Buddhism in India | History

1. Buddhism in India | History

Buddhism is an ancient Indian religion, which arose in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha (now in Bihar, India), and is based on the teachings of the Gautama Buddha who was deemed a "Buddha" ("Awakened One").

Buddhism spread outside of Magadha starting in the Buddha's lifetime.

With the reign of the Buddhist Mauryan Emperor Aśoka, the Buddhist community split into 2 branches: the Mahāsāṁghika and the Sthaviravāda, each of which spread throughout India and split into numerous sub-sects.

In modern times, 2 major branches of Buddhism exist:

a) the Theravāda in Śrī Lanka and Southeast Asia, and
b) the Mahāyāna throughout the Himalayas and East Asia.

The Buddhist tradition of Vajrayāna is sometimes classified as a part of Mahāyāna Buddhism, but some scholars consider it to be a different branch altogether.

The practice of Buddhism as a distinct and organized religion lost influence after the Gupta reign (c. 7th century CE), and declined from the land of its origin in around the 13th century, but not without leaving a significant impact on other local religious traditions.

Except for the Himalayan region and South India, Buddhism almost became extinct in India after the arrival of Islam in the late 12th century.

Buddhism is still practiced in the Himalayan areas such as Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, the Darjeeling hills in West Bengal, the Lahaul and Spiti areas of upper Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

After B. R. Ambedkar's Dalit Buddhist movement, the number of Buddhists in India has increased considerably.

According to the 2011 census, Buddhists make up 0.7% of India's population, or 8.4 million individuals. Traditional Buddhists are less than 13% and Navayāna Buddhists (Converted, Ambedkarite or Neo-Buddhists) comprise more than 87% of Indian Buddhist community according to 2011 Census of India.

2. Gautama Buddha

Buddha was born to a Kapilāvastu head of the Śākya republic named Suddhodana.

He employed Śramaṇa practices in a specific way, denouncing extreme asceticism and sole concentration-meditation, which were Śramaṇic practices.

Instead he propagated Middle Way between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, in which self-restraint and compassion are central elements.

According to tradition, as recorded in the Pāli Canon and the Āgamas, Siddhārtha Gautama attained awakening sitting under a Pipal tree (sacred fig), now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India.

Gautama referred to himself as the Tathāgata, the "thus-gone"; the developing tradition later regarded him to be as a Samyak Saṁbuddha, a "Perfectly Self-Awakened One."

According to tradition, he found patronage in the Ruler of Magadha, emperor Bimbisāra:

The emperor accepted Buddhism as personal faith and allowed the establishment of many Buddhist "Vihāras." This eventually led to the renaming of the entire region as Bihar.

According to tradition, in the Deer Park in Sārnāth near Vārāṇasī in northern India, Buddha set in motion the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his 1st Sermon to the group of 5 companions with whom he had previously sought liberation:

They, together with the Buddha, formed the first Saṅgha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha) was completed.

For the remaining years of his life, the Buddha is said to have travelled in the Gangetic Plain of Northern India and other regions.

Buddha died in Kuśīnagar, Uttar Pradesh.

Early Developments

3. Adherents

Followers of Buddhism, called Buddhists in English, referred to themselves as Saugata. Other terms were Śākyans or Śākyabhikṣu in ancient India. Śākyaputto was another term used by Buddhists, as well as Āriyasavako and Jīnaputto.

Outsiders in India often called them by term Bauddha

4. Early development of Buddhist belief and practice

The Buddha did not appoint any successor, and asked his followers to work toward Liberation following the instructions he had left.

The teachings of the Buddha existed only in oral traditions. The Saṅgha held a number of Buddhist Councils in order to reach consensus on matters of Buddhist doctrine and practice.

1. Mahākāśyapa, a disciple of the Buddha, presided over the 1st Buddhist Council held at Rājagṛha. Its purpose was to recite and agree on the Buddha's actual teachings and on monastic discipline.

2. The 2nd Buddhist Council is said to have taken place at Vaiśālī:

Its purpose was to deal with questionable monastic practices like the use of money, the drinking of palm wine, and other irregularities; the council declared these practices unlawful.

3. What is commonly called the 3rd Buddhist Council was held at Pāṭaliputra, and was allegedly called by Emperor Aśoka in the 3rd century BCE.

