Narach Philosophy

THE MAHAYANA AND HINAYANA SCHOOLS


There are two great schools of Buddhist thought, the Mahayana and Hinayana, or the Great and Small Vehicle, and they correspond to the creative character of the Mind and the senses of knowledge respectively. We have explained that God and Nature are regarded as joint creators in the light of the Mind, and this gives us dualism; similarly God, if he exists at all, is conceived of as a mere spectator of Prakrti in the light of the senses of knowledge, and this gives us agnosticism. Hence the Mahayana school should be dualistic, and the Hinayana agnostic in character.

The Mahayana: Corresponding to this we are told that "Mahayanists recognize that there are innumerable Buddhas, each in his own world. ... Their personality and activity became more distinct, until they were thought of almost like Hindu gods. ... Thus in that most orthodox Mahayana book, Saddharma Pundarika, Gautama is made almost an eternal being, of omnipotent power, who from time to time descends to earth, like "Vishnu, to be born in the world of the living. ... Since Gautama was believed to have lived as a householder for countless lives, celibacy was not a necessary element of discipline. Neophyte Bodhisattvas, both men and women, were encouraged to marry. The conception of Krshna-Vishnu as the Supreme is adapted to Buddhist conceptions. Many of the titles are borrowed unchanged Supreme Spirit, Self-existent, Great Father, World-Father, and Ruler of the Triple World, Creator, Destroyer, and Physician. He is Everlasting, "All-knowing, and All-seeing. He wields maya, which he uses in sport, Lila".

We notice that this corresponds to the character of the Mind as we have explained. Buddha is, like Vishnu, an active god, and Associated with Prakrti (wife), and so the devotees are encouraged to marry too. Again it is said that "the Mahayana Buddhism gives us positive ideas of God, soul, and human destiny. ... It requires us to take part in the world, evolving new social and religious ideas".

The Hinayana: We know much less of the Hinayana than of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. The former is said to be older of the two, and its followers believe in the atomic theory of matter. The Buddha of this school "is a superman. He feels neither hunger nor thirst; he lives in ignorance of carnal desires; his wife remains a virgin".

We notice that this idea of Buddha corresponds to that of the supreme Purusha in the light of Nyaya. He is a god who does not act; he has his Prakrti (wife), but he has no creative contact with her, and so she remains a virgin.

Again, we are told that "the Hinayana is a colourless religion, denying God in doctrine, though allowing worship of Buddha in practice. There is no devotion or Bhakti, which implies a living God". Yet in the same breath Sir S. Radhakrishnan observes that "the Hinayana ... believed in one supreme Creator and many subordinate deities". Indeed, as we have remarked, the Hinayana is agnostic and not atheistic in character, and so its conception of Buddha as supreme Creator is of a strictly limited kind, and he is spoken of as "only a preacher, a guide to truth ... neither divine, nor supernatural". Thus we see that the Hinayana is characterised by "negative tendencies" and is agnostic in essence.

Buddhist Tantra: We have observed that the Tantra coincides with the religion of Brahma, extending from the character of the Mind to that of the senses of knowledge and action. Hence Buddhism, which is included in its range, should have its own Tantric form, identical to that of Saivism. Again, as Buddhism and Vaisnavism both meet in the region of the Mind, there should be common ground between them too.

In the light of the character of the Mind, the Buddhist Tantra should therefore be derived from the Mahayana school; and Buddha in this form should be associated with his consort (Woman or Prakrti). Again, as Mind energy is related to wine (Soma), Buddha should be represented as partaking of it. Further, as Siva, Vishnu and Buddha meet in the region of the Mind, they should all be identified.

In the light of the senses of knowledge, the character of Buddha should be similar to that of Siva when he too refers to them. His consort or Prakrti should be conceived of as more active than he, and, like Siva, he too should be shown either as recumbent or as one dead. Corresponding to this we have the following in the Sadhanamala:

"The Tantras and Mantras have been practised by the Buddhists since the time of Buddha ... The Buddhist Tantras belong more properly to the Mahayana and not Hinayana ... The Tantric literature was mainly written by the Vajrayanists and Vajrayana is the essence of all Tantras ... It introduced the worship of Sakti in Buddhism ... In the Mulakalpa ... Buddha is introduced in the company of a large number of women instead of an assembly of pure and pious Bodhisattvas ... The short and long of the whole work (another book) is that without Mahamudra (great woman) no emancipation or success in any rite is possible ... Krshna (a Buddhist writer) is credited ... with having introduced the Tantras in which the male and female divinities sit clasping each other".

