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The Origin of Heresy in Hindu Mythology Author(s): Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty Reviewed work(s): Source: Histor

The Origin of Heresy in Hindu Mythology Author(s): Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty Reviewed work(s):

Source: History of Religions, Vol. 10, No. 4 (May, 1971), pp. 271-333 Published by: The University of Chicago Press

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Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty

TH

E

R I G I N

O F

HERESY

IN

HINDU

MYTHOLOGY

Heresy

religion-ANDRui

is the lifeblood

of religions.

SUARMS

There

are no heresies

in a dead

Hinduism has always been noted for its ability to absorb potenti- ally schismatic developments; indeed, one of the prime functions of the caste system has been to assimilate various tribes and sects by giving them a place within the social hierarchy. And although the Rgveda is regarded as a closed canonical collection, in actual fact this canon is not read by the vast majority of Hindus, most of whom (non-Brahmins, women, etc.) are forbidden to read it and almost all of whom are incapable of comprehending the many archaic passages which have baffled scholars. This general in- accessibility of the canon has facilitated an almost endless

reinterpretation

of doctrine.

of this flexibility of Hindu

tradition may be seen in the manner by which it has assimilated

various heresies, a process so wide-ranging that, as Louis Renou remarked, "It is quite difficult in India to be completely here-

tical."' This flexibility has not even necessitated the element of

masquerade, the ability to

that usually characterizes adaptations

myths of heresy make explicit note of the changes in doctrine. In

A particularly striking manifestation

change without

appearing to change,

a tradition;

the

within

1 Louis Renou,

Needham

Hinduism

(New York, 1961), p. 46. I am grateful to Dr. Rodney

of Social Anthropology,

Oxford, for this reference.

of the Institute

271

The Origin of Heresy in Hindu Mythology

part, this is made possible by the open-ended quality of the reli- gion itself; in part, it is due to the vagueness of the Hindu defini- tion of heresy.

A. THE ROLE OF HERESY

IN HINDUISM

1.

THE

HINDU

DEFINITION

OF

HERESY

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines heresy (from the

Greek alcpeotaL, "to choose") as "theological opinion or doctrine held in opposition to the 'catholic' or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church. Hence, opinion or doctrine in philosophy, politics, science, art, etc. in variance with what is orthodox." The Sanskrit term most closely corresponding in negative tone as well

"heretic" is pasanda. The Sabda-

as in denotation

to the English

kalpadruma gives several false etymologies for this term: (a) from pd(pam) san(oti), "He gains evil"; (b) from pd ("protection [of the dharma of the Vedas]") khanda(yanti), "They shatter the dharma of the Vedas." The lexicographer adds that these people perform various rites opposed to the Vedas, wear several types of clothing,

and bear the marks of all castes; they are Buddhists, Jains, etc.2 The contradiction of the Vedas remains the basis of heresy in

the Hindu viewpoint.

(8aiva?) ascetic (bdhyaliigin),

naked, or wanders about, etc.3 but Kulluka specifies that heretics bear marks (or the linga) of vows outside the Vedas (vedabahyavra- taliigadhdrinah), like Buddhist monks, Jains, etc., while Raghava merely says that they do not believe in the Vedas.4 Vijfinnesvara defines heretics as those who have taken to an order of life opposed

to the dictates of the three Vedas,5 and the Tantrddhikdranirnaya refers to heretics born of evil wombs, who proclaim doctrines transgressing the Vedas.6 According to the Padma Purdna, here- tics are those who perform non-Vedic rites as well as those who do not perform the actions enjoined by the Vedas.7 A Visnu Purana commentary describes the heretic as a man who has fallen from his own dharma and performs unlawful, prohibited acts (vi-

Medhatithi glosses pSsandin as an outcaste

one who wears a red robe, goes

2 Sabdakalpadruma

Delhi,

1961).

3 Medhatithi's

(Calcutta,

4

The

(Oxford,

5

of

Raja

Sir Radhakant

on the

Deb

Bahadur

(Calcutta,

Bibliotheca

of the East

Smrti

1886;

Indica

no. 25

commentary

p.

of

Mdnavadharmasdstra,

and

verse).

