Some thoughts on India and musings on Buddhism

Trip Start Oct 04, 2011
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Trip End Nov 28, 2011


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Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Monday, November 14, 2011

India is clearly an up and coming nation, it is truly interesting to witness the confidence of the people and the improvements in the everyday life we could see as we made our way through this country of sensory overload. Full of exciting things to see, lots of things that repelled us as well, litter in heaps here and there, smells that were at the same time, wonderful spices or flowers and overwhelming sewers. Cows, particularly in the north all over the place with their resulting manure, endless numbers of dogs scurrying about, never threatening but, nevertheless, unwelcoming creatures who, at times, looked very unhealthy. Food that was a dream for an Indian food freak like me, hotels that were very comfortable and sheltering after our days of wandering about.

The heat of India was also trying at times for us poor temperate zone folks. I particularly found the humidity of the south combined with the high temperatures difficult.

I had many experiences and adventures that will be remembered for a long time -- making chapattis at the Golden Temple, enjoying some delicious foods through Rajasthan, seeing the Taj Mahal, staying in some of the more interesting and, at times, most beautiful hotels, learning about Hinduism and Indian culture and meeting Indians.

Did we like India? Oh yes, it was exhilarating, exciting, vibrant and eye-popping and we loved the experience!

Jacqui searched high and low for an explanation of why Buddhism has largely disappeared from the land of its birth and has crafted her thoughts on the matter below.

Why did Buddhism which originated in India and was once a major influence in the country become so insignificant? Discussions with various guides on our trip suggested Buddhism, in some places, became influential and powerful threatening power structures and Brahmin priests. When opportunities arose such as Muslim invasions, Buddhist practitioners and their buildings did not enjoy protection from the power structure. Many Buddhists fled & flourished in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Nepal and Myanmar. But other groups in India have undergone persecution however, with indomitable spirit they reinstated themselves, why not Buddhism?

Jainism, the closest brother to Buddhism (that I could see) avoided their fate by aligning themselves with powerful Hindu priests. When we saw a male figure in meditation cast in stone or depicted in a mural in Rajasthan, it was Mahavira , the last Jain prophet. The Jain temples paid elaborate tribute to Hinduism with the many depictions of beloved Gods.

Another account suggested Buddha was the reincarnation of Vishnu hence Buddha was one of thousands of Hindu Gods. An ironical suggestion for a teaching that implies Gods are irrelevant to the task at hand which is to see the causes of life’s suffering and to end them.

Not sure why I went with the notion that there could be an easy answer to the question of why India lost so much of the Buddhist influence. Everything here has many complexities, the head waggle is a good response indeed. First impression of Sarnath upon seeing only the foundational remains of an important monastery was disappointing. However upon reflection under the shade of a tree, it became a teaching on impermanence, the monastery is now a footprint. Apparently at one time Buddha was only to be depicted as a line and then later a footprint. The depiction of Buddha as a meditating figure only came later. Sara nth brought me back to basics in a way a reconstructed monastery on that site could not have done.
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Comments

Jill on

Enjoyed your thoughts on Buddhism, Jacqui.

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