world religions explained for the curious

i’ve been meaning to write about this for a while because it seems a new and enterprising way for religions to work:

Certain Dalits (formerly Untouchables, though that class has been ‘abolished’ by legislation – in much the same way that sexual inequality has been abolished by legislation in this country) in India have been less than impressed with the fact that the best anyone can offer them under Hinduism is the promise that if they are good this time they might get reincarnated as something higher-caste next time – like maybe a dung-beetle.

They have found a novel way out – conversion to Buddhism and its ‘you’re all equal’ philosophy. So they have been popping off to the monkish barbers in their thousands, having a quick haircut and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche’s yer uncle, rapid social mobility and a sudden freedom from some of the downsides of being untouchable like having your mother murdered and your buffalo nicked. Don’t tread on any insects and you’re as worthy a human being as the brahmin on the Seringapatham omnibus.

It really is happening; well it’s a more imaginative pitch than the rather staid old ‘eternal life’ offering from most religions.


24 responses to “world religions explained for the curious

  1. Still bull poo though. 🙂

  2. So many people running around looking for something to latch onto. Something to identify with. I studied Buddhist philosophy and meditation at one of their centres, didn’t’ come out of it a Buddhist and nor was that the intention. It was interesting and I learnt several different types of meditation that have been helpful. It does mean however that I am a ‘friend of the western Buddhist order’ and I can pop into any Buddhist place for a meditation. On the other hand, if I get lost in Peru I suppose they would let me stay in one of their temples for an exchange of energy like err cooking and cleaning.

  3. nam myoho renge kyo in one of the temples when lost in Peru washing dishes and boiling brown rice.

  4. washing dishes AND boiling rice – sounds like you found your destiny and strayed from it. bit like North Shields for me. Peru, eh? i love the travelled! when i arrived at university a very enthusiastic gel from Cheltenham Ladies College scampered up to me and announced she had aupaired in Switzerland for her year off and what had I done. ‘I was on the dole in North Shields’. Kinda stopped her in her tracks, though we subsequently became friends.

  5. AradhanaDevindra

    This isn’t really ‘new’ news… Much of the main reason Buddhism and Jainism originally spread throughout India (especially India) from the very get go was because of lower caste resistance to Hindu dominance.

    Later conversions to Islam and Christianity allowed for lower-caste resistance as well. Sometimes of course instead of resistance, conversion was also used as a coping strategy to deal with new rulers (mughals and brits), but I think both ideas are valid – because ‘ideally’ Islam and Christianity are ‘supposed’ to be egalitarian, and by converting to the religions of the new rulers – it allowed for an opportunity for lower-caste peoples to escape upper caste hindu oppression (usually who were the dominant land owners, business people and money lenders of India). Insert marxism here, religion was a means of (ironically) escape!

    Of course, a variation (not a religiously ‘sanctioned’ one) of ‘caste’ is practised throughout South Asia amongst Muslims as well.

    Anyways, my point being this has been happening for more than (with peaks and lows of course) …. well, the last 1500 yrs, with the high-point of Buddhism being in 300 BC when it was widely spread by a converted “hindu” king, Ashoka… Ashoka helped proliferate it throughout South AND east asia.

    Coincidentally (and I guess symbolically), that’s also the symbol of the Indian national flag: “The Ashoka Chakra”. It’s supposed to be a symbolic depiction of buddhist teachings about dharma/life…

    I am murky on details – but I’m fairly sure that I am accurate.

  6. Dear Aradhana,
    It’s so nice when an educated reader accidentally stumbles on this blog (pace the regulars apart from sparkle who as a geordie can’t be considered educated – they tried and failed: we remain defiantly unteachable). You do get a nicer class of thought here I always think.
    However it definitely IS news – it was in the Independent. So there.

  7. Oh my gosh – who pissed in your cereal this morning? I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic, kind or insulting. But I think you are trying to be insulting and I don’t have a clue why.

    I comment on feminist blogs frequently and just cause this is news in the independent doesn’t make it NEW – mind re-reading what I wrote up there.

    good for you, you can pick up the independent (and not bother to list your source here), but can you understand that this is one of the fundamental reasons why buddhism spread, and therefore it’s not a highly new idea??? Even if you DID list where you got this source, it wouldn’t matter – it wouldn’t change how and why buddhism proliferated in the first place. Unless you believe everything the national geographic says about women, cow dung and other religions, well then – that’s good for you too…. I’ve got nothing to say then do I? And anyways, I’m not even DENYING that this is “NEWS” all i am saying is this has happened in the past too.

    And don’t bother playing me ‘against’ sparkle – I happen to be a big fan of her blog. I have no idea what a geordie is either…

    I’d be happy to say more about how your ‘stab’ at education is really used by men who try to keep women AND minorities in their place – because it’s always used as “don’t try to be too smart” but I don’t have the energy.

    Also, the title of your thread is pretty annoying, “WORLD RELIGIONS” – care to be anymore ‘othering’ ?

