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decline of Buddhism in N. India

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  • Timothy C. Cahill
    Hi Frank & Christine (and others), It s hard to respond briefly to this remark: but I m pretty sure the wholesale slaughter of Buddhist monks and destruction
    Message 1 of 24 , Jun 9, 2003
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      Hi Frank & Christine (and others),

      It's hard to respond briefly to this remark: "but I'm pretty sure the
      wholesale slaughter of Buddhist monks and destruction of Buddhist temples
      by Muslims did not help" --except to say that the near certainty *is*
      misplaced. First we ought to note that persecution often serves to enhance
      group identity, thereby *strengthening* religions. Clearly that wasn't the
      case when Turks came to power in 12th century India. Buddhism (not just
      Theravada) had been in sharp decline on the sub-Himalayan continent for
      quite some time. Its failure to differentiate itself from a transformed
      Hinduism (which now eschewed animal sacrifice, 'accepted' the Buddha as an
      avatara of Vishnu, etc.) played a role, as did Hindu hostility. The
      efforts of the great Advaitin, Sankara, in organizing Hindu monastic life
      Shaiva, especially) provided a rival to Buddhism's long-held advantage in
      this sphere.

      The time-line blurb from the buddha-net page is not merely misleading,
      but it's likely factually incorrect. By 1193 Buddhism probably had no true
      'heartland in India' --that's the misleading part. The assertion that
      "Moslems" (even the spelling belies an antiquarian approach) destroyed
      Buddhist monasteries is probably wrong in many cases. For the details
      (i.e., the 'history') on Vikramasila see:

      Chaudhary, R. (1978) "Decline of Vikramasila." Journal of Indian History,
      56, pp. 213-235. (Trivandrum) and also

      Narayan, B. (1977-78) "The Vikramasila Mahavihara Site. Some New Light on
      the Basis of Archeological Evidence." Journal of the Bihar Research
      Society, 63-64, pp. 212-214.

      Chaudhary provides evidence which largely exonerates Bakhtiyar Khaldi from
      this heinous act, while implicating local Biharis. In other instances the
      Turkish rulers seem to have mistaken walled monasteries as fortresses. No
      religious (i.e., Islamic) motives seem to have been present. The well
      known incident of the burning of the Nalanda library has been documented
      by S. H. Askari & Q. Ahmed (eds.) (1983-1987) _COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF
      BIHAR_, 2 vols. Patna. They and D.R. Patil, author of _ANTIQUARIAN
      REMAINS AT BHUBANESHWAR_ (Calcutta, 1961), basically concur that the act
      of arson was not committed by the (Muslim) Turks.

      It also should be pointed out that *reciprocal* massacres between Hindus &
      Buddhists took place in India during the 7th century --before Muslim
      generals raided Transoxiana & Sind in the early 8th cent. The early
      Ghaznavids seemed interested in power & wealth much more than in spreading
      Islam. Wealth was found in temples, and I'd guess in monasteries as well.
      Yet Hinduism not only survived, but flourished in India despite the
      losses.

      Other sources which shed light on the decline of Buddhism point to even
      earlier periods. By the end of the 5th century (!) Buddhist temples in
      South India were replaced by temples to Shiva at Kanchipuram, Srisailam,
      Vengipura (A.P.), etc. Related to the destruction of Buddhist images
      (long before Islam arrives) is the work of H. Sarkar and B.N. Misra on
      Nagarjunakonda (Delhi: 1966).

      If you have to use a metaphor for this I'd suggest the establishment
      (not the 'arrival') of Muslim Turks as the last nail in Buddhism's coffin
      in N. India --provided we acknowledge that there were a dozen or so nails
      already well hammered such that the lid was not going to open again. Of
      course, if non-historians prefer to cling to 'historical' ideas that can
      not be supported by historical evidence, so be it!

      Sorry for the length of all this!

      best wishes,
      Tim Cahill
    • Frank Kuan
      Thanks for the history lesson Tim. Sounds plausible to me. Reminds me of a recent Bush quote on diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, he said something to
      Message 2 of 24 , Jun 9, 2003
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        Thanks for the history lesson Tim. Sounds plausible to
        me. Reminds me of a recent Bush quote on diplomatic
        relations with Saudi Arabia, he said something to the
        effect of, "We can work together [with the Saudis]
        because I believe in the Almighty, and [Leader of
        Saudi] believes in the Almighty." Bush did not say
        whether Almighty referred to the dollar or an
        imaginary creator deity. Perhaps both were implied.
        I'm willing to believe in some cases Muslim conquests
        may be primarily motivated by seeking wealth, but the
        bombing of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan is just
        one of many examples of their willingness to brutally
        wipe out competing religions.