Sacred Books

on Yajfiavalkya

(Benares,

1932), 4.30

Laws

1886),

of Manu,

133.

(numbers refer to chapter

trans.

Georg Biihler,

commentary

Diksita

Mitdksard

Vijianesvara,

(Bombay,

1909), 1.130.

6

7 Padma Purdna, Anandasrama Sanskrit Series no. 131 (Poona, 1894), 6.263.3-5.

Tantradhikdranirnaya of

Bhattoji

1888), p. 25.

272

History

of Religions

karmastha, nisiddhakrt).s Vijinanesvara defines heretics

Nagnas, Saugatas, etc., who deny the authority

as those

of the Vedas.9

2.

THE

TWO

LEVELS

OF

HERESY

The importance of caste (which is what is particularly meant by the need to obey one's own dharma) has led to a distinction within the general ranks of heretics. The "orthodox" heresies are those sects, such as the Kapalika, Kaula, and Pasupata sects of Saivism and the Pnficaratra and Sahajiya sects of Vaisnavism, which pay lip service, at least, to the Vedas and thus remain

technically

dhists,

Some texts

those

skulls, are smeared with ashes, and wear matted locks (i.e., the

8aiva

Buddhists,

patas.11 When Manu mentions heretics,12 Medhatithi interprets this

as a reference to Kapalikas and those wearing red garments (prob-

ably Buddhists).

within

include

act

the Hindu

deny

the

fold.

The Jains,

and

Sikhs, and Bud-

outcastes.

however,

who

Vedas

are complete

both groups in their definition

the

Vedas,

Purdna

of heretics:

against

as well as those who carry

offers this

list

Kapalikas,

of

heretics:

and

Pasu-

sects).10 The Kurma

Nirgranthas,

Pfnicaratras,

Narada glosses it as "Buddhists, and so forth."13

between the two

levels of heresy. The sectarian heresies are sometimes said to propound doctrines which emanate "more or less directly, from the doctrines of the original creed,"14 in spite of the fact that

certain aspects of their rituals

to Vedic

religion. The acceptance

Hindus who consider that, although the Kapalikas, for instance, live contrary to the Vedas, they were formerly Brahmins.15 The "orthodox" heresies themselves, of course, are eager to maintain this dichotomy; a Kapalika in a Sanskrit play refers to the Jains'

useless and false philosophies

cleanse his mouth

for having mentioned them.16

Most texts,

however, make a clear distinction

are clearly antagonistic

of these heresies is rationalized by some

and evil shrines, and he wishes to

to an orthodox

Hindu)

(with wine, anathema

8 Commentary on Visnu Purdna,

9

10

11 Kurma Purdna (Benares,

12 Mdnavadharmasdstra,

3.18.95 ff.; cited in Sabdakalpadruma.

2.192.

1

Sects

p.

184.

Vijfinnesvara on Yajnavalkya,

Padma Purina,

6.263.3.

13

14

on the

Wilson,

Religions

16

Mahendravarman,

50 (Trivandrum,

1967), 2.21.32-33.

Manu, 5.90;

Sketches

of

the

of the Hindus,

vol.

5.90.

Medhatithi and Narada on

Horace Hayman

cited in Bihler,

Religious

of the Hindus, Essays

p.

265.

and Lectures

15 Jan Gonda, Der jiingere Hinduismus, gart, 1963), p. 219.

(London, 1861-62),

Indien,

Die Religionen

Trivandrum verses 8 and 9.

vol. 2 (Stutt-

Series

no.