Organized by the monk Moggaliputta Tissa, it was held in order to rid the Saṅgha of the large number of monks who had joined the order because of its royal patronage.

Most scholars now believe this council was exclusively Theravada, and that the dispatch of missionaries to various countries at about this time was nothing to do with it.

4. What is often called the 4th Buddhist Council is generally believed to have been held under the patronage of Emperor Kaniṣka at Jālandhar in Buddhist Kashmir. It is generally believed to have been a council of the Sarvāstivāda School.

5. Early Buddhism Schools

The Early Buddhist Schools were the various schools in which pre-sectarian Buddhism split in the first few centuries after the passing away of the Buddha (in about the 5th century BCE).

The earliest division was between the majority Mahāsāṁghika and the minority Sthaviravāda.

Some existing Buddhist traditions follow the Vinayas of early Buddhist schools.

a. Theravāda: practised mainly in Śrī Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Bangladesh.
b. Dharmaguptaka: followed in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
c. Mūlasarvāstivāda: followed in Tibetan Buddhism.

The Dharmaguptakas made more efforts than any other sect to spread Buddhism outside India, to areas such as Afghanistan, Central Asia, and China, and they had great success in doing so.

Therefore, most countries which adopted Buddhism from China, also adopted the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, and ordination lineage for Bhikṣus and Bhikṣuṇīs.

During the early period of Chinese Buddhism, the Indian Buddhist sects recognized as important, and whose texts were studied, were:

1. Dharmaguptakas,
2. Mahīśāsakas,
3. Kāśyapīyas,
4. Sarvāstivādins,
5. Mahāsāṁghikas

Complete Vinayas preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon include:

1. Mahīśāsaka Vinaya (T. 1421),
2. Mahāsāṁghika Vinaya (T. 1425),
3. Dharmaguptaka Vinaya (T. 1428),
4. Sarvāstivāda Vinaya (T. 1435),
5. Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya (T. 1442).

Also preserved are a set of Āgamas (Sūtra Piṭaka), a complete Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma Piṭaka, and many other texts of the early Buddhist schools.

Early Buddhist schools in India often divided modes of Buddhist practice into several "Vehicles" (Yāna). For example, the Vaibhāṣika Sarvāstivādins are known to have employed the outlook of Buddhist practice as consisting of the Three Vehicles:

1. Śrāvakayāna
2. Pratyekabuddhayāna
3. Bodhisattvayāna

6. Mahāyāna

Several scholars have suggested that the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, which are among the earliest Mahāyāna sūtras, developed among the Mahāsāṁghika along the Kṛṣṇa River in the Āndhra region of South India.

The earliest Mahāyāna sūtras to include the very first versions of the Prajñāpāramitā genre, along with texts concerning Akṣobhya Buddha, were probably written down in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.

The historians of Buddhist thought believe that such pivotally important Mahāyāna Buddhist thinkers as Nāgārjuna, Dignāga, Candrakīrti, Āryadeva, and Bhāviveka, among many others, formulated their theories while living in Buddhist communities in Āndhra.

They note that the ancient Buddhist sites in the lower Kṛṣṇa Valley, including Amaravati, Nāgārjunakoṇḍā and Jaggayyapeta can be traced to at least the 3rd century BCE, if not earlier.

The evidence suggests that many Early Mahāyāna scriptures originated in South India.

7. Vajrayāna

Various classes of Vajrayāna literature developed as a result of royal courts sponsoring both Buddhism and Śaivism.

The Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa, which later came to be classified under Kriyātantra, states that mantras taught in the Śaiva, Garuḍa and Vaiṣṇava tantras will be effective if applied by Buddhists since they were all taught originally by Mañjuśrī.

The Guhyāsiddhi of Padmāvajra, a work associated with the Guhyasamāja tradition, prescribes acting as a Śaiva Guru and initiating members into Śaiva Siddhāṅta scriptures and mandalas.

The Savara tantra texts adopted the Pīṭha list from the Śaiva text Tantrasadbhāva, introducing a copying error where a deity was mistaken for a place.

Strengthening of Buddhism in India

8. The early spread of Buddhism

In the 6-5th centuries B.C.E., economic development made the merchant class increasingly important.

Merchants were attracted to Buddhist teachings, which contrasted with existing Brahmin religious practice. The latter focussed on the social position of the Brahmin caste to the exclusion of the interests of other classes.

Buddhism became prominent in merchant communities and then spread throughout the Mauryan Empire through commercial connections and along trade routes. In this way, Buddhism also spread through the Silk Road into central Asia.

9. Aśoka and the Mauryan Empire

The Maurya Empire reached its peak at the time of Emperor Aśoka, who converted to Buddhism after the Battle of Kāliṅga. This heralded a long period of stability under the Buddhist emperor.

The power of the empire was vast—ambassadors were sent to other countries to propagate Buddhism. Greek envoy Megasthenes described the wealth of the Mauryan capital. Stūpas, pillars and edicts in stone remain at Sanchi, Sārnāth and Mathura, indicating the extent of the empire.

Emperor Aśoka the Great (304 BCE–232 BCE) was the ruler of the Maurya Empire in 273-232 BCE.

Aśoka reigned over most of India after a series of military campaigns:

Emperor Aśoka's kingdom stretched from South Asia and beyond, from present-day parts of Afghanistan in the north and Baluchistan in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and as far south as Mysore.

According to legend, Emperor Aśoka was overwhelmed by guilt after the conquest of Kāliṅga, following which he accepted Buddhism as personal faith with the help of his Brahmin mentors Rādhāsvāmī and Mañjuśrī.

Aśoka established monuments, marking several significant sites in the life of Śākyamuni Buddha, and according to Buddhist tradition was closely involved in the preservation and transmission of Buddhism.

In 2018, excavations in Lalitāgiri in Odisha by archaeological survey of India revealed 4 monasteries along with ancient seals and inscriptions which show cultural continuity from post-Mauryan period to 13th century CE. In Rātnagiri and Konark in Odisha, Buddhist history as discovered in Lalitāgiri is also shared.

10. Greco-Bactrians, Śakas and Indo-Parthians

Menander was the most famous Bactrian king. He ruled from Taxila and later from Sagala (Sialkot). He rebuilt Taxila (Sirkap) and Puṣkalavatī.

He became Buddhist and is remembered in Buddhists records due to his discussions with a great Buddhist philosopher in the book Milinda Pañha.

By 90 BC, Parthians took control of Eastern Iran and around 50 BC put an end to last remnants of Greek rule in Afghanistan.

By around 7 AD, an Indo-Parthian dynasty succeeded in taking control of Gandhāra.

Parthians continued to support Greek artistic traditions in Gandhāra. The start of the Gandhāra Greco-Buddhist art is dated to the period between 50 BC and 75 AD.

11. Kuṣāna Empire

The Kuṣān Empire (30–375) under emperor Kaniṣka ruled the strongly Buddhist region of Gandhāra as well as other parts of northern India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kuṣān rulers were supporters of Buddhist institutions, and built numerous stūpas and monasteries. During this period, Gandhāra Buddhism spread through the trade routes protected by the Kuṣāns, out through the Khyber pass into Central Asia.

Gandhāra Buddhist art styles also spread outward from Gandhāra to other parts of Asia.

12. The Pāla and Sena era

Under the rule of the Pāla and Sena kings, large Mahāvihāras flourished in what is now Bihar and Bengal. According to Tibetan sources, 5 great Mahāvihāras stood out:

1. Vikramaśilā, the premier university of the era;
2. Nālanda, past its prime but still illustrious,
3. Somapura,
4. Odantapurā,
5. Jaggadala.

The 5 monasteries formed a network; "all of them were under state supervision" and there existed "a system of co-ordination among them…

…it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pāla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions," and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.

The kings of the Pāla dynasty (8-12th century, around Bengal-Bihar area) were a major supporter of Buddhism, various Buddhist and Hindu arts, and the flow of ideas between India, Tibet and China:

During this period of Pāla dynasty, Mahāyāna Buddhism reached its zenith of sophistication, while tantric Buddhism flourished throughout India and surrounding lands.

This was also a key period for the consolidation of the epistemological-logical (Pramāṇa) school of Buddhist philosophy.

Apart from the many foreign pilgrims who came to India at this time, especially from China and Tibet, there was a smaller but important flow of Indian Paṇḍitas who made their way to Tibet...

13. Dharma Masters

Indian ascetics (Śramaṇa) propagated Buddhism in various regions, including East Asia and Central Asia.

In the Edicts of Aśoka, Aśoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as a recipient of his Buddhist proselytism. The Mahāvaṁsa describes emissaries of Aśoka, such as Dharmarakṣita, as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism.

