Indian Literature on Buddhism has been compiled by the great thinker, Rabindranath Tagore. He has penned about Bodhi, continued popularity of Buddha and his enlightenment. Bodhi is also known as enlightenment in English. Bodhi relates to ones true awakening and the revelation of infinite joy in us by the light of love. When the man is not completely conscious about the highest reality that surrounds him, he remains in a state of spiritual sleep and is confined within his own self. This is the state of avidya as he does not know about the reality of his own soul. It is the awakening from the sleep of self to the perfection of consciousness that leads to Bodhi or becoming the Buddha. As ones physical nature is set free in attaining health, social being is liberated in attaining goodness, similarly, ones own self gains independence in attaining love. Liberation of self by attaining love finally leads to extinction of selfishness. This extinction is the function of love, which leads to illumination. To become a light to oneself called Atmadipa is a teaching of Buddha. Those becoming a light to one self are also taught to help others to light their lamps, so that the darkness of sorrow gets removed which has engulfed humanity.
At Sarnath near Varanasi, it is known that Buddha converted five recluses to his new doctrine after his enlightenment. Within a span of three months, his followers increased to sixty. The teachings of Buddha had spread rapidly but peacefully during this time. After Buddha's death, Buddhist councils wanted to ascertain the authenticity and priority of the available teachings of Buddha. It is the third council that settled the Buddhist canonical literature and grouped it under three divisions called the Tripitaka, after the Buddha's parinirvana. Tripitaka means three pitakas or baskets. These divisions are the Vinaya Pitaka (the rules for the conduct of the order), the Sutta Pitaka (doctrines of the order), and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (higher subtleties of the doctrine). The Vinaya Pitaka comprises of the rules of discipline to be followed by the Buddhist Sangha and commands for regulating the daily life of monks and nuns. The Sutta Pitaka is a collection of the large and small doctrinal compositions. It is the primary source for the teachings of the Buddha and his earliest disciples. The Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven books, usually known as the Sattapakaranas. According to the Pali texts, this is what the Buddha taught the tavatimsa Gods and the Sariputta. It is important to note that the contents of Tripitaka do not highlight a systematic philosophy, but are considered to be a special treatment of the Dhamma as found in the Sutta Pitaka. The Dhammapada is an anthology containing 423 verses which is divided into 26 vaggas (chapters). The Buddhists believe that they are the very words of Buddha formulated to impart moral teachings to the common man.
Buddhism in Indian regional languages is known to be a vast subject. With the diversification of Buddhism, Buddhist literature also became dynamic. It is important to note that wherever Buddhism journeyed it got infused in the local culture. More specifically, this infusion took place on one hand by Buddhism itself adapting to local beliefs and cults and on the other hand ensuring the absorption of these beliefs and cults into its own system. Thus it can be said that geographical diffusion of Buddhism followed by its cultural adaptations, led to its diversity in India. Other factors giving impetus to this diversification were certain characteristics of Buddhism itself like the absence of a central doctrinal authority (the Catholic Church), the relation of the Buddhist Order with the temporal power, social stratification within the clergy and the royal patronage. Subsequently, these became the reasons for endangering the Buddhist literature in different regions and different languages of India. Thereafter, during the 19th century, Buddhism had established contact with the West which endowed it with better health in India. The hearts of Indian intellectuals were incited to act consequent to increasing interest of European scholars. Some scholars highlight, Migeltuwalte Gunanande's dynamic role in the famous debate at Panadura in August 1873 which attracted outside scholars and created a stir. Later, the Theosophical Society helped in Buddhism’s revival after the visit of Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky and Ceylon in 1880 to India. Col. Olcott established the Buddhist Theosophical Society on June 17, 1880 in Colombo, with the help of Maha Theras.
In 1891, the birth of Mahabodhi Society by Anagarika Dharmapala is considered to be an exclusive contribution towards the resurgence of Buddhism within India as well as outside India. It is this society that took the responsibility of publishing Buddhist literature in English and Indian languages. It was also the time when Sir Edwin Arnold's poem "The Light of Asia" came up and is known to widely influence modern Indian languages. This is evident in the adaptations of the poem in almost all major Indian languages. During the third century, Buddhists had launched a campaign against social evils like orthodoxy, static caste system and the privileges associated with it, ritualistic worships and other things, in different regions of India. Literature in regional languages was thus graced by the effect of this movement. History then highlights complete disappearance of Buddhism from India for many centuries, after which Buddhist literature resurrected. More specifically, the regional languages of India structured the Buddhist literature thereon. A noteworthy example is Visva-Bharati's contributions to the enrichment of Buddhistic studies. More recently, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is credited with creation of a new wave of Buddhism's revival.
Focusing on South India, Buddhism died in Karnataka in the 12th century. It reached Kerala during the reign of Ashoka. Asan's Karuna and Chandala Bhikshuki are based on Buddhistic doctrine. In Tamil Nadu, Buddhism was popular between the 5th and the 7th centuries and by the 14th century it had almost disappeared. Bimbisara Gathi is a Buddhistic work which was lost in this region. Siddhartattohai and Tiruppatikam are based on Buddhistic doctrine. In Tamil Nadu, Buddhism only lived in a few works of literature otherwise it had practically disappeared from the region. Andhra Pradesh was gracious to Buddhism, so Buddhist literature sheltered here, even during the modern period. The life of Buddha was compiled by twin poets Tirapati and Venkata Kavulu in verse form in Buddhacharita. Saundaranandam was written in verse by their pupils, Pingali and Katuri Kavulu. It depicts the story of Bodhisattva. The Light of Asia by Edwin Arnold's was translated into Telugu verse under the title Pragjyoti. Some of the Telugu translations of Sanskrit Buddhist works are Samagamam, Karuna Sindhuvu, Mahabodhi, Dharma Gita.
Religious Influence on Indian Literature
Tantra in Buddhism
Buddhism in India
(Last Updated on : 27-06-2016)