Mattavildsaprahasana,

Sanskrit

1917), act 1, prose between

273

The Origin of Heresy in Hindu Mythology

A

further

distinction

is

made

even

within

the

"orthodox"

heresy itself between Brahmin and non-Brahmin Kapalikas.17

Pasupatas are similarly divided into "Tantric" (heterodox) and "Vedic" (orthodox).18 The latter consider the presence of the former at funeral ceremonies polluting and hate even to mention them.19 Orthodox Pasupatas are forbidden to talk to 8ufdras.20 This division appears in the ?Sankaravijaya, in which the great 8aiva philosopher 8anikara confutes heresy on both levels-the "orthodox" heresies (Vamacaras and Kapalikas) as well as Jains, Buddhists, and Carvakas.21 The Brahmin Kapalikas are heretics

but can be enlightened.

says that

merely replies, "Go where you wish. We have come to chastise Brahmins who adhere to evil doctrines, but what are your stan- dards, you who have fallen from caste ?"22 This caste dichotomy within the heretic sects serves to explain certain apparently contradictory statements which may be under- stood in the light of the particular status and affiliation of the author of the text. Thus, the strictly orthodox sects refer to the Kapalikas and Pasupatas as heretics pure and simple.23 Apararka, in rebutting the Mahdbhdrata passage in which Siva states that he himself established the Pasupatas, cites a verse instructing the orthodox Hindu to gaze at the sun after seeing a Kapalika, Pasupata, or 8aiva and to bathe after touching such a person.24 Orthodox Pasupata texts, such as the Kitrma Purdna, describe at great length the merits of the Pasupata vow while they state else- where that Pasupatas (by which one must understand Tantric Pasupatas) are wicked heretics. Thus, Siva himself states in this

To the

Sudra Kapalika,

however,

who

there are only two castes

(men and women),

Sankara

text

:25

Formerly

essence

remain

I created

of

the

chaste,

the Pasupata

for

the

the

Vedas,

vow,

sake

of

smear

auspicious,

his

subtle,

with

Vedas,

study

enlightenment.

body

and containing

The

the

adept

should

ashes,

go naked

or

17 Gonda, p. 219.

18 Rajendra

Chandra Hazra,

Purdna,

Studies in the Puranic Records on Hindu Rites and

The Evolution of

Customs (Dacca,

Theistic Sects in India

1948), pp. 67-68;

(Calcutta,

2.16.15.

with

the

(Trivandrum,

Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya,

1962), pp. 69-76.

of

19 Kirma

20 Pdsupatasutra

Pancharthabhashya

1940),

1.13-17.

Kaundinya,

Trivandrum

Sanskrit Series no. 143

21 Sankaravijaya of Anandagiri, Bibliotheca

22 Ibid., chap. 24.

23 Kathdsaritsdgara of Somadeva

24 Aparaka's commentary

Indica (Calcutta,

1930), 26(3.5).204,

1868), chap. 23.

-.218,

-.249-50.

(Bombay,

on Yajniavalkya Smrti,
18.

Anandasrama Sanskrit Series

paper rather

no. 46

(Poona,

1903-4),

25 Long citations from

than translated

p.

Sanskrit texts are often summarized in this

in full; I have so indicated in the appropriate footnotes.

274

History of Religions

wear a loincloth, control his mind

yoga

delusion in this world and are contrary to the statements of the

perfectly,

and practice the PmSupata

the

But there are other texts which, though narrated by me, cause

Vedas, such

Soma, the Lakula

and the Bhairava [Kapalika]. These doctrines are

as the Vama [left-hand or

[another Pasupata sect],

not to be practiced, for they are outside the Vedas.26

perverse]

Pasupatas,

Siva emphasizes that his Pasupata

sect is based upon the Vedas,

vow

just as he remarks, in the Mahdbhdrata, that the

which he revealed occasionally agrees with orthodox varndgrama

Pasupata

religion, though it is basically contrary to it.27

3.