    It’s buddhism or hinduism you’re talking about, not some ‘generic ‘other’ world religions’. you aren’t explaining ALL world religions – don’t just lump them as such.

    If you aren’t open to new ideas/comments just say so on your homepage. “I will be rude and hostile to anyone who expresses their thoughts differently even if they aren’t rude or hostile to me’.


  8. I afraid I was hostile and reactionary in the post above (of course i responded to YOUR hostility)…

    Let me make clear why I posted the information I did, you are obviously NOT buddhist/Hindu. Yet you get all excited by this: [quote you] i’ve been meaning to write about this for a while because it seems a new and enterprising way for religions to work

    So I come in to tell you that when you get excited by ‘other’ people’s religions, you have to understand the full context of their religion as well. I am not 100% sure but Buddha was disheartened by class differentials and therefore ‘buddhism’ was born.

    So when you say that this is a ‘new and enterprising way’, someone who IS from that religion is going to inform you that well it’s not so ‘novel’ and you might want to learn more about it. No need to get all defensive about what someone else is saying…. Women and religious/racial/sexual minorities have had to deal with ecuating people for a long time, and it’s quite appaling when they can’t.

  9. aradhana
    i will only touch on a few of your points.
    may i start by apologising.
    i wasn’t attempting to insult you or belittle your comment. i apologise if it read that way. my general tone about my blog and writing is generally self-deprecatotory – in fact i am almost always surprised – nay shocked – but pleased too when people actually bother to read what i write largely for my own amusement, and find it funny. my style attempts to deal in vague generalities rather than the more detailed points you have raised – which is why i was amused to have this little comment given so much extra context (actually i know so little of buddhism that i couldn’t do anything other than accept your points as accurate – without going to the trouble of reading stuff…ugh!). my view of all religion is, i am afraid, almost entirely negative – if they aren’t actually ways to view the world that are variously, stupid, dangerous, backward-looking and repressive, then many of them seem (to me at least) to have become so. That said, i do not quibble with anyone’s right to hold whatever religious views they wish, or not. (well maybe fundamentalist christians… but that’s my prejudice and i admit it and it’s easy to get away with expressing scorn for that particular group).
    the title of the post was particularly self-mocking and grandiose when it was just something that caught my eye in the paper and made me smile. similarly, my response ending ‘so there’ really wasn’t meant as a serious argument – if i couldn’t think of a slightly more mature way of framing a sensible point to another adult i would seriously consider giving up thinking at all. i don’t consider the independent the be-all and end-all of advanced thought (and it might actually have been in the guardian as i couldn’t quite remember).
    Right – I have laboured my point for too long. A (self-evidently) failed attempt at humour; apologies and if you choose to read and or comment here again i hope you’ll find me less offensive – and if you thought someone was being that insulting it seems perfectly reasonable that you should take the tone you did – when on someone else’s blog they always have the option of deleting you anyway if they don’t like it.
    Ah well.
    Your rather shame-faced host.
    (a geordie is someone from newcastle – NE of england – or around there, which is where both sparkle and i originate)

  10. oh dear – I too am embarassed now! I’ve had a few rows at other blogs today, and then yours seemed to be the icing, so I just caught on… And I thought you were being sarcastic (especially cause I wasn’t sure of the geordie word).

    I’ve seen you post at a few blogs like sparkle and stormy and just trailed my way here to see your blog.

    Yeah, I hate religions of all types too. And agree with witchy, its all bull poo. But I find myself having to explain things about religion too much to others… oddly, I made a post about that today on my blog. So hope you understand where I am coming from.

    cheers to you – and no hard feelings. I did feel bad, so I tried to tone it down in my second post. 😉

    See you around! Cheerio – you geordie!

  11. aradhana ‘I too am embarassed now!’

    Please don’t be; i am always a bit sarky so it’s logical to hear it in what i write. and meeting your serious comment with frivolity is always prone to annoy. glad you came here from nice blogs – rather better than mine – as are most of the blogs i hang around at being silly. i just don’t have enough readers/posters to start alienating them. and the ones i have are dear to me (yes you are). i think (by using ever so slightly more than the fingers of one hand), you are the 6th human to have commented here (and will i get shouted at if i say the first attempting to make a serious point? – yes i probably will because it’s not accurate – but the tone generally tends to the mocking and light-hearted (headed?).

    delighted to hear you’re a religionophobe too. (but i like quakers – possibly misguidedly…). hope you’ll be back and comment at length or at shorth with erudition or silliness as suits your style.

  12. as a torontan (?) you could be an honorary geordie because i have a friend from scarberia and he says its cold there too. do we hand out honorary geordie status, sparkle? are we qualified and/or quorate – ah bugger it who cares.

