In this essay we will discuss about Buddhism. After reading this essay you will learn about:- 1. Introduction to Buddhism 2. Life of Mahatma Buddha 3. The Religious Texts of Buddhists 4. The Principles and Philosophy of Mahatma Buddha 5. The Buddhist Sangha 6. The Main Buddhist Sects 7. The Vajrayana or the Vehicle of Thunderbolt 8. Causes of the Rise of Buddhism and Other Details.

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Introduction to Buddhism
  2. Essay on the Life of Mahatma Buddha
  3. Essay on the Religious Texts of Buddhists
  4. Essay on the Principles and Philosophy of Mahatma Buddha
  5. Essay on the Buddhist Sangha
  6. Essay on the Main Buddhist Sects
  7. Essay on the Vajrayana or the Vehicle of Thunderbolt
  8. Essay on the Causes of Rise of Buddhism
  9. Essay on the Causes of Decline of Buddhism
  10. Essay on the Gifts of Buddhism to India

Essay # 1. Introduction to Buddhism:

Buddhism became the most popular religion not only in India but in entire Asia. It has been upheld by many scholars that Buddha was not an originator of a new religion but a reformer of the Hindu religion. They contend, as all scholars now admit, that the basic doctrine of Buddhism sprang from the pre-existing Hindu philosophy of the Sankhya system and the later Upanishads.


Thus, so far as the original philosophy of Buddhism is concerned there is hardly any break of continuity between Buddha and the Hindu sages who had preceded him. Nor did Buddha lay down a special ritual for his followers. Even the rules of monastic discipline left by him are but a few, simple and undefined. The rules of morality preached by Buddha were also not new.

He simply emphasized a few of them which were already existing. “On the contrary,” as Kern puts it, “the Master (Buddha) himself repeatedly extols the morals and virtues of ancient rishis. Buddhism has wisely adopted many articles of morality and pious customs flowing from the sources of Brahmanist Code.”

However, the above view is not accepted by the majority of scholars who contend that Buddha was certainly not a reformist of the Hindu religion but the originator of a new one though he drew heavily from the existing Hindu philosophy and morality. The concepts of Buddhism regarding principles of transmigration of soul, fate and God differ from those of Hinduism. While Hinduism places its gods above the cycle of transmigration of soul.

Buddhism regards godhood as the result of good deeds, perishable and, thereby, subject to the cycle of birth and rebirth. Again, Buddhism does not believe in God or Providence or Creator of the Universe who participates in the determination of fates of individuals as Hinduism believes. According to Buddhism, fate is only the former actions of every one. Thus, there are certain differences in the basic philosophy of Hinduism and Buddhism.


Besides, whatever might have been the motive of Buddha during his lifetime, Buddhism ultimately grew up as a distinct and different religion. A.L. Basham rightly concludes, “Whatever be its position in the Buddha’s lifetime, 200 years later Buddhism was a distinct religion.”

Essay # 2. Life of Mahatma Buddha:

Gautama, alias Siddhartha. the founder of Buddhism, wasborn about 566 B.C. at Lumbinivana in Nepal on the Indian border. His father Suddhodana was a kshatriya by caste and the chief of the Sakya clan, which had its capital at Kapilavastu. His mother Maya died seven days after his birth. Therefore, he was brought up by his mother’s sister Mahaprajapati Gotami.

He was married to Yasodhara when he was sixteen years of age and had a son named Rahula at the age of twenty-eight. However, his mind was influenced by the prevailing spiritual unrest and as tradition describes it, he was troubled at the sight of an old man, a sick person and a dead body, and then, attracted by the appearance of a Sanyasin (ascetic), left his home at the age of twenty-nine. He first became the disciple of Arada who lived near Vaisali and, afterwards, that of Rudraka Ramputra who lived near Rajagriha.


But he did not feel satisfied. He then practised meditation himself. Ultimately, on the forty-ninth day of his continuous meditation under a pipal tree at Uruvela near Gaya, he got enlightenment. Henceforth, he was called the Buddha (the Enlightened one).

He preached his first sermon at the Deer Park at Sarnath near Banaras which was called the Turning of the Wheel of Law. He then travelled to different places and gave his message to the people particularly in the states of Magadha, Kosla, Vaisali, Kausambi and Anga. Kings like Bimbisara and Ajatsatru of Magadha, Prasenajit of Kosala and Udayana of Kausambi and their near relatives like Mallika, wife of Prasenjit, his two sisters Soma and Sakula, wife of Udayana, Samavati, the famous courtesan of Vaisali, Amrapali and many rich and prominent Kshatriyas and Vaisyas either became his disciples or devotees.

While he was at Vaisali he agreed to the formation of an order of nuns. He visited Kapilavastu also and converted his foster-mother Gotami and his son Rahul to his faith. In the west, he went as far as Veranja near Mathura. He was invited by king Pradyota of Avanti though he declined his offer and sent one of his disciples there.

In the end he reached Kusinara, the capital of Mallas (in the modern Deoria district of UP.) and died there at the age of eighty about 486 B.C. During his own lifetime, Buddha had succeeded in making Buddhism a popular religion in most of the north-eastern part of India.

Essay # 3. The Religious Texts of Buddhists:

The original Buddhist religious texts were written in Pali and are collectively known as Tripitaka (three baskets). The first part is the Vinayapitaka which lays down rules for the guidance of the monks and the general management of the Buddhist Church. The second part is the Suttapitaka, a collection of the religious discourses of Buddha; and, the third is the Abhidhammapitaka which contains an exposition of the philosophical principles underlying Buddhism.

Afterwards, the Mahayana sect and the Tantric sect of Buddhism created their own texts. Besides, authoritative commentaries on the sacred texts and the Jatakas or stories relating to different births of Buddha also added much to religious literature of Buddhism.

Essay # 4. The Principles and Philosophy of Mahatma Buddha:

The fundamental principles of Buddha’s teachings are the four Aryastyas or Noble Traths:

(1) That worldly existence is full of misery;

(2) That thirst, desire, ignorance, attachment, etc., are the causes of worldly existence;

(3) That worldly existence can be ended by the destruction of thirst, etc.; and

(4) That in order to do this one must know the right Path (marga).

