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442Re: Was Gandhi a Buddhist?

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  • Jonathan Watts
    Jan 3, 2005

      Thanks for your thoughts on Gandhi. Is it OK to question further to learn more of the subtleties of your position on Gandhi?

      Mangesh Dahiwale wrote:

      The truth about India is that a very minority of people believe in Gandhi and if not all, but perhaps many hundred thousands people believe in Ambedkar.
      **the people you refer to here must be Buddhists? I can't believe most Hindus don't believe in Gandhi but believe in Ambedkar.
       Why do major buddhist groups like sokkagakai and engaged buddhists have to treat gandhi as a guru and dedicate a separate section
      devoted to gandhi?
      I suppose because we haven't learned about the history of caste struggle in India, especially regarding Ambedkar and Gandhi. This is a very important thing you can help teach us, but you must do it in a balanced way with upekkha because if you attack Gandhi harshly people will not listen to you. They will of course trust Gandhi's giant legacy over the criticisms of a small group of unknown Buddhists, so you must present your ideas in a balanced way.......Ironically, Gandhi had a huge influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and helping opressed blacks in America with whom the Dalits share much. Certainly, his legacy of non-violent struggle has a profoundly important influence on the world today.
       In a speech at srilanka he said that buddha never intended to start a new religion; Buddism as a separate religion was founded by his disciples .
      **probably true, like did Christ set out to create the Catholic Church? On the other hand, it is clearly a distortion to say that the Buddha teachings are just a reform movement within Hinduism, which didn't even exist as a distinct entity in his time anyway.
       ''I would venture to tell you that what hinduism did not assimilateof what passes as buddhism today was not an essential part of
      buddha's life and teachings.''
      **from this and various other quotes you gave, it seems Gandhi received a distorted education on Buddhism. It would be interesting to learn about his Buddhist education. Did he ever read the Pali discourses directly? If Gandhi held truly distorted views, then it shows the power of these views over all Indian culture. This is something we can see elsewhere: supposedly enlightened Zen teachers in Japan who supported anti-semitism and the pacific war; Martin Luther King was not known to be very progressive concerning gender issues. These flaws are something to be investigated as well as our own tendency to turn these great humans into deities and worship them, rather than learning from their own path and struggle.
       Most people tend to think that Gandhi's views on ahimsa was inspired
      by Buddha. Gandhi was born in Gujrat where most of the Bania's follow
      Jainism. Gandhi borrowed his principle of extreme non-violence to ensure animal peace from Jainism to which he was exposed since his childhood.
      **standard history shows I believe that Hindu vegetarianism and non-harming came from the influence of Jainism and to a lesser extent Buddhism.

      The freedom struggle in India was aimed at transfering power from the Britishers to the high caste Hindu. The lower caste and the untouchables however were fighting and still fighting for their freedom. Who can say that Gandhi was a pan-Indian leader when he never fought for the right of the 85 per cent people of India? His attitude was of a monopolist and he was well versed in the art of co-opting the leaders from the lower caste in order to fool the majority of the people.
      **Another place where we have to be careful with history. Many Asian independence leaders are heralded as great heroes for emanicpating their people from western colonial dictators, only to turn around and colonize large parts of their own society; for example Suharto and the Javanese domination of Indonesia, and the homgenization of Siam into Thai-land.



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