History of Rise, Decline and Revival of Buddhism in India by Prof. Dr. Bikiran Prasad Barua
History of Rise, Decline and Revival of Buddhism in India by Prof. Dr. Bikiran Prasad Barua
Buddhism was disseminated by The Buddha in the then Jambudipa ( present modern India) on the full moon day of Ashara at Deer Park in Ishipatan ( Saranath) near Benares , Bihar, India through the discourse “ Dhammacakkapavartansuttra” ( which means The Turning or the Establishment of the Wheel of Dhamma and which frequently represents as meaning ‘ The Kingdom of Truth’) to His earlier meditation colleagues Aswajit, Mahanam, Bhaddiya, Bappa and Kondinya and also listened by 180 million devas (gods) and Brahmas. A five member holy Sangha (Arhants) was formed in that day . One can tell, that was the starting point of Triple Gem : The Buddha, The Dhamma and The Sangha. That was 588 B.C after 60 days of His enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on the full moon day of Vesak . After a few days Prince Yasa along with his 54 friends joined the Sangha. Total number of the Sangha rose to 61 along with The Buddha. After three months lent season over, The Buddha decided to send enlightened sixty Arhant disciples as messengers of truth to teach and to proclaim His sublime new Dhamma to all human beings and for the welfare and happiness of all beings without any distinction. That was the first Buddhist missionary in the history of Buddhism enunciated by Goutama Sammasambuddha ( The perfectly Self Enlightened One)
45 Years of Buddha’s preaching of the Dhamma:
The Buddha preached His new discovered Dhamma for forty five years for the benefits, welfare and happiness of many . Millions were attracted by his sublime teachings. The Buddha served the humanity both by example and by precept. Throughout the forty five years of His Ministry The Buddha preached 84 thousand Dhamma factors. The Buddha wandered from place to place , at times alone, sometimes accompanied by His disciples, expounding the Dhamma to the masses and thus liberating them from the bondage of sufferings. In Majjhima Nikaya ir is stated that “ The doctrine is profound , hard to see, difficult to understand, calm, sublime , not within the sphere of logic , subtle, to be understood by the wise.” Such kind of Dhamma has been disseminated by the Buddha in different parts of India especially in Uttar Pradesh, Maddhya Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar . At the age of eighty the Buddha passed in 543 B.C at the Sala forest of Malla at Kushinara in Uttar Pradesh, India on the full moon day of the lunar month of Vesak. At the time of breathing His last the last words of The Blessed One were: “ Behold, O disciples, I exhort you. Subject to change are all component things. Strive on with diligence ( Vayadhamma samkhara, appamadena sampadetha).
First Sangiti (Council):
Even though The Buddha passed away His sublime teachings still exist with pristine purity which He unreservedly bequeathed to whole humanity. Throughout His forty five years of ministry of preaching The Master has left no written records of His teachings. His enlightened disciples preserved them by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generations to generations. Just after three months of Mahaparinibbana ( the great grand passing away) of The Buddha , because of a very irrelevant comment by an old ordained monk Subhadra , in the eighth year of King Ajatasattu’s reign, 500 hundred pre-eminent Arhants concerned with preserving the purity of the doctrine held a convocation at Rajgaha to rehearse the doctrine under the leadership of Agrasravak Mahakassayapa. The Venerable Ananda Thera answered on the questions of Dhamma ( doctrine) and Venerable Upali Thera answered on the questions of Vinaya ( discipline). Thus doctrine –discipline enunciated by The Buddha for forty five years was orally compiled and memorized for the future.
Second Sangiti ( Council) at Baishali Balukaram:
After 100 years of passing away of The Buddha i.e. on 443 B.C second Sangiti ( Council) was organized with the sponsorship of King Kalasoka where 700 arhants participated. Arhant Rebata Sthavir presided over this Sangiti (council). Before this council Bajjiputtiya Bhikkhus raised the questions of 10 Battuni ( Vinaya disciplines) but their opinions were not accepted. As such division on Vinaya rules occurred amongst the monks. The monks who are in opinion of 10 raised Vinaya rules are leading their monkhood not caring the leadership decision. They could convince many monks by this time in their line. Sources say that before second council Bajjiputtiya monks were raising the questions about 10 different irrelevant Vinaya rules. As such senior monks had to call second council. The number of Bajjiputtiya monks were estimated to be nearly 10 thousand. Another source specially from Kathabattu is known that a monk named as Mahadeva who was a Brahmin and was ordained as Buddhist monk introduced five rules by himself not compatible with Buddha’s Vinaya rules. That created divisions amongst the monks. That ultimately led to arranging second Buddhist council by the senior monks. Lot of monks started debating on these small vinaya rules. Thus lot of groups grew in succession.