        -fk

        --- "Timothy C. Cahill" <tccahill@...> wrote:
        >
        > Hi Frank & Christine (and others),
        >
        > It's hard to respond briefly to this remark:
        > "but I'm pretty sure the
        > wholesale slaughter of Buddhist monks and
        > destruction of Buddhist temples
        > by Muslims did not help" --except to say that the
        > near certainty *is*
        > misplaced. First we ought to note that persecution
        > often serves to enhance
        > group identity, thereby *strengthening* religions.
        > Clearly that wasn't the
        > case when Turks came to power in 12th century India.
        > Buddhism (not just
        > Theravada) had been in sharp decline on the
        > sub-Himalayan continent for
        > quite some time. Its failure to differentiate itself
        > from a transformed
        > Hinduism (which now eschewed animal sacrifice,
        > 'accepted' the Buddha as an
        > avatara of Vishnu, etc.) played a role, as did Hindu
        > hostility. The
        > efforts of the great Advaitin, Sankara, in
        > organizing Hindu monastic life
        > Shaiva, especially) provided a rival to Buddhism's
        > long-held advantage in
        > this sphere.
        >
        > The time-line blurb from the buddha-net page is
        > not merely misleading,
        > but it's likely factually incorrect. By 1193
        > Buddhism probably had no true
        > 'heartland in India' --that's the misleading part.
        > The assertion that
        > "Moslems" (even the spelling belies an antiquarian
        > approach) destroyed
        > Buddhist monasteries is probably wrong in many
        > cases. For the details
        > (i.e., the 'history') on Vikramasila see:
        >
        > Chaudhary, R. (1978) "Decline of Vikramasila."
        > Journal of Indian History,
        > 56, pp. 213-235. (Trivandrum) and also
        >
        > Narayan, B. (1977-78) "The Vikramasila Mahavihara
        > Site. Some New Light on
        > the Basis of Archeological Evidence." Journal of the
        > Bihar Research
        > Society, 63-64, pp. 212-214.
        >
        > Chaudhary provides evidence which largely exonerates
        > Bakhtiyar Khaldi from
        > this heinous act, while implicating local Biharis.
        > In other instances the
        > Turkish rulers seem to have mistaken walled
        > monasteries as fortresses. No
        > religious (i.e., Islamic) motives seem to have been
        > present. The well
        > known incident of the burning of the Nalanda library
        > has been documented
        > by S. H. Askari & Q. Ahmed (eds.) (1983-1987)
        > _COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF
        > BIHAR_, 2 vols. Patna. They and D.R. Patil, author
        > of _ANTIQUARIAN
        > REMAINS AT BHUBANESHWAR_ (Calcutta, 1961), basically
        > concur that the act
        > of arson was not committed by the (Muslim) Turks.
        >
        > It also should be pointed out that *reciprocal*
        > massacres between Hindus &
        > Buddhists took place in India during the 7th century
        > --before Muslim
        > generals raided Transoxiana & Sind in the early 8th
        > cent. The early
        > Ghaznavids seemed interested in power & wealth much
        > more than in spreading
        > Islam. Wealth was found in temples, and I'd guess in
        > monasteries as well.
        > Yet Hinduism not only survived, but flourished in
        > India despite the
        > losses.
        >
        > Other sources which shed light on the decline of
        > Buddhism point to even
        > earlier periods. By the end of the 5th century (!)
        > Buddhist temples in
        > South India were replaced by temples to Shiva at
        > Kanchipuram, Srisailam,
        > Vengipura (A.P.), etc. Related to the destruction
        > of Buddhist images
        > (long before Islam arrives) is the work of H. Sarkar
        > and B.N. Misra on
        > Nagarjunakonda (Delhi: 1966).
        >
        > If you have to use a metaphor for this I'd
        > suggest the establishment
        > (not the 'arrival') of Muslim Turks as the last nail
        > in Buddhism's coffin
        > in N. India --provided we acknowledge that there
        > were a dozen or so nails
        > already well hammered such that the lid was not
        > going to open again. Of
        > course, if non-historians prefer to cling to
        > 'historical' ideas that can
        > not be supported by historical evidence, so be it!
        >
        > Sorry for the length of all this!
        >
        > best wishes,
        > Tim Cahill
        >
        >
        >


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      • Ong Yong Peng
        Dear Frank, Tim, Christine and friends, it is true that Buddhism was already in steady decline at the time of muslim invasion to North India. A study of South
        Message 3 of 24 , Jun 11, 2003
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          Dear Frank, Tim, Christine and friends,

          it is true that Buddhism was already in steady decline at the time of
          muslim invasion to North India. A study of South Indian history would
          points that out. That was mainly due to the resurgence of Brahmanism,
          the renewed interests in certain Brahmin practices such as tantric
          practices, and its adaptation by the rising Vajrayana school had
          caused a blurring of lines between Buddhism and Brahmanism.

