Chapter 6: Desireless Devotion
By the time fifteen centuries had passed after Buddha, such a vast net of scriptures had arisen around him that it far exceeded what had previously happened with the Upanishads and the Vedas. So many different philosophical standpoints arose around Buddha as had never happened before about any other single man in human history. Many scriptures were written and it is said that if all the scriptures of all the religions were put together, they would be less in number than all the Buddhist scriptures. So much study went on that in fifteen hundred years it had become almost a flood.
It happens often that whenever truth is expressed in a new way, a great flood arises in its wake. There were people for and against, there were friends and there were foes, there were those whose old structures were destroyed and there were those who were building new structures.
The old words were destroyed, new words were born; there was much inference and denial for fifteen hundred years. By the time Shankara came Buddha’s influence was everywhere.
But then the same fate happened to Buddha’s scriptures which had happened to the Upanishads and the Vedas. Buddha’s scriptures died, they became well-trodden tracks. They became mere scholarship that was only worthy of discussion in the universities. Now there was no life in them, they were no longer useful even for a seeker - what to say about the awakened ones? Only intellectual analysis had become important.
Then Shankara changed the direction of the flood again. Shankara said that truth is not absolute emptiness, it is absolute fullness, it is brahman.
After a gap of fifteen hundred years this word fullness came back with a freshness, the Upanishads received new life and the Vedas re-emerged into the light. Shankara re-established all that Buddha had destroyed.
And you will be surprised that both are doing the same work. Neither is Buddha destroying the Upanishads nor is Shankara saving them. Buddha is saving the very essence, the very soul of the Upanishads, and Shankara is also doing the same. What they are destroying is just the outer shell because it always becomes dirty.
It is the same as when you want to put new clothes on a child and he is not ready to remove the old ones. He says, “I am attached to them. I like this shirt very much, I don’t want to wear the new one.” But you know that it has become dirty: “It has become old, it has holes in it - so take it off.” The child thinks that perhaps you just want him to go naked. How can he wander around naked in the heat and sun and cold? Why are you after his clothes? He loves them, he holds on to them. But once you have changed his clothes then he becomes happy that he has new clothes. His walk changes, now he walks with joy - but after a year the same thing happens. These clothes also become old, then again the moment to change them comes.
The awakened ones are not against anybody - they cannot be - because in their awakening their experience is that of absolute oneness. So neither is Shankara against Buddha nor is Buddha against Shankara. Both of them are saying the same thing, only their expressions are different.