Monday, January 14

More on Buddhism in India

My post on Buddhism in India seems to have struck a minor chord, Two responses from Professor Farida Majid are pasted below.

       This is not a very satisfying piece being choppy and superficial. Let me give you a more probable picture of what happened in the eastern India -- in Bengal, or Bangladesh where there is still, probably the oldest continuous Buddhism in the world. The following comes from a professional historian. Richard M. Eaton is as professional as they come:
"Even while Indo-Buddhist civilization expanded and flourished overseas, however, Buddhist institutions were steadily declining in eastern India. Since Buddhists there left life-cycle rites in the hands of the Brahman priests, Buddhist monastic establishments, so central for the religion's institutional survival, became disconnected from the laity and fatally dependent on court patronage for their support. ...[F]rom as early as the seventh century, Brahmanism, already the more vital tradition at the popular level, enjoyed increasing court patronage at the expense of Buddhist institutions.  By the eleventh century even the Palas, earlier such enthusiastic patrons of Buddhism, had begun favoring the cult of two gods that had emerged as the most important in the newly reformed Brahmanical religion -- Siva and Vishnu."
---  Richard M. Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier: 1204-1760. U. of California Press. 1993.
          That short paragraph, dense with useful, provable facts, should teach my india-unity friends not to refract every glimmer of history through the prism of 'evil Brahmin and oppressed shudra'.  What you get here is quite contrary to your dearly held theories of 'religion imposed from the top'.  It is the laity where religions thrive and vibrate.  Buddhism probably withered on the vine in India, besides one or two other influencing factors affecting its decline.


                  Please spread the good word as widely as possible. At the root of all forms of communalism is the colonial depiction of history of our own country. The descriptions of Hinduism (and its caste system), Islam, Buddhism, etc are all dumbed down versions as the British chose to describe them for the service of the Empire. The present stage of vicious communalism in India rests on nothing but these colonial depictions.
           Moududi of India and Syed Qutb of Egypt created a vision of a counter-Empire, a trans-national Islam that is at the root of all Islamic fundamentalism today.
           Hindu fundamentalism also stems from a desire for a counter-Empire -- wanna-be like them mentality.
            My way of countering this envy of empire is to dig in and re-discover the glorious history of our own country out of self-respect and self love, not out of an ingrained inferiority complex.
            You can quote me by name if you like since the studies of language, literature, history and culture (that includes religion) belong to my field.
             Thank you for your interest.

                     Farida Majid

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