Buddhism which was enriched by the contributions of Buddhist scholars became more popular under the influence of the numerous deities that to be worshipped in different parts of the Buddhist world. These two aspects of Buddhism form the main theme of the subject in this volume.
Eastern India produced in the past many renowned writers and scholars in the field of Buddhist religion, philosophy and literature 'who by their learning receive respect above gods and men became famous throughout Jambudvipa (India).' Their greatness is reflected in their contributions and characters. Not only the Indians but also foreign writers had the greatest respect for their sterling qualities of heart and mind. It is stated that these scholars were free from covetousness, and practicing self-content lived matchless lives. Men of such character have scarcely been found among the heretics or other people. They lived in Bengal under the Buddhist Pala kings in the tenth or eleventh centuries or perhaps a little earlier. It was during this time that the monasteries of Nalanda, Somapura, Vikramasila, Jagaddala became renowned seats of Buddhist learning, with which the composition or translation of many of their works are associated. These devoted scholars studied and worked in the Monastic Universities of Bengal and Bihar. Our information about them being mostly derived from the accounts left by the Chinese pilgrims, Cordier's Catalogue (Bstan-hgyur, I-LXX), the works of Taranatha, the Pag Sam Jon Zang and indigenous literary works.
Much labour was involved in the task of compiling and sifting of data regarding the lives and activities of these scholars. There are many controversial problems regarding their identification, alleged Bengali origin, dates and works, which have not yet been satisfactorily solved. I have tried to present different views in these matters. Unfortunately, for lack of necessary details, it is impossible to present a systematic account of their lives, works and personal history. Many of the texts attributed to them are still not available. Names of authors are often given in a confused manner; sometimes scholars bearing the same name but belonging to different periods are not clearly differentiated, so the question of authorship in a good number of cases remain controversial. Despite these handicaps, an attempt is being made to review broadly the career and achievements of the more prominent scholars and authors whose names are well-known in the Buddhist world. Their study is essential for a better understanding of the subject.
In chapters 2 and 3 of this volume I have attempted to present a detailed review of the images of Buddhist deities discovered from various parts of eastern India and Bangladesh. In this effort I have tried to describe their characteristics, attributes, and other specifications, not so much on iconographic grounds, as for the clarification of their position in the system, on the basis of details embodied in the later canonical texts, doctrinal principles of classification and categorization, of the Gods Goddesses, portrayed in them. It is obvious that a notice of the images discovered is not sufficient, isolated from the background shown in the texts concerned. Hence particulars applying to the canonical specifications, have been presented.
I have also incorporated a systematic account of the Gods and Goddesses with their iconographical details, in the hope that it may help to give al broad and general idea of the peculiarities of Buddhism which were developing in some of its later phases, although specimens representing them, as full as the text concerned, are not available in many cases. From the Sadhanamala we get description of the images and it is rather surprising to notice that the statues tallied considerably with the accounts given in the text. Although many of the corresponding sadhanas are without samples discovered so far in eastern India, these have not been left out of account in the book, as future discoveries may show the advantage of dealing with the text comprehensively, particularly in supplying links of an integrated system.
Besides the Sadhanamala there is the book entitled Nispannayogavali of Mahapandita Abhayakaragupta. It is a work on mandalas (i.e., circles) and presents valuable information about the Buddhist deities. It may be noted that the Buddhists did not stop with the making of images of Buddha alone but 'under the influence of Mahayana and Vajrayana, Buddhist gods and goddesses appeared and multiplied' as the developed iconography clearly establishes.
The Buddhist deities, particularly noticed in this chapter with special reference to the texts studied, includes: Adi-Buddha, Dhyani-Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and their multiple forms with special reference to Avalokitesvara and Manjusri. A separate section is devoted to the divine emanation of the Dhyani Buddhas. Female deities are dealt with in a new chapter with special reference to Tara, Prajnaparamita, Cunda and others. Minor deities are also not excluded from this study.
In primitive Buddhism i.e., Hinayana, there were no gods and goddesses. In the earlier School of Art at Sanci and Bharhut, representation of the Buddha as in image is absent. It is believed by some scholars that the Graeco-Buddhists of Gandhara were the first to carve out from stone images of Buddha. But Coomaraswamy thinks that the Mathura School produced the earliest image of Buddha. Early references to Buddhist gods and goddesses are found in some literary works. The Manjusrimulakalpa gives a description of a number of them. But a more systematic account is found in the Guhyasamajatantra, describing the five Dhyani-Buddhas with their mantras, mandalas and saktis. Asanga in the third century AD also referred to the Dhyani-Buddhas and their emanations. Besides, under the influence of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist gods and goddesses appeared and multiplied. In speaking of the later development of this aspect of Buddhism, Benoytosh Bhattacharyya remarks, 'Virtually, there was an epidemic of deification in which every philosophical dogma, ritualistic literature, abstract ideas, human qualities, even desires such as sleeping, yawning, sneezing were deified or given a Deity form.' Thus did the Buddhists get a systematized and well-classified pantheons, with its profusion of gods and goddesses. The Buddhists applied a systematic principle in classifying their deities as found in the Sadhanamala, which describes their characteristics. The sadhanas, incorporated in the text called Sadhanamala, were composed in ancient monasteries of Bengal and Bihar.
I feel grateful for the help derived from various sources in the preparation of this book, viz., edited texts, translations, commentaries, books and journals, catalogues and reports and other such publications devoted to Buddhist and allied studies. I have indicated my indebtedness to them in the text and Bibliography. I am including a number of photographs of deities preserved in the different museums in India and abroad, some of which I personally visited. I am expressing in this connection my sincere thanks for the permission accorded to me for my personal use and publication. I am thankful to the following institutions for giving permission to reproduce photographs used in this book: The University Library, Cambridge, England; Museum fur Volkerkunde, Vienna, Austria; Varendra Research Society Museum, Rajshahi, Bangladesh; Dhaka Museum, Bangladesh; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; American Institute of Indian Studies, Varanasi; Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi; Department of Archaeology, Bangladesh; Mainamati Museum, Bangladesh; Museum and Picture Gallery, Baroda' National Museum, New Delhi; State Museum, Lucknow; Gaya Museum; Nalanda Museum; Patna Museum and also museums of the other states of India including the Indian Museum and other museums of Calcutta.
Buddhist Divinites is a thoughtful contribution to the history of Buddhism comprising both history of religion and art. It presents a systematic account of many renowned scholars of Buddhist religion, philosophy and literature who worked and studied in the monastic universities of Bengal and Bihar These scholars contributed most to the history of Buddhist religion and for this they received respect above god for their learning and character. Besides these deified historical personages a detailed list is made of Buddhist gods and goddesses (On the basis of Images discovered) both major and minor with their symbols, attributes, characteristics and iconographical details, in the hope that it may help to give a broad and general Idea of the peculiarities of Buddhism which were developing In some of its later phases. The book is a comprehensive treatment of these subjects which are vital from the point of view of history of Buddhism, both history of religion and art: but which are least understood and studied in systematic manner.
From the Jacket:
Buddhist Divinities is a thoughtful contribution to the history
of Buddhism comprising both history of religion and art. It
presents a systematic account of many renowned scholars of
Buddhist religion, philosophy and literature who worked and
studied in the monastic universities of Bengal and Bihar. These
scholars contributed most to the history of Buddhist religion and
for this they received respect above god for their learning and
character. Besides these deified historical personages a detailed
list is made of Buddhist gods and goddesses (on the basis of
images discovered), both major and minor with their symbols,
attributes, characteristics and iconographical details, in the
hope that it may help to give a broad and general idea of the
peculiarities of Buddhism which were developing in some of its
later phases. The book is a comprehensive treatment of these
subjects which are vital from the point of view of history of
Buddhism, both history of religion and art: but which are least
understood and studied in systematic manner.
I. Scholars and their Works:
2. Silabhadra and Santideva.
3. Santaraksita and Jetari.
5. Jnanasrimitra and Abhayakaragupta.
6. Danasila, Vibhuticandra and others.
II. Male Divinities:
1. Adi-Buddha and Dhyani Buddhas.
4. Different forms of Avalokitesvara: Two-armed.
6. Emanations of Dhyani Buddhas as Gods.
7. Collection deities.
III. Female Divinities:
2. Distinction based on colours.
5. Mahapratisara and others.
7. Emanations of Dhyani Buddhas as Goddesses.
8. Collective deities (Goddesses).
1. List of universities and scholars.
2. Diagram representation of Buddhist Gods.
3. Diagram representation of Buddhist Goddesses.
4. Meaning and explanations of Sanskrit words.
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