Lokakṣema is the earliest known Buddhist monk to have translated Mahāyāna Buddhist scriptures into the Chinese language. Gandhāra monks Jñānagupta and Prajñā contributed through several important translations of Sanskrit sūtras into Chinese language.

The Indian dhyāna master Buddhabhadra was the founding abbot and patriarch of the Shaolin Temple.

Buddhist monk and esoteric master from South India (6th century), Kanchipuram is regarded as the patriarch of the Ti-Lun school.

Bodhidharma (c. 6th century) was the Buddhist Bhikkhu traditionally credited as the founder of Zen Buddhism in China.

In 580, Indian monk Vinītaruci travelled to Vietnam. This, then, would be the first appearance of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien Buddhism.

Padmasambhava, in Sanskrit meaning "lotus-born", is said to have brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. In Bhutan and Tibet he is better known as "Guru Rinpoche" ("Precious Master") where followers of the Nyingma School regard him as the Second Buddha.

Śāntarakṣita, abbot of Nālanda and founder of the Yogācāra-Mādhyamika is said to have helped Padmasambhava establish Buddhism in Tibet.

Indian monk Atiśa, holder of the mind training (Tib. Lojong) teachings, is considered an indirect founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Indian monks, such as Vajrabodhi, also travelled to Indonesia to propagate Buddhism.

14. Decline of Buddhism in India

The decline of Buddhism has been attributed to various factors.

Regardless of the religious beliefs of their kings, states usually treated all the important sects relatively even-handedly:

This consisted of building monasteries and religious monuments, donating property such as the income of villages for the support of monks, and exempting donated property from taxation.

Donations were most often made by private persons such as wealthy merchants and female relatives of the royal family, but there were periods when the state also gave its support and protection.

In the case of Buddhism, this support was particularly important because of its high level of organization and the reliance of monks on donations from the laity. State patronage of Buddhism took the form of land grant foundations.

Numerous copper plate inscriptions from India as well as Tibetan and Chinese texts suggest that the patronage of Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries in medieval India was interrupted in periods of war and political change, but broadly continued in Hindu kingdoms from the start of the Common Era through early 2nd millennium CE.

With the Gupta dynasty (~4-6th century), the growth in ritualistic Mahāyāna Buddhism, mutual influence between Hinduism and Buddhism, the differences between Buddhism and Hinduism blurred,

and Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism and other Hindu traditions became increasingly popular, and Brahmins developed a new relationship with the state.

As the system grew, Buddhist monasteries gradually lost control of land revenue.

In parallel, the Gupta kings built Buddhist temples such as the one at Kuśīnagar, and monastic universities such as those at Nālanda, as evidenced by records left by 3 Chinese visitors to India.

Buddhism declined in part because of the rise of the Brahmins and their influence in socio-political process.

The 11th century Persian traveller al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) writes that there was 'cordial hatred' between the Brahmins and Śramaṇa Buddhists.

Buddhism was also weakened by rival Hindu philosophies such as Advaita Vedanta, growth in temples and an innovation of the bhakti movement.

Advaita Vedanta proponent Ādi Śaṅkara is believed to have "defeated Buddhism", although he never debated with any Buddhist scholar, and established Vedanta as supreme philosophy. This rivalry undercut Buddhist patronage and popular support.

The period between 400-1000 CE thus saw gains by the Vedanta school of Hinduism over Buddhism and Buddhism had vanished from Afghanistan and north India by early 11th century.

India was now Brāhmaṇic, not Buddhist; al-Biruni could never find a Buddhist book or a Buddhist person in India from whom he could learn.

According to some scholars, the decline of Buddhism may be related to economic reasons, wherein the Buddhist monasteries with large land grants focussed on non-material pursuits, self-isolation of the monasteries, loss in internal discipline in the Saṅgha, and a failure to efficiently operate the land they owned.

15. The Hun invasions

Chinese scholars travelling through the region between the 5-8th centuries, such as Faxian, Xuanzang, Yijing, Hui-sheng, and Sung-Yun, began to speak of a decline of the Buddhist Saṅgha, especially in the wake of the Hun invasion from central Asia.

Xuanzang, the most famous of Chinese travellers, found “millions of monasteries” in north-western India reduced to ruins by the Huns.

