SEVERAL MIDDLE WAYS I

To this day several Indians who make an effort to render the vastness of the religio-philosophical traditions on that continent state that in this respect historicity is of no importance. Where the mantra is said to be a primordial sound, meaning or word that occupied the universe before all else, whatever religio-philosophical idea came to be after that has to be understood as such, in its own right, without any basis in prior knowledge or teachings.

When ploughing through the vast collection of canonical texts belonging to the old schools of Buddhism we cannot but recognize that the historical Buddha (Sakyamuni, Gáutama, or Gótama) in his teachings did challenge prior religio-philosophical thoughts.

To give but the pré-Hindu Rgveda as an example, there we will not find any teachings on the self (atman), but quite a lot on the natural phenomena that influenced life of mankind on that continent. The Rgveda deïfies these natural phenomena and approaches them as if they were gods, deities. In later centuries Buddha will challenge these thoughts. He clearly discarded nature worship, discarding at the same time the priestly nature worshipper who acts as a go-between, between the ordinary man and woman and that which they wished to venerate.

The author of the Rgveda, the first known Veda of pré-Hinduism, held the element FIRE (agni) in high esteem. Following Ralph T. Griffith’s translations (1896) the Rgveda says: ”I Laud Agni, the chosen Priest, God, minister of sacrifice, …” Here we see how agni is both presented as the phenomenon that it is: fire, as well as the foremost under the priest who make sacrifices in the name of the population.

An entire chapter in the Rgveda is dedicated to the factor WIND (vayu). Vayu is lauded with words such as ”Váyu, thy penetrating stream goes forth unto the worshipper, …”. In this verse wind (vayu) is represented as a godhead, none other than an avatar of the god Indra.

The same goes for the element of WATER. Hymn IX is dedicated to this element with: “Ye, Waters, are beneficent: so help ye us to energy / That we may look on great delight.”

The next chapter discusses Buddha’s response to these Vedic concepts.

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