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View Poll Results: Why did Buddhism decline in India?
Buddhism was destroyed by Muslim invaders 14 37.84%
Buddhism was already declining due to Brahmin/Hinduism 19 51.35%
Buddhism had become too distant from the common people 4 10.81%
Buddhist temples had become corrupted by wealth 0 0%
Voters: 37. You may not vote on this poll

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Old November 16th, 2014, 07:40 AM   #1

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Reason for the decline of Buddhism in India?


Why did Buddhism decline in India, the country of its origin?

I've heard some ideas put forward. One is the arrival of Islam. It seems that many temples were destroyed by the Muslim invaders. But the counter argument is that many of these temples had already been converted to Hindu Brahmin temples, BEFORE the Muslims ever arrived. So the implication seems to be that Buddhism was already in decline long before that.

Was it because of the reformation of the Brahmins and the Hindu religious ideas, which successfully counter-attacked Buddhism? Or was it because Buddhist doctrine and practice became too esoteric, intellectual and was focused on monks in remote locations, instead of meeting the everyday needs of ordinary people?

Or was it because the Buddhist establishment became corrupted by wealth, luxury and easy living?

Or was there another reason I have missed? It seems strange that a religion that came to liberate people from the caste system was replaced by the re-imposition of that caste system later....? How can this be possible?
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Old November 16th, 2014, 07:53 AM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoyalHill1987 View Post
Why did Buddhism decline in India, the country of its origin?

I've heard some ideas put forward. One is the arrival of Islam. It seems that many temples were destroyed by the Muslim invaders. But the counter argument is that many of these temples had already been converted to Hindu Brahmin temples, BEFORE the Muslims ever arrived. So the implication seems to be that Buddhism was already in decline long before that.

Was it because of the reformation of the Brahmins and the Hindu religious ideas, which successfully counter-attacked Buddhism? Or was it because Buddhist doctrine and practice became too esoteric, intellectual and was focused on monks in remote locations, instead of meeting the everyday needs of ordinary people?

Or was it because the Buddhist establishment became corrupted by wealth, luxury and easy living?

Or was there another reason I have missed? It seems strange that a religion that came to liberate people from the caste system was replaced by the re-imposition of that caste system later....? How can this be possible?
The last 3 options you mentioned were happening simultaneously. Islamic attack put the last nail on the coffin.

Option 2 Adi Shankara who led a Hindu renaissance, he defeated Buddhist and Jain scholars in debate thus making them his disciples(it was standard rule of this time if you can defeat me in debate I am to be your disciple). Thus scholarly ground of Hinduism was strengthened. He also united various Hindu sects. Previously kings who were being convinced by Buddhist and Jain scholars were converting, now began to revert to Hinduism which directly affected the royal Patronage that Buddhism enjoyed.

Option 3 with introduction of Tantricism(magic, sorcery) it did.

Option 4 yes.

How ever as long as Hinduism survives in India. Buddha will live in heart of every Indian.
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Old November 16th, 2014, 07:55 AM   #3

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It was a combination of all of the above. Another point you need to consider is that Buddhism had become a lot more tied to institutions, and when those institutions (such as the various universities) were destroyed, the religious orders collapsed. There was no uniform pan india cause. In different places there were different reasons, and in most places two or more of the above options all played a role in weakening Buddhism.
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Old November 16th, 2014, 05:24 PM   #4

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I will copy-paste what I wrote before on this topic, specifically focusing on Buddhism in the Deccan:

Buddhism by nature is not intended to be a mass, popular "religion" in the first place. It is a highly individualistic, contemplative philosophy that is naturally geared more towards social elites (and perhaps social non-conformists and misfits) than the masses as a whole. As such, there has always been a dichotomy between the bhikkus and bhikkunis of the Buddhist sangha, who closely followed Buddhist teachings as a way of life, and the Buddhist laypeople, who may have followed the basic ethical values propounded by the Buddhists (and later, worshiped various forms of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas as "gods"), but who could not devote their life to the intense meditation, introspection, and self-denial of worldly pleasures that being a full-fledged Buddhist requires.

In areas where Buddhism was very popular, such as in Satavahana-era Andhra, you will notice that the masses never gave up their gods and rituals. Indeed, in the case of Mahayana Buddhism which was prominent in Andhra, bodhisattvas themselves became a popular item of worship. The compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, for example, was worshiped by Deccani seafarers and traders to provide safety on their journeys. The Buddhist monasteries also played a very vital role in the social and economic life of the early historical Deccan, as they functioned as travelers' lodges, hospitals, banks, and general sanctuaries for all segments of society to seek refuge in, from outcastes to brahmins. It needs to be emphasized here that, at least in the early historical Deccan where Buddhism had deep roots in society, it was the laypeople, not the royalty, who provided the bulk of the patronage to the Buddhist sangha. A cursory look at inscriptions from the Satavahana period would give you an idea of the support that Buddhist institutions enjoyed from commoners, especially from traders and artisans.