16. Muslim conquerors

The Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent was the first great iconoclastic invasion into South Asia.

By the end of 12th century, Buddhism had mostly disappeared, with the destruction of monasteries and stūpas in medieval northwest and western India (now Pakistan and north India).

In the north-western parts of medieval India, the Himalayan regions, as well regions bordering central Asia, Buddhism once facilitated trade relations:

With the Islamic invasion and expansion, and central Asians adopting Islam, the trade route-derived financial support sources and the economic foundations of Buddhist monasteries declined, on which the survival and growth of Buddhism was based.

The arrival of Islam removed the royal patronage to the monastic tradition of Buddhism, and the replacement of Buddhists in long-distance trade by the Muslims eroded the related sources of patronage.

In the Gangetic plains, Odisha, northeast and the southern regions of India, Buddhism survived through the early centuries of the 2nd millennium CE.

The Islamic invasion plundered wealth and destroyed Buddhist images, and consequent takeover of land holdings of Buddhist monasteries removed one source of necessary support for the Buddhists, while the economic upheaval and new taxes on laity sapped the laity support of Buddhist monks.

Monasteries and institutions such as Nālanda were abandoned by Buddhist monks around 1200 CE, who flee to escape the invading Muslim army, after which the site decayed over the Islamic rule in India that followed.

The last empire to support Buddhism, the Pāla dynasty, fell in the 12th century, and Muhammad bin Bakhtiyār Khaljī, a general of the early Delhi Sultanate, destroyed monasteries and monuments and spread Islam in Bengal.

Buddhism was already declining in India before the 12th century, but with the pillage by Muslim invaders it nearly became extinct in India in the 1200s.

In the 13th century Buddhist monks in India escaped to Tibet to escape Islamic persecution;

while the monks in Western India escaped persecution by moving to South Indian Hindu kingdoms that were able to resist the Muslim power.

17. Surviving Buddhists

Many Indian Buddhists fled South. It is known that Buddhists continued to exist in India even after the 14th century from texts such as the Chaitanya Charitamrita:

This text outlines an episode in the life of Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu (1486–1533), a Vaiṣṇava saint, who was said to have entered into a debate with Buddhists in Tamil Nadu.

The Tibetan Tāranātha (1575–1634) wrote a history of Indian Buddhism, which mentions Buddhism as having survived in some pockets of India during his time:

He mentions the Buddhist Saṅgha as having survived in Konkana, Kāliṅga, Mewar, Chittorgarh, Abu, Saurāṣṭra, Vindhya mountains, Rātnagiri, Karnataka etc.

A Jain author Guṇakirtī (1450-1470) wrote a Marathi text, Dharmamrita, where he gives the names of 16 Buddhist orders. Some of their names still survive in Maharashtra as family names.

Buddhism also survived to the modern era in the Himalayan regions such as Ladakh, with close ties to Tibet. A unique tradition survives in Nepal's Newar Buddhism.

Some scholars suggest that a part of the decline of Buddhist monasteries was because it was detached from everyday life in India and did not participate in the ritual social aspects such as the rites of passage (marriage, funeral, birth of child) like other religions.

Revival of Buddhism in India

18. Mahā Bodhi Society

The modern revival of Buddhism in India began in the late 19th century, led by Buddhist modernist institutions such as the Mahā Bodhi Society (1891), the Bengal Buddhist Association (1892) and the Young Men's Buddhist Association (1898).

These institutions were influenced by modernist South Asian Buddhist currents such as Śrī Lankan Buddhist modernism as well as Western Oriental scholarship and spiritual movements like Theosophy.

A central figure of this movement was Śrī Lankan Buddhist leader Anagārika Dharmapāla, who founded the Mahā Bodhi Society in 1891.

An important focus of the Mahā Bodhi Society's activities in India became the recovery, conservation and restoration of important Buddhist sites, such as Bodh Gaya and its Mahābodhi temple.

Dharmapāla and the society promoted the building of Buddhist Vihāras and temples in India, including the one at Sārnāth, the place of Buddha's first sermon. He died in 1933, the same year he was ordained a Bhikkhu.

Following Indian Independence, India's ancient Buddhist heritage became an important element for nation building, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru looked to the Mauryan Empire for symbols of pan-Indian unity which were neither Hindu nor Muslim, such as the Wheel of Dharma.

