Friday, December 25, 2009

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Hindu Opposition Pt3

NOTE: Before you read this Part2& 3, it is important you read Part 1, so that you are clear as to the intention of this post. This is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists.

To counter the threat posed by the popularity of Buddhism and maintain their dominant position in the Chaturvarna or caste system, the Brahmins had come out with several puranas (mythology) sometime during the 8th century AD declaring the Buddha to be the ninth avatara (reincarnation) of Vishnu as a verse to this effect from 'Mastya Purana' is engraved ina monument at Mahabalipuram near Madras. The process was complete by the time of the Bengali poet Jayadeva's writing of his 'Gita Govind' and including Buddha's name in it as an 'Avatara' in the 12th century AD. According to Puranic tradition in the Mahabharata, the ninth avatar is Balarama, not Buddha. it was a ploy by the Brahmins to subvert the religion by creating confusion in the minds of the people and portray Buddhism as a branch of Brahmanism. Their objective was to win over the hearts of the people to Brahmanism and perpetuate the caste system. ...

The extermination of Buddhism in India was hastened by the large-scale vandalism and appropriation of Buddhist temples by the Hindus. In 1590 AD, the Mahabodhi Temple in Buddhagaya was taken over by a Hindy Mahant Gosain Giri, who converted it into a Shaivite temple. His succesors kept expanding the Math by illegally occupying all the land around the Mahabodhi Temple. Although Anagarika Dharmapala fought several legal battles for the rturn of the temple to Buddhists, the Bihar Government favoured the Hindus by enacting the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Act in 1949, which effectively ensured that the Hindus remained in control. The Makutabandhana Stupa or cremation stupa in Kushinagar was changed into a Hindu temple dedicated to an obscure deity named Rambhar Bhavani when discovered it in 1860. The locals still call it "Rambhar" after the deity. Even today, pilgrims who visit the Ananda Stupa in Hajipur will see a dilapidated Hindu temple on top of it. The place is called Ramchaura Mandir after the temple. ...

The battle to regain control of the Mahabodhi Temple by Buddhists began in January 22, 1891 when Anagarika Dharmapala visited Bodhgaya...As a first step, he founded the Maha Bodhi Society of Buddhagaya in May 31, 1891 to garner support for this noble objective. Next he invited four Buddhist monks from Sri lanka to come and stay at Bodhgaya, namely Ven. Chandajoti, Ven. Sumangala, Ven. Pemmananda and Ven. Sudassana. They arrived at Bodhgaya in July 1891 and took up residence in the Burmese Rest House. As the Mahant had property rights to the land in Bodhgaya, he objected to their presence and in February 1893, two fot he monks were severly beaten up by hsi men. Two years later in 1895, when Anagarika Dharmapala attempted to install a Buddha image presented to him by the people of Japan on the upper floor of the Temple, he was assaulted and prevented to do so by the Mahant's men. So the image was kept in the Burmese Rest House. Still the Mahant and some Hindu organisations were not satisfied and tried to get the image removed from the Rest House but the Government did not yield.

In 1906, the Mahant filed a suit seeking to eject the Buddhist monks from the Rest House. Thereafter a long legal battle ensued between the Mahant and the Buddhists, which continued till 1949, when the State of Bihar enacted the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Act, which effectively transferred control of the temple land and other property to a Management Committee. Two things of the Bill were objectionable; one that the nine-man Management Committee of the Temple would have a Hindu majority, and the other that Buddhist members should be of Indian nationality. In spite of protests by the Maha Bodhi Society, the Bill was passed with an amednment for provision of an Advisory Board in which the majority should be Buddhists and not necessarily all of Indian nationality. This means that Buddhists can only advise on the management of the Mahabodhi Temple but the control and final say belongs to the Hindus!

To the Maha Bodhi Society, there is no justification for the Mahabodhi Temple to be controlled by non-Buddhists just as a Muslim mosque, a Christian church or a Hindu temple were to be controlled by persons of different faiths. Even Indian Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore objected by expressing hsi views as follows: "I am sure, it will be admitted by all Hindus who are true to their own ideals, that it is an intolerable wrong to allow the Temple raised on the spot where Lord Buddha attained His Enlightenment, to remain under the control of a rival sect, which can neither have an intimate knowledge of, nor sympathy for, the Buddhist religion and its rites of worship."

In his article entitled "The Vow Still Remains" in Sambodhi 1996, the late Ven. Pannarama Mahathera, Bhikkhu-in-charge of Buddhagaya Maha Bodhi Society, revealed the irony that even the Advisory Board which was supposed to be controlled by Buddhists, has only 11 Buddhists members but 14 non-Buddhist members! it is time that these non-Buddhists members should be replaced by representatives from Buddhist organisations, which are really concerned about the development of Bodhgaya, the place of Buddha's Enlightenment. Thus Dharmapala's vow is not fulfilled and it still remains.

Source: Khoon San, Chan. "Buddhist Pilgrimage". ISBN: 983-40876-0-8. Published for Free Distribution. 2009.

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