Quora Answer: If Buddha, instead of Krishna, was the charioteer of Arjun in Mahabharata, would he have given Arjun a different teaching than to fight the battle?

Oct 18 2014

I would argue for the incommensurability of the situation would be such that the Buddha could not appear in the place of Krishna to give advice.

Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu. The whole of the epic is built around Krishna being available to give advice to the Pandavas. And in general the advice is to break at crucial points the Dharma that they are sworn to uphold. So there is a kind of paradox in the actions of Krishna toward the Pandavas in as much as he councils each of the Pandavas to break the dharma rules of war in order to win and that is what sends them initially to hell while those who are evil that they fight against are seen in Heaven before Heaven and Hell are realized to be illusions.

Vishnu is to some extent a nondual between Brhama and Shiva but accepting Being (Sat). The Bhagavad Gita advocates both a way of piety and a way of intellectual approach to god.

Buddha on the other hand is a Heresy in the Hindu tradition, which rejects Sat and teaches that Existence is Empty. The basic teaching is that life is Dukkha and that means something like ultimately unsatisfactory. And this is a reason for withdraw from the world to seek enlightenment. The Buddha would not be found on the battle field. But the Pandavas could have bumped into one of the past Buddhas in the Forest. If they had he would have told them that Dharma means something completely different than they imagined. In Buddhism Dharmas are like Tattvas they are basic mechanisms of consciousness and life. Dharmas are transformed out of caste roles into aspects of reality within consciousness. In early Buddhism Dharmas are real but the Self is illusory. So if they had bumped into a proto-Buddha in the forest he would have told them that their lives as kings and warriors were illusory. And the implication would have been that the Battle was illusory, and the results of the battle for the winner would also be illusory. In Hinduism there is the idea of Maya or illusion being like magic. But for Buddhism even the reality is illusory. For Buddhism neither aspect nor anti-aspect is Empty Existence. The aspects are truth, reality, identity and presence. The Buddha does not believe that either the Pandavas nor the Kauravas have any self-identity through time yet all their actions are driven by karma and result in more karma. To the Buddha there is no difference between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. They have not arisen nor will they perish. For the Buddha the whole story of the Mahabharata is merely an illusion. So from the point of view of the Buddha the story is never told, yet it also never ceases being told. The whole story is about vesting value in certain characters (Pandavas) and negative value in other characters (Kauravas). But these distinctions are never actually made and they never actually vanish. In this sense the Buddha places himself prior to the arising of the tale and after the unceasing illusion of the tale plays itself out. There was the rock on the side of the road before the tale came along and valued some things and devalued others, but the rock at the side of the road was still there unvalued nor devalued when the tale was finished and the rock was undisturbed. No one happened to give advice to, the war did not occur, no one was killed, the disaster of the war had no effect. And the same is true from a Buddhist point of view with respect to real wars that kill real people. At the end of the real war the same rocks at the side of the road are setting there as existed untouched from the beginning of the conflict. Emptiness is an extremely nihilistic doctrine that reveals the limits of nihilism itself. Emptiness in effect uses nihilism against nihilism to refute nihilism. The advice of Krishna to the Pandavas is nihilistic. It makes it such that in fact there is no difference between the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the end — they both violate the dharma, but the Pandavas’ violation seems worse because they are sworn to uphold the dharma and they forsake it specifically under the direction of Krishna the avatar of Vishnu. So they think they have been given leave to break the dharma, but they have not and they go to Hell because of it. But ultimately Heaven and Hell are illusions, but what it does not say is that ultimately the characters are illusions as well. That is where emptiness comes in, where one would deny continuous identity to the characters. If we did that, denied the characters their Being then suddenly the whole story falls apart, as do the motivations of the characters, and the consequences, yet still we could see that there was karma circulating as a kind of quasi-causality, and empty pantomime continues with mere existence stripped of is invested meanings

No responses yet

Comments are closed at this time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog