I often struggle whenever I have to label non-Buddhist Classical Indian Philosophy. I do not like the label "brahmanical", since it might work from a sociological point of view, but –being not a marxist myself;-)– I doubt that there is something like a common ideology in systems whose concern with the Veda, to name just an example, is quite different. Why should Sāṅkhya, with its violent attacks against sacrifice, be said to be "brahmanical"? The label only works if it is almost deprived of any meaning at all, apart from the sociological one. But at that point it might become dangerous, insofar as it suggests to readers a commonness which was perhaps not there.
Of course, many scholars might reply that Brahmans had a common agenda and that this agenda influences works written in all systems of Indian thought. This might well be, but:
- 1. I doubt the possible homogeneity of such an agenda (one should then rather talk of "brahmanical, bengali, 1st c. CE" philosophy, etc.).
- 2. I doubt that this agenda was everywhere and under all respects radically different than the "Jaina" or "Buddhist" ones.
By contrast, if one looks at the Buddhist field, one notices that there might be something common in whatever Buddhists react against. Buddhist thinkers tried to create an own system of knowledge, with an own grammar (Candravyākaraṇa…), an own epistemology, Buddhist "universities", etc. Since they explicitly tried to distinguish themselves from something, I cannot resist asking whether they could see a single "thing" they want to part company with. Alternatively, they might have contributed to the building of the identity of "Hindus" insofar as they could at least identify themselves as non-Buddhists.
What do you think? Did Buddhists happen to build some sort of proto-Hinduism? Or is Indian Buddhism (especially until the end of the first half of the first Millennium CE) hardly more than a "special case" within a non-connoted mass of religious beliefs?
If you are interested in this topic, you might want to have a look at this interview with A. Nicholson about his book Unifying Hinduism.