The present research work aims at studying and evaluating the Impact of Buddhist Thought and Culture on Socio-Religious Life of the Asian People with Special Reference to Sri Lanka, China and Tibet. Buddhism had a tremendous civilizing influence on the Socio-religious life of the Asian people since the days of Asoka the Great when royal missionaries were sent for the propagation of the Buddhist faith to far-flung areas. Till eighth century CE, Buddhism was deeply rooted in many Asian Countries and the most prominent among them were Sri Lanka, China and Tibet. The reason for limiting the scope of this thesis specifically to Sri Lanka, China and Tibet is that these countries substantially contributed towards the creation of Buddhist faith. Besides India, these three countries also served as the launching pa for the dissemination of Buddhist thought and culture to their neighbours. All thee three countries kept on sending Buddhist missionaries to other countries for the propagation of this supremely sublime faith. In the monasteries and translation bureaus of these countries Buddhist sastras were not only translated and commented upon but were also created, and the entire exercise was done under royal instance and patronage. Sri Lanka became a stronghold of Theravada Buddhism whereas China and Tibet greatly contributed to the Mahayana and Tantrayana Buddhist traditions. It is also noteworthy that most of the missionary work was finished till eighth century CE in Sri Lanka and China, while it started only in the seventh century CE in Tibet. Still during seventh and eighth centuries a log of missionary work was completed in Tibet due to the two wives of Tibetan King Srong-bstan-gam-po and two learned Indian Pandits- Santaraksita and Padmasambhava with the establishment of Sam-ye monastery. This ambitious movement gained a momentum. In course of time Buddhism was introduced in Asian countries of the far East and South - east.
Academically, Buddhist thought and philosophy look complicated. But, otherwise, if it is understood, keeping in view the motto of bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya, it is very plain and simple. It preaches peace, brotherhood, tolerance, sympathy, friendliness, compassion, etc. It is free from the barriers of caste and creed. It comes forward with a spiritual consolation that duhkha can be overcome and it also offers a remedial measure in the form of Four Noble Truths and it advises us to take to the Noble Eightfold Path. It also preaches a threefold culture of sila, samadhi and prajna. Such sublime thoughts of the Buddha gave birth to an uncommonly altruistic culture. The ethico-spiritual thought and culture of Buddhism left an indelible imprint on the thoughts and minds of the Asian people.
In the present volume we have tried to show how Buddhist thought and culture brought about a total change in the socio-religious life of the Asian people with special reference to Sri Lanka, China and Tibet.
Buddhism is in fact saddharma. It is (dharma), culture (samskrti), morality (acara), and practice (sadhana) all in one. As a religion or way of life it is a "light house" and as a faith it is a monument of all that is virtuous and absolutely good for the human beings to be more precise, for the pranimatra. It is a religion of compassion, tolerance, love, sympathy, peace, universal fraternity and philanthropy. The Buddha is rightly regarded as the "Light of Asia." His dharma enlightened the entire human race but the continent of Asia was more fortunate to get the maximum light during the early centuries of the Christian era since the attainment of Enlightenment by the Mahakarunika Sasta.
The Buddha blessed the human race with a unique wisdom and a spiritual culture which taught us the basics of sympathy, love and friendliness towards one and all. His message and sermons of peace and universal brotherhood were respected and practised by all those who hear and understood the underlying spirituality interwoven in his precepts. Initially Buddhism and its exalted sermons left an indelible impression on the thought and culture of India. But in course of time during the reign of Asoka the Great it reached the foreign land when missionaries were sent to thirteen countries for the propagation and dissemination of Buddhism on the instruction of Asoka. Sri Lanka was the most blessed land to receive this light through Mahindra and Sanghamitra who were bequeathed to the Buddhist order by Asoka. Buddhism made its first debut in Sri Lanka and gave it a spiritually superior thought and culture. Happily Sri Lanka is now a Buddhist country. During the lifetime of the Buddha, Buddhism was confined to Kasi, Kosala and Magadha but after his mahapariniroana it penetrated the territories extending from Gandhara to China via Central Asia and to other countries from China. It reached Tibet a little late because the territory was inaccessible. It is interesting as well as gratifying to note that Buddhism gave a sublime culture and a spiritual wisdom to China and Tibet thereby effecting a total facelift. Before Buddhism reached these two countries there was total chaos and confusion. Buddhism gave basic lessons of culture and civilization to these countries. From these countries it was further propagated and disseminated to countries of East Asia and South-East Asia. In course of time it became the most popular religion of Burma, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Mongolia and many other kingdoms of Himalayan regions.