The Buddhist Great Emperor Asoka and Third Buddhist Council:
In the history of Buddhism The Buddhist Great Emperor Asoka (269 – 232 B.C) will remain ever shining for his historic contributions in making Buddhism as world religion. After the Kalinga war was over, at the sight of havoc of mass killing, Emperor Asoka changed his mind to rule the country through loving kindness and compassion. Accordingly he embraced Buddhism and on the basis of Buddhist principles he ruled the country till his death. He was thus known as Dharmasoka in the world. He was so kind to all people of his state India even to the animal kingdom. At the advice of his master Ven. Arhant Moggaliputta Tissa Thera Emperor Asoka convened Third Sangiti ( council) in his period of reign in 258 B.C. where 1000 Arhants participated. From this council the Buddha’s teachings were known as Tripitaka ( three baskets) it is generally said. Arhant Moggaliputta Tissa Thera presided over this third council. Still Tripitaka is not written and only rehearsed and continued with memorization till the fourth Council in Sri Lanka in the first century B.C.. It was Emperor Asoka who sent eminent emissaries of Buddhism to different countries of the world including Subarnabhumi, Syria, Mesopoteniya, Greek and Middle East thus spreading Buddhism not only in South Asia but also in South East Asia, Europe etc. and making Buddhism as world religion. In the third council pure Theravada doctrine was accepted. Those who differed they were not allowed to enter in the council. Unity of Buddhist monks thus could not be established even by Emperor Asoka. Emperor Asoka had been the heir of Buddha Dhamma by allowing his son Mahenda and daughter Sanghamitta ordained in the monk community. Ten thousand Bajjiputta monks by this time formed Mahasanghika order from where many nikayas were evolved.
Fourth Sangiti ( Council) at Sri Lanka: Two fourth councils.
Mahasanghika’s opinion was that the third council which was held during Emperor Asoka’s time was not all participatory , only Thervada doctrine believed monks participated. So they could convince Emperor Kanishka to convene the fourth council at Jalandhar. It may be mentioned here that Emperor Kanishka ruled Kabul, Kandahar, Sindh, Ladakh, Kashmir and North West of India. He was a great patron of Buddhism. In that council rehearsal of Tripitaka was performed in Sanskrit by 500 hundred Arhants ( Sangiti holders). But that fourth council was not taken into account by the Theravada monks. It is said that world renowned great poet Aswaghosh, Master Basubandhu, Nagarjun and many intellectuals on Buddhism were present in that council. That fourth council of Mahasanghika was held in first century B.C According to Theravada script the fourth council was held at Aloka Vihara in Sri Lanka in the first century B.C ( 88-46 B.C). The then King of Sri Lanka His Royal Highness King Bhatthagamini. 500 Arhants participated in this council. After the rehearsal of the original Buddha’s teachings at the instruction of King Bhattagamini Buddha’s teachings ( 84 thousand dhamma skhandhas) were written in Talapatra or named as Bhurjapatra ( some special types of leafs). That was the first historic documents of Buddha’s teachings after His Great Grand Passing Away. This Sangiti was generally known as Mahasangiti ( or Great Council). In addition there were several councils in Sri Lanka in different times from the time of King Debanampriya to till 1865 But those councils were not so historically recorded.
Fifth and Sixth Sangiti ( Council):
The fifth recognized Sangha Council was held in Myanmar 1871 after the first century B.C. The King Mindanmin sponsored that council. 2400 monks were present in this council and the whole Theravada Tripitaka were engraved in 729 Marble Stones. Still those marble stones exist in Mandala. Sixth Sangiti ( Council) was held in Yangoon, the capital city of Myanmar. The place was Kaba Abe , World Peace Pagoda. The council existed for two years from 1954 , May 17 to 1956 May 17. At that time Dr.U Nu was the Prime Minister of Myanmar. In this sixth historic council 2500 monks participated from different parts of the world. They were called Sangitikarak ( Councilors). It is to be mentioned that !956 was the 2500 year Mahaparinibbana day of The Buddha.