HERESY

BASED

UPON

THE

VEDAS

In almost every case, the subtle distinction between the two

levels of heresy hinges upon the sect's actual or professed relation-

ship to the Vedas. The sect whose name is almost with heresy in India, the Carvakas or Materialists, is

of no

offensive behavior, for it is simply a philosophical movement; but the philosophy condemns the Vedas as "a pious fraud."28 Ma- dhava summed up the Carvaka doctrine thus: "The Veda is tainted

by the three faults of untruth, self-contradiction, and

the imposters who call themselves Vedic scholars are mutually

destructive; and the three Vedas

of livelihood for those devoid of wit and

be

denial of the Vedas and Brahmins caused

ranked with Buddhism and Jainism as prime

synonymous

guilty

tautology;

themselves are simply the means

virility."29 Such an explicit

this philosophy

heresy.

to

and confusion when the

heresies.

other potential

But

there is danger of contradiction

of the

Vedas

is applied

to

touchstone

Certain Tantric sects which say that they agree with the Vedas,

though actually propounding anti-Vedic, or at least non-Vedic, doctrines, may be accepted on the basis of their own statements of orthodoxy. On the other hand, doctrines which, like Buddhism,

maintain that they are not derived from Vedas,

are re-

jected.

though

they

agree in fact with many essentials of orthodox Hinduism,

This situation

is made possible by the Hindu belief that

religion consists more in adherence to ritual than in correct belief;

one might commit almost aly

as long as one professed allegiance to the Vedas and the caste system. The complications arising from this point of view are

act or believe almost any doctrine,

26

K2frma Purana,

2.37.142-48.

1933-),

27 Mahdbhdrata

28 D. R.

29 Sarvadarsanasangraha of

(Poona,

vol.

12, appendix

I, no. 28,1.405.

act

Bhandarkar,

Kautilya

Some Aspects of Ancient Hindu

Madhava, Bibliotheca

(Bombay,
1.2.5.

of Krsnamisra

(Bombay,

1960),

Polity (Benares, 1929), 4.

Indica (Calcutta, 1858), p. 3;

and

1898),

cf.

Prabodhacandrodaya Arthasdstra of

2, verse

26,

275

The Origin of Heresy in Hindu Mythology

apparent in Kumarila's discussion of certain heretics' claims to follow doctrines based upon the Vedas or upon a "lost" branch of the Vedas:

The Saikhyayoga,

have a very little bit in common with the Vedas and orthodox lawbooks

[4ruti and smrti],

of the senses, charity, and pity; [but these doctrines occur only occasionally

and incidentally], just as herbs and mantras occasionally succeed in curing

and expelling poison;

fragrant with

teachings, outcaste texts mixed with barbarian practices; and since they

contradict the Vedas and are

upon a lost branch of the Vedas, they are

to be

the basis [of their teachings], just as an evil

ashamed to admit his

With the exception of a few doctrines like self-control and charity, the

teachings of the Buddhists, etc., are altogether contradictory to the teach-

ings of the Vedas and were composed by the Buddha and others like him

whose behavior is contradictory to the Vedas; they were then taught to

people beyond the pale of the Vedas, people

the four varnas, and it is thus inconceivable that they could be based upon

the Vedas. These are heretics who perform unlawful

arguments.30

Here Kumarila rejects, among other arguments, the "lost Vedas"

Panicaratra, Pasupata,

Buddhist,

and Jain teachings

such as the doctrines of

[a little]

noninjury, speaking truth, control

proportion] like [much] water

in other

consists

not to be accepted.

and [they occur in small

perfume.

Their major portion

are

skeptical [haituka], they

Even if these sects were based

rejected,

for they do not themselves accept the fact that the Vedas are

son who hates his parents is

descent from them.

who do not follow the rules of

acts and produce skeptical

theory

satirizes the theory as it appears in the mouth of a corrupt

Buddhist monk:

of the

origin

of heterodoxy.

The Mattavildsa similarly

of women and

Why did [the the

minded and spiteful Elders [dustabuddhasthaviraih],envying us young men,

be that the small-

Where

erased the sanction of women and surd in the books of the

now can I find an uncorrupted original text [avinastamfllapdtham]

Buddha] not think of

of surd ? Since he knew

sanctioning

the

possession

drinking

everything, it must

pitaka.

?31

Thus, the strictly

the time of Kumarila, rejects both levels of heresy in spite of their partial affinity with Vedic doctrine.

by

orthodox

view, which was well established

4.

