বৃহস্পতিবার, ৫ মে, ২০১১

Saddharma in Bangladesh: (The past, present & future)

Bhikkhu Dharmeswar
Saddharma (Buddhism) is the most ancient religion of the world. It dates back 2,549 years ago. But yet the human demand is growing more & more on it. A few religious leaders namely monks work for the propagation of this religion. Side by side some Meditation Achariyas work for it. No missionary institution nor any state or personal patronage is required for it at the present world. The latent beast existing in all human beings is enough to preach this religion sponteneously for their own sake. The lord Buddha, the inventor of this religion himself never preached his religion. On the contrary, the Samyak Sambuddha would always advise everyone to justify thoroughly first & if his conscious allows, then & then only he should accept his religion. This is indeed a purely "Ahipassiko" (Come & see) religion.
This was his procedure of preaching his religion. Upto to day none had heard of any drop of blood shed for preaching of Saddharma. He would know everything quite before happening of anything. Hence he was so farsighted, so learned, such a great philospher & thinker & above all so great well wisher of all beings, not only of this world but also 30 worlds more. Thus he attained the Buddhahood after fulfilling 30 paramitas (Performing 30 kinds of extreme well being & welfare for all beings) it is indeed astonishing & unthinkable how he had attained such vast knowledge of every thing & became the Buddha, the greatest & unparallel learned personality before two thousand & five hundred centuries back.
Let us peep through the present age of Saddharm. Can one believe that one-third people of the world are Buddhists? The statistics is beyond the question of belief.
But how? Who approached them to embrace Saddharma? None, none & none. They had followed the advice of the Thtagata (He came where any being fell into toils & troubles just to rescue them through ages).
They had cheeked, compared & even researched Saddharma & lastly embraced it overwhelmingly. Most of them belong to the intellectuals, phillosphers, scientists, scholars, poets, statesmen, great thinkers, as because they know how to justify anything thoroughly & precisely.
Moreover they follow perfectly to upgrade their lives by good deeds, good speeches, good lively hood, good meditation, good concentration, good endeavours, good exercise, good concept, (The great eight fold path). They know more that Shaddaharma is basically a complete code of life philosophy. One need not to be converted from nation; he can follow the life philosophy codes for upliftment of his life morally & spiritually as a man. Saddharma is a religion for all beings of 31 worlds. Here lies the basic difference with other religions. Other religions are related with only the human being, the creation, the almighty creator etc.
But Saddharm's concern is not confined to the human being alone. The well-being, welfare, life up-gradation, mental peace & calmness & last but not the least the ultimate salvation of all beings from all kinds of suffering are the main essence of Saddharma. To overcome all these obstacles, hindrances, sorrows, sufferings of all beings are the main life-guide lines of Saddharma. Mere understanding the doctrine of Saddharma is not enough at all. To follow the doctrine of Saddharma according to the eight fold path is the main teaching of Saddharma.
So long I have a very short visit in the international arena of the Saddharma world through pen. Now let us have a glimpse into Saddharma of our motherland as well as the mother land of Saddharma. Kumar Siddhartha, the only child of the king Suddhodhan of Kapilavastu, one of the kingdoms of Nepal, located just at the foot step of the Himalayas renounced the worldly life full of all amenities required for a prince. Just after the birth of his only child Rahul, the happiest prince had left everything only to seek the ways & means to bring an end to all kinds of sorrows & sufferings of all beings of 31 worlds. But why? He had found all the apparent happiness, amenities, worldly wealth, monetary matters etc. quite meaningless. The inevitable & unavoidable sorrows & sufferings of all beings had appeared in his insight very profoundly. He could not remove these unwanted but the surest to occur in each & every life from his insight for a moment. Moreover his heart had been full of the enormous & endless Moitry (Merci & Kindness) to the brim. The merciless socio-economic condition of the then societies had made him more helpless & saddist. Thus he had left the seasonal palaces & come down to the road in search of the salvation of all beings. He left no stone unturned to find out the ways & means of the salvation. Last of all he had succeeded & then untiringly had shown the invaluable success of salvation to all beings for long 45 years. Side by side he had founded the Sangh (group of monks & disciples) to shoulder the holy responsibility of the salvation of all beings through ages in his absence.

Introduction to Saddharma in Bangladesh:
Many historians differ in opinion how & when Saddharma is preached in Bangladesh. But yet it is proved undoubtedly that the seed of Saddharma had been sown in the contemporary period of the Buddha in this Gangas delta. This truth is confirmed in many historical statements in course of preaching of Saddharma. In our country particularly in the plain Chittagong of Samatat (The then Bangladesh), the followers of the Buddha during his lifetime can claim themselves as the primitive Buddhists. There are no converted Buddhists in Bangladesh.
After tolerance of a lot of torture, injustice, slaughter, hijacking, robbing etc. they retained their existence. They had sacrificed everything for the sake of Saddharma. In spite of the huge harassment, financial problem, they never think of leaving Saddharma. Even in Chittagong Hill tracts, many Christian missions had tried to convert the most poor, penyless, hungry Buddhists into the Christians by showing the greed of food, shelter, education, job etc. Very few persons had been converted, most of them refused to be converted. They had sacrificed so much for Saddharma in the face of endless poverty & financial hardships. Hence we, the Buddhists of Bangladesh feel proud of our religion, heritage & tradition.

The entrance of Saddharma into Bangladesh:
Lama Taranath, a world famous historian of Tibet had mentioned in the "History of Buddhism" that the Buddha himself with his disciples had come to Bangladesh in order to preach Theravad Saddarma from the famous Jetban monastery, the birth home of Saddharma through out the world. This is mentioned in "Kalpalata" of Poet Khemendra hailing from Kashmir. The fourth daughter of Shresthee Anathpindik, Sumagada had been married at Pundrabardhan (Now Bogra) to Brishava, the son of Shresthee Sarthpati of Bogra. During departure the daughter of the Shresthee who was too much devoted to the lord Buddha had invited him in an excellent manner of regard with two hands jointly bowed towards the Buddha to come to Bogra. Once upon a time, this shil enriched lady devotee with the permission of her father-in-law had called the Buddha with concentrated mind from the seat of meditation. The Buddha along with disciples had come to the city of Pumdra on that day. The Buddha had stayed at Bogra Mahashangar, Basu Monastery & then he had came & Preached Saddharma at Comilla, Noakhali, Murshidabad & Rajbari at that time. This is the belief of many people. But no clear proof of these incidents had existed. Many people had opined that Saddharma was preached in Chittagong during the reign of King Ashok the great. (272-232 B.C.) At that time Reverend Shon thera & Uttar Thera had come to preach Saddharma at Subarnavumi at present the lower Mayanmar. Theravad Saddharma had been preached during that period at Chittagong.

The deteriotiong condition of Theravad Saddharma at Bangladesh:
After King Ashok the great in 78 AD, the 4th Buddhist Sangitee (Convention) had commenced by the community of Mahasanghik during the reign of the kushan King Kaniska. The whole "Tripitak" was translated in Sanskrit & the Mahajan Saddharma had come into existance. Later on the people of different doctrines began to feel helpless to the followers of Mahajan. As a result the Mahajan Saddarma had spread all over Bangladesh. They had gained the state patronage. Chandasuriya, the king of Benarash had declared Saddharma as the royal religion from (146 to 98 AD) at Chittagong & Arakan. The Mahajan Saddharma had been preached very successfully once upon a time. The relics of "Pandit vihar" (monastery), shalban vihar, "Bogra Mahasthangar, Lalmai hill still bear that identity. They reshufled the "Tripitak" & began to rely on the god power & Trantic Saddharma. As a result the followers of the Theravad Saddharma had been harassed by the followers of the Mahajan. The victory flag of the Mahajan had been raised throughout Bangladesh. Towards the 8th century a great change had occurred in this religion. At that time the whole Indian Subcontinent had come in the grip of Bajrajan. They lost their belief in the simple doctrine of the Buddha. They began to rely on thousands of gods & goddesses & started to lead life impractical & opposite to the Buddha's doctrine.

The arrival of Buddhists at Chittagong:
Towards the seventh century the first approach of Saddharma was becoming gradually slow in Indian sub continent. Sankarachariya, Kumaril Bhatta and other preachers of Brahnism had started the inhuman torture backed by the patronage of the Indian Kings. They would compel the Buddhists to be converted by various ferocious activities, e.g. royal punishment, application of heavy stone pressure, by force country leaving & even slaughter. In this way they had destroyed many valuable religious books, temples, Chaityas (Memorial temple), Arhatmemorial temples by burning. This type of torture had caused death of many Buddhist monks.
Later on from the 7th to 12th centuries the Indian Sub-continent had been attacked by the Muslims & they had established their reign. At that period their inhuman torture, physical harassment had caused both the Buddhist & the Hindus to accept Islam. Not only that they had captured numerous Buddhist & Hindu temples & had hijacked many costly metalic images of the Buddha & gods of Hindus & had sent them all to their own countries. The Buddhists could not maintain the basic criteria of Saddharma due to inhuman torture of Brahmanism & Islam. Under such circumstances, the Buddhists had been converted to either Muslims or Hindus.
During this critical moment, the primitive & orthodox Buddhists leaving the lust of lives gradually took shelter in Magadh or Bihar (now known as) to the east of Bodhgaya only to save Saddharma. There also they had fallen into the want of life safety. Another group of Buddhists had fled away through the secret paths amidst the deep forests towards Assam (Now known as) carrying their children & valuable ornaments on their backs. Some of the this group were caught by the notorious gang of Kumaril Bhatta & for fear of lives they had been converted to Hindus. Those who could save themselves left the Buddhist dress & they had reach Chittagong via the south east side of Assam crossing the difficult hilly paths. Chittagong had been then under the control of the Ara Kanese Buddhist king. Consequently they had begun to live with the Arakanese in a very cordial atmosphere without any fear of losing Saddharma. The Arakanese Maghs community would call the Buddhists coming from Bihar Mamagree as they were the followers of the same religion. This had meant that they were of the higher status than the Arakanese. This is the "Barua" Buddhist community of present Bangladesh who came from Magadh or Bihar. The Buddhist community now living at Bandarban, Khagrachari, Rangamati etc. regions are the present generation of the Arakanese Buddhists. Among them somebodies had come from other regions. They had been known as Marma, Tangchainga, Kheyang, Murang etc. They are also the primitive Buddhists, not converted ones. Very recently the generation of the Primitive Buddhist coming from Bihar to Bogra are also expressing their self identities.

The brief identity of the Chittagonian Buddhists:
The Buddhist living at Chittagong at present are known as "Barua". Here "Barua" means big Aryya. They had come here from the Barua community contemporary to the Buddha. As because this nation is the basic orthodox Buddhist belonging to the Khatriya generation of India. Among general Buddhists, there had been a few Buddhist monks. They had founded some monasteries, Chaityas & temples & began to live with the Arakanese Magh in peace & harmony. At one stage, the "Barra" & the Arakancse community began to get married with each other & thus the peace & harmony among themselves had gone deep-rooted. In the mean time, the Hindus & the Muslims had started socio-religious conflicts. But the Buddhists had saved their own identity. During the Arakanese & the Muslim reigns, the "Barua" Buddhists had been conferred many titles for their competence & merit. "Chowdhury" "Mutsuddhi" "Talukder" etc. are the symbols of pride & Praise. After arrival of the Buddhist at Chittagong, many people from the different communities had embraced Saddharma & had begun to live together being impressed at the mode of living in peace & harmony, honesty, liberal mind, neat & clean dressing, calm & quiet movements etc. Just to speak the truth, the "Barua" Buddhists of Chittagong are still quite different from the people of other communities. Not only that, they love & respect the Buddhists of Chittagong whole-heartedly. All these behavior & honor of all had proved beyond question that the Buddhists of Chittagong are the original primitive Buddhists community of Bangladesh.

Saddharma in Bangladesh in 13th century:
The post period of the 12th century had been the critical time for the Bengalee "Barua" Buddhists. During this period the decline of the Pal Kings & the rise of the Hindu Kings had happened. Above all the Hindu Kings had brought about a foul climate in the lives of the Bengalee Buddhists. There had been created a slow motion in the Buddhist history, culture, tradition, heritage, religious, activities & even in the main stream of Saddharma. The people had become indifferent in the religious activities. Towards the 17th century the "Barua" Buddhists had become unable to understand the essence of Saddharma in the befitting manner. They had been inclined to the Hinduism & had started to celebrate "Durga Puja" (worship of Durga devi), Kalipuja (worship of Kali), Sheetala puja (worship of sheetala devi) etc. Consequently the "Barua" Buddhists had led the lives of neither the Buddhists nor the Hindus. So the history of the Bengali "Barua" Buddhists from the 13th century to the 18th century is the history of darkness, superstition & most non-buddhistic. At that time, the Buddhists had started to lead the most downgraded lives devoid of completely Buddhist rules, regulations & disciplline.

The Revival of Saddharma in Bangladesh:
The 19th century had come with the day of revival of the "Barua" Buddhists. The new sun had risen in the sky of the Buddhist luck. In April of the 1856 AD, Reverend Sharmedha Mahathero, the shining son of Bengal had come to the present Bangladesh from Myanmar. The deplorable condition of had made him too much misarable Saddharma had to reform the religion, Society of the Buddhists & Chakmas. At that time, in 1857 the Chakma queen Kalindi Devi had invited Reverend Sharmedh Mahathero to her palace Rajanagar. The queen had patronised him for preaching Saddharma to a great extent.  As a result, a great new change had come in the life, society & religion of the "Barua" Buddhists & the Buddhist Monks of Chittagong. According to that trend in 1864 the socalled monks had newly ordained to Rev. Sharmedh Mahathero in Saddharma. Sanghraj Purnachar along with others had brought ahead. In this way, the purest form of Saddharma had been introduced by the Sanghraj Sharmedh Mahathero. That stream of Saddharma is still flowing over Bangladesh in full swing.

The present condition of Shaddharma in Bangladesh:
Shaddharma in Bangladesh is the outcome of the untired endeavour, suprime sacrifice, unaccountable merit & unparallel farsightedness of Shangharaj Sharmedh Mahathero, Sangharaj Purnachar Mahathero, Sanghraj Jnanalankar Mahathero, Kamal Thakur, Hari thakur-1, Sukhchan Thakur, Duraj Thakur, Avhoyasharan Thakur, Hari Thakur-2, Karmajogee Kripasharan Mahathero, Agramahapandit Prajnalok Mahathero, Agramahapandit Dharmbangsha Mahathero, Arjyashravak Jnanishvar Mahathero, BinoydharBangshadwip Mahathero, Sanghraj Baragyan Mahathero, Sanghraj Tejbanta Mahathero, Sanghraj Dharmananda Mahathero, Sanghraj Avhoyatisha Mahathero, Sanghraj Shilalankar Mahathero, Sanghraj Nagsen Mahathero, Sanghraj Jyotipal Mahathero, Sanghraj Shashanshree Mahathero, Sreemat Sadhananda Mahathero (Banavante), present Sanghraj Dharmasen Mahatero, Dr. Rastrapal Mahathero, Dr. Barasambodhi Mahathero, Sremat Sumanachar Mahathero, Sreemat Bishuddhachar Mahathero, Sreemat Buddharaskhit Mahathero, Sreemat Dharmaraskhit Mahathero, Dr. Jinabodhi Thera & many other talented Buddhist monks. The Buddhists in Bangladesh are leading a nice peaceful life by dint of their untired effort. They also lead a perfectly sacred religious life under the guidance of the Buddhist Monks. Thus the monks & devotee Sangha (Community) contribute a lot for peace & progress of the society & country. They also contribute continuously for the world peace, brotherhood, non-violance & Moitry. (Heartfelt love for all beings) As ours is a developing country, here lies so many financial problems. Hence the monks & devotee sangh are facing a lot of hindrances to improve the society & Saddharma upto the mark. So we humbly appeal to the Buddhist countries to extend the helping hand for our all round development. Our Chakma, Magh, Kheyang, Murma, breathen are more advanced in education, Govt. services, state patronage & politics. That's why they can represent in the National assembly & hence they have got M.P, s, Ministers etc. We are not at all Jealous of them, rather extremely happy & glad. The "Barua" buddhist of Chittagong are the microscopic mionority. Hence we can't procced more.

A brief statistics is given for more transparency & understanding:
In Bangladesh there live 70,000 (seventy thousand) Buddhist families comprising of 5,00,000 (Five lac) family members. There exist 500 (Five hundred) monasteries. Total monks 1,200 (Twelve hundred), Total sharmans 1,000 (one thousand). There is no institutions for religious education. The training centers for vikkhus & Sharmans are very few in comparison with requirements. Monastery oriented the children religious centers are facing the acute shortage of books, religious teachers & accommodation etc. To retain & reflourish Saddharma in Bangladesh, we again appeal to the international Buddhist leaders & religious donors to come forward.
We yet feel proud that a Saddharma inscriped teracotta plate is shown at the UNO musium. Our benign Govt. has founded Atish Dipankar University of Science & Technology at Dhaka. The president of Bangladesh. His Excellency Prof. Dr. Yiazuddin Ahmed of People's Republic of Bangladesh has assured to upgrade the Punachar International Buddhist Monastery at Deb pahar, Chittagong to the international standard. We also remember with the greatest gratitude that Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman had donated land for the Purnachar International Buddhist Monastery to Karmabeer Satyapriya Mahathero few dacades ago.

Reference books:
1.      Saddharma Ratnakar                                : Mahathero Dharma tilak
2.      Chattagram Boudhader Etihus                 : Barua Dr. Sitangshu Bikash.
3.      BharateBouddhadharmer Utthan Patan   : Mahathero Sangharaj Jyotipal.
4.      Buddher Dharma O Darshan                    : SangharajDharmadhar Mohathero.
5.      Banglaya Therarad Bouddhadharma        :  Shastree Bhikkhu Shilachar.
6.      Pali Sahityer Etihas                                   : Barua Dr. Rabindra Bijoy.
7.      Shara Mitra Prasanga                                : Mabud dr. Abdul.
8.      Aitijya                                                       : Bangladesh Sangharaj Bhikkhu Mahashava.
9.      Bhartiya Dharmer Etihas                          : Bhattachariya Narendranath.
10.   Buddhism                                                : David Mrs. Rhys.

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