The end of Buddhism in India

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Fri Nov 29 01:49:11 CST 2002

[Was Re: Fw: Item# 4]

Steve Wray wrote:
> I thought that Buddhism was *wiped* out in India centuries
> ago!
> The story I have read, and I hope that someone on this
> list could advise if this is completely wrong,
> is that when Buddhism appeared it was seen as fulfiling
> a prophecy to the effect that the god Krisna would
> take avatar (if thats the appropriate phrase) and create
> a new religion.
> This new religion would attract all the demons that had
> been hiding in human form and they would join it.
> Then, merely by eliminating this religion and expelling
> all its followers, all the demons that had formerly been
> hiding in India would be gotten rid of.

The story in the Puranas is that once during there eternal battles the
Demons got the upper hand over the Gods by practicing Dharma better.  So
Vishnu Bhagawan took an avatar as the Buddha and began teaching them all
kinds of confusing and heretical ideas by which they lost their virtue.
Unfortunately some of those ideas accidently leaked out into humanity.
This is not a historical view.

Historically what happened was a number of trends.  To begin with there
were no "Hindus" and "Buddhists"  most people practiced whatever rites
were current in their families and locality.  Only those who wanted to be
more advanced would take formal initiation into some sect.  This is
exactly how it is in India today.  During it's Indian phase, Buddhism
payed little attention to the laymen.  Basically Buddhist = Buddhist monk.
These monks increasingly became centralized in large monastaries or
Viharas.  (The name of the Indian state of Bihar comes from this word.)
Some of them like the celebated Nalanda were the size of small towns and
all subjects were taught there not just Buddhist ones.

The various darshanas which are now grouped together as "Hinduism"
developed to a large extant to give philosophical combat to the Buddhists
and other heterodox religions.  Their acharyas eventually turned the tide
against Buddhist notions.  Interestingly although Shankaracharya is often
given the credit for this, Swami Chandrashekharendra Saraswati thinks
Buddhism was already in decline by his time.  He gives the credit to
Udayanacharya (Nyaya) and Kumarila Bhatta (Purva Mimamsa.) It should be
stressed that philosophical opposition did not necessarily mean personal
hostility.  For instance Jayanta Mishra the author of Nyaya Manjari (as
the name suggests a Nyaya work) who lived in Kashmir during the heyday of
Buddhism there aims to refute them but indicates his personal relations
with them were quite cordial.  In other places, there is evidence of
sectarian warfare, forced conversions etc. on both sides but it is a
grave distortion to say this was the primary method of confrontation or
even a common one.

Bhakti bloomed into full flower beginning with the Tamil Shaiva and
Vaishnava saints.  Indian Buddhism had no answer to this.  (Later
movements such as Pure Land developed later on outside India.)

Buddhism increasingly veered off into Tantric directions further blurring
differences with "Hinduism" except at advanced levels.

And finally what finished it off were the Muslim invasions.  Alauddin
Khilji sacked Nalanda in the 1100s and the Tibetan tradition is the last
aged monk climbed on a servants back and fled to that country.  Other
Indian religions were also badly affected but being more decentralized,
having more popular support, and being less dependent on royal patronage,
they were able to recover while Buddhism was to find its' future in other

Bhadraiah Mallampalli wrote:

> Millions of Buddhists were killed at Hindukush mountains as "Hindus", so
> it is unfair to call them "not Hindus". Or we should rename the mountains
> as "Buddhakush".

This is a good illustration of the problems we face with the distortion of
history.  Hindu had no ideological connotation.  It is simply the Persian
word for the Sindhu (in English Indus) river.  Hindu Kush is called that
because the river has its headwaters there.  For the Persians, anyone on
the other side of the Hindu river in Hindustan was a Hindu.  It was only
after Islam arrived that it took on an ideological meaning to refer to the
"kaffir" inhabitants of Hindustan.  Now you might be right that Buddhists
also got slaughtered by fanatics but how does that make them any more
related to us?  Why does Mahmud of Gjhazni get a bigger say in our
identity than our own acharyas?  If we do not follow them we are not
"Hindus" we are not-Muslims and such a flawed self-identity is doomed from
the very start.  Hindu is such a vague word you can include Buddhists in
it if you like but then please include me as a non-Hindu.

For every religion and philosophy (no phony East-West duality please!) we
should look for things we have in common and the things that could enrich
us.  But we should not shy away from acknowledging there are things we
disagree on.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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