And. the right Path is Eightfold Path:

1. Right view, viz., understanding the four noble truths, a person should always look towards and remember the eightfold path;

2. Right resolution, viz., a person should be determined not to amass wealth at the cost of others and not to lead a licentious life but to love and provide comforts to everybody;

3. Right speech, viz., a person should speak truth and also sweet which leads to love, cooperation and friendship in the society and should not use such language which leads to quarrels and divisions in the society;

4. Right action, viz., a person should not engage himself in such acts like theft, murder, etc., which harm the society but should act only for the welfare of the society:

5. Right means of livelihood, viz., a person should not adopt those means for his livelihood which harm the society, e.g., selling of intoxicants, slaughtering of animals etc. but should adopt only good means to earn his livelihood;

6. Right exertion or mental exercise, viz., a person should keep only good thoughts in mind and should avoid evil thoughts;

7. Right mindedness or awareness, viz., a person should always be aware of evil ideas and deeds and should never allow them to enter his mind; and,

8. Right meditation, viz., a person should meditate with complete con­centration.

Buddha preached that the ultimate goal of one’s life is to attain Nirvana, the eternal state of peace and bliss, which is free from sorrow and desire, decay or disease and. of course, from further birth and death, and, in order to attain it, one should pursue the Noble Eight-fold Path.

According to Buddha everything is transient in this Universe. There is no immortal soul. The universe is soulless. The transmigration is no transmigration of soul. In transmigration nothing passes over from one life to another — only a new life arises as part of events which include the old or, rather it is the reaction of one’s own actions. Buddha did not believe in the existence of God or soul. According to him it is a delusion which one develops because of one’s ignorance.

It is this ignorance which creates desire in man, then desire leads to action {Karma) and that action to the impulse to be born again in order to satisfy desire. This leads to the chain of birth and rebirth which is the primary cause of misery of man. The ignorance, desire, attachment, action etc. are causes of rebirth and all miseries of human life. This chain can be snapped but only by knowledge (Gyan). Buddha had no faith in prayer, Yajna, sacrifice etc.

Therefore, he preached to pursue right action and acquire right knowledge in order to attain Nirvana. According to him, the true knowledge is to acknowledge the absence of soul. He who realizes the absence of soul or substance in the constituents knows that he does not exist as an individual, and as such there can be no relationship between him and the objects around him.

Therefore, there is nothing in this world to make him happy or sad and so he is free (vimukta)—he is an Arhat. Those who wish to attain this knowledge leading to Nirvana should keep faith in the ‘Four Noble Truths’ and pursue the Noble Eightfold Path.

The moral doctrines of Buddha were simple. He preached that every individual is the arbiter of his own destiny. Good deeds lead to higher life till salvation is achieved while evil deeds retard the progress. An individual should avoid pursuing both the extremes, i.e., a life of luxury and a life of severe asceticism. The best course to be pursued by an individual is the Middle Path (Madhyama pratipat or Tathagrah Marg).

He laid stress on truth, chanty, purity, and control over passions and further declared that an individual should practise the Four Cardinal Virtues, viz., maitri (love), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy at other’s success), and upeksha (equanimity) towards all beings in order to lead him to a better life in his next birth. Besides, one should avoid pursuing bad instincts such as ill-will, anger, deceit, jealousy, obstinacy, arrogance, vainglory etc.

The common man was asked not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, not to get drunk and not keep sexual relations outside marriage. For a monk or a nun it was necessary to observe complete celibacy and to possess nothing except a vellow-dress, a rice bowl, a razor, a needle and a stainer.

Thus, Buddha preached a high system of ethics. The central idea of his teachings was living a holy life. The Noble Eightfold Path, whereby a man attains Nirvana, is not merely a matter of belief or knowledge, but also of conduct while the Four Cardinal Virtues, viz., love, compassion, joy and equanimity of Buddhism are more positive in character as compared to the non-violence of Jainism and the abstinence of the Upanishads of Hindus.

Buddhism preached against caste-system though, finally, compromised with it and even accepted untouchability. It did not challenge the caste-system afterwards though upheld that Nirvana could be attained by people of all castes. Later on, in Jataka stories a Chandala was accepted as an untouchable.

It was also stated that Buddha was born again and again but his birth was always described in a Brahamana or Kshatriya family and never in a lower caste than that. Besides, Buddhism also opposed ritualism, animal-sacrifices and eminence of Purohit-class in religion.

Buddhism also tried to give a new turn to contemporary polity and economy. It upheld the view that the primary cause of evil in society was poverty. Therefore the duty of the state was not limited to maintain peace and order and collect taxes but to increase the means of livelihood. It, therefore, should attempt to increase the area of cultivation and adopt means for increasing cattle-wealth. It should provide all possible help to those people who were prepared to undertake these tasks.

The same way, the state should protect trade and commerce and give all help, even financial, to people engaged in trade. It also suggested that the state should pay their servants proper salaries and at proper time so that they do not exploit state-subjects for earning their livelihood. With the same purpose in view, Buddhism advised rich people to spend their wealth in public-welfare works like construction of roads, ponds, wells, dharmsalas planting of trees on road-sides, etc.

Certainly, this view of Buddhism helped in giving a new direction to contemporary polity and economy and was useful to the then society. Thus, Mahatma Buddha and his disciples, even after his death, provided support of religion to state and society in giving favourable turn to contemporary polity and economy, though of course, indirectly. It remained one of the causes of the popularity of Buddhism.

Buddhism had some main characteristics which helped in its speedy and widespread progress.

These were:

I. The establishment of the Sangha (Church);

II. The admission of female members into the Sangha;

III. Enjoyment of equal rights by all its members irrespective of classes or castes; and

IV. Practice of holding religious discourses in the language of the common people, particularly Magadhi.

Essay # 5. The Buddhist Sangha:

The followers of Buddhism were divided into two parts Bhikhus or monks and Upasakas or householders. It was primarily for the training of monks that Sanghas were established though, of course, they also served the purpose of meeting places for gatherings of the Upasakas to listen to religious discourses given by the monks. Buddha had himself framed a number of rules concerning the Sanghas though many more were added to them after him. Later on, separate Sanghas were established for nuns. But these were always kept close-by to male- Sanghas.

The membership of the Buddhist Sangha was open to all persons without any distinction of caste or class and males or females who had completed the age of fifteen years. However, dependents had to seek permission of their guardians. Besides, it was necessary to be free from certain disabilities. Lepers and persons suffering from such like disease, criminals, slaves etc. were not permitted to become members of the Sangha.

At the time of initiation one had to shave one’s hair, put on yellow robes and take following three vows:

1. I take refuge in the Buddha.

2. I take refuge in the Dharma.

3. I take refuge in the Sangha.

The new convert had to choose a teacher from amongst the monks of the Sangha who then presented him before a panel often monks.