Indian Buddhist sites also received Indian government support in preparation for the 2,500th Buddha Jayanti held in 1956, as well as providing rent free land in several pilgrimage centres for Asian Buddhist groups to build temples and rest houses.

Important Indian Buddhist intellectuals of the modern period include:

a) Rahul Sankrityayan (1893-1963),
b) Dharmānanda Kosambi (1876-1941)
c) Bhadant Ānand Kausalyayan (1905-1988).

The Bengal Buddhist Kripasaran Mahasthavir (Kṛpāśaraṇa Mahāsthabira) (1865-1927) founded the Bengal Buddhist Association in 1892.

In Tamil Nadu, the Tamil Iyothee Thass (1845-1914) was a major figure who promoted Buddhism and called the Paraiyars and Dalits to convert.

The Indian government and the states have continued to promote the development of Buddhist pilgrimage sites ("the Buddhist Circuit"), both as a source of tourism and as a promotion of India's Buddhist heritage which is an important cultural resource for India's foreign diplomatic ties.

Another recent development is the establishment of the new Nālanda University in Bihar (2010).

19. Dalit Buddhist movement

Dīkṣābhūmi monument, located in Nagpur, Maharashtra where B. R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in 1956 is the largest Stūpa in Asia.

In the 1950s, the Dalit political leader B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) influenced by his reading of Pāli sources and Indian Buddhists like Dharmānand Kosambi and Lakṣmī Narasu, began promoting conversion to Buddhism for Indian low caste Dalits.

His Dalit Buddhist Movement was most successful in the Indian states of Maharashtra, which saw large scale conversions.

Ambedkar's "Neo Buddhism" became a strong social and political protest against Hinduism and the Indian caste system, while in fact it denied many of Buddha’s core teachings on Liberation from Karma & Saṁsāra.

B. R. Ambedkar’s work The Buddha and His Dhamma, incorporated Marxist ideas of class struggle into Buddhist views of dukkha and argued that Buddhist morality could be used to "reconstruct society and to build up a modern, progressive society of justice, equality, and freedom".

The conversion movement has generally been limited to certain social demographics, such as the Mahar caste of Maharashtra and the Jatavs:

Although they have renounced Hinduism in practice, a community survey showed adherence to many practices of the old faith including endogamy, worshipping the traditional family deity etc.

Major organizations of this movement are the Buddhist Society of India (the Bhāratīya Bauddha Mahasabha) and the Trirātna Buddhist Community (the Trirātna Bauddha Mahā Saṅgha).

20. Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism has also grown in India during the modern era, mainly due to the growth of the Tibetan Diaspora:

The arrival of the 14th Dalai Lama with over 85 000 Tibetan refugees 1959 had a significant impact on the revival of Buddhism in India.

Large numbers of Tibetans settled in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, which became the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Another large Tibetan refugee settlement is in Bylakuppe, Karnataka.

Tibetan refugees also contributed to the revitalization of the Buddhist traditions in Himalayan regions. Tibetan Buddhists have also contributed to the building of temples and institutions in the Buddhist sites and ruins of India.

The Dalai Lama's brother, Gyalo Thondup, himself lives in Kalimpong and his wife established the Tibetan Refugee Centre in Darjeeling.

Penor Rinpoche (1932-2009), the head of Nyingma, the ancient school of Tibetan Buddhism re-established a Nyingma Monastery in Bylakuppe, Mysore:

This is the largest Nyingma monastery today. Monks from Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan and from Tibet join this monastery for their higher education.

Penor Rinpoche also founded Thubten Lekshey Ling, a dharma centre for lay practitioners in Bangalore. Vajrayāna Buddhism and Dzogchen meditation again became accessible to aspirants in India after that.

Vipassana movement

The Vipassana movement is a modern tradition of Buddhist meditation practice:

In India, the most influential Vipassana organization is the Vipassana Research Institute founded by S.N. Goenka (1924-2013) who promoted Buddhist Vipassana meditation in a modern and non-sectarian manner.

Goenka started a network of meditation centres who offered 10 day retreats to learn Vipassana meditation. Many institutions—both government and private sector—now offer courses for their employees. This form is mainly practiced by elite and middle class Indians.

This movement has spread to many other countries in Europe, America and Asia. In November 2008, the construction of the Global Vipassana Pagoda was completed on the outskirts of Mumbai.