The sublime thought and culture of Buddhism was so exalted and awe-inspiring that it was embraced by a vast population of Asian countries. The people found a refuge in the soothing and consolatory teaching of the Buddha which ensured equality and justice for one and all. Buddhism became more popular among the masses all over the world in general and Asian countries in particular because there was no caste or reed in this dharma. For the Buddha every one was equal. Peace and tolerance, sympathy and friendliness were the distinctive qualities of Buddhism which attracted the common mass inside and across the Asian continent. Buddhism offered a cultural bond in which almost all the Asian countries and their people got united during the course of the early centuries of the Christian era. Even now many Asian countries and their people where Buddhism is still a living faith revere both India and the Buddha and look upon our country as jagadguru.
In fact, the Buddhist thought and culture has contributed a lot in shaping the socio-religious life and civilization of the Asian people during the course of several centuries.
In the present research work we have discussed all the factors that influenced the socio-religious life of Asian people in general and Sri Lankan, Chinese and Tibetan people in particular. How the Buddhist thought and culture shaped the thought and culture of the Asian people is also researched in this dissertation.
We have studied the impact and influence of thought and culture of Buddhism on the soico-religious life, thought and culture of the Asian people. There are many affinities among the people of Asian countries, the most prominent among them being the religio-cultural affinity. Buddhism established a common cultural bond between most of the countries of Asia because it is a living faith and practised philosophy in those countries. It is the need of the time that when political hatred, belligerence, sectarian disputes, religious intolerance and territorial disputes are bringing the war-like situation among the fellow brothers of this planet, we should highlight and tell that originally we are all the followers of the same culture and the devotees of the same religion. It will minimize the hatred and promote the feeling of universal brotherhood.
The aim of the proposed research work is to highlight the religio-philosophical and socio-cultural background of Buddhist thought in which a strong lasting cultural relation was built-up between India and the other Buddhist countries of Asia. The role and contribution of Buddhist thought and culture had een very important and distinct in shaping the socio-religious life of Asian people for at least eight long centuries from the first century BCE. All the Buddhist countries of Asia owe a great cultural debt of Indian philosophy and more particularly to Buddhism and Buddhist Pandits who carried the teachings of the Buddha without caring for the terrible hardships of long and perilous journeys across the desert. Due to the intellectual and cultural intercourse, during the course of about eight centuries, Buddhistic scholars and missionaries and the pious devotees of Buddhism succeeded in transplanting Buddhist faith in the Asian countries. A sublime culture was accepted as the currency of civilization of large tracts of Asian continent and their inhabitants. The aim of this research work is to promote mutual religious and cultural understanding between the people of the different countries of Asia by reminding them of the old cultural relations.
A lot of printed material, both in form of books and as research articles, is available on this subject, but the research work that we have done is very interesting as well as fresh in the sense that their approach has been different. Most of the works are narrative or informative or in the form of chronicles. The clue for selecting this topic was taken from a number of standard works which include: Xinru Liu's silk and Religion (Oxford University Press, 1998), Edward Conge's A short History of Buddhism (Boston, 1980), Jagat Pati Joshi's Facets of Indian Civilization (New Delhi, 1997), Samuel Johnson's Indian and Oriented Religion (New Delhi, 1983), P.N. Chopra's Contribution of Buddhism to World Civilization and Culture (Delhi, 1988), B.N. Puri's Buddhism in Central Asia (Delhi, 1975), P.V. Bapat (ed.) 2500 Years of Buddhism (Delhi, 1959), P.N. Bose's The Indian Teacher in China (Madras, 1923), Lokesh Chandra's India's Contribution to World Thought and Culture (Madras, 1970), Sukumar Dutt's Buddhist Monks and Monasteries in India (Delhi, 1988), Granet Marcel's Chinese Civilization (London, 1930), C.H. Hamilton's Buddhism in India, Ceylon, China and Japan (Chicago, 1931), L.M. Joshi's Studies in the Buddhist Culture in India (Delhi, 1967), K.S. Latourette's The Chinese: Their History and Culture (New York, 1946), and H.Q.Q. Wales's The Indianization of China and South-East Asia (London, 1967).
