Chapter IV: answers
- CHAPTER IV
1. What is the conceptual quandary?
When Europeans encountered other cultures, the concepts they could
use to describe and to understand the `other' were limited: few
concepts such as `heathens,' `idolaters,' and `zoolaters' would
exhaust their stock of labels. Europe also lacked the tools to
distinguish these traditions from one another: all `heathenism' was
one. Consequently, divergent traditions in Asia, Africa, and the
Americas could only be described accordingly, i.e. as `heathenism.'
Subsequently, whilst making an effort to better grasp such
differences, the Europeans were constrained, yet again, by their
own, clearly religious understanding of traditions: they sought to
uncover the heathen beliefs behind diverse traditions, sanctioned in
so-called `sacred scriptures.'
2. `Let 100 flowers bloom.' Explain.
The Protestant Reformation came to be divided into several factions
itself. The title refers to the multitude of denominations which
subsequently came to effloresce. It is relevant to note that these
religious groups still exhibited the Protestant proclivity to refer
to the heathen traditions, both Ancient and Indian, in order to
prove their point. Again, paganism was to testify in disputes about
the religious truth. While these Christian offshoots were caught up
in discussions, polemics, and persecutions, many Christian
intellectuals began to seek commonalities among these Christian
competitors. It was argued that there exist some common notions
concerning religion, which are both self evidently true and innate
in all men. (Notions such as, existence and nature of God,
connection of virtue and piety, reconciliation trough repentance )
Very soon, not only Christian communities, but also Judaism, Islam,
and, still later, different forms of Heathenism were all absorbed in
that one framework.
This ecumenism did not, however, put a stop to Christianity's urge
to prove its superiority against other religions. Here Heathenism
serves again as evidence evidence of a most ambiguous kind.
3. Explain the title: `Made in Paris, London, and Heidelberg.'
Both `Buddhism' and `Hinduism' existed, not in the East, but in the
libraries of the West. They were constructed by the French
Enlightenment thinkers in Paris, by the British in London, and by
the German Romantics in Heidelberg.
4. With reference to the theme of the book, in what sense was
Romanticism a continuation of the Enlightenment?
When the Enlightenment thinkers categorised the Ancient and Indian
traditions, as well as the Semitic religions, into one and the same
developmental scale, they continued what Early Christians,
Protestants, and Catholics had done before them. The Romantics
accepted this history: the distinction between concrete and abstract
thought was simply replaced by `childhood' and `adulthood' in order
to mould these phenomena, again, into one and the same category,
i.e. religion. In addition, whilst emphasising the close bond with
nature that such primal religions supposedly displayed, the
Romantics reiterated the Enlightenment explanation about the origin
of religion. They strengthened the Biblical notion of an original
religion by depicting India as the cradle of it.
The Enlightenment categorisation of al religions into one
developmental scale (running from primitive to more abstract) is
adopted by the Romantics with only slight alterations. Although
their evaluation of contemporary Heathenisms is more positive than
that of their predecessors, they still consider these as less
evolved. Hence such concepts as "childhood of Man" and "Cradle of
Civilization". Furthermore these concepts draw heavily on the
Enlightenment idea of primitive man a concept that has been
discussed in the previous chapter.
5. `On how the Buddha saved souls.' Explain.
The religious notion about the corruption of religion also came to
mould the creation-cum-description of Buddhism. The latter was said
to be a reformatory reaction against a degenerated Hinduism. Buddha
was described as the `Luther of the East', and Buddhism was to
Hinduism/Brahmanism, what Protestantism had been to Catholicism.
The theme of degeneration emerges a second time in this construction
of Buddhism. Since only scriptural sources were used in the creation
of Buddhism, this came to be seen as its pure and philosophical
core, while that what existed in reality was considered to be a
degeneration (i.e. popular Buddhism).