THE

HYPOCRITICAL

ASCETIC

Popular Hinduism, as it appears in the Purianic texts, does not maintain a strict or even a consistent attitude toward the various

by

Indian heresies. Confusions of doctrine are further complicated

a tendency to equate the heretic with another religious figure well

30 Tantrdvarttika of Bhatta

Mimdmsd Sitra commentary,

commenting

on 1.3.4.

31

Mattaviladaprahasana,

Kumarila, commentary on Sabarasvamin's Jaiminiya

BenaresSanskritSeries (Benares,1903),pp. 114-17;

act 1, prose between verses 11 and 12.

276

History of Religions

known to the lawbooks and myths: the hypocritical ascetic. The Sanskrit dictionaries themselves maintain this confusion. Apte gives "hypocrite" as a secondary meaning of pdsanda,32 and Monier-Williams includes in his definition of this term "any one who falsely assumes the characteristics of an orthodox Hindu, a Jaina, Buddhist, ib &c.[sic]."33 The Maitrayanzya Upanisad juxta- poses the hypocrite and the heretic: "There are those who falsely wear the red robe, earrings, and skulls. And moreover, there are others who wish to erect themselves as judges concerning Vedic matters by weaving illusions with logic, illustrations, and so-

phisms."34

The term nagna ("naked") was originally applied to the Bud- dhists and Jains, who were "clothed in the sky," that is, nude (digambara). But certain Hindu sects went naked as well, while most Buddhists did not, and the term was later interpreted meta- phorically as the rejection of "the raiment of holy writ."35 Thus, the Vdyu Purdna extends the word to naked Brahmins who

"practice austerities fruitlessly,

that

is, heretically

or hypocriti-

cally": "The Brahmin who falsely bears a staff, shaves his head,

goes naked, undertakes a vow, or mutters prayers-all such per-

sons are called 'Nagnas,' etc. [vrtha dan.di vrtha mundi vrtha nagnasca yo dvijah / vrtha vrati vrtha japi te vai nagnadayo

janah]."36

The Visnu Purdna excoriates Vedas have been abandoned,

of

'cat' ascetics, skeptical 'crane' ascetics. These are the evil heretics,

men who falsely wear matted locks or shave their heads."37 The commentator notes that the "cat" ascetic seems pleasant at first but then acts very unpleasantly; the "crane" is a rogue who is falsely polite. Manu similarly defines the "cat" as one who is covetous, deceitful, injurious, and hypocritical; the heron is cruel, dishonest, and falsely gentle. Manu does not refer to these two types as heretics, however, but merely as Brahmins, and he groups them with those who have sinned and hide their sins under a pre-

"heretics

by whom the three

evil ones who dispute the doctrine

perform

evil

rituals,

hypocritical

the

Vedas,

those

who

32 V. S.

33 Sir Monier

34 The

Apte,

Practical Sanskrit-English

Monier-Williams,

Dictionary

trans.

(Poona,

by

J.

1957).

van

Sanskrit-English

text

and

Dictionary (Oxford, 1899).

A.

Maitrdyaniya

1962),

Hayman

n.

Purdna,

Upanisad,

7.8.

Buitenen

('s-Gravenhage,

35

Horace

267-68

pp.

36

37 Visnu

Vdyu

Wilson, trans., The Vishnu Purdna, 3d ed. (Calcutta, 1961),

cited

by

Wilson,

The Vishnu

Purana,

p. 268.

Purdana (Gorakhpur, 1962), 3.18.95-104.

277

The Origin of Heresy in Hindu

Mythology

text of asceticism.38 The M Crkandeya Purana also omits any explicit reference to heresy but groups the "cat" ascetics with those who retire to the woods like ascetics but continue to enjoy "country pleasures" [grdmyabhujdn] and those who have fallen from the rituals appropriate to their varna-one of the usual criteria of heresy.39 Yajfiavalkya states that one should avoid hypocrites, skeptics, heretics, and those who act like cranes.40 The Kurma Puradna lists "cat" ascetics with heretics who perform evil rites, and the left-hand Paficaratras and Pasupatas. An alterna-

tive reading substitutes for "cat" ascetics (vai.ddlavratinah) outcastes

(canddlavratinah)-the

polar opposites of Brahmin hypocrites.41

The animal nicknames probably derive from the extensive

appears in

the

anti-

Tantropa-

ascetic

folklore

of

India.42 The

cat

khydna:

