Buddhist Revival in India: Aspects of the sociology of by Trevor Ling

By Trevor Ling

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16 The evidence of the Chinese pilgrims and Taranatha Thus, there is no lack of information about Buddhism in Bengal in the period before the rise of the Pala kings. The Chinese pilgrims Hiuen Tsiang and 1-Tsing also visited Bengal in the course of their travels in the seventh century CE, and both commented fairly fully on the state of Buddhism there at that time. By the time Hiuen Tsiang made his journey, in the second quarter of the 31 BUDDHIST REVIVAL IN INDIA seventh century, Buddhism was declining in many areas of India outside Bengal--declining, that is to say, in the number of monasteries and in the degree of support and approval it was receiving from rulers.

By the time Hiuen Tsiang made his journey, in the second quarter of the 31 BUDDHIST REVIVAL IN INDIA seventh century, Buddhism was declining in many areas of India outside Bengal--declining, that is to say, in the number of monasteries and in the degree of support and approval it was receiving from rulers. uch as Gandhara (whose monasteries, as described by Hiuen Tsiang, were ruined and deserted) and the south of India. In Bengal and Assam Tsiang visited five 'countries' and reported on the state of Buddhism in each of these.

7 It might be supposed that in Bengal Buddhism was subject to local cultural influences of a significantly different kind, which caused it to develop a new and unhealthy strain. Against this idea-that Bengal had some special modifying effect on Buddhism--certain considerations need to be emphasised. They are (1) that the Buddhist presence in Bengal was not confined to the later period, but was represented there at least from the time of Ashoka; (2) that the original ideas, structure and emphases of early Buddhism were in essence preserved faithfully down to the time when the Pala dynasty came to an end; and (3) that the maintenance of an open frontier between Buddhist doctrine and practice on the one hand, and local indigenous popular cults on the other, is a familiar feature of Buddhism (even Theravada Buddhism) throughout its history.

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