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DEVIATION FROM APARIGRAHA LED TO THE

DISAPPEARANCE OF BUDDHISM FROM INDIA

ANKUR BARUA, M.A. BASILIO

Buddhist Door, Tung Lin Kok Yuen, Hong Kong

Hong Kong, 2009

Communication Address of Corresponding Author:

Dr. ANKUR BARUA

Block – EE, No.-80, Flat No.-2A,

Salt Lake City, Sector-2,

Kolkata - 700091, West Bengal, INDIA.

Email: ankurbarua26@yahoo.com

Mobile: +91-9434485543 (India), +852-96195078 (Hong Kong)


DEVIATION FROM APARIGRAHA LED TO THE

DISAPPEARANCE OF BUDDHISM FROM INDIA

Abstract

The sequence of events for the disappearance of Buddhism from India was

initiated by the Buddhist monks and clergy when they had ignored the teachings

of the Buddha and concentrated on accumulation of abundance of wealth in the

monasteries. They had abandoned the community visits and concentrated on

their own salvation instead of helping the common people and oppressed classes

to end their sufferings. Subsequently, the Brahmins took advantage of this

situation and deepened the rift between the common people and the Buddhist

practitioners. They also manipulated the contemporary rulers to withdraw their

support from Buddhism and help in reviving the existing Brahmanism.

Majority of the scholars often fail to realize the bitter truth that the Buddhists

themselves were responsible for their own problems. Deviation from the

Buddha’s teaching of observing aparigraha, or non-possession by the Buddhist

monks and clergy was the first sign of decline of Buddhism in India.

Key words: Buddhism, Disappearance, Decline, Wealth.

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DEVIATION FROM APARIGRAHA LED TO THE

DISAPPEARANCE OF BUDDHISM FROM INDIA

Introduction

Two factors were generally cited by the eminent scholars as the main reasons for

the ultimate disappearance of Buddhism from India. The first one was the Vedic

revival, which drove the religion out the country and this was followed by the

invading hordes of the Prophet Mohammed, who razed the temples and

slaughtered the remaining unresisting monks. But majority of the scholars often

fail to realize the fact that the Buddhists themselves were the root cause of their

own problems. Deviation from the Buddha’s teaching of observing aparigraha, or

non-possession had weakened the centuries old foundation of the Buddhist

society in India. Excess accumulation of wealth by the Buddhist monks and

clergy was the first sign of decline of Buddhism in India.1,2,3,4

Sectarian and Internal Conflicts

It was found that the Buddhist clergy paid insufficient attention to its laity.

Buddhist mendicants kept their distance from non-mendicants. So, the non-

mendicants might not have felt particularly invested in Buddhism. As the venues,

where the mendicants and non-mendicants intersected, gradually disappeared,

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the laity got distanced from the faith in Buddhism. The scholars of Buddhism

had revealed that no manual for the conduct of the laity was produced until the

11th century A.D. Some scholars had also emphasized the decay and corruption

within the Buddhist faith itself.1,2,3,4

Dispute over Wealth and Leaderships in Buddhist Monasteries

The Buddhist monasteries were described as repositories of great wealth which

was accumulated through generous donations from the royal families and rich

devotees in the community. As food and money was always available in the

monastery, majority of the monks had adopted a rather easy-going and even

indolent lifestyle. There were also disputes over money matters and leadership

which led to great divide among many groups of Buddhist monks. The unity and

harmony of many major monasteries were affected by these disputes. The

sectarian splits between various Buddhists sects in subsequent years had finally

weakened the foundation and administrative infrastructure of Buddhism in India.

