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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
VISHNU SRIDHARAN 73 The connection between the Buddha’s teachings and South Asian spiritual traditions is even clearer when you look at Jainism, which emerged contemporaneously with Buddhism, if not somewhat earlier. As Cardiff University professor of religion Geoffrey Samuel writes in his foundational book The Origins of Yoga and Tantra, early Jain and Buddhist teachings and practices had a great deal in common, including much of their terminology. In fact, the Buddha’s attitudes toward asceticism and its modes of meditation were largely built on Jain foundations. This is an argument that Johannes Bronkhorst, emeritus professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, made in his 1993 study Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India. Based on his extensive scholarly research, Bronkhorst con cluded that the Buddha adopted early Jain meditative practices focused on regulating and bringing attention to the body and mind, supplementing them with a focus on the breath. What emerges from the scholarly literature on the roots of the Buddha’s teachings is that the distinctions many wish to draw between Buddhist, Jain, and Brahmanical teachings are not so straightforward. As Samuel points out, certain core teachings and narratives show up in all of these traditions, pointing to a “shared ‘wisdom’ type literature” focusing on the attainment of liberation from rebirth. In fact, instead of distinguishing Buddhist, Jain, and Brahmanical followers from one another, the more historically accu rate distinction might be between ascetic communities—which con sisted of all three—and nonascetic communities. As Samuel puts it, during this time in India there was a “structural opposition between the realm of happiness, prosperity, good fortune, and worldly life, on the one hand, and that of the ascetic worldrenouncer” on the other. Of course, not all modernday Hindus and Jains—or Buddhists, for that matter—partake in meditation or share these core beliefs, especially given the amazing range of religious and cultural practices opposite | Vishnu as Vishvarupa (cosmic or universal man) Jaipur, circa 1800 (OPPOSITE)©VICTORIAANDALBERTMUSEUM,LONDON|GIVENBYMRSGERALDCLARK