Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Islamic Inroads and Buddhist Institutions in Gandhara

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Islamic Inroads and Buddhist Institutions in Gandhara

Article excerpt

The colonial archaeologists have largely attributed Muslim rule with the disintegration and final disappearance of Buddhism in Gandhära. The present paper argues that this is an over simplification of the factors affecting the decline of the Buddhist Gandhäran monasteries. However, the large network of Buddhist institutions, spread from Taxila to lower Indus Valley at one end and from Kashmir to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Kapisha (i.e., modern Afghanistan and Central Asia) could not disappear, in the first few centuries of the Christian Era, due to some single factor. Rather, the archaeological and historic evidence presents multifarious factors responsible for the decline of Buddhist institutions in Gandhära. The causes of decline of the Gandhäran monasteries are complex and varied. The paper argues that the indulgent rich way of life and the dwindling learning attitude of the Buddhist monks; the Brahman antagonism, sectarianism among Buddhist circles, and the emergence of Tantric mysticism were major causes affecting the Buddhist disintegration in Gandhära. In this backdrop, the paper also brings forth the symbiotic relationship between the Muslim rulers and Buddhist monks, when they first penetrated into Lower Indus valley and marched to Central Asian lands, crossing through Gandhära. The intellectual legacy of Buddhist monks deeply impacted the Muslim education and scholarship in 8th-10th century C.E. The Buddhist monasteries were important repositories of information and essential skills, such as writing at that time and Muslims recognized the central role of Buddhists in local economies. Buddhist scholars worked for the Muslim rulers, and they took advantage of rich literary, scientific and philosophic traditions of Buddhists (Elverskog, 2010:53, 60). These Buddhist institutions left an indelible mark on culture and education of later period, in Gandhära and Lower Indus Valley. The Buddhist monasteries were a prologue for Muslim madrasahs (schools) in Central Asia and Swat valley (Elverskog, 2010:103; Sen, 1998:88).

One may say that wealth indulgence and luxurious life of the Buddhist monks preludes the degeneration of Buddhist institutions in Gandhära. Mahäyäna movement had already relaxed the Vinaya rules for a disciplined life attained through rigorous meditation practices. It had also given a new boost to stupa worship, its embellishment and donations (Auboyer, 1961:217; Mizuno, 1969:41). Songyun speaks of the wealth, variety and abundance of the Buddhist stupas in Gandhära and Uddiyäna. Fa Hien described elaborate rituals of Rath Yätra (or Car Festival), accompanied by music and dance in the Buddhist monasteries of Khotan in Takalmakan desert (Beal, 2004: xxvi-xxvii; Hopkirk, 1980:25). Songyun reports that adoration was paid to the Buddha statue with conch, drum, vanna (a kind of lute), flute and all kinds of wind instruments (Gour, 1929:208). Fillizenzi (2009:80) relates the image of Durgä Mahishäsuramardinl with royal ceremonies performed at the site and possibly actually witnessed by Hiuen Tsiang in 7th century C.E. The scholars have also described the dwindling teaching and learning attitude of the monks as a preface to the disintegration of Mahäyäna monasteries in Gandhära. Miller, as early as 1900 (8) refers to Mahä-parinirväna Sütta (2.8) that reckons the growth of sangha with devotion of monks towards teaching. Jones (1949:71) points to the second bhümi where Buddhist monasteries degenerated due to niggardly teaching attitude of the monks. When Hiuen Tsiang visited Gandhära, the meditation practices of Uddiyäna monasteries had already dwindled and others were surviving in a deteriorated state (Berzin, 1996; Beal, 2004:120). The monks (at Balor) were practising meditation without any zeal, spirit or inner discipline. They recited text, but without understanding the meanings. The Shamanic practices meant to gain protection from the supernatural powers, took dominance in the monasteries (Dutt, 1998:262).

The Tibetan texts, the Jataka and the Canon detail extreme opposition of the rival sects' (Gour, 1929:148; Smith, 1999a: 194). …

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