Hindu one? And, if so, in what way?
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Huifeng » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:55 am

Bronkhorst's book Greater Magadha has a some interesting comments on this questions, especially in the sub-section entitled flat-world vs disc-world (or something like that). Or, "No, Buddhist cosmology isn't essentially Vedic at all. But it may be sramanic."

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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:28 am

Buddhist cosmology and Vedic cosmology are understandably similar given that they both stem from Indo-European cultural backgrounds. You can see similar cosmologies to Mt. Meru in Iran and Europe too such as Olympus in the Hellenic world.

This is actually a good Wikipedia article to read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo ... n_religion

Even in early Buddhism, anything that seems Vedic might actually just be cause of common Indo-European heritage. At the time you had Indo-Europeans, who were not necessarily people of the Vedas, settled all around north India and Central Asia.
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby plwk » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:14 am

I think one shouldn't buy the idea that just because the Vedic days had it means it's necessarily their copyright or even necessarily theirs? Having read some of the stuff like what the ones before me have pointed out and also like what the late Dr AK Warder in his 'Indian Buddhism' seems to give me an idea that many things are perhaps 'shared legacies' as I would coin them? I remember in a thread discussion at the other sister site, they expressed that perhaps the Buddha was more of an expert at the department of duhkha and the cessation of duhkha rather than a cosmologist per se, re: Mt Meru and earthquakes stuff? Perhaps, He may have used them as useful analogies for something to relate to the audience of His time?

Look at the other shared legacies as well, like the 32 mahapurusa laksana, the srivatsa, the svastika, the wheel, the honouring of the six quarters or for that matter the Indic pantheon of devatas and many other things that even the Jains and other sramanic groups may have but with different emphasis and connotations?

I am amused to think that each time I raise the fingers to do a mandala offering mudra at a Tibetan Buddhist puja, I am a Vedic? :mrgreen:
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:04 pm

I would agree... Even if it is a Vedic-inspired cosmology, though, it doesn't bother me that much. Lord Buddha was born in India, into a family which was practicing a religious system that would today most likely fall under the umbrella of "Hinduism".

It is true that Cosmology was not the Buddha's primary concern, and the Suttas cover episodes where the Buddha would not respond to questions of a metaphysical nature as they were not essential in order to traverse the path to liberation. It is true that what sets Buddha's teachings apart are the detailed teachings on suffering, the path to freedom from suffering and delusion, and the combined system of method and wisdom. It is still interesting to note, however, that Buddhist texts that do speak about the geography of the universe share many common features with the Hindu texts of the Sanskrit tradition.

It also helps us understand the cultural background of the society into which the Buddha was born and where he lived- which, of course, must have shaped his dispensation in quite important ways, how could it not?
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Greg » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:55 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I would agree... Even if it is a Vedic-inspired cosmology, though, it doesn't bother me that much. Lord Buddha was born in India, into a family which was practicing a religious system that would today most likely fall under the umbrella of "Hinduism".


I don't think one can really apply contemporary labels retroactively to distant antecedents. That is sort of like saying that Aristotle practiced a science that today would fall under the umbrella of "quantum field theory."
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:08 pm

Okay, then, perhaps we could say he was born into a family practicing "Sanatana-Dharma".
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby greentara » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:41 am

jkhedrup, You made me smile. Of course it's true that the Buddha was "born into a family practicing "Sanatana-Dharma".
I wonder about the hesitation to admit this?
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:42 am

Indrajala wrote:
Even in early Buddhism, anything that seems Vedic might actually just be cause of common Indo-European heritage. At the time you had Indo-Europeans, who were not necessarily people of the Vedas, settled all around north India and Central Asia.


Pretty hard to square this opinion with the Buddha's recognition that the Gayatri Mantra is the supreme among mantras (tat savitur...etc.) in the Pali Canon.

Buddhism is filled with Vedic ideas.
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:48 am

Greetings,

Malcolm wrote:Pretty hard to square this opinion with the Buddha's recognition that the Gayatri Mantra is the supreme among mantras (tat savitur...etc.) in the Pali Canon.

Do you have a credible source for this? I very much doubt this is "in the Pali Canon"...

Maitri,
Retro. :)
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:48 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Malcolm wrote:Pretty hard to square this opinion with the Buddha's recognition that the Gayatri Mantra is the supreme among mantras (tat savitur...etc.) in the Pali Canon.

Do you have a credible source for this? I very much doubt this is "in the Pali Canon"...

Maitri,
Retro. :)



It is there, but I cannot recall where. It is not an advocacy of doing the mantra, it is in a list of "greats". Likewise, the Buddha charges Ananda with requesting knowledgable and faithful kṣatriyas, brahmins and householders to carry out his funeral rites.