If none of the monks dissented, he was accepted as a member of the Sangha, was called a Sramana (novice), and was asked to observe the ten precepts, viz.,  Abstention from:

1. Killing;

2. Stealing;

3. Adultery;

4. Speaking falsehoods:

5. Drinking liquor or taking any intoxicant;

6. Afternoon meals;

7. Witnessing dances, music, etc.,

8. The use of garlands, perfumes etc.

9. The use of comfortable beds; and

10. The acceptance of gold, silver etc.

The new convert had to undergo special training and observe stern morality under the guidance of his teachers for ten years. When this disciplinary period was over, he was accepted as a full-fledged member or monk of the Sangha.

There was no central organization of Buddhist Sanghas. Each Sangha carried on its works as an independent entity. However, all Sanghas were accepted as merely parts of one Universal Sangha and therefore, every member of every Sangha was regarded as an ipso facto member of all Sanghas. This was the bond of unity amongst them. Besides, whenever any occasion arose, General Councils of the monks were convoked at various times.

Every Sangha functioned on strictly democratic principles. The general assembly of all the monks of Sangha constituted the supreme authority concerning that Sangha, its members and all their activities.

No meeting of the assembly was legal, unless all the members were either present, or being absent, formally declared their consent. Every matter was decided by majority votes in the assembly. The head of the Sangha or Sangha-Parinayaka and all the officials concerning routine work of the Sangha were also elected by the assembly.

The nuns (Bhikkhunis) had their separate Sanghas. These were always established near monk-Sanghas and were subordinate to them as the general tendency of the Buddhist canon law was to assign a distinct inferior position to the nuns. Besides, certain separate rules were also framed for nuns and their Sanghas.

The organization of the Sanghas had two other special features. One was that regular assemblies of all monks residing within fixed boundaries of a locality were held on the 8th, 14th and 15th days of each fortnight for the purpose of religious discourses.

In these very assemblies, even monk had to accept his guilt or breach of any rule by him, if any, before all present and punishment to him was decided according to rules and regulations. The other was the Vasa or the Retreat. During the three months of rains, the monks were required to take up a fixed abode. The rest of the year the monks used to wander all over the country.

The monks and the nuns had to practice certain spiritual exercises besides observing the code of conduct and rule of morality. Among the most important of the monk’s or the nun’s spiritual exercises were the four Sublime Moods (Brahma Vihara) in which sitting quietly cross-legged, he or she endeavoured to fill his or her mind with the four cardinal virtues of Buddhism, viz., love, compassion, joy and equanimity. A fifth mood was that of impurity, in which he or she considered all the vileness and the horror of the world and of the life of flesh.

One more exercise for mental discipline was necessary for a monk. It was ‘Right collection.’ It meant that he had to train himself to be continually aware of what he was doing, what faults or mistakes he had committed and be prepared to accept them and take remedial measures.

Thus, the Sanghas were primarily the training centres for monks and nuns. The organisation of the Sanghas helped very much in the propagation of Buddhism. The idea of organizing the Sanghas for the propagation of a particular religious faith was certainly not new but the credit to provide it systematic shape and character goes to Mahatma Buddha.

The first Buddhist council was held at Rajagraha soon after Buddha’s death under the auspices of king Ajatsatru and an attempt was made to compile the teachings of Buddha. But the attempt did not succeed because it is evident that the scriptures of Buddhism grew by a long process of development over several centuries. It was presided by Acharya Mahakasyapa.

The second council was held at Vaisali about a century after the death of Buddha in 383 B.C. under the auspices of king Kalasoka or Kakavarnin. It was presided by Acharya Sthaviryash. The monks of Vaisali and Pataliputra had accepted certain rules which were declared against the teachings of Buddha by the monks of Kausambi and Avanti.

The council failed to bring about a compromise between the two opposite opinions which led to the first division of Buddhism. Henceforth those who opposed the rules were called the Sthaviravadins; and those who were in favour of the rules and their further relaxation were called the Mahasanghikas.

The third council was held at Pataliputra during the reign of emperor Asoka in 247 B.C. It was presided by Bhikhu Moggliputra. By that time Buddhists had developed many serious differences among themselves and though labels were yet not assigned, the different sects were already there, “… the history of Buddhism of the second century after Gautam’s death,” comments R.C. Mazumdar “was no longer the history of a single monastic organisation, but of quite a larger number growing independently of one another in different parts of India.”

The lack of a supreme head of Buddhism who could settle the rival claims about the teachings of Mahatma Buddha proved to be the main cause of these divisions. By Asoka’s time many Buddhist sects had raised Buddha almost to divinity and various places connected with his life had become places of pilgrimage. At several places Buddhist viharas and stupas were also built up. Emperor Asoka himself helped in building up many of them. Asoka took keen interest in the propagation of Buddhism not only in India but even outside its geographical limits. By the time of his death Buddhism had become the most popular religion in India.

The zeal of Asoka, of course, created a reaction which reached its climax during the reign of Pushyamitra Sunga, yet the progress of Buddhism did not stop. Rather, the invasions of foreigners like the Sakas and Kushanas which gave India an opportunity to come in contact with the north-western countries of Asia helped in its further progress beyond the frontiers of India. The Kushana rulers, particularly Kanishka, extended their patronage to Buddhism.

And, it was during the reign of Kanishka that the fourth general council of Buddhism was held in Kashmir which was presided over by Vasumitra. By this time, Buddhism was already divided into eighteen important sects. But, the great division took place after this council. Buddhism was now divided into two major and important sects. One was called the Hinayana or the Lesser Vehicle, and the other was called the Mahayana or the Great Vehicle.

The new sect, that is, Mahavanism proved to be more popular. It became popular not only in India but it penetrated and became popular in Afghanistan, central Asia and as far as China and Japan. However, the Hinayana sect of Buddhism remained popular in Ceylon and also penetrated into Burma, Siam and certain other countries of South-East Asia. Thus at one time Buddhism became the foremost religion of Asia. But by the seventh century, it lost its popularity in the country of its birth, viz., India, as is clear from the account of the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang.

However, in the eighth century, a new Buddhist sect called the Vajrayana or the Vehicle of the Thunderbolt grew up in India which became quite popular in the provinces of Bengal and Bihar. The Indian religious thought was seriously affected by Tantrik religious philosophy after the fall of the Gupta empire.

Both Hinduism and Buddhism were affected by it and that led to the growth of the Vajrayana sect. Vikramsila in Bihar became one of the primary centres of this religious sect. The missionary teachers of Vikramsila took it to Tibet where it became the religion of the people by the eleventh century.

Thus, Buddhism was divided into different sects. It became the most popular religion not only in India but in entire Asia at one time even after its division and maintained its popularity for centuries to come though it lost it in India much earlier.

