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Vision for a unified state

Gangulee says that  the methods of meditation which  the Buddha adopted were somewhat similar to those of the Yoga exercises. Developing the observation, Gangulee concluded that some of the elements of Buddhist thoughts, like the theories of knowledge acquisition and belief among which is originated, were fundamentally  the same as those held by the Brahmanical systems
Gangulee says that the methods of meditation which the Buddha adopted were somewhat similar to those of the Yoga exercises. Developing the observation, Gangulee concluded that some of the elements of Buddhist thoughts, like the theories of knowledge acq

The great Indian scholar Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan writing a foreword to the book titled as ‘The Buddha and His Message’ (published in 1957, 2008) by Dr N Gangulee, the distinguished scholar and Buddhist writer who passed away in London in 1954, and the professor at Calcutta University, said the following:

“In 1938, during the Sino-Japanese war, Gandhiji reminded a Japanese statesman that we should relearn the message of the Buddha and deliver it to the world. Furthermore, he declared that today it is being denied everywhere. I have no message to give you but this – that you must be true to your ancient heritage. The message is 2500 years old, but it has not yet been truly lived.”

This fervent declaration on the part of Dr Radhakrishnan is not only true to all times but paves the way to discover our own selves in the various types of conflicts that arise in the social strata. Dr Gangulee takes a penetrating standpoint in the direction in his work, by addressing the areas such as ‘the Quintessence of Buddhism’, ‘The Development of Buddhism’’, Aspects of Buddhism’ and ‘Life as Wayfaring’.

Creeds and ceremonies

As a reader, I felt that the attempt on the part of Dr Gangulee is an extension of what Dr Radhakrishnan lays down in his foreword. Gangulee with examples drawn from various social setups expands the view that creeds and ceremonies, rites and rituals are there to help us to discover the ‘divine’ in us. They are means to the end of spiritual life and quarrels about them are meaningless. Then the question of who is really sound religious beings stand out. The truly religious being is a reconciling spirit who has a realisation of the universality of the ultimate truths proclaimed by different faiths. Each one can preserve his/her own form of faith and yet grow by assimilating whatever is of value in other faiths so long as they are not spiritually incompatible with one’s own.

Then the phenomenon is laid down as the essence of the law of spiritual growth. Dr Ganguli attempts to draw the most salient material from the teachings of the Buddha in order to exhibit how they could be applied to problem-solving social factors.

According to the author, Dr Ganguli, the Sanskrit title of his book ‘The Buddha and his Message’ goes as Bodhi Chitta, the meaning of which he interprets in the following words.

“It means the Heart of Enlightenment and implies the yearning for the possession of insight into man’s purpose in life. The Buddha came to show him the way to attain the enlightenment. Though Indian origin Dr Gangulee had spent most of his time devoted to Buddhist studies as linked to the agriculture in countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Burma. As he remembers on one occasion, he had accompanied the great poet and prophet Rabindranath Tagore, when Tagore visited Buddha Gaya. As a result of a sensitive discussion that ensued between the two, Gangulee says:

Fundamental message

“His illuminating discourses on the subject of the virtual disappearance of Buddhism from the land of its birth and on the process by which the fundamental message of the Buddha has been transformed into mere formula left a deep impression upon me.” As a blissful remembrance of this, Dr Gangulee envelops a sensitive poem composed by Tagore titled as ‘An Invocation to the Buddha’.

Out of the four main chapters in the work, the one titled as ‘The Quintessence of Buddhism’ is an attempt to lay down some of the most significant areas in the teachings of the Buddha. At the outset, the writer says that this is a good reason to suppose that during the years prior to his enlightenment. The Buddha made himself familiar with the Vedas and the speculative aspects of Indian philosophical thought.

Followed by this observation, the writer Gangulee says that the methods of meditation which the Buddha adopted were somewhat similar to those of the Yoga exercises. Developing the observation, Gangulee concluded that some of the elements of Buddhist thoughts, like the theories of knowledge acquisition and belief among which is originated, were fundamentally the same as those held by the Brahmanical systems.

Thus the conception of the Universe, its cosmology, the theory of recurring cycles, this law of karma and rebirth – all these entered into the structure of Buddhist teachings in modified terms. According to Gangulee and most other Buddhist scholars, what the Buddha wholly repudiated was the ritualistic activities that harm the well being of living condition as practised in Vedic cult and perhaps in some of the so-called holy places with the leadership given by certain clergy. The fact that the Buddha had laid down the eightfold noble path is exemplified by Gangulee from different points of view. The Buddha’s teachings were laid down scientifically in order to come and see in and out.

World gospel

Gangulee emphasises that the message of the Buddha had a common philosophy for both clergy and laity or one for householders and the other for those who are ordained as monks and nuns. According to him, such an interpretation is a distortion of a world gospel. The Buddha’s mandate was for all. Referring to Anguttara Nikaya, he states the words of the Buddha that goes as:

“Not as householder not as monk do I rate man in conduct but according to like either of them strives after the way (or path), after Dharma, after the moral life, or does not.” (Gangulee)

The scholar, Gangulee lays down some of the parables of the Buddha in order to exemplify some salient teachings. Once the Buddha came to know that one of the disciples was very skilful in playing the flute in his youth. He asked him.

“When the strings of your lute were too taut, were they fit to play upon?”

“No, my lord,” replied the disciple.

“When too slack, were they fit to play upon?”

“No my lord,” replied the disciple.

“But when they were neither too taut nor too slack, but evenly strung, what happened then?”

“It produced harmonical music, my lord.”

“Even so,” said the Buddha, “too great energy tends to restlessness and too little energy tends to laziness. Therefore apply yourself to evenness of energy and try to master evenness of faculties and in this way attain your object.”

As a message of the Buddha to the whole world, Gangulee states that the Buddha urged the disciples not to rely upon the sacrificed rites and rituals for their spiritual advancement. What the Buddha underlined goes as having faith in himself and his actions for his upward growth. It is the development of the human personality that should enable him to enrich his spiritual life. Freedom of the human personality has to be acquired by strenuous efforts. This book could stand as a gift for all religious faiths and believers. 


 

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