[INDOLOGY] A living Mahāyāna tradition in India

Eli Franco franco at uni-leipzig.de
Sat Sep 3 19:27:29 UTC 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is a well-known “fact” that Buddhism has disappeared from India.  
One can imagine my surprise and excitement when I encountered in a  
recent trip to Odisha a Buddhist community called Sarak (< Śrāvaka),  
residing in six villages, which claims a Buddhist Mahāyāna identity  
going back at least to medieval times. Their tradition is definitely  
genuine, as is clear, for instance, from their gotra names such as  
Nirākāra, Nirālambha and Kṣamadeva (the Saraks themselves are not  
quite certain about the meaning of these terms). However, at present  
there is an increasing influence from globally operating Theravada  
institutions, especially the Mahabodhi society, and I am not sure how  
long this village tradition will survive. Studying the Saraks may well  
be a unique and fading opportunity to get a better understanding of  
Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism as a living popular religion. It may also  
provide valuable insights about the last stage and disappearance of  
Buddhism from the Indian soil. However, my application to the German  
Research Council to fund a study of the Saraks has failed. Perhaps  
someone else will be more successful.

With best wishes,
Eli Franco

Prof. Dr. Eli Franco
Institut für Indologie und Zentralasienwissenschaften
Schillerstr. 6
04109 Leipzig

Ph. +49 341 9737 121, 9737 120 (dept. office)
Fax +49 341 9737 148

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