The SAṄGHA (Buddhist Monkhood) has received hitherto far less than its due measure of importance in extant studies on Buddhism. The Saṅgha originated in India: its history in this country, where Buddhism is now extinct as an institutional religion, is the history of the growth, progress and organization of a great culture that is interwoven in its historic culture-complex.
A sketch of primitive Saṅgha life and organization was attempted by me in my youth in the book, Early Buddhist Monachism, published in Trübner's Oriental Series, so far back as in 1924. In the preface to its recently published Indian edition (Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1960), I have called attention to its inevitable lack and limitation:
'The book presents a picture in outline of the Buddhist Monastic Order in its growth and development during the first three or four centuries of Buddhism. The need remains yet for a longer dynamic view and more extended historical perspective, for the Buddhist Saṅghas, whose early evolution is the theme of this book, continued to function in this country, especially in the east and the south, for many more after-centuries. The great monastic universities in the east like Nālandā Vikramśilā, Odantapura and Jagaddala represent the last fine efflorescence of Buddhist monachism, and they were wiped out only towards the close of the twelfth century by the fanatic violence of the Muslim invaders of Bengal and Bihar.'
The object of the present work is to supply this 'longer dynamic view and more extended historical perspective'.
The work has entailed concentrated research work over two and a half years and could not have been undertaken but for the generous encouragement and active support of Dr Malalasekera, renowned Buddhist scholar of Ceylon, recently ambassador for his country in Moscow. It was through his initiative that a Senior Research Fellowship of the University of Delhi was awarded to me enabling me to carry through this work and also making available to me the ripe scholarship of Professor P. V. Bapat, then Head of the Department of Buddhist Studies in the University. His suggestions and corrections, supplemented by Dr V. V. Gokhale's, were very helpful for which I remain grateful.
My source-materials come under two main categories--literary and archaeological.
The literary materials had to be gathered from four languages, Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Tibetan. For helping me in the last two, I am indebted to Miss Latika Lahiri of Lady Irwin School, New Delhi . . .