What the Buddha rejected was the purva-mimamsa view of liberation through rites and rituals. But he did not reject Vedic culture completely, as witnessed in his advice to Vajjians to maintain their ancestral practices.
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Rakshasa » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:29 pm

The first mention of the term "Jambudvipa" comes in the Buddhist literature. That says a lot.

Just because Hinduism is famous today in India, it doesn't mean that it was the origin of all other religions and that it is the most ancient. This is like the Texas Sharp shooter fallacy in which a Texan shoots arrows on a white wall, and then paints a circle around it - a visitor later commends the shooter for his accuracy.

Most of the modern Hinduism actually comes from Buddhism. Ancient Hindism (or should I say Vedicism) was more like Zoroastrianism, not anything like Shramanism.

1. The modern Hindu ideas of renunciation come from Hinduism (Shankara adopted the Buddhist monk outlook by initiating his disciples with a shaven head, orange robes and a Monastic institution).
2. Most of Hindu Tantra was taken directly from Buddhist Tantra (Read Benyotosh BHattacharya's work).
3. Bhagavad Gita was written most likely as a Brahmanic response to Buddhism with Krishna replacing Buddha and expounding ideas of renunciation, yoga, karma etc.
4. Puranic Hinduism - which is what modern Hinduism is basically - originated in the medieval times, and is definitely influenced by Buddhist ideas.
5. Early Indo-Aryans did not worship deities in the temples. The most ancient temples of India are temples dedicated to Buddhist gods.

So, no, Buddhist cosmology is not essentially Vedic. On the contrary, Hindu cosmology is essentially Buddhistic.
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Rakshasa » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:43 pm

Malcolm wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Malcolm wrote:Pretty hard to square this opinion with the Buddha's recognition that the Gayatri Mantra is the supreme among mantras (tat savitur...etc.) in the Pali Canon.

Do you have a credible source for this? I very much doubt this is "in the Pali Canon"...

Maitri,
Retro. :)



It is there, but I cannot recall where. It is not an advocacy of doing the mantra, it is in a list of "greats". Likewise, the Buddha charges Ananda with requesting knowledgable and faithful kṣatriyas, brahmins and householders to carry out his funeral rites.

What the Buddha rejected was the purva-mimamsa view of liberation through rites and rituals. But he did not reject Vedic culture completely, as witnessed in his advice to Vajjians to maintain their ancestral practices.



Caste system was not established in the Indian subcontinent as it is a norm in these modern times. In Buddha's time, the perception of "Brahmins" was simply as a white skinned Caucasians living in the North west. The people/kings who are recognized as Kshatriyas in Buddhist literature are recognized as Shudras in Brahmanic literature. Notable examples are Nandas, Mauryas (even Ashoka), Guptas etc. This proves that Brahmanic caste system was not established as an essential definition of identity for every individual. When Buddha says "Khattiya", he simply refers to the royalty. But when the Brahmins say "Kshatriya" it refers to a special tribe of the Indo-Aryans. No other race could be "Kshatriyas" if they are not Indo-Aryans. That is why the Mauryans, Mallas, Palas, Guptas etc are not "Kshatriyas" according to Brahmins even though they are rulers. This is just like how both the Jains and Buddhists use the term "Arhat" for their founders, but the meaning is different. Buddha's definition of "Brahmin" is different from the deifnition by Brahmins themselves. Buddha lays down the definition in Sonanadata Sutta and many other Suttas in which Buddha had conversation with Brahmins of western India (who had not yet reached the whole of India, and that is why "caste system" was not an established fact for India). You can find Chinese literature in which Chinese scholars are referred to as Brahmins, but this is laughable for any real Brahmin of India because this is only by race/lineage.
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby jmlee369 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:20 am

Malcolm wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Malcolm wrote:Pretty hard to square this opinion with the Buddha's recognition that the Gayatri Mantra is the supreme among mantras (tat savitur...etc.) in the Pali Canon.

Do you have a credible source for this? I very much doubt this is "in the Pali Canon"...

Maitri,
Retro. :)



It is there, but I cannot recall where. It is not an advocacy of doing the mantra, it is in a list of "greats". Likewise, the Buddha charges Ananda with requesting knowledgable and faithful kṣatriyas, brahmins and householders to carry out his funeral rites.

What the Buddha rejected was the purva-mimamsa view of liberation through rites and rituals. But he did not reject Vedic culture completely, as witnessed in his advice to Vajjians to maintain their ancestral practices.


