Vedāntic Buddhism

The notion that Buddhism was an outgrowth of the last phase of Vedic thinking, known as the Vedānta, was introduced by J. G. Jennings in his book The Vedāntic Buddhism of the Buddha published in London in 1947. Jennings had a long career in India during the British days having been in charge of education in Bihar which was the centre of ancient Buddhism. He retired from service in India after being the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Patna. The book was completed after his return to England.

Jennings is also known for his view that the doctrine of rebirth or tansmigration, was not an esential part of the Buddha's teaching, something unique to scholars of Buddhism. His book consists of two parts: (A) Notes on the theory of rebirth, and (B) a narrative of the Buddha's life omitting the supernatural elements. Extracts from both are given below.

The term "Vedāntic" means the end of the Vedas but it was merely a short-lived phase in the Indian religious tradition. It was preceded by Brahmanism and it was succeeded by classic Hinduism based on new texts like the Bhagad Gīta. A distinguishing characteristic of Vedānta was that it replaced a principal personal god denoted by Brahmā by an impersonal principle called 'Brahman', a neuter term rather than the masculine Brahmā. What Jennings means by 'Vedāntic Buddhism is that the Dhamma of the Buddha was a natural law similar to the Brahman of Vedānta, a term which the Buddha never used.

The following extracts from the work of Jennings are given here:

A. Notes on Rebirth

  1. Rebirth in the First Discourse.
  2. Rebirth in later principal Discourses.

B. Narrative of the Buddha's life

  1. The Birth and Early Life
  2. The Going Forth
  3. The Great Search
  4. The Great Enlightenment