This was a consequence of a major deviation from the Buddha’s insistence on

aparigraha, or non-possession. As the monks had ignored the instruction of the

Buddha and became greedy for power and wealth, the monasteries got

entrapped in controversies and the communities lost their faith in them.1,2,3,4

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Abandonment of Community Visits by the Buddhist Monks

As there was abundance of wealth in their monasteries, majority of the Buddhist

monks and clergy had often concentrated mainly on own salvation and rarely

visited the community to reduce the suffering of the general population. Here,

the Buddhist monks and clergy had missed out a very important message by the

Buddha. When the Buddha had advised his disciples to visit the community every

day and not to stay in a same place for more than three days, it was with a

vision that had a far more impact in the society than mere begging for food. He

wanted his disciples to meet as many common people as possible during their

community visit and help them to overcome the sufferings.1,2,3,4

If it was only for gathering food and wealth, he could have arranged them for his

disciple monks with ease by requesting the Kings and emperors, who were also

his followers. The main idea behind sending the emissaries door to door was to

build up a community network and develop a good rapport with the community

so that majority of the population could reap the benefit from the teachings of

the Buddha. He knew that once the community had accepted his disciples, they

would develop faith in his teachings and would follow his advice to end suffering.

One should not misinterpret the emphasis on building up a community network

as an intention of the Buddha to become a ruler in future. This is because, as

Prince Siddhartha, he had already given up his kingdom and everything in order

to devote the rest of his life to end the suffering of all human beings. As the

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Buddha, his aim was to carry forward this mission further through his disciples

by spreading the message of the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path

in the community. So, the goal for his disciples was not to concentrate on one’s

own salvation, but to help others to reduce the suffering in the community.1,2,3,4

The Buddhist monks in India, during the sixth century had deviated from this

noble target and stopped visiting the community. As the community visit was

rare by the monks, the general lay Buddhists felt neglected and isolated from the

Buddhist monastery. This sense of insecurity made them suffer discrimination

from the higher class of the Brahmin society and they gradually lost faith in

Buddhism. The Buddhist monks did not visit the houses of the lower caste and

the untouchables and as a result, they too did not get the opportunity to adopt

Buddhism and gain status in the society. The shellfish nature of the Buddhist

monks during that time had generated a sense of hatred and insecurity in the

general population which had contributed significantly towards their loss of faith

in Buddhism at a later date.4

Conclusions

If we analyze all the contributing factors and arrange them in a chronological

order, we would realize that the major burden of responsibility rest with the

Buddhist monks and clergy. All the problems started when they had ignored the

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teachings of the Buddha to observe aparigraha, or non-possession and instead,

concentrated on accumulation of abundance of wealth in the monasteries. They

were often engaged in disputes over money matters and leadership. This had

also made them over-satisfied and lethargic. So, they abandoned the community

visits and concentrated on their own salvation instead of helping the common

people and oppressed classes to end their sufferings. As the community was

ignored, the tight bonding between the lay devotees and the Buddhist

monasteries became weak and finally broke loose.1,2,3,4

This restricted the spread of Buddhism in India and soon Buddhism started losing

the general support from the community. Subsequently, the Brahmins took

advantage of this situation and deepened the rift between the common people

and the Buddhist practitioners that included the monks and clergy. The Brahmins

also manipulated the contemporary rulers to withdraw their support from

Buddhism and help in reviving the existing Brahmanism.1,2,3,4

But before the Buddhist monks and clergy point their fingers towards anyone

else to share the responsibility, they should realize the bitter truth that they

themselves were the root cause for the disappearance of Buddhism from India.

Deviation from the Buddha’s teaching of observing aparigraha, or non-possession

had made them all pay very dearly in the long run. This was the major mistake

on their part which reconfirmed the fact that wealth was the root of all trouble.

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References

1. Lal, V. 2004. Buddhism’s Disappearance from India [serial online]. [cited


2009 August 26]; [2 screens]. Available from: URL:
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Religions/paths/BuddhismDisappear.do
c.

2. Jaini, P.S., Narain A.K., ed., 1980. The Disappearance of Buddhism and the
Survival of Jainism: A Study in Contrast. Studies in History of Buddhism.
Delhi: B.R. Publishing Company:181-91.

3. Ahir, D.C. 2005. Buddhism Declined in India: How and Why? Delhi: B.R.
Publishing.

4. Barua, A., Basilio. M.A. . 2009. Contributing Factors for the Disappearance of

Buddhism from India. Hong Kong: Buddhist Door, Tung Lin Kok Yuen

[ebook].

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