Thursday, January 24, 2013

Buddhism in India

"Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism" by Giovanni Verardi, published by Manohar, 2011, is an outstanding study of Buddhism and political, social and economic relationships in India. 

This book explores the period from Ashoka's reign (269 -232 BCE) until the Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent in the 9th - 10th Century CE, clarifying the relationship between the Buddhist Sangha/Buddhist teaching and  various economic forces, trade and foreign relations, political power and inter-communal relations. It also uncovers and explores the conflict with and persecution of Buddhism by Brahmanism and also by Jainism (including enlisting extreme violence by political allies). One reason for this is that Buddhism by its nature and practice challenges the power and privileges of local caste and Brahman elites and authorities. This conflict laid the groundwork for the eventual destruction of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent by the Muslim invasion.

A major theme repeated in a number of cases in this study was the importance of the support by the central government of various states for the survival of Buddhism. Where this support was lacking, or where the state was supportive of Brahmanism, Jainism or later Islam, Buddhism was persecuted, either by the local Brahman authorities or by the central authorities, sometimes to the verge of extinction (which eventually happened under Islamic rule in the Indian subcontinent). There is much more in this excellent, though heavily academic and historical, scholarly work.

Though this book may be hard to find, I was able to borrow this book through an interlibrary loan from a university library.

(c) 2013 Elihu Genmyo Smith