However, Buddhism has received a new lease of life during modern age. About a century back, Mahavir Swami tried to revive Buddhism in India. He got himself educated in Burma and, after his return from there, settled down at Kusmara where the Buddha got salvation. Many people around Kusinara were attracted towards Buddhism because of his activities. The discovery of ancient Indian culture by western scholars also created interest in Buddhism.

In 1891 A.D., a citizen of Sri Lanka, Anagarika Dharmpala established a society, Mahabodha-Sabha which did useful work for the revival of Buddhism in India. The acceptance of Dharma-Chakra as a symbol in the National Flag is a proof of increased influence of Buddhism in India. In 1959 A.D., Dalai Lama, head priest of Buddhism in Tibet, fled to India. With him nearly 50,000 Tibetan refugees entered India among whom nearly 1,000 are monks.

This too has helped the cause of Buddhism in India. In 1966 A.D., under the guidance of the leader of the untouchables, late Dr B .R. Ambedkar, lakhs of people accepted Buddhism which increased the number of followers of Buddhism in India. All this has created lively interest towards Buddhism in India which may open fresh avenues for it here.

Essay # 6. The Main Buddhist Sects:

The Hinayana, the Mahayana and the Vajrayana remained the most popular sects of Buddhism though it was divided into lesser important sects also.

I. The Hinayana Sect:

Those followers of Buddhism who believed in the original teachings of Mahatma Buddha and did not want any relaxation in them were first called Sthaviravadins. Later on, the sect was called the Hinayana or the Lesser Vehicle.

II. The Mahayana Sect:

The great split in Buddhism took place at the time of the fourth general council of Buddhism, during the period of emperor Kanishka and the Mahayanism took its formal birth.

However, the religious beliefs of Mahayanism were not entirely new. The one basic belief of Mahayanism is acceptance of many Boddhisattvas, that is, beings who were in the process of obtaining, but had yet not attained, Buddhahood. The idea was provided probably by the Buddha himself. This belief had taken roots by the time of the Mauryan empire and emperor Asoka himself believed in it.

The Sthaviravadins themselves had imagined nearly twenty-five such Bodhisattvas or incarnations of Mahatma Buddha in different lives who had helped other people in the attainment of Nirvana. Besides, belief had taken root even in such Bodhisattvas who were in the process of attaining Buddhahood. Thus the belief in Boddhisattavas and their prayers, which has been regarded as the basic feature of Mahayanism, had developed much earlier than its formal establishment during the period of Kanishka in the first century A.D.

However, it became a completely different sect after the fourth general council of Buddhism when it was provided with a distinct philosophy by Nagaijuna and other Buddhist scholars of that period. The credit for establishment of Mahayanism as a distinct sect of Buddhism had primarily gone to Nagarjuna who was born in Vidharbha (Berar) in a Brahmin family.

Commenting on the beginning and growth of Mahayanism, Dr Nalinaksha Dutt writes:

“. . . Mahayana Buddhism originated about the first century B.C. in the Andhra country where the Mahasanghikas had their centre; it became a recognised form of Buddhism at the time of Kanishka; and then it spread all over northern India in the first or second century A.D. to blossom into its full glory under the care of Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga and Vasubandhu.”

Thus, Mahayanism took its birth in India and was not influenced by any foreign philosophy. However, Dr A.L. Basham has expressed the view that, probably, the Zoroastrian concept of the Saviour (Sasoyant) and the concept of the Suffering Prophet of Christianity influenced the thoughts of Mahayanism. He writes, “Under the invading rulers of the north-west India Zoroastrianism and Buddhism came into contact, and it was probably through this that the idea of a future Buddha became part of orthodox belief.”

He further writes, “The Suffering of Boddhisattva so closely resembles the Christian conception of the God who gives his life as a ransom for many that we cannot dismiss the possibility that the doctrine was borrowed by Buddhism from Christianity, which was vigorous in Persia from the 2nd century A.D. onwards.” However, this view of Dr. Basham has no general acceptance.

There was no difference between the followers of Hinayanism and Mahayanism with regard to the rules of Sangha (Church) and code of conduct or molality. Both lived together in the same Sanghas.

However, there were differences in philosophy and principles among them which were as follows:

1. Both the sects agreed that the Buddha had taken birth several times and in several forms as Bodhisattvas before the attainment of Buddhahood, and would take birth in future also. But both differed with regard to the cause of these births and rebirths. According to Hinayanism, the different births were simply different stages of progress of the Buddha till his final attainment of Buddhahood. Thus, they believed that even the Buddha was a man and his birth as Gautama was his last stage in the attainment of Buddhahood or Nirvana. But, according to Mahayanism, the Buddha was an incarnation of God. He took birth several times not to attain Nirvana for himself but to help others in its attainment.

2. Whereas the Hinayanism regarded the salvation of one’s own-self as the highest ideal, the Mahayanism believed that the highest ideal is to help others in attainment of Nirvana.

3. The Hinayanism regarded Nirvana as a state of permanent peace or Bliss free from the cycle of birth and rebirth for an individual, while the Mahayanism regarded it as the union of an individual with Adi Buddha, the idea which is closer to the idea of union of man with Brahman of the Upanishads.

4. The Hinayanism did not regard the Buddha as God free from the cycle of birth and rebirth, while Mahayanism regarded the Buddha as God and believed in his different incarnations, all free from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Different incarnations of Buddha as Bodhisattvas were given different names by them such as Avalokitesvara or Padmapani, Manjusri. Vajrapani, Maitreya, etc.

5. The Hinayanism regards the world as full of sorrow. The Mahayanism agrees with it. But it has an optimistic attitude towards life as compared to Hinayanism. The Mahayanism believes that, in one sense, all living beings are like Bodhisattvas and, ultimately, all will attain Nirvana.

6. The Hinayanism believed in the practice of self-culture and good deeds as the only way to salvation. The Mahayanism began to place more and more reliance on faith and devotion to the various Buddhas to attain Nirvana.

7. While the religious texts of Hinayanism were written in Pali, the texts of Mahayanism were written in Sanskrit. The Lalit-Vistar, the Sadharam- Pundarika, the Vajrachedika, the Sukhavli-Viyuh, the Ashta Sahatrika- Pragyaparamita and the Madyamik-Karika written by Nagarjuna are some of the prominent religious-texts of the Mahayana sect.

Besides, there were certain fundamental differences between the two sects with regard to metaphysical conceptions, the final goal of religious life, the true nature of Buddha, etc.

