This study is the first of its kind which presents an up-to-date history of Buddhism of the entire Himalayan region of India and its Neighbours. Its first part covers Himalayan India, com prising as many as nine states or parts thereof, from Ladakh in the north-west to Arunachal Pradesh in the north-east. And the second part covers Bhutan, Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh), Nepal, Tibet, and Tibetans in India. The study highlights the important and essential elements of Himalayan Buddhism, viz. the land and the people, the introduction and development of Buddhism in each area, royal patronage, monks and monasteries, and culture and society. Another significant aspect of this study is that it is not confined only to the past but it deals with the present status and future prospects of Himalayan Buddhism as well.
D.C.Ahir was born in 1928 is a reputed scholar of Buddhism and has made a very significant contribution to the history of Buddhism. He has to his credit as many as twenty published works on Buddhism, and Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.
Buddhism dominated the Indian scene for more than 1000 years, from Asoka (third century BC) to Harsha (seventh century AC). And 'those 1000 years were the grandest in Indian history. The name and fame of India rose to highest peaks in those centuries, and in the realm of art and literature, learning and piety, Indian achievement reached heights still unsurpassed.' But, alas, later Buddhism declined in India, and ultimately disappeared from the land of its birth. However, even after its extinction from the mainland of India, Buddhism continued to flourish in the high Himalayan valleys from Ladakh in the north-west to Arunachal Pradesh in the north-east. This happened largely due to their proximity to Tibet, the mysterious mountainous kingdom, where, after having penetrated in the seventh century AD, the Dhamma had shone brightly in all its glory till the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1959, and forced the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet, to flee to India.
The Tibetans not only adopted Buddhism as their national religion, and adhered to it through the ages but they also took pains to spread the Dhamma in the neighbouring lands. As such, either as a result of missionary effort or as a result of immigrations across the border, the Tibetan Buddhism over- flowed well beyond its frontiers. Consequently, what we find today is that the vast majority of the Himalayan Buddhists follow the Tibetan form of Buddhism, which is an admixture of Theravada (Hinayana), Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.
In this study, we present an up-to-date history of Buddhism in the entire Himalayan region of India as well as India's Himalayan.Neighbours. While doing so, we have avoided unnecessary details, and focussed our attention on the more important and essential elements of Himalayan Buddhism, viz., the land and the people, the growth and development of Buddhism in each area, royal patronage, monks and monasteries, and culture and society.
The first part of this study covers Himalayan India, comprising as many as nine states, arranged alphabetically from west to east. And the second part covers Bhutan, Chitta gong Hill Tracts (Bengladesh), Nepal, Tibet, and Tibetans in India. Ever since his arrival in India in 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is staying at Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. By now a number of Tibetan monasteries and institutions have been established at Dharamsala and at other places in India, and a conscious effort is on to presserve the unique Tibetan art and culture, which is facing extinction in Tibet. Hence, the last chapter on Tibetans in India.
The Appendix contains excerpts from a discourse delivered by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya on 12 January 1981. In it, His Holiness has nicely summed up the basic teachings of the Buddha by following which one can attain ultimate happiness, and also make others happy.
As is evident from the title, this study is not confined only to the past but it deals with the present status of Himalayan Buddhism as well. Not only that, we have also peeped into the future prospects of Himalayan Buddhism. Hence, we have liberally relied on the recent investigative studies, in particular, those appearing in the national press. I am thankful to all the authors, editors whose contributions have been incorporated in this volume. I am also thankful to all other scholars whose publications have been listed under 'Notes and References' at the end of each chapter.
On 9 April 1993, the Nation celebrates the Birth Centenary of one of India's great sons, Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan. He was not only a great creative Hindi writer, a Buddhist scholar of distinction, a social activist but also a great explorer. And his work in bringing Sanskrit manuscripts to light was certainly one of the most significant contributions to Buddhism.
I was lucky to meet such a great scholar on 23 January 1959 when he was on a visit to Delhi. I was struck by his intense devotion and dedication to the cause of Buddhism. On the occasion of his Birth Centenary. I pay my humble homage to Rahul Sankrityayan by dedicating to him this volume on Himalayan Buddhism, with which he was deeply involved.
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