Buddhism in India after Emperor Asoka:
After the death of Emperor Asoka , Indian unity or united India was shattered. In North and South India lot of small independent states developed. Pushyamitra Sungha was the Commander in Chief of last Mourya Emperor Brihadrata. Pushyamitra killed Brihadrata and enthroned himself of Magadha. Pushyamitra was a Brahmin and he fully patronized Brahmanism and since then downfall or decline of Buddhism started in India. Thus revival of Hinduism started by the patronization of Pushyamitra. Pushyamitra started killing Buddhist monks and believers in Buddhism. In the history of Buddhism in India it is learnt that Emperor Kanishka ( 151-121 B.C), Gupta Empire, King Harshabardhan (606-647 A.D) were the patrons of Buddhism and later on from 8th century to 12th century Pala dynasty in Bengal and Bihar profusely patronized Buddhism. The Gupta period was also a period of development of Hinduism but Nalanda University was developed during their time. Pala kingdom also supported Nalanda University in its expansion.
Total extinction of Buddhism from India:
Total extinction of Buddhism in India started after 12th century when the Pala dynasty lost its power to Sena Kingdom. But Sena kingdom also could not continue for a long time because of invasion of Muslim invader specially by Ikhteyar Uddin Md. Bakteyar Khilji and other Muslim invaders subsequently. For six hundred years the history of Buddhism in India was in dark . No trace was found except a little light at the farthest corner of Chittagong near Arakan, Myanmar. Such was the miserable situation of such a great teaching in the world. One will definitely feel that total Buddhism went under beneath the soil of India. Almost all the Buddhist heritages like Nalanda University, Odantaouri University, Sompur Paharpur University, Bikramshila University, Takkhsmashilla and Buddhist monasteries were totally demolished and Buddhists either embraced Hinduism or Islam.
Reasons for decline, fall or loss of Buddhism in India:
There are various reasons for the decline of Buddhism in India. Some of them are:
- Though the Third Council was a great success in the history of Buddhism its lacking was that no written scripts of Buddha’s teachings were kept after the Third Council, only the teachings were memorized by the monks. As the monks were threatened and killed by the next ruler and as monks had to scatter from here to other places for their safety the followers did not have any means to follow Buddha’s teachings because of the absence of any written scriptures. As a result whole scenario of Buddhism was quickly changed and every Buddhist had to go under Brahmanism rule. Hinduism thus prevailed on general mass. It may be mentioned here that Brahmins were always antagonistic against Buddhism for reasons known to each and everybody at that time.
- It was very much astonishing that Just after Emperor Asoka Buddhism lost its patronization from the subsequent rulers except Emperor Kanishka of Kushan empire and in the 7th century by King Harshabardhan and lastly by the Pala Kingdom in 9th century in the then Bengal and Bihar of India. Rapid decline of Buddhism occurred because of patronization of rich people suddenly turn over by the followers towards Hinduism.
- Just after one hundred years of the great grand passing away of The Buddha Buddhism was virtually divided into mainly two streams one was Hinayana ( Theravada) and the other was Mahayana thus both the yana culminating into eighteen divisions. As such Buddhist unity was shattered.
- During the time of Emperor Kanishka Buddha statues were built up to compete with Hinduism though originally Buddhism was not based on the worships of statues. Hinduism got upper hand and declared The Buddha as the 9th incarnation of God Vishnu. By this way the difference in Buddhism with Hinduism was drastically reduced to a minimum. As if Buddhism is a part of Hinduism which the Hindu intellectuals always tried to make the people understand.
- Buddhist monks were polluted because of easy entrance of women in the monasteries. During the time of the Buddha no questions were raised about the purity of monks. But after His demise as time passed the monasteries have accumulated wealth in different forms which were not compatible with the rules of Vinaya. As a result monasteries were turned into home of corruptions, there happened lax and degeneration in the moral and spiritual life of Buddhist monks. . The Buddha also once told that because of entrance of women in His discipline His teachings will sustain for five thousand years only. Already 2500 years have passed so far.
