Digital Rare Book:
Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India
Translated by Lama Chimpa and Alaka Chattopadhyaya
Published by Motilal Banarsidass Publications - 1970
Born in A.D. 1575, Lama Taranatha wrote this book in 1608. V. Vasilev of St. Petersburg translated it from Tibetan into Russian in April 1869 followed by the German translation of the text by Schiefner also published from St. Peterburg in October of the same Year. In view of the profound importance of the work for understanding Indian history in general and of the history of Buddhism in particular. modern scholars have extensively using specially Schiefner`s German translation of the History for decades and this for varied purposes.
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Relevance of this book can be seen in D.N.Jha's rebuttal of Arun Shourie's essay on the marxist interpretation of the destruction of the Nalanda University:
..."Look at another passage (abridged by me in the following paragraph) from the History of Buddhism in India written by another Tibetan monk and scholar Taranatha in the 17th century:
During the consecration of the temple built by Kakutsiddha at Nalendra [Nalanda] “the young naughty sramanas threw slops at the two tirthika beggars andkept them pressed inside door panels and set ferocious dogs on them”. Angered by this, one of them went on arranging for their livelihood and the other sat in a deep pit and “engaged himself in surya sadhana” [solar worship] , first for nine years and then for three more years and having thus “acquired mantrasiddhi” he “performed a sacrifice and scattered the charmed ashes all around” which “immediately resulted in a miraculously produced fire”, consuming all the eighty four temples and the scriptures some of which, however, were saved by water flowing from an upper floor of the nine storey Ratnodadhi temple. (History of Buddhism in India, English tr. Lama Chimpa & Alka Chattopadhyaya, summary of pp.141-42).
If we look at the two narratives closely, they are similar. The role of the Tirthikas and their miraculous fire causing a conflagration are common to both. Admittedly one does not have to take the miracles literally but it is not justified to ignore their importance as part of traditions which gain in strength over time and become part of collective memory of the community. Nor is it desirable or defensible to disregard the element of long standing antagonism between the Brahmins and Buddhists which may have given rise to the Tibetan tradition and nurtured it till as late as the 18th century or even later. It is in the context of this Buddhist-Tirthika animosity that the account of Sumpa assumes importance; it also makes sense because it jibes with Taranatha’s evidence. Further, neither Sumpa, nor Taranatha, ever came to India. This should mean that the idea of Brahminical hostility to the religion of the Buddha traveled to Tibet fairly early and became part of its Buddhist tradition, and found expression in the 17th-18th century Tibetan writings."