Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture

By Sukumar Dutt | Go to book overview

3
BHAKTI in Later Buddhism

BASED on the Vinaya and with the Saṅghakamma as its functioning organ, the primitive Saṅgha took as a directive the Lord's dictum that so long as Bhikkhus 'assembled unitedly and assembled frequently' ('abhinnhaḿ sannipātā sannipāta-bahulā'),1 they would prosper and not decline. The meeting hall (Upaṭṭhāna-sālā) was, therefore, the hub of saṅgha life, and we have elsewhere referred to its importance in a primitive monk-settlement.2 Yet when we pass on to monastic remains of later times, we observe that there the Cetiyaghara takes the place of central importance.

The functional importance of the Upaṭṭhāna-sU+010 was in connection with the Vinaya and the implementation of its rules; the Cetiyaghara was a place of congregational worship. The emphasis in saṅgha life had evidently shifted in these centuries from Vinaya to the cultivation of Bhakti and its ritual expression in worship of the Stūpa or the Buddha-image. It is an index to a deeper change in the spirit of the religion.

Bhakti has encroached largely on the system of spiritual training and self-culture deemed essential to the Dhamma enunciated in the canon. 'Only a little Bhakti', says Upagupta to Māra in the Divyāvadāna legend, 'becomes for the wise fruitful of Nirvāṇa.'3 But it is decidedly not in this line that Nibbāna is led up to in the system of the early (Theravāda) scripture.

A school of religious thought, which may have been more ancient than Buddhism or at least as ancient, had existed in India which, deriving from Vedic and Upaniṣadic doctrines and speculations, turned away, like Buddhism, from Vedic sacrificial rituals: it insisted on single-minded devotion to the object of adoration as the only way of salvation.4 This was the school of Bhakti: its fundamental tenets

____________________
1
Mahāparinibbāna Suttanta, 1, 6.
2
Part I, Sec. 4, p. 60.
3
"'Svalpā hi atra bhaktir'bhavati matimatāḿ nirvāṇa-phaladā'"-- Cowell and Neil Divyāvadāna, p. 360. The words of Upagupta recall Śāṇḍilya Bhakti-sūtra. 11, 76: Laghvapi bhaktādhikāre mahatkṣepakamaparasarva hānāt (Tr.: In the path of the devotee, an act of Bhakti, ever so slight, is destructive of great sins, because of its doing away with all other things)--See Vol. VII (Bhakti-Śāstra) of the Sacred Books of the Hindus Series, Panini Office, Allahabad, 1912.
4
See R. G. Bhandarkar article on the Origin of the Bhakti School in Indian Antiquary, January, 1912.

-179-

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