Factual inaccuracies in Mr M.S.S. Menon's letter

by John (Snowlion), England, The Buddhist Channel, Feb 26, 2006

I write in reply to M.S.N. Menon's letter "Was Buddhism driven out of India?" of January 22, 2006

1) The term 'Aryan', when used in this context is not interchangeable with 'Indo-Iranian'.

2) This term 'puritanical', when used in this context, is just personal opinion. The prohibition against dancing, theatre and so forth applies only to monks.

3) It is quite incorrect to describe the Mahayana as a distortion of the teachings of Shakyamuni.

4) Hinduism, in its modern sense, did not exist at the time of Buddha, so it a mistake to imply that Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism. What they have in common is simply their origin in India.

5) The ethical development of Buddhists in Central Asia and the expansion of Islam are not related.

6) The terms 'idolatry' and 'superstition' are also matters of personal opinion. Furthermore, apart from this consideration, the religious beliefs of Ancient Central Asia are not sufficiently understood to make any such statements.

7) There is no evidence to suggest that Muslim invaders singled out Buddhists or Buddhist institutions. It was simply misfortune that so many Buddhist sites lay in the path of these marauding armies.

8) The differences between Buddhism and Hinduism are by no means confined to a rejection of caste, rituals and vedic authority. The differences are of an order that one would expect from two entirely separate world religions.

9) Although monasticism has its peaks and troughs like everything else, the Hindu texts that the author mentions are actually aimed at practitioners of the more esoteric varieties of Hinduism, and Buddhist monks feature in these merely as a convenient example.

10) China cannot be used as a comparative example for the decline of Indian Buddhism. China has been a single entity since time immemorial and so has developed a unique tension between tradition and reform. This periodically manifests in the form of highly-destructive tyrants. It is simply misfortune that Buddhism became the object of such tyranny in ancient times, and also more recently.

11) 'With focus on Nirvana, life itself came to be secondary'. The author would be well advised to undertake further study of Buddhist doctrines before writing any more articles on this subject.
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