Buddhism is the Fulfilment of Hinduism
The following speech given by Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions,
in Chicago on 26th Sept. 1893, on this subject would be quite educative and
BUDDHISM, THE FULFILMENT OF HINDUISM
By: Swami Vivekananda, at Chicago, Parliament of Religions
I am not a Buddhist, as you have heard, and yet I am. If China, or Japan, or
Ceylon follow the teachings of the Great Master, India worships him as God-
incarnate on earth. You have just now heard that I am going to criticise
Buddhism, but by that I wish you to understand only this. Far be it from me
to criticise him whom I worship as God incarnate on earth. But our views
about Buddha are that he was not understood properly by his disciples. The
relation between Hinduism (by Hindusim, I mean the religion of the Vedas) and
what is called Buddhism, at the present day is nearly the same as between
Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew, and Shakya Muni was a Hindu.
The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay, crucified him, and the Hindus have accept-
ed Shakya Muni as God and worship him. But the real difference that we Hindus
want to show between modern Buddhism and what we should understand as the
teachings of Lord Buddha lies principally in this: Shakya Muni came to preach
nothing new. He also, like Jesus, came to fulfil and not to destroy. Only, in
the case of Jesus, it was the old people, the Jews, who did not understand
him, while in the case of Buddha, it was his own followers who did not realise
the import of his teachings. As the Jew did not understand the fulfilment of
the Old Testament, so the Buddhist did not understand the fulfilment of the
truths of the Hindu religion. Again I repeat, Shakya Muni came not to destroy,
but he was the fulfilment, the logical conclusion, the logical development of
the religion of the Hindus.
The religion of the Hindus is divided into two parts: the ceremonial and
the spiritual. The spiritual portion is specially studied by the monks.
In that there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the
lowest may become a monk in India, and the two castes become equal. In religion
there is no caste; caste is simply a social institution, Shakya Muni himself
was a monk, and it was his glory that he had the large-heartedness to bring
out the truths from the hidden Vedas and throw them broadcast all over the
world. He was the first being in the world who brought missionarising into
practice - nay, he was the first to conceive the idea of proslytising.
The great glory of the Master lay in his wonderful sympathy for everybody,
especially for the ignorant and the poor. Some of his disciples were Brahmins.
When Buddha was teaching, Sanskrit was no more the spoken language in India.
It was then only in the books of the learned. Some of Buddha's Brahmin
disciples wanted to translate his teachings into Sanskrit, but he distinctly
told them, "I am for the poor, for the people; let me speak in the tongue of
the people." And so to this day the great bulk of his teachings are in the
vernacular of that day in India.
Whatever may be the position of philosophy, whatever may be the position
of metaphysics, so long as there is such a thing as death in the world, so
long as there is such a thing as weakness in the human heart, so long as there
is a cry going out of the heart of man in his very weakness, there shall be a
faith in God.
On the philosophic side the disciples of the Great Master dashed themselves
against the eternal rocks of the Vedas and could not crush them, and on the
other side they took away from the nation that eternal God to which every one,
man or woman, clings so fondly. And the result was that Buddhism had to die a
natural death in India.
But at the same time, Braminism lost something - that reforming zeal, that
wonderful sympathy and charity for everubody, that wonderful leaven which
Buddhism had brought to the masses and which had rendred Indian society so
great that a Greek historian who wrote about India of that time was led to
say that no Hindu was known to tell an untruth and no Hindu woman was known
to be unchaste.
Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism, nor Buddhism without Hinduism. Then
realise what the separation has shown to us, that the Buddhists cannot stand
without the brain and philosophy of the Brahmins, nor the Brahmin without the
heart of the Buddhist. This separation between the Buddhists and the Brahmins
is the cause of the downfall of India. That is why India is populated by
three hundred millions of beggers, and that is why India has been the slave of
conquerors for the last thousand years. Let us then join the wonderful
intellect of the Brahmins with the heart, the noble soul, the wonderful
humanising power of the Great Master.