Disappearance of Buddhism From India: An Untold Story

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by kmguru, Jan 14, 2008.

  1. kmguru Staff Member

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    Got this is an email and hence posting it here with my comment separately

    Disappearance of Buddhism From India: An Untold Story

    Naresh Kumar

    The complete disappearance of the religion of the Buddha from the land of its birth is one of the greatest puzzles of history. Once holding sway throughout the length and breadth of the subcontinent, Buddhism today survives only in the Himalayan fringes along the Tibetan frontier and in small pockets in northern and western India among recent Ambedkarite Dalit converts.

    Various theories have been put forward which seek to explain the tragic eclipse of Buddhism from India. According to one view, corruption in the Buddhist sangha or priesthood precipitated Buddhism's ultimate decline. While it is true that with time the Buddhist priests became increasingly lax in the observance of religious rules, corruption alone cannot explain the death of Buddhism. After all, Buddhism was replaced by an even more corrupt Brahminism. Another theory is that Buddhism disappeared from India in the wake of the Arab and Turkish invasions in which many Buddhists were said to have been killed. However, this theory, too, seems not to be convincing as a complete explanation of the extinction of Buddhism in India . After all, in places such as Bengal and Sind, which were ruled by Brahminical dynasties but had Buddhist majorities, Buddhists are said to have welcomed the Muslims as saviours who had freed them from the tyranny of 'upper' caste rule. This explains why most of the 'lower-caste' people in Eastern Bengal and Sind
    embraced Islam. Few, if any, among the 'upper' castes of these regions did the same.

    Since Buddhism was replaced by triumphant Brahminism, the eclipse of Buddhism in India was obviously primarily a result of the Brahminical revival. The Buddha was a true revolutionary—and his crusade against Brahminical supremacy won him his most ardent followers from among the oppressed castes. The Buddha challenged the divinity of the Vedas, the bedrock of Brahminism. He held that all men are equal and that the caste system or varnashramadharma, to which the Vedas and Other Brah'minical' books had given religious sanction, was completely false. Thus, in the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha is said to have exhorted the Bhikkus, saying, “Just, O brethren, as the great rivers, when they have emptied themselves into the Great Ocean, lose their different names and are known as the Great Ocean Just so, O brethren, do the four varnas—Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya and
    Sudra—when they begin to follow the doctrine and discipline propounded by the Tathagata [i.e. the Buddha], renounce the different names of caste and
    rank and become the members of one and the same society.â€

    The Buddha’s fight against Brahminism won him many enemies from among the Brahmins. They were not as greatly opposed to his philosophical teachings as they were to his message of universal brotherhood and equality for it directly challenged their hegemony and the scriptures that they had invented to legitimize this. To combat Buddhism and revive the tottering Brahminical hegemony, Brahminical revivalists resorted to a three-pronged strategy. Firstly, they launched a campaign of hatred and persecution against the Buddhists. Then, they appropriated many of the finer aspects of Buddhism into their own system so as to win over the "lower" caste Buddhist masses, but made sure that this selective appropriation did not in any way undermine Brahminical hegemony. The final stage in this project to wipeout Buddhism was to propound and propagate the myth that the Buddha was merely another
    ‘incarnation’ (avatar) of the Hindu god Vishnu. Buddha was turned into just another of the countless deities of the Brahminical pantheon.

    The Buddhists were finally absorbed into the caste system, mainly as Shudras and ‘Untouchables’, and with that the Buddhist presence was completely obliterated from the land of its birth. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar writes in his book, The Untouchables, that the ancestors of today's Dalits were Buddhists who were reduced to the lowly status of ‘untouchables’
    for not having accepted the supremacy of the Brahmins. They were kept apart from other people and were forced to live in ghettos of their own. Being treated worse that beasts of burden and forbidden to receive any education, these people gradually lost touch with Buddhism, but yet never fully reconciled themselves to the Brahminical order. Many of them later converted to Islam, Sikhism and Christianity in a quest for liberation from the Brahminical religion.

    To lend legitimacy to their campaign against Buddhism, Brahminical texts included fierce strictures against Buddhists. Manu, in his Manusmriti, laid down that, “If a person touches a Buddhist […] he shall purify himself by having a bath.†Aparaka ordained the same in his Smriti. Vradha Harit declared entry into a Buddhist temple a sin, which could only be expiated for by taking a ritual bath. Even dramas and other books for lay people written by Brahmins contained venomous propaganda against the Buddhists. In the classic work, Mricchakatika, (Act VII), the hero Charudatta, on seeing a Buddhist monk pass by, exclaims to his friend Maitriya— "Ah! Here is an
    inauspicious sight, a Buddhist monk coming towards us." The Brahmin Chanakya, author of Arthashastra, declared that, "When a person entertains in a dinner dedicated to gods and ancestors those who are Sakyas (Buddhists), Ajivikas, Shudras and exiled persons, a fine of one hundred panas shall be imposed on him." Shankaracharaya, the leader of the Brahminical
    revival, struck terror into the hearts of the Buddhists with his diatribes against their religion.