Therefore, the two sects always remained as distinct sects and no compromise could be possible. The Mahayanism remained closer to the concepts of Hinduism with regard to Nirvana, Brahman, incarnations of God, faith and devotion, etc. and, thus, formed a bridge between the old Buddhism and modern Hinduism.

Besides, its doctrines proved intensely humane and practical. The monks of Mahayanism did not seek their personal salvation. Instead, they became devoted missionaries to help others in attaining Nirvana. They, thus, revived the active philanthrophy which Mahatma Buddha had preached. This proved to be the best asset for the propagation of Buddhism far beyond the frontiers of India.

Essay # 7. The Vajrayana or the Vehicle of Thunderbolt:

The Trantrik philosophy which led to the emergence of Vajrayana sect of Buddhism was not unique to it. It influenced Hinduism and Jainism equally.

The Tantrik knowledge was one which helped an individual to attain Nirvana with the help of the mantras and tantras. The tantra was a diagram drawn with the help of lines or rice on earth or a paper representing a particular deity. Afterwards the figure of a deity was carved on a piece of metal and used as yantra. The yantra served the purpose of a yajna place while the mantras or prayers were recited in order to get control of a particular deity.

Tantrik religion was open to all irrespective of caste and sex. The followers of the new cult taught that Nirvana could best be attained by acquiring magical power. The sect believed that by pronouncing the right mantra in the correct manner and by drawing the correct magical symbol i.e., Yantra, one might force the gods to bestow magical power on the worshipper and lead him to the highest bliss viz., Nirvana.

The tantrik cult, even at present, looks upon every woman as an incarnation of the Universal Mother. Mahaniravana Tantra which has been accepted as one of the most popular religious texts of Tantrik cult describes that all life proceeds from the womb of a woman. All gods including Brahma , Vishnu and Siva, have taken birth from the womb of the Divine Mother who is the creator of all Universe.

Therefore, Divine Mother occupies the highest place among all gods. Parvati, Durga and Lakshmi etc. are merely different names of the Jagatmata, i.e., Mother of the World. That is why the Worship of Mother Goddess or Shakti- Puja is predominant in Tantrik religion.

The old religious-texts of the Hindus, particularly, the Atharvaveda, have been accepted as the primary source of the Tantrik religion. When the knowledge of the Vedas was lost and, further, when the people failed to practise the morality of the Upanishads and that of Mahavir and Buddha, the Tantrik religion could make headway. It was supported by many ascetics and its religious literature was also formed. It became popular in Buddhism because of an additional factor.

When Buddhism spread out in Tibet, Central Asia, China and other countries outside India, neither the pure Ethics of Buddhism nor its subtle philosophy was found to be of practical use and therefore, Buddhism compromised with the prevailing religious practices of those people in those countries which also helped in the growth of Tantrik or Vajrayana sect in Buddhism, which settled itself well in Bengal and Bihar by the 8th century under the protection of the kings of the Pala dynasty.

The Chief divinities of the Vajrayana sect were the Saviouress (Taras), the spouses of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. Feminine divinities had found their place quite early in Mahayanism. Later, the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, were endowed with wives like the gods of the Hindus. These wives were regarded as the active aspect, the force or potency (Shakti) of their husbands and it was held that the gods might be best approached through the goddesses.

The productive activity of the divine was thought of in terms of sexual union, an idea as old in the Rigveda. With the spread of these ideas, sexual symbolism and even sexual intercourse as a religious rite were incorporated into the teachings of Vajrayana and also in some schools of Hinduism. In the sexual rites of Tantrik Buddhism all taboos were lifted. Drinking of alcohol, killing of animals, meat-eating and sometimes even of human flesh was permitted, though of course it was all done only at the time of sacred ceremonies under strict control. It all applied to Tantrik religion of the Hindus as well as of the Buddhists.

The Tantrik religion provoked acute controversy during the times when it was popular and is still very much controversial. On the one hand, it has been regarded as an indispensible means to the attainment of the highest spirituality. On the other hand, it has been branded as a debased means of vulgar obscenity and sexual immorality. The truth is that on philosophical plane, the Tantric religion is also one of the various ways for the attainment of Nirvana.

The aspirants who pursue this way have to undergo various mental and spiritual exercises and have to follow certain rigorous rules according to their spiritual attainments. They are divided into different groups—the Pashus, the Viras, the Divyas. The first group consists of Vedachara, Vaishnavachara, Saivachara and Dakishinachara; the second group consists of Vamachara and Siddhantachara and the last group is that of only Kaulchara.

All these denote different stages of the spiritual attainment of the followers of this Marg to attain salvation and each has been assigned different duties and obligations in pursuing Tantrik means. It is only at the Kaulchara stage that an individual reaches the stage of perfection. That stage is the divya condition, for then the individual reaches a stage when he has no likes and dislikes of earthly life. It is like attaining the Brahma- knowledge of the Upanishads.

Thus, in principle and philosophy, the Tantric religion is no way for debauchery and moral perversity. On the contrary, it is also a way to attain Nirvana and at one time proved useful for the masses as Dr. H.D Bhattacharya has commented, “They (Tantrik devotees) certainly brought the gods nearer to the hearths and homes of men and inspired their devotion, prompted their collective action for charity, and gave a fillip to the building of religious edifices all over the country.”

But as has been the history of every religion that each of them has always been misinterpreted and misused with the passages of time, the same happened with the Tantrik religion. It was also misinterpreted and misused which led to its debasement and, thereby, exploitation by a few of the many. Dr Nalinaksha Dutt has remarked, “Be it ancient India or Egypt, medieval China or middle East, modern Europe or Japan, we find the same story, viz., that in the name of religion and philosophy, necessity and circumstances have debased human mind to the lowest conceivable vulgarity.”

Essay # 8. Causes of the Rise of Buddhism:

Buddhism proved to be the most popular religion among its contemporaries and at one time became the most prominent religion not only in India but in entire Asia. Max Muller wrote, “Even at present day Buddhism counts in Asia a more numerous array of believers than any other faith not excluding Muhammadanism and Christianity.” Different factors were responsible for its speedy rise.

A few of them were as follows:

1. The Personality of Mahatma Buddha:

Buddha was a prince, yet he accepted the life of a monk. He did not attain knowledge from the study of religious texts but by self-realization and whatever he understood and preached as truth he practised in his personal life. Love, sacrifice, simplicity, etc. were no ideals to him. Rather, he pursued them.

The centre of his teachings was living a holy life and he himself led such a life. His religion was religion in practice. His life was a living example of all that he preached. Therefore, he could attract not only the common people but also princes, rulers and the upper strata of the society to his faith who, in turn, helped in the propagation of his faith.