          The ruthless muslims only make the end came quicker, and possibly
          destroying bulks of Sanskrit literature now available only in Chinese
          and Tibetan. The British colonisation, the civil strife and social
          unrest didn't help much.

          The term Hinduism actually makes things worst, like Taoism in China,
          it *can* refer to all indigenous religious practices in India,
          bringing Buddhism and Jainism under its fold. That is why visitors to
          country like Bhutan and Nepal will learn from the locals that
          Hinduism and Buddhism are actually *the same*.

          [It may be interesting to know that, throughout history, Buddhism is
          a religion that does not perform well in turbulent times. This is
          probably due to Buddha's message of compassion and wisdom. For
          example, in China, alternative views such as Taoism and Confucianism
          always take precedence during wartimes. On the other hand, in the
          prolonged period of peace and prosperity in the Tang dynasty,
          Buddhism flourished with eight major schools, each with many sects
          and branches.]

          metta,
          Yong Peng
        • sakya umanathan
          Namo Buddha We all are ignoring or missing the facts that how Buddhism declined in South India. South India played major role till 14th century AD. Kanchi was
          Message 4 of 24 , Jun 11, 2003
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            Namo Buddha

            We all are ignoring or missing the facts that how
            Buddhism declined in South India. South India played
            major role till 14th century AD. Kanchi was a major
            Buddhist study center. Many of the world famous
            Buddhist scholar from Kanchi. Pali was a living
            language till 14th century AD in South India. Pali
            Grammer was writtien at that time. Many Pali scholars
            went from South India to translate Singala texts in to
            Pali.

            We are thank full to Turks or Muslims who came and
            distroyed all the Buddhis sites. Otherwise all would
            have merged under Hindu lable as what happened in
            South India. In South India with the effort of Sankara
            and his followers all Buddhists sites are merged under
            Hindu banner.

            Many of the Hindu Temples of South India were once
            Buddhists. It is very difficult to deferentiate Kanchi
            from Hindus as we can do Nalanda in North.

            There is a serious study and analyse is needed to
            Study Buddhist South Inda.