    The simplicity of the Buddha’s message, its stress on equality and its crusade against the bloody and costly sacrifices and ritualism of Brahminism had attracted the oppressed casts in large numbers. The Brahminical revivalists understood the need to appropriate some of these finer aspects of Buddhism and discarded some of the worst of their own practices so as to be able to win over the masses back to the Brahminical fold. Hence began the process of the assimilation of Buddhism by Brahminism. The Brahimns,
    who were once voracious beef-eaters, turned vegetarian, imitating the Buddhists in this regard. Popular devotion to the Buddha was sought to be
    replaced by devotion to Hindu gods such as Rama and Krishna. The existing version of the Mahabharata was written in the period in which the decline of Buddhism had already begun, and it was specially meant for the Shudras, most of whom were Buddhists, to attract them away from Buddhism. Brahminism, however, still prevented the Shudras from having access to the Vedas, and the Mahabharata was possibly written to placate the Buddhist Shudras and to compensate them for this discrimination. The Mahabharata incorporated some of the humanistic elements of Buddhism to win over the
    Shudras, but, overall, played its role of bolstering the Brahminical hegemony rather well. Thus, Krishna, in the Gita, is made to say that a person ought not to violate the “divinely ordained†law of caste. Eklavya is made to slice off his thumb by Drona, who is finds it a gross violation of dharma that a mere
    tribal boy should excel the Kshatriya Arjun in archery.

    The various writer of the puranas, too, carried on this systematic campaign of hatred, slander and calumny against the Buddhists. The Brahannardiya
    Purana made it a principal sin for Brahmins to enter the house of a Buddhist even in times of great peril. The Vishnu Purana dubs the Buddha as Maha Moha or ‘the great seducer’. It further cautions against the “sin of conversing with Buddhists†and lays down that “those who merely talk to Buddhist ascetics shall be sent to hell.†In the Gaya Mahatmaya, the concluding section of the Vayu Purana, the town of Gaya is identified as Gaya Asura, a demon who had attained such holiness that all those who saw him or touched him went straight to heaven. Clearly, this ‘demon’ was none other the Buddha who preached a simple way for all, including the oppressed castes, to attain salvation. The Vayu Purana story goes on to add that Yama, the king of hell, grew jealous at this, possibly because less people were now entering his domains. He appealed to the gods to limit the powers of Asura Gaya. This the gods, led by Vishnu, were able to do by placing a massive stone on the “demon’s†head. This monstrous legend signified the ultimate capture of Budhdhism’s most holy centre by its most inveterate
    foes.

    Kushinagar, also known as Harramba, was one of the most important Buddhist centres as the Buddha breathed his last there. The Brahmins, envious of the
    prosperity of this pilgrim town and in order to discourage people from going there, invented the absurd theory that one who dies in Harramba goes to
    hell, or is reborn as an ass, while he who dies in Kashi, the citadel of Brahminism, goes straight to heaven. So pervasive was the belief in this bizarre theory that when the Sufi saint Kabir died in 1518 AD at Maghar, not far from Kushinagar, some of his Hindu followers refused to erect any memorial in his honour there and instead set up one at Kashi. Kabir's Muslim followers were less superstitious. They set up a tomb for him at Maghar itself.

    In addition to vilifying the fair name of the Buddha, the Brahminical revivalists goaded Hindu kings to persecute and even slaughter innocent Buddhists.
    Sasanka, the Shaivite Brahmin king of Bengal, murdered the last Buddhist emperor Rajyavardhana, elder brother of Harshavardhana, in 605 AD and then marched on to Bodh Gaya where he destroyed the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had attained enlightenment. He forcibly removed the Buddha's image from the Bodh Vihara near the tree and installed one of Shiva in its place. Finally, Sasanka is said to have slaughtered all the Buddhist monks in the area around Kushinagar. Another such Hindu king was, Mihirakula, a Shaivite, who is said to have completely destroyed over 1500 Buddhist shrines. The Shaivite Toramana is said to have destroyed the Ghositarama Buddhist monastery at
    Kausambi.

