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Who really destroyed Buddhism in India?

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It is a fact that whenever a new religion is founded, its founder and followers not only draw upon the resources of the pre-existing religion but also usurp, nay destroy and convert, the followers and places of worship of the latter. What Christianity and the Islam did to the pre-existing religions in Europe, Middle East; Jainism and the Buddhism did to Hindutva (aka Hinduism).

After conversion to Buddhism, Ashoka used political power and state resources to spread Buddhism far and wide. With the huge state patronage the Buddhists converted many pre-existing Hindu temples into Buddhist stupas, viharas and temples, like the Muslims had been doing. They used enormous resources of the state to convert poor Hindus to Buddhism.

Take any major Buddhist stupa, vihara or temple, it is either a pre-existing Hindu Temple, or the Buddhists built them in the vicinity of popular Hindu Temples or Tirtha to take a religious piggy ride on Hindutva (aka Hinduism). To avoid cluttering, I cite hereunder only 3 representative examples of this standard Buddhist template.

Gaya, a Hindu tirtha

Gaya is a Hindu tirtha since time immemorial. It is named after Gayasura who dwelt the area during the Treta Yuga. It is a major Hindu pilgrimage site especially for the piṇḍadāna ritual. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata mention about it. Prabhu Rama along with Mata Sita offered piṇḍadāna for his father Dasharatha.

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The wandering Siddharth Gautama chose Gaya, the Hindu tirtha seeking spiritual enlightenment. Aśvattha or peepal is a sacred tree for Hindus and often referred to as Akshaya Vata. The peepal tree in the premises of Shiva Temple in Gaya blessed to be immortal by Mata Sita came to be known as Bodhi Tree after Buddha’s enlightenment under it. After Ashoka embraced Buddhism, the ancient Shiva Temple in Gaya became Maha Bodhi temple and the ancient Gaya Tirtha became Bodh Gaya.

In the 12th century CE many temples of Gaya were destroyed by Mohammed Bhakhtiyar Khilji. While Hindus valiantly fought against the barbarians, the Buddhists either became Muslims or fled away.

Sarnath, a Hindu sacred place

Sarnath is located about 10 kms northeast of Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. The name ‘Sarnath’ is linguistic corruption of the word ‘Sarangnath’. Here, Lord Shiva is known as ‘Lord of Deer’ or ‘Sarang Nath’ with an ancient Temple dedicated to him. Saranga in Sanskrit means deer. It is deer’s nature to jump and run in zig zag motion all over the place which is compared with mind’s chanchalatva. In Hindu iconography Bhagwan Shiva holds the deer symbolising that he stabilises the mind of his devotees to attain yoga or union with the divine. There is a huge pond called ‘Sarangnath Kund’ adjoining the ancient the Sarangnath Mahadev Temple. It is a popular destination for pilgrims visiting Kashi.

Gautam Buddha chose this hugely popular and spiritual place visited by Hindus in droves from all over the world, to deliver his sermon and lure converts. The Buddhist structures built in Sarangnath aka Sarnath were patronised by Hindus and they survived till the advent of Islamic invasions.

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Islamic invasions brought massive genocidal plunder and destruction of India. According to the 13th-century Persian historian Hasan Nizami, nearly 1000 Temples in Ganga belt including Kashi and Sarnath were destroyed and mosques were raised on their foundations. But unlike Hindus, the Buddhists could not fight the Islamic marauders, and either converted to Islam or fled.

Angkor Wat a Hindu Temple

Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the biggest Hindu temple ever constructed, and the largest religious structure in the world, dedicated to Bhagwan Vishnu. It was constructed by Khmer king Suryavarman-II in the 12th century CE on a site measuring 402 acres within the ancient Khmer capital city of Angkor. Buddhists usurped and transformed it into a Buddhist temple.

Why Buddhism disappeared from India?

Islamic invasions on India began around 700 CE. For 1300 years the Hindus fought heroically and were able to retard the Islamic aggressions and tame their religious misrule. Due to such heroic Hindu resistance for 1300 years, the invaders could not convert all Hindus to Islam though Hindus suffered massive losses in terms of demography, territory, and religious places. We must remember that we are all Hindus because of the heroic struggle of our forefathers and their supreme sacrifices to protect and preserve Hindu dharma.

While such is the gallant history of Hindus, the Buddhists of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan and those surrounding areas could not fight against the Islamic invasions and became quickly Muslim in less than a century. Why so?

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Buddhism is a pacific religion. It emasculates its converts by extinguishing their fighting spirit which is essential for individual and collective survival. While Hindus continued to fight back the Islamic invaders, the Buddhists who are emasculated due to indoctrination in half-truths such as “अहिंसा परमो धर्मः” leaving out its crucial other part “धर्महिंसा तदैव च:”, could not resist. So, they were either butchered, or converted to Islam, or they fled away. As a result of Islamic onslaught, as in other erstwhile Buddhist countries mentioned above, by the end of 12th century CE Buddhism had largely disappeared from India with the exception of the Himalayan region and isolated remnants in parts of India.

The post-independence official patronage to Buddhism, even though we are a secular polity, is entirely due to the Anti-Hindu mindset of the establishment which strangely is almost entirely populated by Hindus. Our national emblem, national flag, national calendar are all adopted from Buddhism in spite of the fact that India is the cradle of the great Hindu civilisation, which is the only surviving ancient religion and civilisation. With the official patronage and using public funds so many Buddhist religious structures are being constructed, old ruins rebuilt, and places named or renamed after Buddhist icons. The RSS-BJP government continues the same policies with more vigour and rigour.

It goes to the credit of Hindus that since its founding Buddhism flourished in India for several centuries during Hindu rule, but it could not survive even for a hundred years under Islam. Further, even after disappearance of Buddhists, the Hindus magnanimously protected and maintained the ruins of Buddhist stupas, viharas and temples for centuries and continue to do so. The benevolence of Hindus is unparalleled. Hindus respect Buddha by including him in their pantheon by according him the status of an avatar of Vishnu. मत्स्य कूर्मो वराहश्च नारसिंहोऽथ वामनः। रामो रामश्च कृष्णश्च बुद्धः कल्किश्च ते दशा:॥

Also Read: Kailasnath Temple, Ellora – World’s Envy, Hindus’ Pride

Yet, so many Buddhists abuse Hindus and Hindutva (aka Hinduism) to camouflage their own shortcomings. They have no courage to call a spade a spade by holding Islam for destruction of their religion. They find the accommodative Hindus and Hindutva (aka Hinduism) benefactors as the soft target to vent out their frustrations by sparing their malefactors. That is the biggest tragedy.

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M Nageswara Rao, IPS (Retd)
M Nageswara Rao, IPS (Retd)
M. Nageswara Rao IPS (Retd) - a 1986 batch, Odisha cadre IPS officer retired as Director, CBI. The views expressed are his own.


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