- During the fourth century A.D the Gupta kings were not so favorable to Buddhism. As they were from Vaishya caste they were patronizing Brahmins. On the other hand Kumarilbhatta, Sankharacarya, Ramanuj were all Hindu reformists. They always tried their best to extend appeal of Hinduism to the mass people and they started worshiping The Buddha as simple god. The Hindus also started to believe on non violence not as respect to Buddhism but as to retaliate Buddhism intellectually and as such the difference between Buddhism and Hinduism was sharply reduced.
- For decline and disappearance of Buddhism from India the oppression and tortures on Buddhists by the Hindu Kings were almost responsible. Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang mentioned in his travel accounts that Shashanka even uprooted the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya where Ascetic Siddhartha Goutam attained enlightenment and became The Buddha.. Hun leader Mihirkul was also an anti- Buddhist leader.
- Buddhism faced systematic and calculated campaign of hatred lunched against it by some reactionary Brahmins. The Brahmins stood against the concept of equality as taught by The Buddha. The Buddha condemned the institution of caste and laid emphasis on the equality of all human beings. The Brahmins went all out to defend the caste-system in order to cling in their privileges which flowed from it but the Buddhists refused to compromise on this issue. Why the Brahmins turned against Buddhism has been well summed up by the great Indian scholar and philosopher Dr. S Radhakrishnan , the second President of India: “ The Hindu quarrels not so much with the metaphysical conception of The Buddha as with his practical programme. Hindu will reject Buddhism in spite of its strong ethical and spiritual note, for the simple reason that Buddhism insists on bringing its doctrine near the life of the people. By putting spiritual brotherhood in place of hereditary priesthood , personal merit in place of distinction of birth, logical reason in place of Vedic revelation, moral life in place of ceremonial piety, and perfected sage above gods. Buddha provoked the rath of the Hindu priests who regarded him as an anti-social force. What made Buddha and his followers unpardonable heretics in the eyes of the Brahmin priests is the social revolution which they preached.” Buddhism thus lost its ground in India as a result of this Brahmanical onslaught.
- Buddhism in the land of its birth met its very early disappearance by the Muslim invaders as I mentioned earlier. Whatever was left unfinished by the Hindu reactionaries was accomplished by the Muslim fanatics. By the end of the 12th century Indian Buddhism was mainly confined in the monasteries of Bihar and Bengal. The Muslim invaders massacred the monks in large and destroyed Nalanda, Vikramshila to the ground and monks had to flee from India to the neighboring countries Buddhism completely lost its roots. Once the monks and monasteries were gone, Buddhism declined rapidly and it was completely obliterated from India, the land of its birth, development and highest achievements. Buddhism was in a state of hibernation in India. In all respects , it was a dead religion in India. Even the name of the Buddha was forgotten by the Indians except in the remotest corner in Chittagong, Bangladesh where a very few Buddhists could survive hiding themselves from the hands of onslaught of Brahmins.
- There may be other reasons also. In my opinion the practice of Buddhism is based on loving kindness, compassion, non violence, non hatred, charity, wisdom , welfare to all living beings, happiness to all etc. But how to protect oneself from outward aggression is not clearly stated in Buddhism. Because Buddhism is not a regimented religion. It is purely based on wisdom. It happened in Nalanda University. No protection was there when it was attacked by the Muslim invaders. Practice of loving kindness , compassion and wisdom without self -defense seem to be a total failure for Buddhism. This has culminated into the total disappearance of Buddhism from India because of non resistance by the outward aggression. 600 hundred years from 13th to 18th century were a dark horizon for Buddhism in India. What a pity for Buddhism and Buddhists of India?
Revival Movement of Buddhism in India:
Dark days, years of Buddhism started to getting light during the advent of British ruler in India. British regime got its foothold in 1753 after defeating Sirajdoullah who was the ruler of Bangla, Bihar, Orissa in Palashi war. In the year 1784 Sir William Jones established Asiatic Society. And with the formation of Pali Text Society in London , the western scholars took exemplary interests in the past history, culture and literature of Buddhism. The British and western scholars worked hard for two hundred years to renovate the Indian past glory specially through the massive publication of Pali and Sanskrit texts on Buddhism thus causing revival of Buddhism after an interval of almost six hundred years.
