After an absence of 1,000 years, Buddhism is returning to India as the inspiration for a mass movement for social justice and as a dynamic spiritual practice.
Posted on October 17th, 2013

Dharmajiva

The new Buddhists of India have adopted teachings and practices familiar to Buddhist traditions in Asia and the West, but they also see the teachings of the Dharma as a way to transform the oppressive society in which they live.

The Buddhist Renaissance in India started in 1956 when Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the leader of the Dalit (formerly -untouchable-) community, formally converted to Buddhism.‚  Although he died shortly thereafter, the movement he started is continuing to grow throughout India.

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Today millions of poor people in India see Buddhism as a way to realize the self-respect and dignity that is denied them because of the Indian Caste system.‚  Many of them are engaged in activism based on the social ideals of equality, freedom and non-violence.‚  Within the new Buddhist community there is a strong interest in learning how to practice the Dharma -” the teachings of the historical Buddha.

The Buddhist revival in India is one of the most important social movements in the world, and it represents an important development in modern Buddhist history.‚  Unfortunately, because it is a movement of very poor people it is not well known outside of India.

The goal of DharmaJiva is to provide information about the Buddhist Renaissance and support Buddhist social activists and Dharma teachers in India.

For more information, please email us at [email protected].

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2 Responses to “After an absence of 1,000 years, Buddhism is returning to India as the inspiration for a mass movement for social justice and as a dynamic spiritual practice.”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    To quote the article: “The Buddhist revival in India is one of the most important social movements in the world, and it represents an important development in modern Buddhist history” This would not have been without the British Empire.

    It is rather customary to heap all accusations on the Christian British Empire of everything that has gone wrong in the Sub continent. But among the many good things the British Empire gave to the Indian sub continent one of them was to bring home the Buddhist faith. When Buddhism was wiped out of India by its own decline to that of the violence of invaders to the revival of Hinduism it was also wiped out of the psyche of the Hindu/Muslim civilization which filled the void.

    Not until British archeologists and historians who deciphered the scriptures of Emperor Ashoka on those single stoned pillars and rocks, including the understanding of Sri Lanka’s historical chronicles did the British realize that Buddhism was an Indian product and not a Chinese, Greek or Egyptian product as many postulated that it was.

    It was during this time that an Indian intellectual elite were developing mainly in Calcutta. If not for the British the Sanchi stupa with her wondrous gates would now be just a memory, The Mahabhodi Temple would have remained a Hindu Temple and the life of the original Bodhi tree would have met its death.

    British archeology found the famous Ajanta caves with its acres of Buddhist frescoes, rescued so many statues from the Mathura school of art and traced the first Buddha faces to the Hellenist influenced Gandharan school which also contained renditions of Greek Gods and Goddesses. If not for this school a Buddha face may never have been created and He would have continued to be represented by symbols.

    If not for British archeology the famous Kapilavastu Relics would never have been found. The ruins of the universities of Nalanda and Taxila would have either been destroyed by locals as was the case with the Harappan civilization where locals were using millions of Harappan bricks for modern construction of that time till the British stopped it. The British incorporated Buddhist motifs when Lutyen planned the city of New Delhi. The British unearthed and reconstructed what is now the “Buddhist tour” of cities including Lumbini, Sanchi, Sarnarth, Bodh Gaya to Kushinagar.

    It was out of that Indian intelligentsia that luminaries like Rabindranath Tagore emerged. He went on to write the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh. It was out of that same intelligentsia that Dr. Ambedka took the leadership of converting millions of Dalit Hindus to Buddhism. India got a further boost in the renaissance of Buddhism when China decided to annex Tibet.

    When the Dalai Lama and his followers fled to India, Prime Minister Nehru gave the land of Dharamsala where he set up his government in exile and as the decades ticked away the Vajrayana branch of Buddhism is now found in almost all states of India including in every continent of the world

  2. Marco Says:

    BW-
    You forgot to mention that there is over 10 million Buddhist in India

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