  13. and dash it all – i’ve just been re-reading old threads and i actually claim (tentatively) to be educated!!! add inconsistency to my list of flaws (have to try and market them as all part of my charm)

  14. At least you have readers…. no one reads my blog!!! Well, I only have three posts … so maybe with time.

    Thanks for the honorary geordie status! Yes, as a torontonian (long eh?), it will suit me…. HAH HA I can’t believe you’ve heard of scarberia … the bad way of saying it is ‘scarlem’… of course it’s got racist connotations to it… but people say it here, so scarberia is more preferable.

    Education is a slippery beast, but I think women have been denied it for so long – that now it’s used against us if we do speak up. I.e do decry us as snobby/stuck up/unmarriageable etc…

    I dunno… I gots to think about it some more. I think the whole ‘ivory tower feminism’ thing is a divisive hoax, we read sheila jeffreys, we read mackinnon, so we need to realize the value of their works and acknowledge that it might not be our goal to be ‘academic’ feminists – but that we learn from them – so it’s gotta be a good thing!

    Okay im rambling take care SW!

  15. AD (is that an ok handle?)
    i think sometimes in this world as a woman, whatever you do you aren’t going to be in the right (but what would i know about women’s experience?)

    where is your blog? your name isn’t coming up with a link here..wouldn’t mind having a look.

  16. Wandering along, following the trail…….

  17. ah i did follow the link and of course i was talking bollocks – your name IS coming up with a link. i am nothing if not misinformed – must come of being artsy fartsy…

  18. http://www.kafila. org/2006/11/09/the-dalit-betrayal-of-hindi-hindu-hindustan/

    Interesting discussion about how dalits/lower-caste untouchables want to get out speaking Hindi too….

    but this is where it’s problematic, they’d rather be speaking English.

    Oh what a fucked up world it is! Escape one thing to fall into another…

  19. but english is the international language of cricket and as the largest group of cricketers in the world it makes sense for india to speak it! maybe english is now seen as a neutral language rather than that of the empire which might in their eyes be no more than history?

  20. oh dear me, i can’t tell if you are joking or being serious. I know the first half was a joke for sure… But I’m such a dork, I’m going to reply seriously just in case someone else is reading this.

    SW, the history of english – is a troubled one. English was taught to south asians from the get go – for using them as administrators. It was for them to build an empire and use indians to administer their colonies. SO they would take them to africa – use ‘divide and rule’ and voila – instant ‘admino-coolies’ who were hated by both the blacks and muted by the brits…

    This still happens today, guess who mike russell really is when he calls you to ask if you want a cheaper long distance rate? he’s from delhi, and it’s cheaper to pay him $17 a day than an american at 100/day. you outsource and we do the shit work for a fraction of your pay.

    Why not use hindi or swahili as an international language?

    Language is not just a ‘political’ loss… language is a cultural one too.

    There are words which I have no way of explaining to you in english, cause there is no equivalent in english. When i talk to people who are older than me – there is a different way of addressing them, than someone younger than me. And they don’t have to be younger than me – but may have a higher ‘status’ than me (i.e. they might be my ‘aunt’ yet younger and they wouldn’t be an ‘aunt’ to me in your view – but in the indian view – i.e. they might be what you call a second cousin/third etc…). So again language is about a different way of learning, it is about culture, it denotes a different world view. for example there are languages like sanskrit that do not have a ‘proper’ sentence structure. You could say something backwards, upside down, right side up, forwards – and it would ALWAYS mean the same thing only because of the tense that is applied to it. So, imagine learning in different ways. Once diversity in this planet is lost, so are different ways of doing things, learning things, thought processes, respect for other beings etc… The way we talk is often reflective of more than just words, but thoughts, ideas, values and beliefs.

    Likewise, I would hate being only an english speaker… so much of the words are clearly sexist. I don’t think hindi is half-as sexist in terms of the common usage of day to day speaking. Now that I think about it – I’m sure of this. we don’t refer to feminine words as ‘negative’ words.

    anyways – I can go on and on, I just implore you to rethink your view of language and imperialism.

    Either way – things are always more complicated than ‘abandon this and get this’…

    same goes with feminism, same goes with race. Until structures aren’t obliterated and restarted – we can’t do much. It’s just adding more layers to the problem – not resolving them.

  21. oh stupidhead me!!!! I see your cricket post above, I didn’t read it before.

    Hmmm – i’m going to have to get used to your writing and humour SW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you are tricky!

  22. well, AD (or stupidhead if you must – now i AM being gratuitously rude – but i tend to be cheerfully rude to my friends – ask witchy woo or sarah)
    much of interest – and indeed sense and truth (to my eyes) in your view of how languages operate – certainly the struggle of languages is the mirror of imperialism. sadly no time or head-space to think about it now, but i know i would love to learn more about the british in india…and maybe i will.
    i was partially serious about english as te international language of cricket and while the possibility that it is neutral is perhpas unlikely, it surely carries less of the religious baggage of other languages used in india.
    good luck with catching my humour (some have claimed it’s hard to get because it isn’t funny…); you certainly don’t want a net with big holes for that job.

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