A certain

fallen fruits and leaves

pious

of

number

Romasa

the bones

said:

forming

fruits."

went

cat

lived

like

an ascetic

at the

entrance

The

cat by

When

to

a mousehole,

The mice

and ate the that

noticing

a mouse

eating

made

last

their

named

as if he had refrained

around

him

and the

to the

hole

each

to test

who ate him. in the faeces

day.

the

decided

cat,

proper

do

not

the

from all sins.

cat grabbed

mice,

sending

circumambulations

mice

returning

was diminishing,

("Hairy")

"This

tapas.

And

away.43

to the

the

the

and

living

and

and a heretic, the mice

per-

saw

rest of the mice

went

a

eats

to him

by

roots

and hair of Romasa

is

not

virtue

or

faeces

Hairy so, after calling

of the cat they

to

make

one

who

behavior,

come

from

cat a hypocrite

It may be noted here that even in the folk literature the confu-

sion between

pears on the famous seventh-century

the cat stands on one leg with his

paws above his head in imitation

pears nearby, and he is surrounded by mice.44 The heron appears in a Sanskrit court poem:

of the human ascetic who ap-

the Ganges at Mamallipuram;

The cat ascetic ap-

hypocrisy

and heresy persists.

bas-relief of the Descent

of

The ugly

vulture

eats

the

dead,

Guiltless

of murder's

taint.

fish

The heron

And

swallows

living like an ascetic

1890), 47.58-60.

looks

38 Mdnavadharmasdstra, 4.192-98.
39

40 Yajinavalkya Smrti, 1.130.

41

saint.45

Mdrkandeya Purdna (Bombay,

Kfrma Purdna

(Calcutta,

42

See

1890),

my

p.

Indica

in the

and 9 (1969): 1-41, esp. pp. 321-25.

text and trans. by George T. Artola,

276.

45 John Brough, Poems from theSanskrit (London, 1968), verse 21; Subhdsitdvali

(Benares ed.), 2.16.14-15;
444.

article,

"Asceticism

Kiurma Purdna, Bibliotheca

and

Sexuality

my

two-part

Mythology

of

Siva," History of Religions 8 (1969): 300-337

43 "Ten Tales from the

Library Bulletin,

Adyar

44

Heinrich

Zimmer,

Tantropakhyana,"

29:1-4

of Vallabhadeva

(Madras, 1965);

Asia,

The Art of Indian

2d. ed.

summary. (New York, 1960), pl.

(Bombay,

1886), verse 757.

278

History

of Religions

Saiva ascetics are particularly liable to this kind of satire. The charlatan Kapalika in the Saikaravijaya has adopted the character of an ascetic as an excuse for throwing off all social and moral restraint.46 The Kapalika in the Mattavildsa consorts with a female member of the sect in a surd bar which he likens to a sacri- ficial temple: The surd is the Soma, the drunks are the priests, the drunken cries the hymns, and the bartender the sacrificial spon- sor.47 No particular sect is mentioned in most of the examples of this genre, which is based not so much upon doctrinal offenses (although these do contribute to a certain extent) as upon a deep- seated antiascetic tradition in orthodox Hinduism.48 Even the RIgveda satirizes Brahmins who croak like frogs49 and priests greedy for gold.50 The ascetic's position was further weakened by the practice of kings, from the time of the Mauryan empire at least, who employed as their spies men who masqueraded as ascetics.51 That this tradition has persisted for more than 2,000 years is apparent from the recent accusation made by a member of the Indian Parliament who charged that the United States Pentagon and the C.I.A. were infiltrating into the Himalayas spies disguised as yogis.52 The folk motif of the hypocritical ascetic should not be taken as a literal index of the existence of such figures, for the motif is a naturally attractive and humorous one, not only in India. Mock- ery, and even self-mockery, rather than fanatical disapproval is the motivating spirit of many Indian discussions of the religious hypocrite:

"So, friar

"Not that

"You

[bhikso],

[bhikso],

it's

any

too,

I

good

see

you have a taste for meat."

without

some

wine."

when

like wine

then?"