    The extermination of Buddhism in India was hastened by the large-scale destruction and appropriation of Buddhist shrines by the Brahmins. The Mahabodhi Vihara at Bodh Gaya was forcibly converted into a Shaivite temple, and the controversy lingers on till this day. The cremation stupa of the Buddha at Kushinagar was changed into a Hindu temple dedicated to the obscure deity with the name of Ramhar Bhavani. Adi Shankara is said to have established his Sringeri Mutth on the site of a Buddhist monastery which he
    took over. Many Hindu shrines in Ayodhya are said to have once been Buddhist temples, as is the case with other famous Brahminical temples such as those at Sabarimala, Tirupati, Badrinath and Puri.
     
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  3. kmguru Staff Member

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    I think Buddhism is more suited to Japanese, Chinese type culture than the Indian mixed culture at the time. It is one of those me-me society vs. common goals for greater good.

    What do you think?
     
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  5. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I've heard of the Brahmin Buddhist wars but never managed to get good sources

    Could you recommend some?

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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Thank YOU.

    I've always felt that Buddhism was unsuitable for communal societies.

    Which is why it is so attractive to Westerners, maybe?
     
  8. kmguru Staff Member

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    11,757
    I think you got it backwards... Buddhism is more of a communal society. It is the Sangha or group that is more important. I have worked with the Chinese very closely and found them to be more supportive of their society than Westerners for theirs.
     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Thats interesting, the few Buddhists I have known seemed rather self absorbed to me.
     
  10. kmguru Staff Member

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    I suppose they want to taste the desire and hence end up in sorrow. One reason, Buddhism did not take hold in Hinduism (for that matter Christianity and Islam) is because every good philosophy that ever exists and will exist can be merged in to Hinduism. It is like the English Language, takes everything useful....

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    For example, my teacher told me to live life like a drop of water on a Lotus leaf. (Where Lotus leaf represents the world - Samsar, and the drop of water as your self). That philosophy is similar to Buddhism.
     
  11. Gustav Banned Banned

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    theravada emphasizes individuality and personal responsibility
    mahayana, salvation thru good works and whatnot

    screw the latter
    however, if you want a good read, mahayana philosophers were kinda cool
     
  12. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    If Japan is not a communal society I don't know one that is.
     
  13. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    I've read that the type of Buddhism that migrated to China, Korea and Japan was Greco-Buddhism. I also read that the Japanese preserved many of the ancient Greek ways of thinking about things that disappeared from Greece itself as the people changed with the times - namely being Romanized and then Christianized.
     
  14. draqon Banned Banned

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    It suits me, I am Russian
     
  15. kmguru Staff Member

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    Since Buddha never went to Europe, I doubt it was Greco-Buddhism. It could be more like independently derived ideas. Humans all over the world have same basal instincts. I found that out while working in China. Made similar observations working with several fresh Russians and Greek immigrants in USA.

    I even bet that when we find an Earthlike planet elsewhere, they too will have humans with similar properties.
     
  16. draqon Banned Banned

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    thats kind of going away from subject by quite a bit

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    but I will follow you there...it is quite unlikely that there are humans on other planets because we are due to turns of dramatic events like extinction of dinosaurs...who knows maybe dinosaurs get to evolve at the end and the real winner of evolution will not be humans but dolphins to say.
     
  17. kmguru Staff Member

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    11,757
    You may be right....but then again, we are talking about Buddhism. There is a part translation from some scriptures (do not have the reference) as follows:

    'Throughout its early history the universe continued to develop as an immense superposition of probabilities. Not only was the structure of the universe superposed, but all logically possible states of matter, physical constants, properties and laws were simultaneously present and evolving into ever increasing diversity.'

    Also see multiple world references at wiki
     
  18. UltiTruth In pursuit... Registered Senior Member

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    One reason Budhism is not very attractive is that it sounds pessimistic and depressing.
     
  19. draqon Banned Banned

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    thats from a guy/gal who has a nick UltiTruth or Ultimate Truth...otherwise known as depressing and pessimistic reality of everything

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  20. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    Buddhism isn't evangelical. It doesn't serve the needs and desires of the population. Above all, why should we care? Buddhism involves personal revelation. It's rise or fall in society should not be a matter of concern.
     
  21. draqon Banned Banned

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    you are obviously not a buddhist, spidergoat. Because what you aforementioned above is only one small branch of Buddhism that deal with self gratification.
     
  22. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    I think it's the opposite. Other religions fill one up with ideas that provide self-gratification, that's why they are popular. Buddhism only takes away the crutches.
     
  23. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Actually some ideas did - from the Greek philosophers who, under the leadership of Alexander of Macedonia, were around when the Greeks conquered large parts of India, they then settled and set up Hellonized cities which lasted for hundreds of years. Trade was pretty good between India and the Greek world.

    Here's some Greco Buddhist art:

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