            Metta
            Sakya
            bavatu sabbamangalang


            --- Frank Kuan <fcckuan@...> wrote: > Thanks for
            the history lesson Tim. Sounds plausible
            > to
            > me. Reminds me of a recent Bush quote on diplomatic
            > relations with Saudi Arabia, he said something to
            > the
            > effect of, "We can work together [with the Saudis]
            > because I believe in the Almighty, and [Leader of
            > Saudi] believes in the Almighty." Bush did not say
            > whether Almighty referred to the dollar or an
            > imaginary creator deity. Perhaps both were implied.
            > I'm willing to believe in some cases Muslim
            > conquests
            > may be primarily motivated by seeking wealth, but
            > the
            > bombing of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan is
            > just
            > one of many examples of their willingness to
            > brutally
            > wipe out competing religions.
            >
            > -fk
            >
            > --- "Timothy C. Cahill" <tccahill@...> wrote:
            > >
            > > Hi Frank & Christine (and others),
            > >
            > > It's hard to respond briefly to this remark:
            > > "but I'm pretty sure the
            > > wholesale slaughter of Buddhist monks and
            > > destruction of Buddhist temples
            > > by Muslims did not help" --except to say that the
            > > near certainty *is*
            > > misplaced. First we ought to note that persecution
            > > often serves to enhance
            > > group identity, thereby *strengthening* religions.
            > > Clearly that wasn't the
            > > case when Turks came to power in 12th century
            > India.
            > > Buddhism (not just
            > > Theravada) had been in sharp decline on the
            > > sub-Himalayan continent for
            > > quite some time. Its failure to differentiate
            > itself
            > > from a transformed
            > > Hinduism (which now eschewed animal sacrifice,
            > > 'accepted' the Buddha as an
            > > avatara of Vishnu, etc.) played a role, as did
            > Hindu
            > > hostility. The
            > > efforts of the great Advaitin, Sankara, in
            > > organizing Hindu monastic life
            > > Shaiva, especially) provided a rival to Buddhism's
            > > long-held advantage in
            > > this sphere.
            > >
            > > The time-line blurb from the buddha-net page is
            > > not merely misleading,
            > > but it's likely factually incorrect. By 1193
            > > Buddhism probably had no true
            > > 'heartland in India' --that's the misleading part.
            > > The assertion that
            > > "Moslems" (even the spelling belies an antiquarian
            > > approach) destroyed
            > > Buddhist monasteries is probably wrong in many
            > > cases. For the details
            > > (i.e., the 'history') on Vikramasila see:
            > >
            > > Chaudhary, R. (1978) "Decline of Vikramasila."
            > > Journal of Indian History,
            > > 56, pp. 213-235. (Trivandrum) and also
            > >
            > > Narayan, B. (1977-78) "The Vikramasila Mahavihara
            > > Site. Some New Light on
            > > the Basis of Archeological Evidence." Journal of
            > the
            > > Bihar Research
            > > Society, 63-64, pp. 212-214.
            > >
            > > Chaudhary provides evidence which largely
            > exonerates
            > > Bakhtiyar Khaldi from
            > > this heinous act, while implicating local Biharis.
            > > In other instances the
            > > Turkish rulers seem to have mistaken walled
            > > monasteries as fortresses. No
            > > religious (i.e., Islamic) motives seem to have
            > been
            > > present. The well
            > > known incident of the burning of the Nalanda
            > library
            > > has been documented
            > > by S. H. Askari & Q. Ahmed (eds.) (1983-1987)
            > > _COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF
            > > BIHAR_, 2 vols. Patna. They and D.R. Patil,
            > author
            > > of _ANTIQUARIAN
            > > REMAINS AT BHUBANESHWAR_ (Calcutta, 1961),
            > basically
            > > concur that the act
            > > of arson was not committed by the (Muslim) Turks.
            > >
            > > It also should be pointed out that *reciprocal*
            > > massacres between Hindus &
            > > Buddhists took place in India during the 7th
            > century
            > > --before Muslim
            > > generals raided Transoxiana & Sind in the early
            > 8th
            > > cent. The early
            > > Ghaznavids seemed interested in power & wealth
            > much
            > > more than in spreading
            > > Islam. Wealth was found in temples, and I'd guess
            > in
            > > monasteries as well.
            > > Yet Hinduism not only survived, but flourished in
            > > India despite the
            > > losses.
            > >
            > > Other sources which shed light on the decline
            > of
            > > Buddhism point to even
            > > earlier periods. By the end of the 5th century (!)
            > > Buddhist temples in
            > > South India were replaced by temples to Shiva at
            > > Kanchipuram, Srisailam,
            > > Vengipura (A.P.), etc. Related to the destruction
            > > of Buddhist images
            > > (long before Islam arrives) is the work of H.
            > Sarkar
            > > and B.N. Misra on
            > > Nagarjunakonda (Delhi: 1966).
            > >
            > > If you have to use a metaphor for this I'd
            > > suggest the establishment
            > > (not the 'arrival') of Muslim Turks as the last
            > nail
            > > in Buddhism's coffin
            > > in N. India --provided we acknowledge that there
            > > were a dozen or so nails
            > > already well hammered such that the lid was not
            > > going to open again. Of
            > > course, if non-historians prefer to cling to
            > > 'historical' ideas that can
            > > not be supported by historical evidence, so be it!
            > >
            > > Sorry for the length of all this!
            > >
            > > best wishes,
            > > Tim Cahill
            > >
            > >
            > >
            >
            >
            > __________________________________
            > Do you Yahoo!?
            > Yahoo! Calendar - Free online calendar with sync to
            > Outlook(TM).
            > http://calendar.yahoo.com
            >

            ________________________________________________________________________
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          • Ong Yong Peng
            Dear friends, on top of what Piya and Christine have offered, here is a list of online resources on Buddhist history for the history-savvy people:
            Message 5 of 24 , Jun 11, 2003
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              Dear friends,

              on top of what Piya and Christine have offered, here is a list of
              online resources on Buddhist history for the history-savvy people:

              http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/buddhahist.html
              http://www.simhas.org/timeline.html
              http://www.pratyeka.org/buddhist-history/
              http://www.horne28.freeserve.co.uk/buddate.htm

              I make no guarantee as to their authenticity, read at your own risk.
              An elaborated knowledge of Buddhist history is only possible from
              readings from many sources.

              metta,
              Yong Peng
            • Timothy C. Cahill
              Dear all, Forgive in advance me for using the rather gauche method of line-by-line commentary, and for the length of this. ... Glad that we can agree here, but
              Message 6 of 24 , Jun 11, 2003
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                Dear all,

                Forgive in advance me for using the rather gauche method of
                line-by-line commentary, and for the length of this.

