By Trevor Ling
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So far as the adoption of Tantric practices by Buddhists are concerned, L. Joshi has shown that 'the historical beginnings of Buddhist esoterism (Tantrism) go back at least to the first century Be'. He adds that Tantrism seems to have influenced certain sections of the Buddhist Sangha some centuries before Asanga composed the Prajnaparamita sadhana. 15 Asanga, it will be remembered, was from Gandhara in the north-west of India. It is clear that the weight of evidence regarding the areas in which Tantric Buddhism first emerged shows that the north-west and the south of India share this distinction.
Those who reject the view that it was orthodox Brahmanism which brought about the decline of Buddhism in Bengal in the Sen period 58 offer as an alternative explanation of this decline (which, quite clearly, has to be explained somehow), the idea that Buddhism had become 'exhausted' by some sort of natural process of 'old age'. It was old and tired, and having no means of rejuvenating itself, it just died; such is the explanation offered. It 'merged' into Brahmanism, or, in S. Radhakrishnan 'swords, as was noted earlier, 'perished in India', to be born again in a refined Brahmanism.
The eastern portion of Darjeeling District, the Kalimpong sub-division, was annexed as a consequence of the British war with the neighbouring state of Bhutan in 1865. The annexed area had a native population at that time of about 3500, mostly Bhutias; this nucleus, like that of the original portion, was subsequently increased by in-migration from Nepal. Thus, the three original ethnic groups were Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali. The question with which we are concerned is whether any of these can claim to be Buddhists in a continuing tradition reaching back to the time before the virtual disappearance of Buddhism from the rest of India.
Buddhist Revival in India: Aspects of the sociology of Buddhism by Trevor Ling