Special thanks and gratitude by the Indian Buddhists should go to world renowned British archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham and his team for unearthing Buddhist monuments and shrines forgotten for centuries. Sanchi, Saranath, Bodhgaya Mahavihara, Nalanda University, Sompuri Mahavaihara and Jagaddal Mahaviahara, Vasu Vihara( at present in Bangladesh) and other many shrines were the Buddhist treasures hidden under the debris and dust of the soil of India. Bringing out the Buddhist heritages in to light were thus focal points in the primary revival of Buddhism in India. Restoration of Mahabodhi Mahavihara started in 1880 under the supervision of J.D Beglar, archaeological surveyor and Assistant to Cunningham. That excavation was really significant of the revival of Buddhist heritage because it is the place where ascetic Siddhartha Goutama attained the enlightenment and became The Buddha.
However, the Buddhist revival movement began in India only in 1891 with the arrival of Anagarik Dharmapala, a great son of Sri Lanka. Anagarik means a ‘non-citizen’ or a ‘one without a city’. Anagarik Dharmapala came on pilgrimage to India in January 1891. He was shocked and appalled by what he saw at Bodhgaya, the enlightenment place of The Buddha and Saranath, the first sermon place by The Buddha. He stayed back to work for the revival of Buddhism in India. With an aim of firm conviction and object in view , he founded Mahabodhi Society of India in May 1891 and its organ in print, the ‘Mahabodhi’ Journal, in 1892 which are still functioning throughout India and all over the world. He was happy to see the seed of the Dhamma through his untiring efforts and contributions thus reclaiming Buddhist shrines and also through establishing Mulagandhakuti Vihara at Saranath which was opened in November 11, 1931 and which has now become major attraction for the Buddhists from all over the world. Anagarik Dharmapala vowed his life and had moved up to the last drop of his blood to salvage the glory of Bodhgaya and came partially successful with the amendment of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Act 1949 by the Bihar Government. He participated in the World Parliament of Religion in Chicago, USA in 1993 and advocated for Buddhism with great emphasis that the world needs Buddha’s teachings for peace.
The Buddhist revival movement gained momentum in India with some sons of the soil donned to monk robes and devoted their lives to the propagation of the Dhamma. Of them six prominent ones , who came from Hindu families were Mahavira (1890), Dharmananda Kosambi (1902), Bodhananda (1914), Ananda Kausalyayan (1928), Rahul Sankrityayan(1930) and Jagdish Kashyap (1934). They created a lot of awareness among the masses about the rich heritage of Buddhism.
Karmajogi Kripasaran Mahasthavir (1865):
Another Revivalist , a significant personality Most Venerable Karmojogi Kripasaran Mahasthavir hailed from Unainpura, Chittagong , Bangladesh. After his ordination in 1886 he came to Kolkata, capital city of West Bengal, after visiting Bodhgaya and paying homage to Bodhi Tree and founded Bouddha Dharmankur Sabha ( Bengal Buddhist Association) in 1892 . Just like Mahabodhi Journal he also established ‘Jagajjyoti’ Journal , an organ of the association in print which is still carrying the message of Buddhism throughout India. The later part of his career , however, is largely different from Anagarik Dharmapala. It is said that ‘ whereas Anagarik Dharmapala became embroiled within a series of legal and diplomatic negotiations with the British , Hindus and the Bengali intellectuals of the time, Kripasaran spent most of his life trying to spread Buddhism by establishing schools, Buddhist centers of learning and viharas ( monasteries) throughout India.’ The contributions of Most Venerable Karmajogi Kripasaran Mahasthavir are immense in the revival of Buddhism in the then India specially he dedicated his whole life in creating awareness on Buddhism to the existing Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Till the end of the first half of twentieth century the number of Buddhists were so less that it was difficult to find the practicing Buddhists throughout India until Babasaheb Dr B.R. Ammbedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956 with half a million of his followers in Maharashtra.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Role in the revival of Buddhism in India:
Born in 1891 as untouchable Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Constitution framer of India had to face lot of oppressions, tortures, hardships, humiliations which every untouchable had to face and experience in those days. Even in his school life as well as professional life he had face lot of insulting situations like shunting and humiliations etc. Unable to bear such inhuman treatment by the high caste of the society Dr. Ambedkar revolted against the society , organized the untouchables , and inspired them to fight for their human rights. At one stage Dr. Ambedkar exhorted his people to change their religion. He had studied Buddhism in depth for nearly twenty years and in Buddhism he found the centre of the Dhamma is Man, its base is Morality and its aim is welfare of Mankind. Moreover Dr. Ambedkar found in Buddha’s teaching that it is rational, scientific and an epitome of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Babasaheb Dr. B.R Ambedkar embraced Buddhist in a historic conversion ceremony in Nagpur on 14th October 1956 along with half a million of his followers. Never before in the history of any religion in the world , so many people , at one time had changed their religion specially at the initiative and instance of one man. After embracing Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar said in an emotional voice, “I started the movement for renouncing the Hindu Religion in 1935 and since then I have been continuing the struggle. This conversion has given me enormous satisfaction. I feel as if I have been liberated from hell.” Still conversion is going on in modern India and it may have gone up to ten million by this time.
