The philosophy of Buddhism is to take the Middle Path, avoiding the extremes of getting addicted to worldly pleasures and subjecting oneself to unnecessary rigours. Chandragupta ruled for 24 years over a large area of India icluding Bengal. He banned Hindu animal sacrifice rituals. Ponds excavated during Asoka's time are still to be found in bengal. He established medical clinics for animals and people.
He introduced many medical plants and fruit bearing trees. He banned fishing during breeding times and banned sealing or marking trees. Bengal had ancient links with Srilanka Ceylon , and the founder of Srilanka is belived to have hailed from Bengal.
Through Buddhism Bengal was connected with Tibet and China. With the fall of the last Pala king at the hand of the Senas, Buddhism collapsed in Bengal. Sen, the Brahmins were resposible for wiping out Buddhism and Jainism from Bengal. The Budhists priests and tantric sidhas were forced to live as the lowest caste. Of all budddhist scholars, Atisa Srigana Diphankara was the most famous and he is still worshipped in Tibet second only to Budha. Dipankara was born in AD in the royal family of Gauda in Vikrampur, a site now identified in a rice field in Bangladesh.
Dipankara succeeded in removing Tantric elements from Budhism. He wrote more than books on buddhism. Buddhism in Bangladesh According to the scriptures, "Buddha" actually means "an aware person," and was more of an adjective than a name in the beginning. Later, Gotama, who was a real person, came to be called "Buddha" only after the realization of the truth of life.
What exactly was it that Buddha realized? Through his acute awareness he realized that "the world is full of sufferings. The word "Buddha-hood" literally means "a level without burning," and is meant to mean "a level of calmness of the mind.
The four kinds of pain or suffering generated by human existence in this world are: The Buddha suggested several ways of overcoming the pain and suffering of life. He said that if we are aware of the inconsistence of life, and accept the non-existence of material things in the world, we can eliminate the addictions and desires from our everyday lives, and achieve true freedom through the sufferings in life. Buddhism teaches that suffering can be banished by reaching Buddhahood.
People can reach this stage by abolishing anger, temptation and ignorance about the truth of life. Buddhism is based on the belief in non-violence, peace, universal love and compassion. The first sermon of the Buddha is: Proclaim O Bhikkhus the doctrine glorious, Preach ye a life of holiness, perfection and purification. Confucius in China and Socrates in Greece were born in this century, and they brought about a radical change in the consciousness of mankind.
Bangladesh was once the cradle of Buddhism still bearing trances in the various architectural remains of temples and monasteries with large number of Buddha image, relics, copper and stone plates discovered at different times from various parts of the country.
There is difference of opinion among researchers as regards spread of Buddhism in Bangladesh. Much currency is given to the theory that the teaching of Buddha propagated during the lifetime of Buddha since he himself came to Bangladesh Samatata on a visit while preaching his new thoughts.
The religion of Buddha could thrive and persist over a long time in Eastern India as it was outside the zone of traditional Vedic culture Fa-Hien 5th Century , Hieun-Tsang middle of the 7th century , It-Sing end of the 7th century and others in their travel accounts referred that Buddha came to the Pundra-Bardhan northern part of Bangladesh.
The Chinese travelers saw hundreds of monasteries and centers of Theravada and Mahayana Schools in these parts of Bangladesh and as well as in the West Bengal of India. The description in ancient Buddhist literature like Anguttara-nikaya, Samjutta-nikaya, Divyabadana, Asokabadana and Avadana-kalpalata also testify the truth of the above. The names of two prominent disciples of the Buddha, 'Bangisha' and 'Bangantaputta' show that they might have derived their names from Bangala Bangladesh.
Very recently similar evidence discovered at Salimpur and Barauthan in Chittagong were dated between 10thth Centuries, speak highly of flourishing state of Buddhism in ancient Bangladesh. The epigraphic findings and antiquities reveal hitherto unknown facts and cover wide area of information besides the Holy Scriptures and other religio-philosophical writings. Plenty of legends, folk-lore, popular devotional songs, tales relating to Buddhist life and teaching of Buddha as well as other followers and devotees of Buddha are spread over the interior of Bangladesh, enriching over the historical findings.
He records that there were twenty- two Buddhist monasteries at Tamralipi. Buddhism was in a flourishing condition in Samatata and in capital itself there were monks and thirty monasteries.
Hiuen-Tsang states that Gautama Buddha stayed for sometime at Vasu Vihara, which was situated on the outskirts of Pundravardhana. He described that as many as monks lived in Samatata, Buddhism was a predominant religion in the then Bengal. King Rajarajabhatha was a strong supporter of the Three Jewels ti-ratana.
The ruins of Pandit Vihara are believed to be lying buried under the Deyang hills on the bank of the river Karnaphuly just on the other side of Patenga Airport, Chittagong. The terracotta figures from Paharpur Monastery Rajshahi arouse great popular interest. A few words can be added here on Vikrampur Vihara, which is only a few miles away from Vikrampur, the oldest historically recorded city in the neighborhood of Dhaka. It was an important place during the hey-day of Pala rulers of Bengal.
According to some historians, the name Vikrampur is derived from the title Vikramaditya, said to have been assumed by Dharmapaladeva, the second and the greatest of the Pala dynasty who built a Buddhist monastery there. But certain amount of information has been derived from inscribed copper plates was to record their grant of land, but they are also of historical value.