2. Defects of Hinduism:

By the time of Buddha, Hinduism had lost its simplicity and public appeal. It suffered from certain serious defects. Ritualism, the supremacy of the Purohit-class, the sacrifices and costly religious ceremonies had created a reaction against it among the masses. The common people shared the desire to pursue emancipation of life with leaders of society and religion but failed to understand and pursue the way dictated by the then Hinduism.

There was keen desire among the masses to find an alternative. Buddhism provided that. Mahatma Buddha understood and preached what the masses desired at that time. Max Muller wrote, “What was felt by Buddha had been felt more or less intensely by thousands and this was the secret of his success.” Thus, Buddhism represented the spirit of its age which proved to be one of the primary causes of its quick success.

3. Simple Teachings of Buddhism:

Buddha prescribed a middle path for the attainment of nirvana. For the masses it did not mean acquisition of difficult know ledge, observance of costly ritualism, severe asceticism or abandonment of family life. A common man could make a beginning to attain nirvana by observing certain simple rules of morality. This facility did not exist in Hinduism and was not provided even by its contemporary religion, Jainism.

4. Acceptance of Popular Language:

Buddha gave his teachings in the language of the people, that is, Magadhi. Therefore, his message was followed and accepted easily by the lower strata of society.

5. Buddhism was Economical:

The observance of Hinduism involved expenditure because of its ritualism. Thus, it puts economic burden on the masses whereas Buddhism made them free from this burden. Therefore, Buddhism, which led them to the path of Nirvana without any cost, appealed to them more.

6. Buddhism was Based on the Principle of Social Equality:

Hinduism supported the supremacy of the Brahmanas in society to the extent that what to speak of the Vaisyas or the Sudras, even the Kshatriyas were reduced to an inferior position as against the Brahmanas. Therefore, it was resented by the majority of the people. The Ksharityas and the Vaisyas stood up against the unchallenged supremacy of the Brahmanas and found a strong supporter in the form of Buddhism.

While Mahatma Buddha and Mahavira, the prophets of the two contemporary new religious sects themselves were both Kshatriva princes, Buddhism found easy converts not only in the lower classes but also in the ruling princely families and rich mercantile community. There existed no distinctions of caste in Buddhism.

It practised social equality and even women were accepted as nuns. This acceptance of social equality provided a large number of converts to Buddhism. Though it is also accepted by the majority of scholars that Buddhism did not challenge the social evils of caste-system and untouchability on principle.

7. The Sanghas:

The Buddhist Sanghas proved the best instruments in the propagation of Buddhism. Each local Sangha worked as a place of assembly for the followers of Buddhism where teachings of the Buddha were imparted to the followers. The Sanghas were also the centres of learning, spiritual exercises for the monks, exchange of ideas and living examples of the practice of Buddhism.

They also prepared religious preachers or monks who worked selflessly for the propagation of Buddhism in India and in foreign countries. Therefore, the Buddhist Sanghas proved to be the most successful instruments in the propagation of Buddhism. V. A. Smith wrote, “The well organised body of monks and nuns was the most effective instrument in the hands of this religion.”

8. The Efforts of Buddhist Scholars and Religious Preachers:

Even after Mahatma Buddha, various Buddhist scholars and monks worked selflessly for the propagation of Buddhism. Mahayanism contributed most towards this develop­ment. Its philosophy that the highest ideal of an individual ought not to be the attainment of Nirvana for the self but to help others in attaining it, provided great incentive to the monks and nuns for the propagation of the Dharma.

Inspired by this ideal, the Buddhist monks and nuns went to the remotest corners of India and even to distant foreign countries defying physical hazards and even risk to their lives in the propagation of Buddhism.

Besides, various scholars like Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasumitra, Vasubandhu, Dinang, Dharamkirti, Chandrakirti etc. produced vast literature of Buddhism which provided the base for its strength. Thus a host of Buddhist scholars, monks and nuns contributed to the progress of Buddhism and by the third century A.D. Buddhism became the dominant religion in Asia.

9. The Protection of the Kings:

From its very inception, Buddhism got the protection and support of various rulers and their family members. Bimbisara and Ajatasatru of Magadha, Prasenajit of Kosala and his sister and Udayana, king of Kausambi were either followers or admirers of the Buddha. Pradvota, king of Avanti, too had invited Mahatma Buddha to his kingdom. Mahatma Buddha did not go there himself but sent one of his disciples to his kingdom. Afterwards, emperor Asoka played an important part in the propagation of Buddhism and then emperor Kaniska patronised it and was instrumental in its propagation outside India.

10. Buddhism was favourable to changed Economic Conditions of its Age:

Dr. R.S. Sharma has expressed the view ‘that the principles of Buddhism were favourable to the new economic-system and city -life based on the new developed means of production.’ Therefore, its progress was quite natural in the changed circumstances of the society.

Buddhism was opposed to wars of conquests because these disrupted trade and agriculture much against the interest of the Vaisyas. It kept silent about loan and interest-system and exhibited favourable inclination towards sea-voyages. In other respects too, it supported commercial and trading communities which, in turn, helped in its propagation.

11. Buddhist Religious Councils:

Four Buddhist Councils were held under the patronage of different kings at different times. The councils not only took important decisions regarding religion but also deputed monks for propagating Buddhism in foreign countries.

Emperor Asoka sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka for the same purpose. Mahayanism was organised as a separate sect during the period of rule of Emperor Kaniska. It helped greatly in the propagation of Buddhism in India as well as in foreign countries. Thus, Buddhist councils helped in making Buddhism popular.

12. Buddhist Educational Institutions:

Buddhists established several educational institutions of eminence in India. These institutions provided all sorts of education but Buddhist scholars gathered there and students from all parts of India and abroad came there to gain knowledge. Certainly, these institutions helped in making Buddhism popular though, of course, indirectly. Nalanda was one such institution which became renowned all over the world.

All these factors contributed to the progress of Buddhism and placed it in the rank of top-most religion of the world.

Essay # 9. Causes of the Decline of Buddhism:

Buddhism remained as one of the foremost religions of not only India but the whole of Asia for many centuries but slowly it declined and lost its hold over Asia and practically became non-existent in India.

The following factors were responsible for its decline:

I. Corruption in Buddhist Sanghas:

The Sanghas which were once the centres of learning and spiritual growth for the monks and nuns subsequently became centres of moral corruption. Wealth and women, the two primary weaknesses of men, found their entry into the Sanghas. The Sanghas flourished in wealth because of the generosity of their rich followers particularly from the ruling and mercantile classes—the Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas.