Scenario of Buddhism after Independence:
India got freedom from British on 15th August 1947 and Pakistan got freedom on 14th August 1947. Pakistan had two wings : East Pakistan and West Pakistan having a distance of nearly one thousand miles. East Pakistan was basically Eastern part of Bengal , so it was also known as East Bengal. In 1449 4th of December another Buddhist monk personality of the subcontinent His Holiness Mahasanghanayaka Visuddhananda Mahathera (1909) took the initiative along with the Buddhist elites of Chattogram to form an association “ East Pakistan Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha”) ( After independence from Pakistan this has been named as Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha) to work for the safety, security of the Buddhism and for the propagation of Buddhism in and around the world. This organization is still working vibrantly. Bangladesh Buddhists are widely known throughout the world. This is due to His Holiness Mahasanghanayaka of Bangladesh. Fortunately I am the Senior Vice President of this association. As this paper is related to Buddhism in India I am not going in details about the Buddhism in Bangladesh as Bangladesh is now an independent country.
Present Situation of Buddhism in India:
In modern India , both Theravada and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism are prevalent. It is estimated that 92% of Buddhists in India follow Theravada traditions, and the remaining 8% who live in high Himalayan valleys follow Mahayana traditions. Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana coexist in Bodhgaya, the centre of world Buddhists. Distinct groups of Buddhists in India are given below like this:
- Barua Buddhist group mainly survival from ancient Buddhist period mostly living in Bengal and Assam and originally from Chittagong. Bangladesh
- Chakma tribes of Tripura and Mizoram
- Buddhists from Ladakh
- Buddhists from Himachal Pradesh
- Buddhists from Sikkim
- Buddhists from Arunachal Pradesh
- Ethnic over- laps from Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand
- His Holiness Dalai Lama group from Tibet
- Followers of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, most dominant group in India in the Government level specially in Maharashtra.
Present situations of Buddhist sites, shrines and post independence monasteries:
- So far record goes more than five hundred Buddhist sites are being excavated throughout India specially in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Uttarpradesh, Kashmir, Ladakh and other places.
- The Sacred Relics of The Buddha have also been discovered from 4-5 sites in Andhra Pradesh, the first discovery being from the Bhattiprolu Mahachaitya in 1991.
- More than 100 Monasteries by the different countries including Bangladesh have been built up surrounding nearly 3-5 kilometers of the Most Sacred Place Bodhgaya Mahabodhi Mahavihara in Bihar.
- Sri Satya Narayan Goenka who came down to India from Burma ( Myanmar) has also established Vipassana International Academy at Igatpur, Maharashtra and several other places in India and had been performing wonderful activities through arranging meditation and publishing Buddhist scriptures.
- Buddhist studies in Pali and Sanskrit are also being taught as discipline in various universities, colleges and schools.
- So far 900 Buddhist caves have been discovered in 23 places in Maharashtra. Among them the best known caves are at Ajanta, Elora, Karla and Kanheri. These caves have the best specimens of Buddhist art, architecture and painting. Such glorious heritage of Buddhism has no where else survived in India.
- Exact number of Buddhist monasteries so far developed before and after independence are not known. But it is estimated that it will be more than two thousand in modern India. After independence the first monastery was built in New Delhi. It is jnown as Asoka Mission Vihara in New Delhi in 1950. Still lot of monasteries are built up and monks are increasing.