The present research work is spread over eight chapter and concludes with a select bibliography at the end. In the first chapter a brie introduction is given to the cultural geography of Buddhist Asia. In the second chapter sufficient light is thrown on the state of society and religion in pre-Buddhist Asian countries. The third chapter deals with Buddhism and cultural transformation of Asian people by devout royalty. Fourth, fifth and sixth chapters are devoted to study the impact of Buddhist thought and culture on Sri Lankan, Chinese and Tibetan people. Religio-cultural transformation of Korea, Japan and other South-East Asian countries from the subject matter of the seventh chapter. The eighth chapter highlights the contribution of Buddhist thought and culture to the treasure of literature, art and architecture of Asian countries. In the conclusion, I have tried to the establish that Buddhism is a universal religion meant for peace-loving and civilized mankind. It is not meant for any one caste, creed or race.
In tune with the illustrious Indian tradition of caksurunmilitam yena tansmai sir gurave namah, I record my deep sense of gratefulness from the core of my heart to my revered teacher Prof. Rakesh Kumar Mishra whose guidance and inspiration brought me to where I am. He guided me for this book quite painstakingly with meticulous care. In fact, I have no words to express my indebtedness to him. I am indebted to the great Buddhist scholars whose writings were of great help to me. It is not possible to mention all of them, but I am grateful to all those treasure-trove of knowledge, and therefore, I do not claim any originality. To be more humble, I must say that if there is something good in the book then the credit of it goes to these scholars only. I used the books from the Library of Dept. of Buddhist Studies, Delhi University. I sincerely acknowledge the help given by Dr H.P. Negi who introduced me to the library staff.
I express my thankfulness to my teachers Dr B. Labh and Dr. R.N. Singh of our department, who always extended their co-operation and encouraged me. I really value the affection that I received at their hands. I express my gratefulness, to Shri Kundan Lal Sharma, Librarian of the sectional library of our department and Shri Tarsem Singh, Assistant Librarian with The Dhanvantri Library. I could collect a lot of material for this research with the kind co-operation of these two noble souls. I cannot forget the co-operation and affection that I received from Shri Parshotam Lal, Junior Assistant of our department. I have also to praise Shri Vijay Arora and Joginder Singh of our department who stayed in the department even at late hours to assist me.
I remember with gratefulness and reverence, the affection and encouragement I received at the hands of my local guardians, Shri Romesh Chander Basotra and Smt Sudha Basotra. They cared to affectionately for my comfort and meals at Jammu during all these years. I reverentially express my personal gratitude to all my family members my mother, my father (who unfortunately passed away when the work was in progress), my brothers Shri Surinder Heera, Shri Mohinder Heera, Shri Jatinder Heera, my sister Smt Khema Koul and brother-in-law Shri Bansi Lal Koul, my Sister-in-law Smt Reenuka Heera and Dr. Salone Heera my niece Karishma Koul, my nephews Rudransh Heera and Raghu Raj Heera.
Lastly, I am thankful to my close friends who kept my morale high, and always inspired me for the speedy completion of this work.
From the Jacket
Buddhism is an ancient religion that spread across Asia in a matter of centuries and had a rare kind of influence on the social and religious life of the Asian peoples.
The volume stresses on the social and cultural transformation brought about by Buddhism when the royalty in these countries adopted the religion and propagated it. It deals with Sri Lanka's evolution into a stronghold of Theravada Buddhism and China and Tibet's contribution to the Mahayana and Tantrayana Buddhist traditions. It takes up the royal patronage and zeal of missionaries, Buddhist influence on the social structure and personal name, impact of Buddhism on customs, lifestyle, food habits and spread of education and learning in Sri Lanka. It cover factors that encouraged spread of education and learning in Sri Lanka. It covers factors that encouraged spread of Buddhism in China, architectural and art works undertaken there, and the flourishing of Buddhist literature and missionary work under royal patronage in that country. The work captures the effect of Buddhism on Tibetan religious thinking and social life. It also discusses the later socio-cultural transformation of people of nearby countries owing to the missionary zeal of Buddhism in those countries. Throughout, the work refers to numerous legends and accounts for detailing the contribution of monks, missionaries and royal personages.
The book will prove immensely valuable to Buddhist scholars keen on studying the evolution and impact of Buddhism in Asia.
About the Author
Dr. Bhupender Heera (1976 -) completed his School Education at Katra, the base camp of Shri Mata Vaishnavi Devi Shrine, in Jammu & Kashmir State. After graduating from Govt Degree College Udhampur, Dr Heera successfully received three year Diploma in Architecture Engineering. Subsequently, in 2001 he obtained M.A. Degree in Buddhist Studies with First Class from the University of Jammu. In 2005, he was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Buddhist Studies from the same University. Dr Heera also obtained M.A. Degree in Philosophy from Gurukul Kangri University Haridwar with First Class in year 2007.
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