Buddha may or may not have been 'the greatest Aryan of all the
Aryans,' or 'the greatest of all philosophers,' as some would
call him. It is difficult to determine how such a man as the
Buddha, who is so different from the other philosophers and
religious men of India, could have appeared there, for he denied
entirely the traditional gods, religious beliefs, institutions
When the Aryans conquered India, they pushed southward in
their march of victory until they entered the tropical zone.
Then, because of the severe heat, they chose to select their
abode among the cool forests of the Black Mountains, which
form the smaller range along the foot of the great Himalaya.
Gradually they came to regard the forest as their ideal abode,
and in time they acquired the habit of meditating with the
great Himalaya as the object of their thoughts. For, there
was Himalaya, eternally magnificent, eternally unapproachable.
During mornings and evenings the snows would glow in changing
splendor as the rays of the sun struck them; in winter the
glaciers in the valleys were frozen solid, but in summer the
glaciers flowed along the winding valleys like giant dragons
come to life after a year's sleep. Finally, the Aryans, who
had conquered India by force, in turn, came to be completely
conquered by the mysterious influence of Nature.
In very few words, Brahmanism, the old Indian religion, was
a pantheism with Brahman (the eternal, absolute, unchanging
principle) as the first cause of the universe. The manifestation
of this Brahman is sometimes personified and is called Brahma
(God, or the Great Self). Every human being has atman (little
self). Brahman and atman are one, and of the same substance.
Brahmanism, therefore, is an effort to seek the ultimate principle,
Brahman, by studying one's Self, atman.
The Buddha denied the existence of Brahman and atman, and
advanced a new theory of anatman (no-self), for, he declared,
all things are changing and it is unreasonable to look for
an absolute unchanging principle or an eternal self.
It is appropriate to speak of the Indian civilization as
the civilization of the Forest. Religion, philosophy and literature
were all products of the forest. Education was carried on
in the sacred depth of the forest. Music, medicine and other
branches of civilization were, without exception, cultivated
in the forest.
Such theories as those which contend that city life produces
civilization or that the origin of civilization is the triumph
of man over Nature cannot be acceptable in India. The Indian
people believe that the struggle for life is a hindrance to
higher civilization. To them civilization means the assimilation
of man into Nature; hence city life is simply the breeding-place
Brahmanism, the Indian philosophy, and Buddhism may both
be called the product of self-culture under Nature. (Anatman
denies the self as permanent substance or entity. However,
Buddhism retains the self as a combination of matter and mind
in continuous change. This 'self' is perfected by cultivation.
This is what is meant by 'self-culture' or 'self-creation.')
The result of the custom of meditating morning and evening
reverently before Nature was yoga (concentration of mind)
in Brahmanism, and dhyana or zen (meditation) in Buddhism.
There might be a sect in Brahmanism which does not require
yoga, but in Buddhism no sect can be without dhyana. At present
certain sects in Buddhism do not practice dhyana daily. However,
it is a well-known fact that even those sects have their origin
in dhyana. This is true with both Hinayana and Mahayana. For
instance, the Three Learning's of Buddhism (trisiksa) are
discipline, contemplation and wisdom; and one of the Six Perfections
(paramita) is samadhi or concentration. Without samadhi the
attainment of Buddhist knowledge is impossible. In Buddhism
to act righteously is to think deeply.