I believe the sutta mentioning the Savitti is the Sela Sutta (verse 568) http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... la-e1.html
and a discussion of the Vedic reference takes place in the comments here http://sdhammika.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10 ... sabhu.html
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby whitemonia » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:14 am

I think Rakshasa and Indrajana have reason.
I think like them about this question. Hinduism isn't the born religion of Siddharta...Hinduism is more recent and it is a synthesis. At that time in India there were the vedic religion with his brahminical system and the rest of dravidic religion like the shivaism (prevedic religion, before the arian invasion).
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:57 am

JKhedrup wrote:At the moment I am reading "India: A Sacred Geography" by Diana L. Eck of Harvard University.

In Chapter 3 "Rose Apple Island: India in the Lotus of the World" Eck describes the Hindu view of the world's geography, including Mount Meru, Jambudvipa, and so forth in the middle of the Salt sea. The systems emanate from this central one, and are described as circles of increasing size encompassing seas of Sugar Cane Juice, Ghee (clarified butter) and so forth.
y
I recognized the names of the continents and subcontinents from the mandala offering prayer (I must admit I have not studied other works on Buddhist cosmology except in a cursory way). So, my question is, does the Buddhist conception of the structure of the world differ in any significant way from the Hindu one? And, if so, in what way?


W. Randolph Kloetzli has made a thorough study of the topic of buddhist cosmology, he has published his findings in Buddhist Cosmology: Science and Theology in the Images of Motion and Light, 1989 Mlbd.
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:17 am

Some interesting parallels between Buddhist and Vedic descriptions of the hell realms which might be interesting to discuss:

All Hindu excerpts From Bhagavata Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam) trans. and commentary by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami http://vedabase.net/sb/5/26/en:

SB 5.26.7: Some authorities say that there is a total of twenty-one hellish planets, and some say twenty-eight. My dear King, I shall outline all of them according to their names, forms and symptoms. The names of the different hells are as follows: Tāmisra, Andhatāmisra, Raurava, Mahāraurava, Kumbhīpāka, Kālasūtra, Asi-patravana, Sūkaramukha, Andhakūpa, Kṛmibhojana, Sandaḿśa, Taptasūrmi, Vajrakaṇṭaka-śālmalī, Vaitaraṇī, Pūyoda, Prāṇarodha, Viśasana, Lālābhakṣa, Sārameyādana, Avīci, Ayaḥpāna, Kṣārakardama, Rakṣogaṇa-bhojana, Śūlaprota, Dandaśūka, Avaṭa-nirodhana, Paryāvartana and Sūcīmukha. All these planets are meant for punishing the living entities.


While the names may vary among texts, the most common names for the hot hells are descriptive of the places and from top to bottom are:

Samjiva (hell of constant repetition)
Kalasutra (hell of black wire)
Samghata (hell of stone slabs)
Raurava (hell of lamentation)
Maharaurava (hell of great lamentation)

Tapana (hell of scorching heat)
Pratapana (hell of fiercely scorching heat)
Avici (hell without interruption) http://www.hell-on-line.org/AboutAB.html


It seems that the Sanskrit names of some the Hell realms are even the same, and that the basic structure itself is rather similar.

The following verses from the Bhagavata Purana will be very familiar to those who have read about the Hell Realms in the Abhidharmic texts or the various Lam Rim treatises:

SB 5.26.13: For the maintenance of their bodies and the satisfaction of their tongues, cruel persons cook poor animals and birds alive. Such persons are condemned even by man-eaters. In their next lives they are carried by the Yamadūtas to the hell known as Kumbhīpāka, where they are cooked in boiling oil.



SB 5.26.14: The killer of a brāhmaṇa is put into the hell known as Kālasūtra, which has a circumference of eighty thousand miles and which is made entirely of copper. Heated from below by fire and from above by the scorching sun, the copper surface of this planet is extremely hot. Thus the murderer of a brāhmaṇa suffers from being burned both internally and externally. Internally he is burning with hunger and thirst, and externally he is burning from the scorching heat of the sun and the fire beneath the copper surface. Therefore he sometimes lies down, sometimes sits, sometimes stands up and sometimes runs here and there. He must suffer in this way for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of an animal.

SB 5.26.18: A person is considered no better than a crow if after receiving some food, he does not divide it among guests, old men and children, but simply eats it himself, or if he eats it without performing the five kinds of sacrifice. After death he is put into the most abominable hell, known as Kṛmibhojana. In that hell is a lake 100,000 yojanas [800,000 miles] wide and filled with worms. He becomes a worm in that lake and feeds on the other worms there, who also feed on him. Unless he atones for his actions before his death, such a sinful man remains in the hellish lake of Kṛmibhojana for as many years as there are yojanas in the width of the lake.

SB 5.26.19: My dear King, a person who in the absence of an emergency robs a brāhmaṇa — or, indeed, anyone else — of his gems and gold is put into a hell known as Sandaḿśa. There his skin is torn and separated by red-hot iron balls and tongs. In this way, his entire body is cut to pieces.