"Better

I dine

With

No

Or win

"Why,

Aren't you aware I'm vowed to poverty ?"53

pretty

harlots."

"Surely

"Well,

such

girls eat

see,

too ?"

to do?

end of money."

at dice."

certainly.

you

and gambler,

I steal,

"A thief

What

else is there

46 Wilson, Essays,

47 Mattavildsaprahasana,

48

p. 21.

"World

(1960):

etc.,

act 1, prose between

Renunciation

verses 9 and 10.

Religion,"

1890-92),

Louis Dumont,

with the

9.112.1.

in Indian

(London,

interprets

Contributions to

7.103.1-10.

to

he thus in-

Indian Sociology

49

50

51

gakyas,

cludes both

Ajivakas,

types

4

33-62.

Rgveda

Rgveda

Arthasdstra, 1.11.13.

commentary

of Sayana

The commentator

and jatila

munda as a reference

etc.;

as a reference

to Pasupatas,

of heretics.

Times, August

52 New York

53 Brough, p. 105; Otto Bohtlingk,

14, 1968.

Indische Spriiche (Saint Petersburg,

1872),

279

4, 588; SubhdsitCvali, 2, 402.

The Origin of Heresy in Hindu Mythology

5.

THE

ASSIMILATION

OF

HERESY

The fact that

as those of the Car-

are

all subsumed

which this term was used simply

anyone who challenged the religious and social status quo, that is,

the

heresy connotes a failure of the understanding more than a deliberate embracing of wickedness; similarly, the more general

concept of evil (pdpam), under which heresy was eventually sub-

sumed, was originally

and delusion (tamas, moha) rather than sin. This, coupled with the general moral relativity of caste ethics-the notion that different

moral codes apply to different social groups-made possible an infinitely elastic toleration of religious deviation. The vagueness of the term for heresy served not only to exclude various groups of heterodox thinkers but also to include many of them under the equally vague aegis of Hinduism itself. If the bounds of hetero- doxy ballooned over into the mainstream of religion, so too the

bounds of orthodoxy The whole tradition sannydsa or ascetic

doctrines so widely divergent

Saiva Pasupatas,

vakas, Buddhists,

and Brahmin hypocrites

indicates

the

extent

under the term

of the

Vedas

"heretic"

and

to

as a catchall

the

Brahmins.

for condemning

In

Hinduism,

authority

considered primarily in terms of darkness

proved extremely

of ascetism,

stage

of life,

flexible.

as seen in the Upanisads,

the

and the goal of moksa, was

originally a violent challenge to the Brahmanical sacrificial

system, which managed nevertheless to assimilate it by making

the sannydsin the fourth stage of life (after the original three:

brahmacdrin, grhapati, and vanaprastha) and moksa the fourth goal (after dharma, artha, and kdma). Moreover, various non-Vedic rites practiced by the indigenous population of India were ab- sorbed by the "Aryan" religion and practiced "without incon- gruity or contradiction being felt by the participant."54 Many of the teachings of the Buddha were assimilated by Hinduism and influenced the Bhagavad-Gitd, and the Buddha himself came to be regarded as an avatar of Visnu,55 a process which Keith described as "a curious example of the desire to absorb whatever is good in another faith."56

Saiva

cults,

in

particular,

betray

an

obviously

rites

heterodox are "if not

origin. As Eliot

antagonistic, at least alternative to the ancient sacrifices, yet far

writes,

although

certain 8aiva

Kosambi, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (Bombay,

1956),

55

p.

See

8.

below,

sec. C2.

56 Arthur

vol. 4 (Boston,

Berriedale

1917), p.

Keith,

169.

Indian

Mythology, The Mythology

of all Races,

54 D.

D.

280

History of Religions

from being forbidden they are performed by Brahmans, and modern Indian writers describe Siva as peculiarly the Brahman's god."57 The di