The Sanghas of the nuns which were established near the Sanghas of the monks and under their control provided easy access to women. Besides, young boys and girls were accepted as members of the Sanghas who being immature and inexperienced in realities fell an easy prey to temptations of various kinds. This bred corruption in the Sanghas. The Mahayanism, which introduced image-worship, prayers and religious festivals and processions brought in ritualism in Buddhism also.

All this made effective use and display of wealth possible and contacts between males and females easier. The Vajrayana sect, in its turn, misinterpreting the religious tenets, gave licence to sexual relations between males and females and use of all sorts of intoxicants. All these put together destroyed the pious living of the monks and the nuns and corruption became widespread in the Sanghas.

This led to loss of moral, intellectual and spiritual strength of Buddhism. Thereby, on the one hand, it failed to produce religious preachers and scholars of merit, on the other, it lost the earlier respect and faith of the people. The primary sources of strength of Buddhism were its practice of good conduct and morality and once these were lost by its monks and nuns, its very basis was lost and its entire structure crumbled.

II. The Division of Buddhism into Different Sects:

Buddhism was divided into various sects even prior to its great split into the Mahayanism and the Hinayanism. The Vajrayana sect created further split and controversy. Each of these sects preached different philosophies and different codes of conduct which created confusion among its followers.

The Chinese traveller, Yuan Chwang, who visited India in the seventh century, wrote, “The different schools are constantly at variance, and their utterances rise like angry waves of the sea … . There are 18 schools, each claiming pre-eminence.” The rivalries between various sects were responsible for destroying the image of Buddhism among the people.

III. The Adoption of Sanskrit as Language of the Buddhist Texts:

The Buddhist religious texts of Mahayanism and, later on, that of the Vajrayana sect were written in Sanskrit. As Sanskrit was not the language of the masses, Buddhism lost its popular contact and hold over the masses.

IV. Intellectual Bankruptcy:

The moral corruption of monks and nuns leading to loss of vitality necessary for the building of character of the members of the Sanghas led to intellectual bankruptcy in Buddhism. The intellectual attainments of Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Dinanga and Dharmkirti were not repeated or further pursued by Buddhist scholars afterwards. Therefore, when Hinduism was revived, particularly under the patronage of the Gupta rulers, Buddhism failed to meet its challenge on an intellectual level and therefore, lost its basis of popularity among the masses.

V. No Faith in God:

Basically, Buddhism was an atheistic system. Mahatma Buddha did not regard God as essential for the Universe and did not believe in it. Even when the Mahayanism created the cult of Boddhisath’a and the Vajrayana sect that of Universal mother Goddess, they failed to create a parallel God or Brahma like that of Hinduism. While the gods or goddesses of Hinduism, if pleased, were always prepared to help their devotees.

Buddhism had no such gods and goddesses. Therefore, Hinduism always kept its popular appeal among the masses which Buddhism failed to replace because of being basically atheistic in character. This weakness of Buddhism became much more clear when Hinduism revived itself in its popular form of Bhagavatism.

VI. Lack of Patronage From the Ruling Class:

Buddha got support of a few contemporary rulers and the ruling class as well. After him, no doubt, emperor Asoka, Kaniska and Harsha gave their support to Buddhism but most of the rulers preferred to support Hinduism. The successors of Asoka did not support Buddhism while the rulers of the Sunga dynasty strongly supported Hinduism. Afterwards, the glory of Hinduism was revived under the protection of the Gupta rulers.

It continued further and most of the Rajput rulers also supported Hinduism. Thus, after Asoka, most of the Indian rulers supported Hinduism. Probably, it was the need of the time as well. In the wake of constant foreign invasions like those of the Hunas, the Parthians, the Sakas, the Kushanas etc. and the political conflicts between various Rajput rulers for extension of their kingdom from the ninth century onwards, there was no place in India for the philosophy of non-violence of Buddhism. For centuries together chivalry, wars and conquests governed the attitude of the ruling class in India and as such it withdrew its support to Buddhism.

VII. The Revival of Hinduism and its Tolerant Spirit to Absorb Varied Ideas:

The revival of Hinduism started under the protection of the rulers of Sunga dynasty and the religion again reached its former glory during the period of the Gupta rulers.

Afterwards, scholars and preachers like Kumaril Bhatt and Sankaracharva established the philosophical and intellectual supremacy of Hinduism. The tolerant spirit of Hinduism which permitted varied and even conflicting ideas to flourish within itself and its capacity to absorb foreigners within its fold also proved its greatest assets in its revival.

Besides, Hinduism took over from Buddhism some of its attractive features as preaching monks, religious processions etc. It accepted Mahatma Buddha as one of incarnation of its God Vishnu. The ordinary upasak of Buddhism was already pursuing Hindu practices in his daily life.

With added arractions in Hinduism, there hardly remained anything of a different type of attraction in Buddhism. Therefore, Hinduism attracted more converts to itself than Buddhism and became, once again, the predominant religion in India, much before the invasions of Turks.

VIII. The Invasions of the Hunas and the Turks:

The invasions of the Hunas who had well established themselves in Central Asia and on the North Western frontier of India, continued in the sixth century A.D. and a large part of North­west India was lost to them during the period of the later Guptas.

The Hunas destroyed Buddhist Sanghas, monasteries, libraries etc. established in Afghani­stan and North-Western region of India and, thus, gave a severe blow to Buddhism in that region. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Truks successfully penetrated into North India as far as Bengal and destroyed the Buddhist Sanghas and monasteries.

The famous monastery and library of Nalanda were destroyed. Islam got easy converts also from Buddhists, particularly from among those who were converted to it from the lower strata of the society. Thus, the Turks gave a final blow to Buddhism in India. Afterwards in no part of India, Buddhism was to be found as a popular religion.

Thus, Buddhism lost its hold over the country of its birth. The foreign invasions were only partly responsible for it. Primarily, its own weaknesses were responsible for its fall, as Nagendra Nath Ghosh has commented. “The real cause lay in the decay and rottenness which overtook the Buddhist Sangha in the last stage of its existence in India, which, however, coincided with the Muslim invasions of this country.”

However, the revival of Hinduism also contributed to its fall as Hunter has written, “The downfall of Buddhism seems to have largely resulted from new movements of religious thought rather than from any general suppression by the sword. Its extinction is contemporaneous with the rise of Hinduism.”

Essay # 10. The Gifts of Buddhism to India:

The contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture has been appreciated by all. It has provided a glorious heritage to India in various fields.