                > it is true that Buddhism was already in steady decline at the time of
                > muslim invasion to North India.

                Glad that we can agree here, but then why recommend a site which 'blurbs':
                "1197 ... Buddhism starts to decline in India following Moslem
                invasions" ? It is interesting how the titles of such lists begin with
                "Some significant dates in Buddhist History" --but then go on not to list
                merely dates but to codify a kind of malicious set of stereotypes. A quick
                look at the following list of sites convinces me that they are, at best,
                trivial and at worst erroneous. Those interested in this aspect of India's
                history might best consult the sources I posted previously.

                Saying that "the ruthless Muslims only made the end quicker" has some
                truth to it. But better to use the phrase "ruthless Turks" (more accurate)
                and also to better distinguish these empire-builders from the easy-going,
                adaptable Sufi Muslims of the Chishtiyyah order. Their presence in N.
                India (esp. Lahore) from the 11th century produced much valuable synthesis
                in the religious life of the region. The Chishtiyyahs' willingness to
                adopt various 'Hindu' practices (breath control, sitting postures or
                'aasanas', etc.) helped foster tolerance and interreligious respect. This
                bore fruit at the highest political level during Akbar's reign.

                It should also be pointed out that Buddhism *did* survive, marginally,
                in Orissa -particularly the great monastery of Ratnagiri (16th c.). If
                "ruthless Muslims" were so brutal, why spare *any* monasteries. First,
                because monasteries weren't targeted bec. they were Buddhist. Second,
                their motives for contral weren't 'Islamic'. (Just as the current U.S.
                ventures into Afghanistan & Iraq aren't particularly 'Christian' despite
                some of President G. Bush's rhetoric.) Moreover, early in the 16th c. King
                Prataparudra persecuted Buddhists as a part of his royal ascendency.

                A quick note: the idea the Hindus & Buddhists peacefully coexisted in
                India most of the time is pretty much a myth. For the most convincing
                evidence of the 'contested' nature of their interaction most recently, see
                two works by D.N. Gellner:

                (1) "The Newar Buddhist Monastery An Anthropological and Historical
                Typology" in _HERITAGE OF THE KATHMANDU VALLEY. PROCEEDINGS OF AN
                INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN LuBECK, JUNE 1985, pp. 356-414. (1987)

                (2) _MONK, HOUSEHOLDER, AND TANTRIC PRIEST. NEWAR BUDDHISM AND ITS
                HIERARCHY OF RITUAL_, Cambridge, 1987.

                and also

                Verardi, G. "Excavations at Harigaon, Kathmandu, Final Report. (IsMEO
                Reports and Memoirs 25), 2 vols., Rome, 1992.

                Literary evidence was preserved in Madhava's Shankara-degvijaya, which
                rejoices in the drowning of "thousands of Buddhists." (Curious how often
                these passages are overlooked by those eager to point out certain Qur'anic
                passages.)

                Finally, for serious studies of Buddhism in South India interested
                readers might consult the following

                Story of Buddhism with special reference to South India by A. Aiyappan
                and P.R. Srinivasan. Chennai: 2000.

                Imagining a place for Buddhism: literary culture and religious community
                in Tamil-speaking South India, by Anne E. Monius. Oxford University Press,
                2001.

                Vajrayana Buddhist centres in South India / B. Subrahmanyam.
                Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 2001
                -------------------------------------

                IMHO, the history sources which treat religion on the web are generally
                *very* unreliable. We're still *far* better off using traditional studies,
                text books and monographs. Happily the web sources for learning Pali are
                much better!

                best wishes,
                Tim Cahill
              • Ong Yong Peng
                Dear Tim and friends, thanks for the explanation, Tim. I am no expert in history. I shall humbly withdraw the term ruthless , although, in my opinion, all
                Message 7 of 24 , Jun 11, 2003
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                  Dear Tim and friends,

                  thanks for the explanation, Tim. I am no expert in history. I shall
                  humbly withdraw the term 'ruthless', although, in my opinion, all
                  invaders (not 'liberators') are still ruthless, regardless of the
                  grounds of the invasion.

                  As for the use of Turks over muslims, I have regarded, as I have
                  learnt from some books, that the invasion of N. India is part of the
                  entire series of Islamic conquest starting with prophet Muhammad in
                  Mecca and Medina. However, the positive distinction you have
                  provided on the fact that not all muslims are war-driven is an
                  important point for our multi-religious society. I do not dispute
                  over this.

                  I am glad to have learnt a good history lesson from everyone. Thanks.

                  metta,
                  Yong Peng
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