- Contributions of Ven Fuji Guruji of Japan is highly memorable. The magnificent Peace Pagodas built by him at Ratnagiri Hill of Rajgir (Bihar), Kalinga Peace Pagoda in Dhauli Hills near Bhubanesswar in Orissa where Emperor Asoka is said to have been converted to Buddhism after the historic Kalinga War and another Peace Pagoda at Leh in Ladakh.
- There are hundreds of Buddhist organizations throughout India but there is no coordination among these organizations. There are nearly twenty Buddhist organizations which are affiliated with the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB). Most of the organizations are dormant except a few. I know this as I am the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Publication, Publicity, Education , Culture and Art of the WFB.
Drawbacks and weekness in Indian Buddhist leadership:
- At the present moment there is no unique All India Buddhist Leader who can lead and be the spokesman of the Buddhists of India for the protection and safety of the Buddhists and Buddhism in India.
- Indian caste system is regularly influencing the Buddhists. The Buddhists are socially very close to the Hindus and marriages are occurring regularly amongst the Buddhists and Hindus. As a result a separate identity of the Buddhist is lost in social arena.
- India being a multicultural great country , each region is having its own culture. As Hindus are majority the Buddhists cannot focus their own culture surpassing the cultures of Hinduism.
- Even there are no monk leaders who can lead the Buddhism all over India, though there are many Buddhist scholars, their influences are so meager that it is not countable.
- Hindu scholars always try to interpret Buddhism in their own way sometimes throwing concocted ideas not relevant to the proper teachings of The Buddha.
- As the Hindus consider The Buddha as a 9th incarnation of Vishnu, the Hindus consider The Buddha as god which is not at all true. They are doing it only to justify that The Buddha and Buddhism are not separated from Hinduism. It is within the sphere of Hinduism.
By this paper I wanted to show that world Buddhists have the responsibility to protect Buddhism in India. Indian Buddhists must be encouraged to be devoted Buddhists so that for any calamity they can stand to protect Buddhism in India. A closer coordination must be established between the Buddhist leaders and Buddhist organizations of one state to the other state. Though the Lion Capitol of Asoka’s Pillar at Saranath has been accepted as Indian National Emblem and the Buddhist Wheel of Law ( Dhamma-Chakra) has been inserted in the Central Part of the Indian National Flag still the management of Mahabodhi Mahaviahara at Bodhgaya, the birth place of Buddhism, is in the hands of Hindus completely. But history is history, the Buddhists of India have lost their glorious past. The scholars say , “ Buddhism in India is yet shorn of ancient grandeur and glory, and is still to be animated with the even fresh vitality of a living religion.” The Buddhists must struggle hard to come out from the aggressive cultural bondage of Hinduism in the days to come for the survival and longevity of Buddhism through intellectual and organization movements.
This article will be concluded with a saying by an Indian renowned scholar who loved Buddhism. He was Sir Prof. Dr. Harisingh Gour, Founder Vice Chancellor of Dwarbhanga University of India. His saying is , “ If the union of all religions of the world is effected at any time Buddhism will shine as the loftiest wave of the ocean and Blessed Buddha as the Everest of the Himalaya.” Indian Buddhists and Buddhists of the world must keep this saying in mind always. Let all beings be happy and be free from sufferings.
- “ The Buddha and His Teachings” by Most Venerable Narada Maha Thera of Sri Lanka , 1973
- “ Dakkhin Asear Itihas” by Mr. Dilip Kumar Saha and Mr. Molla Amir Hossain of Bangladesh, 2009
- “Buddhism & Its Thoughts” by Prof. Dr. Bikiran Prasad Barua of Bangladesh, 2015
- “ Bharate Bouddha Dharmer Utthan –Patan” by Rahul Sankkrityayan of India translated by Sri Jyotipal Mahathera of Bangladesh , 1979.
- “ Buddha Vandana” The 2nd Buddha Mahotsav Magazine published in 1999 from Bodhgaya, Bihar, India.
- “ Buddha Vandana” – The 4th Buddha Mahotsav Magazine published in 2001 from Bodhgaya , Bihar, India.
- “Karuna” – an Organ of the International Brotherhood Mission published in 2018 from Jyotinagar, Dibrugarh, Assam, India.
- “ Bouddha Dharmer Itihas ( Saddhamma Sangaha)” by Prof. Dr. Dipankar Srigyan Barua of Chittagong University published in 1997.