Buddhism

Though Buddha was an Indian, well technically a Nepalese tribal chief’s son, his religion didn’t last in the country it was founded. In the 19th century it had already been gone for a few hundred years. However, in the 20th century it has made a comeback. Some of the casteless people of India adopted the religion, and refugees from Tibet brought their version with them.

Though Buddhism started out an Indian religion, it died out in what’s now India in the 15th century. Buddhism in India today is the result of Dalits converting to Theravada Buddhism and the immigration of Tibetans to India following the occupation of Tibet by China. Here’s what Wikipedia says on the topic of the reintroduction of Buddhism to India:

A revival of Buddhism began in India in 1891, when the Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society. Its activities expanded to involve the promotion of Buddhism in India. In June 1892, a meeting of Buddhists took place at Darjeeling. Dharmapala spoke to Tibetan Buddhists and presented a relic of the Buddha to be sent to the Dalai Lama.

Dharmapala built many viharas and temples in India, including the one at Sarnath, the place of Buddha’s first sermon. He died in 1933, the same year he was ordained a bhikkhu.

Bengal Buddhist Association

In 1892, Kripasaran Mahasthavir founded the Bengal Buddhist Association (Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha) in Calcutta. Kripasaran (1865–1926) was instrumental in uniting the Buddhist community of Bengal and North East India. He built other branches of the Bengal Buddhist Association at Shimla (1907), Lucknow (1907), Dibrugarh (1908), Ranchi (1915), Shillong (1918), Darjeeling (1919), Tatanagar Jamshedpur (1922), as well as in Sakpura, Satbaria, Noapara, Uninepura, Chittagong Region in present day Bangladesh.

Tibetan Buddhism

India is the home to His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama.

Following the Dalai Lama’s departure from Tibet, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru offered to permit him and his followers to establish a “government-in-exile” in Dharamsala.

Tibetan exiles have settled in the town, numbering several thousand. Most of these exiles live in Upper Dharamsala, or McLeod Ganj, where they established monasteries, temples and schools. The town is sometimes known as “Little Lhasa”, after the Tibetan capital city, and has become one of the centres of Buddhism in the world.

Dalit Buddhist movement

A Buddhist revivalist movement among Dalit Indians was initiated in 1890s by Dalit leaders such as Iyothee Thass, Brahmananda Reddy, and Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi. In the 1950s, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar turned his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to attend a convention of Buddhist scholars and monks. While dedicating a new Buddhist vihara near Pune, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar announced that he was writing a book on Buddhism, and that as soon as it was finished, he planned to make a formal conversion to Buddhism. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time in order to attend the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India. He completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in 1956. It was published posthumously.

After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur on October 14, 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion. He then proceeded to convert an estimated 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him. Taking the 22 Vows, Ambedkar and his supporters explicitly condemned and rejected Hinduism and Hindu philosophy. He then traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference. He completed his final manuscript, The Buddha or Karl Marx on December 2, 1956.

Vipassana movement

The Buddhist meditation tradition of Vipassana meditation is growing in popularity in India. Many institutions—both government and private sector—now offer courses for their employees. This form is mainly practiced by the elite and middle class Indians. This movement has spread to many other countries in Europe, America and Asia.

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