By Trevor Ling
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Extra resources for Buddhist Revival in India: Aspects of the sociology of Buddhism
The society the Sens created was one in which caste differences were emphasised and upheld, and in which a multitude of state officials flourished at the expense of both the peasantry and the merchants. The latter were, traditionally, prominent supporters of the Buddhist Sangha, and their decline during the Sen period would inevitably have had the effect of further depressing the Buddhists, now already a depressed section of Bengal society under Pala rule. Those who reject the view that it was orthodox Brahmanism which brought about the decline of Buddhism in Bengal in the Sen period 58 offer as an alternative explanation of this decline (which, quite clearly, has to be explained somehow), the idea that Buddhism had become 'exhausted' by some sort of natural process of 'old age'.
These were, as nearly as has ever been achieved (and to a greater 42 BUDDHIST REVIVAL degree than in India even under Asoka), Buddhistic civilisations, with no serious internal rival ideology (as had been the case in India), societies where Buddhist values permeated deep into the national life. Indeed it was for this civilising and culturebestowing quality that Buddhism was originally welcomed in South-East Asia. 41 Evidently, Buddhism was not dying of old age in the thirteenth century. Moreover, the most recent 500-year period has also seen a new characteristic developing in Buddhism.
By the use of this term its adherents affirmed the difference in principle between their way and the way of the spiritual elite, the Hinayana. We have seen that there are severe difficulties in trying to maintain that Buddhism in India simply changed its form and continued undiminished in some new guise. This leaves the possibility that although it disappeared from view its continuing influence was still felt, and that from time to time its spirit finds reexpression in Indian life. Such a view is very close to, but not identical with, the supposition that Buddhism is waiting at the geographical and cultural fringes of India for the favourable opportunity which will enable it to spread back once again into its old heartlands.