At one time, it gave to Indian people a simple, economical and popular religion. It rejected ritualism and sacrifices and, thus, saved India from many religious evils. It has also left its permanent mark on Indian religious thought. Modern Hinduism has given up most of its rituals and sacrifices have become negligible.

Buddhism has largely shared in this regard though, of course, Jainism has also its share. Religious processions and festivals, probably, were started first by the Buddhists in India. Now, these are an integral or rather the most popular part of every religion in India, though, of course, Bhagvatism has also contributed its share to this trend.

The monastic system or the organisation of religious devotees in disciplined communities or orders was another contribution of Buddhism to India. The idea of Sanghas, of course, was not certainly a new one, and there were many organisations of this type at and before the time of Mahatma Buddha but Buddhism gave them such a thorough and systematic character that was not attempted before. Afterwards, it became a permanent feature of practically every religion in India.

Buddhism, at one time, provided religious unity to Indian people because there had been a time when Buddhism prevailed all over India as the most dominant religion. It also raised the public morality by its adherence to a high moral code.

Buddhism gave serious impetus to democratic spirit and social equality. Buddhism did not discriminate between individuals on the basis of caste, colour or sex. All were welcomed within its fold, more or less, on an equal footing. The organisation and working of the Sanghas was based on equality. Therefore, it encouraged abolition of distinctions in society and strengthened the principle of social equality.

Buddhism was basically individualistic and its philosophy had a rational approach towards religion. Therefore, Buddhism rejected ritualism, blind faith and even existence of gods and goddesses which were the predominant features of Hinduism.

Buddhism preached that the salvation of an individual does not depend on the grace of God nor help of priestly class is needed for it. It is self- efforts of an individual alone which can help him or her to attain Nirvana. It brought forth the importance of individuals to the forefront which was certainly a revolutionary idea in that age and influenced other religions in India.

Buddhism’s contribution to Indian education and literature is also commend­able. The Sanghas became the centres of learning, established universities and libraries and attracted teachers, students and scholars from all over India and even from distant countries outside India. Taxila, Nalanda, Udyantpuri, Vikramsila and alike other Buddhist universities earned all India fame and were well-known in Asia.

These universities were not only the centres of Buddhist learning but contributed a large share in the education and enlightenment of the Indian people in general. Dr A.S. Altekar has opined: “The rise of organised public educational institutions may justly be attributed to the influence of Buddhism.” The contribution of Buddhist scholars like Nagarjuna, Vasumitra, Dinang, Dharamkirti etc. became a permanent asset to Indian literature.

The literature written both in Pali and Sanskrit and enriched by scholars of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana sects successively has its importance not only from the point of view of religion and philosophy but also from that of history by becoming the source-material for contemporary history. Besides, religious texts, literary- works like Lalit-Vistar, Milind-Panhon, Manjushree-trulkalpa, Buddha-Char it, Jataka stories etc. are its permanent assets to Indian literature.

Most of this literature was destroyed by Turkish invaders, yet, whatever has remained has been regarded as precious heritage of Indian culture and has been translated into many languages of the world. The International Academy of Indian Culture is still pursuing its efforts in this direction.

However, the most charming contribution of Buddhism to Indian life is in the domain of architecture, sculpture and painting, Asoka’s columns (pillars), a few of which are existing even at present, have been regarded as the finest specimens of their kind. The Stupas built up by Asoka have perished but the Stupas of Sanchi, Sarnath, Nalanda, Amravati and Ellora which were built up afterwards are still existing and are regarded as some best specimens of ancient Indian architecture.

As regards sculpture, its real origin took place in India under the influence of Buddhism. The famous lions of the Sarnath column, the beautiful bull of Ranipurva column, the carvings on the gateways of the great Buddhist sites at Bharhut. Gaya and Sanchi are remarkable specimens of sculpture but were just the beginnings. Later on, the images of Mahatma Buddha were built up. The schools of Gandhara and Mathura produced the first images of Buddha which have been regarded as finest specimens of ancient Indian sculpture.

Later on, statues of Buddha were carved not only in stone but also in copper and bronze. Besides, the figures and images of Yaksas and Yaksis, birds and animals etc. found at different religious sites of Buddhism prove that the Indian sculpture drew its first inspiration from Buddhism. In the field of painting too, the mural paintings (wall-paintings) of Ajanta-caves and paintings inside religious texts of Buddhism have earned world-wide fame.

As in case of sculpture so in the field of paintings, Buddha’s personality, various events of his life and different Jataka stories formed the basis and source of inspiration for the Indian painting. Thus, Indian architecture, sculpture and painting owe a large debt to Buddhism.

Buddhism established intimate contacts between India and foreign countries. Indian monks and scholars carried Buddhism to foreign countries from the 3rd century B.C. onwards and made it the prominent religion of Asia.

Afterwards, foreign Buddhist pilgrims and students came to India in large numbers. The Hindus followed their example and from the 3rd century A.D., Hindu missionaries started going abroad and established Hinduism in many Asian countries particularly those of South-East Asia. These movements helped in carrying the message of Indian civilization to many distant countries of Asia.

Besides, it also helped in the fusion of foreigners with the Indian population. The one distinguished feature of the Indian civilization had been its power to assimilate and absorb foreigners into itself. Except the Muslims and the Europeans, practically all foreign invaders, were converted to Hinduism. This process and capacity to convert foreigners into the Hindu fold, probably, started with the tolerant spirit and capacity to absorb foreigners by Buddhism.

Thus, Buddhism has usefully contributed to Indian culture in many ways. But, it had its bad effects also. It had encouraged young boys and girls to adopt monastic lives. The contemporary younger generations, therefore, were led to a life of renunciation which developed in them an attitude of indifference and irresponsibility towards the society. A society and state is bound to deteriorate and become weak if its younger generations adopt such attitudes towards life.

This happened with the Indian society at one time because of the influence of Buddhism. Besides, monastic life was unnatural for young boys and girls. It bred corruption in the Sanghas. Thus, Buddhism helped in creating a non-utilitarian and corrupt section of the Indian society which, at one time, certainly proved economically burdensome to society and affected its morals adversely. The cult of non-violence, preached by Buddhism and Jainism alike, also proved a mixed blessing.

It inculcated the spirit of pacifism in Indian society which made it weak in self-assertion and also militarily. Both have remained permanent weaknesses of quite a large section of Indian society even at present though Hindu revivalism has tried to wipe it out since the age of the Sungas, the Guptas and the Rajputs. The role of the Buddhists during the period of Muslim invasions also remained ignominious.