Buddhism lasted over a thousand years in the land of its origin. Two factors are generally cited as the reasons for the ultimate disappearance of the religion from India : 1. The invading hordes of the Prophet, who razed the temples and slaughtered the unresisting, idol worshipping monks 2. The Vedic revival, which drove the religion out the country.
Though we accept these two were important factors, still we do not think they represent the truly crucial reasons for the disappearance of Buddhism in India.
For, Moslem invasions primarily wrecked only Northern India. But Buddhism was such a religious force in Southern India too - Mahaayaana Buddhism itself being mainly developed in the Southern regions. So whatever happened to the the religion in the northern regions, it still doesn't explain how the religion disappeared from Southern India as well.
Brahmanical opposition to Buddhism was always present right from day one. It was not anything new. If Buddhism could survive and prosper for more than thousand years inspite of Brahmanical opposition, there's no reason for it not to survive for a longer period of time. Also the so called "brahmanical opposition" itself is exaaggerated - for historically more than any other caste it was the brahmins themselves who contributed the most in the development of Buddhism - almost every great aachaarya of Buddhism was a brahmin.
To truly understand the reason(s) for the disappearance of Buddhism in India, we've to first understand what "Buddhism" itself means in the Indian context and then understand the development of Buddhism in India in three aspects : 1. social, 2. philosophical and 3. religious.
Is Buddhism a religion?
The first thing to understand in this issue is the non-validity of the theory distinguishing Buddhism as a "religion" seperate from "Hinduism". If we see in the four thousand years worth of religious literature in India we cannot find a single reference to the word "Hinduism" anywhere! "Hinduism" is a word concocted by Europeans to refer to the myriad streams of religious faiths in the land of Hindustan. "Hindu" only means an inhabitant of the sub-continent east of the river Sindhu. The Persians pronounced "Sindu" as "Hindu" which the Greeks inturn pronounced as "Indu" - thus the word to refer to people who follow the native religions of India. Even "India" is but a Greek word for Hindustan.
In the religious sense even today a "Hindu" can be a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite or an Advaita Vedaanti or a Jainaa - each with their own set of Gods and Godesses, their own holy book(s), their own spiritual founder/teachers and their own specific way of effecting liberation.
By the time modern Indologists started their enquiries into Indian culture, Buddhism was no more a living religion in India and so these scholars couldn't evaluate it as a living religion on its own in its native soil. Influenced by their own Christian religious background (which effectively establishes its individual identity by asserting the exclusive validity of its own doctrines and negating the views of other religions as false) and what they saw of Buddhism in practice in countries like Tibet, China and Japan, western Indologists viewed Indian Buddhism in the same way - as a religion on its own. But such a perspective is fundamentally flawed because historically the development of Buddhism in India is different from the way Buddhism developed in other countries. Buddhism in India grew only in relation to its native cousins and its relationship with them is different from its relationship with the religions of the alien lands it spread to. So while it is meaninful to distinguish between Buddhism and Taoism or Shintoism as distinct religions, the same doesn't hold for its relationship with the so-called "Hinduism". Also no saint in India has ever claimed the exclusive validity of his own doctrines and totally negated the teachings of other saints as false - a new religion is only a better/more effective path to God/reality. So the relationship between Buddhism and other Indic streams is different from the relationship between, say, Islam and Christianity or either of these with any of the world religions - primarily because of their doctrines of exclusivity. Thus to try to understand Buddhism as a religion in itself distinct from "Hinduism" is a non-starter and will only lead to misinterpretation.
The various spiritual streams of India are better understood from the standpoint of the dharma. It is from the same dharmic tree that all the great spiritual streams of India, including Buddhism, sprung as branches to teach their own brand of dharma with the common goal of salvation from the cycle of rebirths. These streams have traditionally been divided into two - aastika (orthodox) and naastika (heterodox) - based on their acceptance or non-acceptance of the validity of the Vedas and the supremacy of the brahmin in the chatur varna (fourfold caste) system. But irrespective of their classification they all accepted the basic principles of dharma - to practice charity and compassion and live a life of control of the psycho/physical faculties. It is only in their metaphysical positions that they truly differed from each other.