Preambles of these grants mention the king or chief in whose time the grant was made and record his ancestry. The early traditions that have come down speak that Dhaka and some of the neighboring districts were originally under the sway of Buddhist King.
The numerous Viharas scattered all over the country were meant not only for monastic way of teaching but also for imparting lessons on subjects like arts, crafts, astronomy, geography, agriculture, herbal medicines, pottery and so on. Thousands of monks and students used to reside in these viharas for equipping themselves with different skills and knowledge, in addition to their scriptural lessons.
Hiuen-Tsang who traveled in different parts of India from AD when Harsha was at the height of his power. According to his account, Samatata corresponded to the ancient Vanga, a low-lying country bordering the sea, rich in crops, flowers and fruits. The climate was soft, the manner of the people was agreeable. The inhabitants were of small stature and of dark complexion but diligent in acquisition of learning. Ruins of stupas built by Asoka in the village Dhamrai Dhaka still stands as a witness of supposed to have derived its name from Dharmarajika.
The historians Jatindra Nath Bose corroborated this view. The nomenclature itself has a significant background. Savar, not far from Dhaka was visited by Buddha according to Buddhist literature and was confirmed by the Bengal historian J. It has mount created by King Asoka. In course of time the place has been known as Dharmarajika which again turned into Dhammarajika. Like the ruins in Dhaka district bearing theatrics of rich Buddhist culture another district, Dinajpur northern part of Bangladesh also bears evidence of Buddhism, highly patronized by the ruler themselves.
The Pala kings were princes of Gaur, a name that seems to have applied rather to the whole province, of which Dinajpur formed the principal part.
The founder of this dynasty appears to have come from Western India and had become Buddhist. Francis Buchanan Hamilton while describing of education in the district of Dinajpur in the beginning the state of 19th century still found the trances of Buddhism there. He wrote, "the only vocabulary used in Dinajpur is the Omarkosh or Omorsinghe, whom the Pandit as usual considers a person belonging to the sect of Buddha. Since Buddhism flourished there in the court of Vikram".
Buddhism has traveled a long way under the patronage of series of ruling dynasties Prof. Latifa Akanda, In , excavation had laid bare at Bhasu Vihara a semi cruciform temple and two comparatively small monasteries.
The shrine has three terraced ambulatory passage with the entrance on the north and a square mandapa at the center. Like Paharpur and Mainamati, the basement of the shrine is embellished with terra cotta plaques. Eighty-six bronze objects have been discovered during the excavation near Mahasthan and Bhasu Vihara. Near the modern Ompur are found the ruins of Somapura Mahavihara, popularly known as Paharpur in the district of Rajshahi in northern Bangladesh.
The central shrine of the Vihara measures x with a height well over one hundred feet. The general plan of the shrine is in the form of a cross with projections in between the arms. Above the basement it has three raised terraces with Caityangana circumambulatory path. A continuous frieze of teracotta plaques runs on the inner wall of the path.
Dikshit describes the Somapur Vihara as 'the biggest single sangharama that was ever erected in India for Buddhist monks' Hiuen-Tsang came to Samatata and noticed thirty Buddhist monasteries with priests of the Sthavira School.
There was a stupa nearby, the construction of which is traditionally attributed to Emperor Asoka. An image of Buddha made from green jade was found in a monastery near it. When Seng-Chi came to Samatata during the reign of King Rajabhata there was a population of monks and nuns in its capital. A glimpse of Buddhism in ancient Bangladesh Did Lord Buddha visit Bengal during his life-time while he was preaching the Dhamma walking long distances on foot in Magadha present-day Bihar state of India , Uttar Pradesh and his birth place Kapilavastu in Nepal?
Legends and a later-day Buddhist treatise named 'Bodhisattva Avadan Kalpalata' suggest that Buddha visited ancient Bengal probably along the river route of the Ganges. Historians, however, do not find authentic proof to support the view of his visit to this region. In any case Buddhism reached ancient Bangladesh shortly after his passing away.
The reign of Emperor Asoka, the Great is the most remarkable period in Buddhist history, under his royal patronage Buddhism took roots in the soil of entire Indian sub-continent. He built 84, Stupas or monuments throughout India and inscribed Buddha's messages in rock edicts, hills and mountains which defied time and exist till today.
Asoka's consecration to the throne took place years after Buddha's passing away. Chinese pilgrim Fa Hien during his visit to India in the Fifth Century came to ancient Bengal and found Buddhism in a flourishing condition through impact of Asoka's religious expedition.
While touring ancient Bengal he noted that Buddhism existed in Northern Bangladesh, Pundravardan and Mahastan, the first city of this ancient land. He visited Samatata region in AD in present-day Comilla and recorded in his travel diary as having seen 30 Sangharams or monasteries here inhabited by monks of Thervada school. In fact Buddhism is the original religion of Bangladesh for more than years and made deep impact on Bengali life, culture and civilisation through centuries in the midst of rise and fall of dynasties and kingdoms.
Names of two devotees from Bengal, Dharmadatta and Rishinandan of Pundravardhan are inscribed in the entrance gate of Sanchi Stupa, constructed during Emperor Asoka's reign. Fa Hien in his travel diary during Gupta rule wrote that Buddhism and Hinduism coexisted in an atmosphere of peace and tolerance.
The Gupta period was marked in ancient Bengal's history for remarkable excellence in religion, philosophy, literature, poetry, sculpture and paintings.