Again we are told that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu, and that Mahadeva is the imperishable one in the form of Buddha. Buddha is shown as surrounded by women, and his eyes droop with wine. But, as the Buddhist idea extends to the senses of knowledge, and so is outside the range of Vishnu, Buddha is also shown as trampling under heel both Vishnu and his consort, Laksmi, while Ganesa, who represents the senses of knowledge, is regarded as an object of worship by the Buddhists too.

Then we find that the goddess Tara (Prakrti) is worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists alike, and so is Kali. Buddha-kapala is but another form of Heruka, and may be identified with Mahadeva, and he is described in the Sadhana as associated with his Sakti, Citrasena, in close embrace the goddess Nairatma, like Kali, is described as standing on the chest of a dead body (of Buddha), and she too wears a garland of severed heads like the Hindu deity.

Thus we see that the Buddhist Tantra corresponds exactly to Saiva Tantra in all essential character and form, for both represent the same energy of Mind and the senses of knowledge and it was for this reason that Buddhism was ultimately absorbed into Hinduism.

Buddha, Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu: We have pointed out the connection between these gods and shown how in the Tantra they are all described as having common characteristics, and for reasons we have explained.

Buddhism and Jainism: We have observed that Buddhism and Jainism are but two divisions of the principal Sankhya system, and the connection between them is as follows:

Creative Energies Soul Buddhi Mind Senses of Knowledge Senses of Action
Buddhism     (Mahayana) (Hinayana)  
Jainism       (Svetambara) (Digambara)

We notice that they meet in the region of the senses of knowledge, and so they should both hold the atomic theory of life, related to Purushic Ether, the basis of the senses of knowledge; and the chief principles of the Hinayana school of Buddhism and Svetambara school of Jainism should be the same. We find that this is really so. It is said that the Jaina physics has for its chief principle the atomic structure of the universe, and the physical objects apprehended by the senses consist of atoms; and then we are told that the early Buddhists believed in the theory of sense perception and associated the senses with the elements; and the two ideas are almost identical. The highest and most perfect being is Arhat among the Jainas, and "the Arhat ideal is the distinguishing mark of the Hinayana", while "the ethical ideal of the Mahayana is Bodhisattva as distinct from the Arhat of the Hinayana".

The connection between Buddhism and Jainism is so obvious that some writers would go so far as to hold that Jainism is an offshoot of Buddhism; but the Indian tradition looks upon the two as distinct faiths as we have explained, their radical idea is the same, and the similarity between them obvious. The Hinayana and Svetambara are almost identical; but there can be little in common between the Mahayana and Digambara schools; and so we are told that "Buddha allowed decent dress, regular food, shelter and medical treatment even to the Bhiksus", whereas the Digambara would deny these elementary necessaries of life to all. This theory, however, will explain the points of similarity and difference between the schools of Buddhism and Jainism.

Knowledge and Action: We have explained that according to Nyaya-Vaisesika, the basis of Buddhism, while necessary actions must be performed as a Sacrifice, knowledge is regarded as the final goal. Buddhism, therefore, differentiates between good and evil actions, enjoins Right conduct, Right effort, and Right mode of livelihood, and describes Right action as unselfish action which, as we have explained, is Sacrifice, Right effort is said to consist in practising control of passions light effort cannot be isolated from Right thinking, and mental culture is not so much a suppression of the senses as a cultivation of them to see the truth Dhyana is the highest contemplation ... A life of meditation of the highest restores us to the highest truth ... Nirvana is the highest bliss, and eternal salvation is what Buddha sets before man at the end of the narrow paths of knowledge, virtue and austerity ... Knowledge is no doubt emphasized, for ignorance is said to be the root cause of sorrow and suffering. ... Virtue is knowledge of the good. ... Knowledge is ... As close to us as life itself ... When we attain the highest condition, it is said that Karma (action) has no effect. All the past deed with their results vanishes forever. The condition of freedom is beyond good and evil ... Nirvana is an eternal condition of being ... It is unconditioned freedom.

Conclusion: Thus we see that the religion of Buddha is based on the Nyaya and Vaisesika systems of thought, to which both its theory and practice conform.