Fundamentals of Buddhism HTML version

We are going to begin today with a consideration
of the prebuddhist situation in India. Normally Buddhist
studies courses begin with a study of the life of the
Buddha. We are going to begin before the life of the
Buddha. Personally I feel this is quite important as I feel
it helps one to understand the life and teachings of the
Buddha in their broader historical and conceptual con-
text and to understand and appreciate better the nature
of Buddhism and perhaps Indian thought as a whole.
I do not know how many of you have visited India.
We have in the North of India two great rivers — one is
the Ganges and the other is the Yamuna. These two
great rivers have separate sources in the Himalayas and
they flow separately for a good proportion of their
lengths. They unite in the north eastern region of India.
From there they flow on together to the Bay of Bengal.
In a way the geography of these two great rivers is a
symbol of the origin and development of Indian
religion, philosophy and thought because in Indian
religion too we have two great rivers which were
originally quite distinct and had separate origins and
which for a considerable length of time were separate
but which at a certain point of time merged and flowed
on united right to the present day. Perhaps as I go into
the prebuddhist history of India, we can keep in mind
the image of these two rivers originally separate and at a
certain point merging and flowing together to the sea.
When we look at the very early history of India, we
find that there existed in the 3rd Millennium B.C. a very