SB 5.26.21: A person who indulges in sex indiscriminately — even with animals — is taken after death to the hell known as Vajrakaṇṭaka-śālmalī. In this hell there is a silk-cotton tree full of thorns as strong as thunderbolts. The agents of Yamarāja hang the sinful man on that tree and pull him down forcibly so that the thorns very severely tear his body.

SB 5.26.22: A person who is born into a responsible family — such as a kṣatriya, a member of royalty or a government servant — but who neglects to execute his prescribed duties according to religious principles, and who thus becomes degraded, falls down at the time of death into the river of hell known as Vaitaraṇī. This river, which is a moat surrounding hell, is full of ferocious aquatic animals. When a sinful man is thrown into the River Vaitaraṇī, the aquatic animals there immediately begin to eat him, but because of his extremely sinful life, he does not leave his body. He constantly remembers his sinful activities and suffers terribly in that river, which is full of stool, urine, pus, blood, hair, nails, bones, marrow, flesh and fat.

SB 5.26.28: A person who in this life bears false witness or lies while transacting business or giving charity is severely punished after death by the agents of Yamarāja. Such a sinful man is taken to the top of a mountain eight hundred miles high and thrown headfirst into the hell known as Avīcimat. This hell has no shelter and is made of strong stone resembling the waves of water. There is no water there, however, and thus it is called Avīcimat [waterless]. Although the sinful man is repeatedly thrown from the mountain and his body broken to tiny pieces, he still does not die but continuously suffers chastisement.

SB 5.26.31: There are men and women in this world who sacrifice human beings to Bhairava or Bhadra Kālī and then eat their victims' flesh. Those who perform such sacrifices are taken after death to the abode of Yamarāja, where their victims, having taken the form of Rākṣasas, cut them to pieces with sharpened swords. Just as in this world the man-eaters drank their victims' blood, dancing and singing in jubilation, their victims now enjoy drinking the blood of the sacrificers and celebrating in the same way.

SB 5.26.32: In this life some people give shelter to animals and birds that come to them for protection in the village or forest, and after making them believe that they will be protected, such people pierce them with lances or threads and play with them like toys, giving them great pain. After death such people are brought by the assistants of Yamarāja to the hell known as Śūlaprota, where their bodies are pierced with sharp, needlelike lances. They suffer from hunger and thirst, and sharp-beaked birds such as vultures and herons come at them from all sides to tear at their bodies. Tortured and suffering, they can then remember the sinful activities they committed in the past.



SB 5.26.35: A householder who receives guests or visitors with cruel glances, as if to burn them to ashes, is put into the hell called Paryāvartana, where he is gazed at by hard-eyed vultures, herons, crows and similar birds, which suddenly swoop down and pluck out his eyes with great force.


Is strikingly similar to the descriptions in the Ksitigarbha Sutra:

http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/ksitigarbha/chap3.html with material from the Ksitigarbha Sutra
Also, there are iron hawks to peck out these miserable people's eyes. Furthermore, there are iron serpents to strangle these miserable people. Long nails are driven into their various limbs and joints. Their tongues are pulled out.

SB 5.26.35: A householder who receives guests or visitors with cruel glances, as if to burn them to ashes, is put into the hell called Paryāvartana, where he is gazed at by hard-eyed vultures, herons, crows and similar birds, which suddenly swoop down and pluck out his eyes with great force.


It seems to me that there are many links between various Hindu and Buddhist descriptions of the world and its realms, including the lower states of existence. My feeling is that this is a common basis for what I would call dharmic religions. One of the fundamental goals of Buddhism, liberation from the sufferings of birth and death, is also shared by the Hindu traditions. It is the path towards that goal and the motivation with which one works towards that goal that are different.

It puzzles me how some seem to take offense when the similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism are mentioned. They developed in the same geographical area, and the Buddha was born to a family that practiced a religious system that would now be categorized as Sanatana-Dharma.

I am not saying that Buddhists should become Hindu- far from it. I am advocating an appreciation and respect of our shared heritage, though.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Simon E. » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:11 am

:good:
The parallels are closer than some Buddhists are comfortable with. They prefer to believe that a kind of tabula rasa ensued following the event under the Bo Tree.
On the other hand the 'Hindu ' view of Buddhadharma as something only they truly understand because it is another variation of Vedic Dharma is even more problematic.
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Nemo » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:00 pm

It gets more confusing when you remember that the previous Buddha before Shakyamuni left teachings that became integral parts of the "Hinduism" of our Buddhas time.
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Re: Is Buddhist cosmology essentially Vedic?

Postby Simon E. » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:16 pm

Nemo wrote:It gets more confusing when you remember that the previous Buddha before Shakyamuni left teachings that became integral parts of the "Hinduism" of our Buddhas time.

IF you are inclined to see such narratives as historical.
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