And it is only the same people in the sub-continent who either invented their own brand of dharma or chose to follow a particular teacher. Though these streams seemingly differ in their metaphysical positions, still in terms of living they all exhorted their followers to live a life of control, charity and compassion. For a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite or a Nyaaya logician to become a Buddhist only meant abandoning a few of his existing views and practices on spirituality and adopting new ones as taught by Buddhism. To embrace a new path only meant adopting a slightly different way of life more conducive to one's own spiritual inclinations. But this seldom involved any change in existing cultural practices as they were all born/married/died the same way, ate similar food, dressed similarly, enjoyed similar past times and upheld similar ideals about the purpose of life. It was not unusual for an orthodox brahmin family to have a son who was a Buddhist, married to a woman who believed in the teachings of the Mahaaveera. They all belonged to the same civilization and lived as one people under the shade of the dharma.
So the modern view treating Buddhism as a separate "religion" distinct from "Hinduism" is flawed in many respects and lacks historical validity. The only true religion of India is the sanaatana (eternal) dharma. All the various religious/spiritual sects, including Buddhism, which originated in the land are an integral part of sanaatana dharma. The Buddha himself affirmed that he was only teaching the puraana arya dharma or the ancient aryan way of life. Buddhism in India is thus better understood as a siddhaanta or spiritual philosophy than a religion. The disappearance of Buddhism in India is no different from the disappearance of spiritual schools like Saamkhya or Vaisheshika - except that Buddhism enjoyed greater popularity amongst the masses than most other schools.
Now let us try to understand how Buddhism disappeared from the land of its origin.
Even two centuries after the Buddha the religion was only a local sect in the Eastern parts of India, though with a substantial following. It was after the war of Kalinga, that Ashoka, the Mauryan emperor, stricken with remorse at the huge loss of life, was drawn to the ethical teachings of the Compassionate One. With his royal support, Buddhism experienced a vigorous expansion. Missionaries were sent to all parts of India, from Kashmir to Ceylon and to other parts of the civilized world - China, Persia, Egypt and Greece.
Due to such royal patronage and its egalitarian world view as opposed to the caste oriented and esoteric Vedic religion, the popularity of Buddhism grew in India. The semi civilized invading hordes of Scythians, Parthians and the Huns who occupied the North Western parts of India also adopted the religion of the peoples that they conquered. Originating from the North East, Buddhism spread West and then pushed South, in the process almost eclipsing Vedic religion in India.
But even such popularity has its failings.
The fundamental reason for the Vedic caste system is the preservation of the dharma. The Veda represents the accounts of the reality experienced by the Vedic seers. The code of living of the society was framed with this Reality as the base. To have a control over one's kaama (desire) and to use one's artha (wealth) for the benefit of the society was dharma (virtue), which would lead to moksha (liberation) from the cycle of birth and death. The seers understood that to preserve the Veda was to preserve the dharma. More important was that the dharma should be lived to serve as an inspiration for the common people. Thus it was understood that those who preserved the Veda should not engage in the normal pursuits of the material world and should only be engaged in preserving the dharma at all costs. They should not work for a living and should subsist on the contributions from the society. To highlighten the importance of the work to the preservers and to stress the importance of the dharma to the society, the preservers were made the top caste - the Brahmins.
The Seers passed down the knowledge to their children, who passed it down to their children, thus making the system hereditary. The first few generations due to their proximity to the original seers must have been truly dedicated to the purpose. Leading semi-ascetic lives and keeping aloof from the material world, the Brahmins preserved the Veda subsisting solely on the grants of the society. But with the passage of time, generations down the line, pride of birth and greed due to position, soon seeped into the pure dharmic ideal. Brahmins not only took pride in their birth, but also mocked others of lower birth. The tendency to use their influence to their favor also grew. The authors of the dharma shaastrams in their works repeatedly caution the preservers not to take pride in birth or misuse their position or follow the society in its materialistic ways. A true Brahmin is one who is a friend to all and lives in purity to preserve the Veda.
The Buddha comes in at a time when the rot had set into the caste system. He remarks that the Brahmins living in villages with guards to protect their wealth, are unlike their illustrious ancestors who were chaste and unpretentious. It's a misconception that the Buddha tried to reform the caste system. He's not interested in the secular life of the society but only in the preservation of the dharma to help people escape the cycle of birth and death. He urges everybody to renounce the world and seek nirvaana. He sees the need for the Brahmin in the society, but realizes the weakness of the hereditary practice and rebels. So he goes for the other alternative. Not by mere birth, but by conduct is one a Brahmin. Buddhism is nothing but Vedic religion democratized. Bhikshus to preserve the dharma instead of the Brahmins.
But even this alternative had its weak points. With the increasing popularity of Buddhism and the royal patronage that it enjoyed, the power of the bhikshus too grew. This attracted undesirable elements into the folds of the Sangha for all the wrong reasons. We hear of bhikshus passing off doubtful teachings as the word of the Master. Mahaayaana Buddhism too in its spirit of accomodation, surrounded with cheap marvels and wonders, the lonely figure with a serene soul, simple and austere in the yellow robes, walking with bared feet and bowed head towards the city of Vaaranaasi. Soon Buddhism found itself incorporating alien beliefs like magic, sex, ritual and sacrifice. The glittering mass of metaphysical subtleties to support such beliefs, smothered the true strength of Buddhism which lay in the simple ethical teachings of the founder stressing uncompromising devotion to the moral law. And since the Sangha itself had become a powerful organization, political power struggles of the leadership also increased. Buddhism too became corrupt.
Though the Brahmins prided themselves on their birth and sometimes misused their position, they remained true to the Veda. It's due to their enterprise that the massive texts have come down to us almost intact over the millennia. The psychological implications of being born and raised in a tradition which preserves the dharma, has greater advantages than being brought anew into a tradition. Since the identity of the Brahmins depended on preserving the dharma they went all out to consolidate their position in the society. Not to be outdone in terms of purity, en masse they became vegetarian. The rules of the caste system were relaxed and the sacrificial religion was abandoned in favor of the more humane Upanishadic religion. Simpler philosophies preaching personal theism were developed for the common people to relate to.
In our mind the philosophical angle represents the truly crucial reason for the disappearance of Buddhism as a seperate religion from the Indian soil. We will analyze the development of some core issues in Buddhist philosophy to illustrate this point :
I. With the Buddha all life is suffering because of transience/change being an integral part of life. Nirvaana/reality represents the end of suffering and is to be brought about by living an ethical life and controlling the psycho/physical faculties. His attitude towards philosophy was : contemplating on and understanding the known is fruitful, but metaphysical speculation about the unknown is a sheer waste of time.
Four things may be said to truly distinguish the teachings of Buddha with other philosophers of his time :
1. Non-confirmation of reality to be changeless and permanent : Logically if the changing/momentary world was the cause of suffering then the changeless should represent reality/salvation. While other schools taught the reality of a changeless eternal consciousness in itself, which they identified as the true nature of ones own self, the Buddha was careful to point out that there's nothing that we know in our normal experience that's changeless or permanent - even the so called "consciousness" that we know is only in relation to the psycho/physical faculties and not as a thing in itself - and this consciousness is always changing and impermanent. (But on a very rare occassion - Samyutta Nikhaaya - 22.53.1 - the Buddha talks of consciousness in itself as representing liberation/reality). Thus the Buddha simply refused to talk about the changeless and the permanent.
, 2. Ambiguity with regards to the nature of reality : Asserting that reality cannot be predicated of anything known, the Buddha refused to speculate about the nature of reality. Unlike most teachers who conceptualized reality in positive terms as pure consciousness etc, the Buddha mostly kept silent on the subject or atbest characterized it in negative terms like unborn, non-compounded etc or on a very, very rare occasion said something positve about it : "The Self is the lord of the self" etc.
3. Ambiguity with regards the relationship between reality and the individual self : As is clear in the Vachhagotta Sutta the Buddha prefers not to speculate on the relationship between reality and the individual self - according to him nothing conclusive could be said about it. Thus in Buddhism nirvaana is for the great part is characterized only in an impersonal sense. So while most Indian teachers taught the reality of the Self - knowing one's own self is salvation - so the path is subjective; in contrast the Buddha ignored the self and taught the control/discipline of the non-self (anatta) - his path thus is objective.
4. The doctrine of anatta as an integral part of spiritual practice : since the Buddha's worldview was not centred on an unchanging self, the Buddha presented man as a composite of the five skandhas - form, feeling, mind, predispositions and consciousness. He classified these skandhas as the non-self (anatta) as they were all open to objective experience and thus not the "I". To understand the nature and fuction of the skandhas and disciplining them is what is required. But it is to be noted that nowhere do we find the Buddha denying the atman - anatta only meant all that's not the self - the non-self.
Anatta also has a practical utility where the individual self is negated. There are three reasons for such a teaching :
a. The individual self is a compound of the skandhas - thus it cannot be said to have any existence in itself.
b. When reality is beyond the mind and is not be attained by any action, why does it need to figure in spiritual practice at all? Understanding and disciplining the non-self - the mind/body/senses - is what is required. Including reality in a spiritual scheme only results in endless speculation on it which is actually counter productive to spiritual progress.
c. Also in the ultimate sense, one needs to let go of the will which is the root of the "I" sense for reality to manifest.
It is in these three contexts that the Buddha taught anatta.
II. Hinayaana especially the Milindapanha has an axe to grind. Engaging in polemics against the other philosophical schools Naagasena leans heavily on anatta and asserts that there's no substance in man. Even as a chariot is made up of parts and has no existence in itself apart from the parts, so is man a product of the skandhas/aggregates and thus has no existence in himself. Naagasena is silent on the ontological nature of nirvaana or whether it is anything inherent in man. The Sautraantikas take this negative trend to even greater heights - they talk only about the momentary and the changing. The Vaibhaashika school also toes the line on the non-substantiality of the self but faced with increasing criticism of the orthodox schools regarding the epistemological untenability of phenomenalism, they make a slight concession by asserting that consciousness is permanent. They also indulge in some metaphysical speculation - atomism etc.
III. Naagaarjuna comes in with three fundamental objectives :
1. to warn against excessive stress on anatta (for without the self how can the non-self exist?),
2. to condemn the speculative trend in Sarvaastivaada and
3. to assert the relativity of phenomenal knowledge and thus distinguish between the relative (samvritti) and the absolute (paramaartha).
Though Naagaarjuna condemns "anatta" he condemns in equal measures the atman doctrine too - for if the self were the truth it cannot be ambiguous - essential nature cannot be deceptive. So it is wrong to say : "I, who am now caught in samsaara, by practicing ethics and the control of the psycho/physical faculties, will attain nirvaana".
Naagaarjuna too maintains silence on the nature of reality and its relation to the self and follows
the Buddha in his fundamental teaching :
a. to understand and reject unreality using shunyataa and
b. to abandon the will using the chatushkoti (fourfold negation) and bhakti (devotion) so that reality can manifest.
Naagaarjuna also makes an extremely important contribution : becoming cannot result in being - the latter being diametrically opposed to the former in nature. So action which is the root of samsaara cannot result in nirvaana. The true path is the renunciation of all action - silence. But it is to be noted that the Buddha himself specifically denied that he was teaching the path of inaction - so perhaps Naagaarjuna drew his inspiration from the traditional Upanishadic path of maunam or silence.
Till here Buddhists by always cleverly talking only about unreality or referring to liberation only in phenomenal terms as "end of suffering" or "elimination of kleshas", had always maintained an ambiguous stand on reality. They would not even declare reality to be changeless and permanent - their argument being there's nothing changeless or permanent in our normal experience. Naagaarjuna too remains ambiguous about the ontological status of nirvaana expressing it only in epistemological terms as "cessation of plurality" and the "world removed from the lens of causation is itself nirvaana" etc. But his heavy negative dialectic in condemning the unreal had earned shunyavaada the reputation of nihilism. Also the trend in Maadhyamika circles to get caught in the intellectual loop and make the chatushkoti itself a view needs to be corrected.
IV. So the Yogaacaarins come into the picture with the main objective : after chatushkoti, the necessity to practice yoga so as to attain the reality of consciousness only (vijnaanamaatra), which is changeless and permanent.
So here for the first time, necessiated by the excessive negativity of the Maadhyamika and the increasing criticism of the orthodox schools which had pushed it against a wall, Buddhism is forced to compromise on three of its historical ambiguities : the nature of reality is pure consciousness and this reality is changeless and permanent. It is only in refusing to associate reality with the individual self and decrying the latter to be without substance do they remain faithful to their philosophical heritage.
V. Now along comes Gaudapaada - an orthodox philosopher who notes the similarity of the teachings of the Mahaayaana with the Upanishads. It is to be noted that the Vedaanta was not in vogue and atbest practiced only in very select circles as historically we do not have a record of other schools even talking about it before the rise of Advaita - but now using Mahaayaana dialectic it is revived.
Gaudapaada accepts Naagaarjuna's contention that the world is like a city of Gaandharvaas (celestial beings) and is thus an illusion (maya) - but asserts that all epistemological or psychological observations of Mahaayaana presupposes a metaphysical base, ie you can dispute the metaphysical conceptions about the object but cannot deny the object itself. It can be said that the world is like a circle created by waving a firebrand. But still without the firebrand even such an analogy would not be possible. As Shankara would later assert : the negative is only the luxury of the mind, but without conceptual construction every single instance of our conscious experience only affirms something and never denies anything. Nobody says : "I'm not" or "this is not". Consciousness itself implies something positive to be conscious about. And even with respect to conceptual construction, the negative has no value in itself and exists only in relation to something positive.
The negative standpoint has its use but if you take it to its extreme, it only winds up in nihilism. Affirming an absolute is the natural next step after the chatushkoti. In contrast to the change implicit in all facets of life which represents suffering, the analysis of the three states of the waking, dream and deep sleep reveals the existance of a changeless part of our identity due to which our identity survives the three states - this is itself the pointer to reality. Also, though we know a lot of different things in different periods of time, still there is no doubt that "I am the same person who knew a thing before in the past and am knowing a thing now in the present". So the everpresent knower represents the changeless part of our identity and thus salvation.
Metaphysics if logically reconciled with Mahaayaana thought, can end only in the spiritual absolutism of the Upanishads. In the Lankaavataara Sutra when questioned whether Vijnaanavaada was not the same as the Atman doctrine, the Tathaagatha answers that while the proponents of the Atman doctrine hold that the "Self is", the Vijnaanavaadins hold that the Self neither is, nor is not, nor both, nor neither. But it is to be noted that this reference to the Atmavaadins is only directed towards those who taught the plurality of souls which was historically rooted in strong implications of individuality. But Gaudapaada interpreting the Upanishadic Atman as a single all pervasive non-dual consciousness is not liable to such criticism and thus comfortably asserts in his Kaarikaa that only those who go beyond the concepts of Self, non-Self, both or neither are truly omniscient! Gaudapaada goes all the way to show that the Upanishadic Brahman is the true teaching of the Buddha. Only the Buddha didn't teach it (naitad Buddhena baashitam) - out of practical interest. Gaudapaada provides numerous quotes from the Upanishads to support his interpretation of non-duality.
The last chapter of Gaudapaada's Kaarika - Alaatashaanti Praakarna or the quenching of the fire brand has a double meaning : 1. The philosophical counter attacks as illustrated above and 2. The signal that the Buddhists had themselves over a period of time moved very close to Vedic religion in philosophy and it was time to quench the fire brand of Buddhism into the very source from which it had erupted - the Vedic Religion, which itself had undergone tremendous transformation since the advent of the Buddha.
Here the Buddhists could have protested that Gaudapaada was hijacking their philosphy. But the chronological superiority of the Upanishads over the Buddha is the deciding factor here. The Upanishads had taught it first and so the Buddhists are on the defensive now.
Some liberal minded Buddhist scholars like Bhaavaviveka reach out to Gaudapaada in agreement. But other Buddhists like Chandrakirti, anxious to preserve the distinct identity of Buddhism, are opposed to it. They oppose two things which Buddhism has traditionally opposed : 1. any expression of the nature of the absolute and 2. the connection between the individual self and reality.
But clearly understanding that they cannot maintain their distinctness on the philosophies of Naagaarjuna and Vaasubandhu, other Buddhists - Dignaaga, Dharmakirti et al - disputing the validity of a changeless permanent reality again revive the doctrine of momentariness. So from Yogaacaara absolutism, it degenerates to Sautraantika nihilism. But it is a lost cause since the doctrine had already been discredited by Naagaarjuna and Vaasubandhu themselves - "it existed before but doesn't exist now - entails the error of nihilism" - Mulamaadhyamaka Kaarikaa : Examination of Essence . Shankara in his dialectic against Dharmakirti who does not accept a changeless permanent reality asks : if the change implicit in the functions of the psycho/physical faculties and their objects, is the reason for suffering, then without a changeless permanent reality how can there be a permanent salvation? Mere control of the psycho/physical faculties from changing to changless itself will not do, for even if such a state is achieved, owing to their natural inclinations towards their objects with all the conditions conducive to their natural functioning being present as before, it will only be a matter of time before the psycho/physical faculties start functioning/changing again. Thus without a changeless reality there cannot be any meaningful salvation from the changing unreality.
One thing to note here is that Buddhism is more a religion of reason than its other Indian counterparts - unlike the saints of Shaivism or Vaishnavism the majority of whom are poets who gained their popularity through devotional poetry (even Shankara is popular among the masses only for his highly inspired devotional hymns) - every Buddhist aachaarya was an intellectual. Buddhism sustained itself on its philosophical subtleties attracting the intelligensia in the society - naturally it caused a heavy brain drain from the braahmanical ranks.
But the rise of Advaita Vedaanta which "completes the full picture", by cooly reconciling Buddhist epistemology and psychology with Upanishadic metaphysics, with its historical prestige rooted in scripture and powered by as inspiring a figure as Shankara must have heavily stemmed the intellectual flow thus sapping the interest in Buddhist philosphy over a period of time.
Buddhist philosophy had helped the Indian mind to climb to a certain level - without doubt the concepts of maya and its implication - advaya or non-duality - are Buddhist contributions without which there would be no Advaita at all - but after a certain stage it was helpless to prevent itself from being assimilated into/by Advaita Vedaanta. Losing its strong point - philosophy (though in the negative sense) - Buddhism failed to attract new talent and gradually died out.
Advaita marks the stage where Indian philosophical thought was in synch with the scriptural vision of reality - atlast Indian philosophers could reconcile Upanishadic wisdom with reason. Historically after the rise of Advaita Vedaanta, the main attention of the Indian philosophers had turned to interpreting the scriptures thus spawning the various schools of Vedaanta. Most of the other philosophical schools quite like Buddhism were assimilated by one or the other schools of Vedaanta in the process.
Advaita Vedaanta may be said to represent the higher teachings of the Upanishads. The Maadhyamaka and the Vijnaanavaada may be said to represent the higher teachings of the Buddha. That these systems of philosophy share a lot in common in philosophy and practice itself reflects the convergence of ideals amongst the two great streams of the dharma. Shri Chandrashekara Saraswati, the former pontiff of the Shankara matha (monastery) in Kaanchipuram and thus the voice of the orthodoxy, in his work "Hindu Dharma" confirms that : "at the highest level both Buddhism and Advaita teach the same truth".
Faced with the growing popularity of Buddhism, Vedic religion relaxed its caste rules, abandoned its sacrificial religion and adopted a more humane form of worship. The Southern Vaishnavite AlzhwArs and the Shaivite Naayanmaars developed an intense form of devotional worship using songs, which caught the imagination of the people. The great Advaitin teacher Shankaraachaarya even as a young boy took up asceticism and traveled the country subduing naastikas as well as the Astikas with his incredible dialectic. Adopting the best ideals of the naastikas he developed further the fruitful suggestions of his paramaguru Gaudapaada and forged Advaita Vedanta into a logically consistent system based on the Prasthaana Traayi - the Upanishads, the Bhagavath Gita and the Brahma Sutras. The resurgence of Hinduism in India is in no small measure due to him.
Vedic religion then delivered the final coup by making the Buddha an avataar of Lord Naaraayaana, thus sounding the death knell for Buddhism in India. The Buddhists recriprocated by identifying the Mahaayaana deity Avalokateswara with Lord Naaraayaana. Following which various Hindu deities also found acceptance in the Buddhist pantheon of Gods. In the process of gradual intellectual absorption and modification, Hinayaana with its ascetic tendencies came to be regarded as a sect of Shaivism and the Mahaayaana with its devotional instincts with Vaishnavism. With the differences narrowing the practioners of both streams too moved closer - Brahmin ascetics were looked upon as brethren by the Buddhist bhikshus. In short the religion of the Compassionate One had become ultimately indistinguishable from mainstream Hinduism.
Hence the disappearance of Buddhism from India is better understood as assimilation into the very culture from which it emerged.
But as we have seen Buddhism left an indelible mark on the Vedic religion itself, which adopted its best ideals. Modern Hinduism is a blend of both Buddhism and the Vedic religion. The ideal of the Buddha lives on, in the heart of every denizen of India, who is aware of his religious heritage.