From Epistles – First Series of Volume 5 of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda
Gopal Lal Villa,
Benares (Varanasi) Cantonment,
9th February, 1902.
My Dear Swarup(ânanda),
. . . In answer to Châru’s letter, tell him to study the Brahma-Sutras himself. What does he mean by the Brahma-Sutras containing references to Buddhism? He means the Bhâshyas, of course, or rather ought to mean, and Shankara was only the last Bhâshyakâra (commentator). There are references, though in Buddhistic literature, to Vedanta, and the Mahâyâna school of Buddhism is even Advaitistic. Why does Amara Singha, a Buddhist, give as one of the names of Buddha — Advayavâdi ? Charu writes, the word Brahman does not occur in the Upanishads! Quelle bêtise!
I hold the Mahayana to be the older of the two schools of Buddhism.
The theory of Mâyâ is as old as the Rik-Samhitâ. The Shvetâshvatara Upanishad contains the word “Maya” which is developed out of Prakriti. I hold that Upanishad to be at least older than Buddhism.
I have had much light of late about Buddhism, and I am ready to prove:
(1) That Shiva-worship, in various forms, antedated the Buddhists, that the Buddhists tried to get hold of the sacred places of the Shaivas but, failing in that, made new places in the precincts just as you find now at Bodh-Gayâ and Sârnâth (Varanasi).
(2) The story in the Agni Purâna about Gayâsura does not refer to Buddha at all — as Dr. Rajendralal will have it — but simply to a pre-existing story.
(3) That Buddha went to live on Gayâshirsha mountain proves the pre-existence of the place.
(4) Gaya was a place of ancestor-worship already, and the footprint-worship the Buddhists copied from the Hindus.
(5) About Varanasi, even the oldest records go to prove it as the great place of Shiva-worship; etc., etc.
Many are the new facts I have gathered in Bodh-Gaya and from Buddhist literature. Tell Charu to read for himself, and not be swayed by foolish opinions.
I am rather well here, in Varanasi, and if I go on improving in this way, it will be a great gain.
A total revolution has occurred in my mind about the relation of Buddhism and Neo-Hinduism. I may not live to work out the glimpses, but I shall leave the lines of work indicated, and you and your brethren will have to work it out.
Yours with all blessings and love,