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

By Sukumar Dutt | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Pāla Establishments

NĀLANDĀ was an old establishment--functioning over two centuries as a Mahāvihāra--when Gopāla, round the middle of the eighth century, founded the Pāla royal dynasty and built Odantapura.1

The Pālas, as the inscriptions on their coins show, were Buddhists, but the Buddhism professed by them was not what had prevailed in the Gupta age. The religion had entered on a phase in which the Mahāyāna philosophy, of which Nālandā had hitherto been the intellectual stronghold, had slanted off to an esoteric cult known as Vajrayāna (Tāntric Buddhism).

The earliest exposition of this cult is in two works, Guhyasamāja Tantra and Mañjuśrī-múlakalpa, the latter assignable to the eighth century.2Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna were different in orientation; the one being a system of transcendental philosophy, while the other an empirical system. Vajrayāna stemmed undoubtedly out of some of the doctrines of Mahāyānist philosophy. Its sponsors and exponents were known as Siddhas or Tantra-gurus, corresponding to the ācāryas of Mahāyāna Buddhism. But in its development in their hands it took a shape in which spells and magical rites and practices supposed capable of producing supernatural effects predominated. It enlarged the Mahāyānist pantheon with deities unknown to the older faith.3 The discovery in the ruins of Nālandā of several Tāntric images, all of which belong to the 'Pāla period' of its history,4

Nālandā of the Pāla period is scarcely represented in Chinese records which assemble so fascinating a picture of it in its earlier, more glorious epoch. In fact there are few instances after the turn of the eighth century of Chinese monks coming to India for study and learning. Perhaps the movement which had started the exodus of Chinese monk-scholars to India was then at its ebb. But from Nālandā and other centres Indian monks did not cease to migrate to

'His (Gopāla's) accession to the throne may be placed with a tolerable degree of certainty within a decade of AD 750, and he probably ceased to rule about AD 770.'-- R. C. MajumdarHistory of Bengal ( Dacca University, 1943), Vol. I, p. 103.
The first of these two works has been published in Gaekwad's Oriental Series; the second (partly) in Trivandrum Sanskrit Series. They are believed to be the earliest available texts on Tāntric Buddhism. See N. Dutt on 'Schools and Sects of Buddhism' in the Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. I (published by the Ramakrishna Missions Institute of Culture, Calcutta, 2nd Ed., 1958), p. 487.
See, in Ibid., Benoytosh Bhattachayya's Mahāyānic Pantheon, pp. 526 ff.
See Ghosh's Guide to Nalanda ( Pala Art at Nalanda), pp. 22 ff. betrays the emergence at Nālandā of this new development of the faith.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 402

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?