During and before the time of Buddha, the journey to self-realization was a torture. The early ascetics fasted for days, never cut their hairs and nails, most of them roamed naked, did hard penance in scorching heat and freezing cold and tortured themselves in numerous ways. There was also no streamlined method that someone can be guided with. It was Buddha who came up with the middle way. He said that it was a wrong idea to put oneself to torture; only few people succeeded that way. His middle way condemned severe fasting, being naked and all kinds of tortures that people were putting themselves through. These wandering ascetics were called as Sramanas.
But Buddha still said that a complete renunciation of one’s properties is essential to reach liberation. A person who wants to be liberated from the psychological suffering and unsatisfactoriness should become a monk, own only a begging bowl, survive by begging and should keep moving from village to village. Wealth was a taboo for anyone who wants to walk on the spiritual path.
On the other hand, early Vedic religion before the dawn of Upanishads didn’t accept the theories like spiritual liberation, karma, rebirth and renunciation. Early vedic religion, when the rituals were popular and endorsed by kings, insisted that the way of the householder is the best way. A householder’s duty is to conduct daily rituals with sacred fire for five times and should acquire wealth and progeny; only then he would reach the heaven and live with their ancestors forever. They had three goals for life in the early days – dharma (ethics, the natural order and many other things), artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure). On the other hand, Sramanas had just two goals, which are dharma and moksha or spiritual liberation.
After a lot of debates, disagreements, condemnations etc, Brahmana (Vedic) tradition absorbed Moksha as one of the goals of life. Then their goals (Purusharthas) became four: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Readers can read ‘The Greater Magadha’ by Johannes Bronkhorst for plenty of evidences for what I have said above.
If you think about it, you can see that there is a life negative aspect in Sramana traditions and life-positive elements in Vedic tradition. Vedic tradition was also right in its own argument: progeny is important for people to survive. In fact, if everyone in the world had followed what Buddha said, mankind would have been dead already. But this is not to put Buddha down. It is to make you understand that spiritual science was in a much early stage in Buddha and it developed a lot later. So, a merger of Sramana and Brahmana tradition was a need of the hour, a requirement of the time; and it happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen.
Bhagavad Gita played an important role in uniting the concepts of Brahmanic and Sramanic traditions. Arjuna, who want to renounce the world is reminded by Krishna to continue his way of life and participate in the war for a number of reasons. Krishna was shown to be mainly concerned about the defame and disgrace that Arjuna’s escape from the war could cause to Arjuna himself. But Bhagavad Gita beautifully merges the concepts of both traditions.
As centuries passed by, a strong consensus was born among the wiseman that no one has to renounce the world to reach liberation They can simply live their usual life, get married, give birth to kids, enjoy what life gives and also attain liberation by meditations and other things that we know about. In fact, the point of having four Purusharthas that I mentioned earlier is exactly this.
But sadly, this is still not understood by a lot of people. But Osho came up with the concept of Zorba, the Buddha; this meme is about the merger of the life negative and the life positive aspects of the tradition, done clearly for the second time and explained very clearly by Osho. So this post is mainly to share some quotes of Osho regarding this, from the book ‘The Rebel’ which is a transcription of his talks that were recorded in the beginning of 1987.
Just want to end with a quote from Yajur Veda regarding universal friendship. I made this pic today: