Bengali Buddhists

Georg von Simson g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO
Wed Jun 9 08:34:13 UTC 1999

Swaminathan Madhuresan asks:
>Are there any studies (historical, anthropological) on
>the Buddhists from (East) Bengal? Are they Buddhists for

Heinz Bechert and Gustav Roth have studied Buddhism in the eastern part of
Bengal during a journey they undertook in 1967. A detailed account of the
results of their study among the BaruAs, CAkmAs and Marmas has been
published by Bechert in Beitraege zur Indienforschung (Festschrift
Waldschmidt), Berlin 1977 (= Veroeffentlichungen des Museums fuer Indische
Kunst Berlin, Vol. 4, p. 45-66): "Zur Geschichte des TheravAda-Buddhismus
in Ostbengalen."
According to this account, the TheravAda-Buddhism of Bengal in its present
form is the result of a reform that took place in the second part of the
19th century. As a consequence of this reform, most written sources of the
older Buddhism in this area were destroyed so that it is difficult to trace
the older history. The tantric Buddhism of this area disappeared by merging
with tantric Hinduism. Other, popular forms of Buddhism (without ordinated
monks), are connected with originally Tibeto-Burmese speaking people from
Arakan (now in Burma) which eventually switched over to Bengali. The
history of the various Buddhist groups of the area is both complicated and
obscure, and for the details I can only refer to Bechert's article.
   For more references (in English) see Lubomir Ondracka's communication to
our List.

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