Ever notice how Hinduism/Indian culture is brought up in American Buddhist circles in the context of Buddhism and India only while discussing some aspect of Buddhist belief that is not readily digestible or palatable to a mindset with “Western” cultural baggage?

For example, rebirth concepts, the presence of spirits like tree spirits, guardian spirits and anything else that feels uncomfortable can be addressed like this: “You see, the Buddha used this language because that was the culture of that time in India and he wanted them to be able to understand the teaching” . 

Has it occurred to minds that the Buddha himself could have held those beliefs?  He was himself a product of that culture. He wasn’t born in the Yankee Stadium, you know?

On the other hand, concepts of karma, nirvana as well as practices of generosity, such as dāna supporting spiritual seekers of any tradition and more generally, a long-standing commitment/respect from society at large toward spiritual seekers – these are all practices of that time and place as well and very important in Buddhism.  You don’t hear appreciation of India or the Hindu context.

Meanwhile, all ideas that we love about Buddhism are described by terms such as “so logical” or “compatible with Western/modern science” (though they too might be identical to Hindu beliefs/practices)

Not that in liberal Buddhist circles, there isn’t the standard bashing of “our culture” (America bad, Western culture bad) vs the “spiritual East”.  I’m just talking about the invocation of Hinduism in particular, not “Eastern Spirituality” or “Eastern culture”.

You can also hear other comments born of people’s cultural baggage.  For example, those of Christian backgrounds might say things like “Buddhism was a reformed version of Hinduism in the same way that Christianity was born out of a reformation of Judaism”.  The  implication here is that Hinduism and Judaism are the flawed primitive versions.   These aren’t people who care for Christianity at all (they’re rejected their “religion of birth”), but the feeling of “mine” regarding Christianity is strong while they’re happy to throw Judaism also under the bus. 

Those of Jewish background – you never hear them say this.  Instead, they talk about the many similarities between Buddhism and Judaism.

This image is typical. I don’t know the author but see how the description of Hinduism is negative – shallow, all about caste and rituals and as a “religion” while Buddhism is a “way of life” focused on ethics and philosophy.

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