Why then did Buddhism decline, and eventually all but disappear from the Deccan? There are two major reasons involved. First was the decline in Indo-Roman trade following the 3rd century, which was accompanied by the temporary collapse of urban centers across the Deccan. This meant that the traders and artisans - who were the major patrons of Buddhism - fell on hard times, and at the same time, the significance of the Buddhist sangha in the social and economic life of Deccanis diminished. The second reason, which may seem paradoxical at first, was the increase in royal patronage (as opposed to lay patronage) and the practice of giving land grants to Buddhist monasteries, which first began under the later Satavahanas and intensified under the Ikshvakus and Vishnukindins. The practice of granting large amounts of land to the monasteries, as well as rights to forced labor (which were also being given to landed brahmins around this time), essentially turned them into self-sufficient estates. As such, they were no longer dependent on the laity, and no longer served the myriad of useful roles that they previously had served, because the socioeconomic impetus was no longer there. The natural consequence was that the Buddhist sangha became increasingly separated from the laity, and increasingly consumed in their own world, so to speak. The Buddhist sangha, enabled by its economic independence, became increasingly esoteric and elitist, putting increasing emphasis on higher philosophy and metaphysics that, while interesting and though-provoking, did not and could not win them widespread popular support.

This transformation of Indian Buddhism was occurring at the same time as another major social-religious transformation. This was the emergence of "Puranic" Hinduism and bhakti devotionalism. These devotional cults proved quite popular due to their simple, vulgar, and highly personal nature, and it was during this time that we see the emergence of Vaishnavism and Shaivism as major religious traditions. The Buddhist laity, who had never given up on gods and ritual in the first place, and who were becoming increasingly estranged from a Buddhist monastic community that had seemingly lost its social roots, were ripe for inclusion into the new religions.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All three of the last options are true, but ultimately I voted for the third option, because I view the second option as stemming from the third, and the fourth option is interwoven with the third. The first option (destruction of Buddhist institutions by Muslims) was a complete non-factor in India south of the Vindhyas. In eastern India (specifically modern Bihar and Bengal) the Islamic invasions had much more of an adverse effect, but even there the invasions were not responsible for the actual decline of Buddhism, as opposed to the death of it. Even in its strongholds in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plain, Buddhism was declining for centuries before the Turkish invasions.
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Old November 16th, 2014, 06:06 PM   #5
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There was another perspective on this. Maybe Buddhism wasn't that much independent in the first place ever since the historical Buddha had existed. It was more like the Shinbutsu Shugo policy during the Pre-Meiji Japan.

Indian Buddhism in the very distant past was, I think, a group of similar "nastika" philosophies within the "astika" Hindu religious institutions". It looks like Buddhism became a form of religion after spreading into north and east of of Indian cultural sphere.

(I'm just saying in the perspective of Chinese-influenced Mahayana Buddhism.)

Last edited by needstablity; November 16th, 2014 at 06:12 PM.
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Old November 17th, 2014, 06:59 AM   #6
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Well here is my take.
The idea of a "religion" did not exist in India then.
There was no Buddhists general population then. Neither was any Hindu population. There were only people without specific religious identity.
There were however, Buddhists monks. General population visited both Buddhists viharas and "Hindu" temples.
Now, the idea of God persists with the masses. Slowly the "Hindu" theist system became more and more popular, as it supports god, though there is no rational basis for the same.
Without the temporal support from the general population, the Buddhists monks and their viharas became extinct.
The key is that there were neither Buddhist nor Hindu general population.

Last edited by prashanth; November 17th, 2014 at 07:08 AM.
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Old November 17th, 2014, 06:53 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by prashanth View Post
Well here is my take.
The idea of a "religion" did not exist in India then.
There was no Buddhists general population then. Neither was any Hindu population. There were only people without specific religious identity.
There were however, Buddhists monks. General population visited both Buddhists viharas and "Hindu" temples.
Now, the idea of God persists with the masses. Slowly the "Hindu" theist system became more and more popular, as it supports god, though there is no rational basis for the same.
Without the temporal support from the general population, the Buddhists monks and their viharas became extinct.
The key is that there were neither Buddhist nor Hindu general population.
Well even if for the sake of the argument we believe that there wasn't a specific religious identity it is undeniable there were certainly particular set of codes and conducts prescribed by the Brahminical scriptures which gave distinguished identity to the "Hindus". Not to mention that Brahminical influence was always very strong on every aspect of laymen who were ascribed to their faith, reflected mainly by the elaborate rituals performed in the temples and at home on every occasion of life by the Brahmins on behalf of laity. So despite visiting Buddhist Viharas the overall identity was still that of a Hindu. (More or less similar to the current day Hindus visiting Haji Ali Dargah and Ajmer Sharif and making donations and offerings). Similar is true for Jainism, too. The Jaina monks and nuns were also closely associated with Jaina laity (with Jaina laity having their own unique social codes and conduct separating them from the lot). To some extant Jaina monks themselves took active part of political life. As far as I have read there weren't strong social codes and conduct that gave unique identity to the follower of Buddha different from rest of the society unlike the Brahminical or Jaina laity nor was the connection of Buddhist monks very strong with their laity.
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Old November 18th, 2014, 07:20 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by civfanatic View Post
I will copy-paste what I wrote before on this topic, specifically focusing on Buddhism in the Deccan:

Buddhism by nature is not intended to be a mass, popular "religion" in the first place. It is a highly individualistic, contemplative philosophy that is naturally geared more towards social elites (and perhaps social non-conformists and misfits) than the masses as a whole. As such, there has always been a dichotomy between the bhikkus and bhikkunis of the Buddhist sangha, who closely followed Buddhist teachings as a way of life, and the Buddhist laypeople, who may have followed the basic ethical values propounded by the Buddhists (and later, worshiped various forms of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas as "gods"), but who could not devote their life to the intense meditation, introspection, and self-denial of worldly pleasures that being a full-fledged Buddhist requires.

In areas where Buddhism was very popular, such as in Satavahana-era Andhra, you will notice that the masses never gave up their gods and rituals. Indeed, in the case of Mahayana Buddhism which was prominent in Andhra, bodhisattvas themselves became a popular item of worship. The compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, for example, was worshiped by Deccani seafarers and traders to provide safety on their journeys. The Buddhist monasteries also played a very vital role in the social and economic life of the early historical Deccan, as they functioned as travelers' lodges, hospitals, banks, and general sanctuaries for all segments of society to seek refuge in, from outcastes to brahmins. It needs to be emphasized here that, at least in the early historical Deccan where Buddhism had deep roots in society, it was the laypeople, not the royalty, who provided the bulk of the patronage to the Buddhist sangha. A cursory look at inscriptions from the Satavahana period would give you an idea of the support that Buddhist institutions enjoyed from commoners, especially from traders and artisans.

Why then did Buddhism decline, and eventually all but disappear from the Deccan? There are two major reasons involved. First was the decline in Indo-Roman trade following the 3rd century, which was accompanied by the temporary collapse of urban centers across the Deccan. This meant that the traders and artisans - who were the major patrons of Buddhism - fell on hard times, and at the same time, the significance of the Buddhist sangha in the social and economic life of Deccanis diminished. The second reason, which may seem paradoxical at first, was the increase in royal patronage (as opposed to lay patronage) and the practice of giving land grants to Buddhist monasteries, which first began under the later Satavahanas and intensified under the Ikshvakus and Vishnukindins. The practice of granting large amounts of land to the monasteries, as well as rights to forced labor (which were also being given to landed brahmins around this time), essentially turned them into self-sufficient estates. As such, they were no longer dependent on the laity, and no longer served the myriad of useful roles that they previously had served, because the socioeconomic impetus was no longer there. The natural consequence was that the Buddhist sangha became increasingly separated from the laity, and increasingly consumed in their own world, so to speak. The Buddhist sangha, enabled by its economic independence, became increasingly esoteric and elitist, putting increasing emphasis on higher philosophy and metaphysics that, while interesting and though-provoking, did not and could not win them widespread popular support.

This transformation of Indian Buddhism was occurring at the same time as another major social-religious transformation. This was the emergence of "Puranic" Hinduism and bhakti devotionalism. These devotional cults proved quite popular due to their simple, vulgar, and highly personal nature, and it was during this time that we see the emergence of Vaishnavism and Shaivism as major religious traditions. The Buddhist laity, who had never given up on gods and ritual in the first place, and who were becoming increasingly estranged from a Buddhist monastic community that had seemingly lost its social roots, were ripe for inclusion into the new religions.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All three of the last options are true, but ultimately I voted for the third option, because I view the second option as stemming from the third, and the fourth option is interwoven with the third. The first option (destruction of Buddhist institutions by Muslims) was a complete non-factor in India south of the Vindhyas. In eastern India (specifically modern Bihar and Bengal) the Islamic invasions had much more of an adverse effect, but even there the invasions were not responsible for the actual decline of Buddhism, as opposed to the death of it. Even in its strongholds in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plain, Buddhism was declining for centuries before the Turkish invasions.
Good post indeed, but I am to ask as you said Buddhism was never meant for mass then why Buddha insisted on Middle Path? Middle Path neither includes asceticism of monks nor advocates luxury of rich.

Quote:
Buddhism by nature is not intended to be a mass, popular "religion" in the first place.

Last edited by SSDD; November 18th, 2014 at 07:25 AM.
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Old November 18th, 2014, 07:27 AM   #9

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Essentially, Buddhism was a state-imposed religion that didn't develop the kind of infrastructure across the Subcontinent that it did in China or Southeast Asia. The combination of this lack of infrastructure and Hindu revivalism had a greater impact, leading to the irony that there would be more Buddhists in China than India.
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Old November 18th, 2014, 08:58 AM   #10

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Nobody has voted for Buddhist temples being corrupted by wealth. Is this just a claim from Indian propagandists who don't like Buddhism? Or is there some truth to it?

Also, does anyone know when the Swat Valley in Pakistan would have been Buddhist? And how did it come to be Muslim? I read about the thousands of Buddha statues in the area in Malala Yousafzai's book.
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